One evening as we were chatting I said, "You know, I'm really thinking about that new Surly. I think I could make good use of it." Sam didn't even begin put up a fight, and so I resumed obsessing over obtaining a Straggler. Not too long afterward, we were wandering around a bike shop when we came across a Surly Cross-Check. It happened to be the right size and Sam suggested I take it out for a spin if I had my sights set on the Straggler, which is supposed to be very similar to the Cross-Check with a few modifications. Not being one to turn down a test ride, I was very quickly off to find some bumpy paths to see how it would handle.
|*Image found here - Stock Cross-Check set up|
After riding the bike a bit when I got home, I wasn't loving the handlebars (I will note here that Sam actually really liked the handlebars and ended up taking them for a bike he rides regularly, so perhaps this is more a matter of preference, as I am used to a much smaller handlebar), nor the bar end shifters. The bar ends work extremely well on my Rivendell because of the set up, but with drop bars I was finding them more frustrating than anything. Because the handlebars felt gigantic to me, we did a quick switch out to some smaller drops we had in the pack of random bike parts and switched out the bar ends for STI shifters while we were at it. I was immediately more comfortable and at ease with the set up and enjoyed the bike that much more.
At the time of purchase, I didn't realize just how handy this bike would be in the coming weeks. The storm that flooded our area took out a lot of roads/bridges, and those that were still usable were littered with random garbage, mud and rocks, lost belongings, and so on, so riding any sort of skinny-tired bike seemed like an unnecessary and easily avoidable risk. Sure, I could've stayed indoors, but that's not how I deal with life and the lemons it sometimes chooses to provide. Instead, I got to ride every day through the storm and (unfortunately) see the damage that was taking place as well.
Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, and while they are heavier than others, on this sort of bike I'm willing to sacrifice a bit of weight for ease of mind on rougher terrain. Honestly, I haven't noticed a difference in speed, and I think it was well worth the effort for peace of mind when riding.
Despite being a heavier ride (it's no lightweight, but it's not the heaviest bike I own either), it moves easily and smoothly. It doesn't pedal as sprightly as a lighter road bike, but that isn't its purpose, and it performs well on many surfaces. It feels solid and is comfortable for many hours of riding and I could see this bike easily transforming into a commuter, single-speed city rider, or a trail bike. After several days of riding a lighter road bike (which I do love, but it has its place), I was able to get back on the Cross-Check and was quickly reminded why it's such a joy. It really is smooth, and rolls nicely even over the dreaded chip-seal.