Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bean green on the scene

This blog is ostensibly about adventures on a Surly Big Dummy, my most frequently ridden bike. However, the Dummy is not my only bike, nor is it even my only Surly. The Dummy's older sibling is my venerable bean green 2001 Surly Cross-Check. I am fortunate enough to have several great bikes, but the reality is that as a Daddy who usually needs to carry a little girl and a lot of other stuff, the Dummy is so useful that many of my other bikes are neglected. This week however, family is in town to visit and my child carrying duties have been temporarily relieved from my commute. So I've been riding and re-experiencing the Cross-Check.

The Surly Cross-Check frame is the chameleon of the bike world. I've seen dozens of very plausible configurations on the road over the years. My own 58cm Cross-Check has worn a variety of costumes. I initially built mine up as a fairly typical cyclocross bike, but it has since spent chronologically successive portions of its life as a touring bike, a road bike (complete with a brief foray into 9-speed Ultegra STI), a Rivendell-esque mustache handlebar equipped all-rounder, and a rigid 29-er mountain bike. Each rendition was fun in its own way.

A couple of years ago in a fit of targeted de-cluttering, my Cross-Check landed as a Nitto albatross bar equipped, single speeded, befendered, gentleman-dandy-type utility bike. This has easily been my favorite configuration. It's the Old Overholt of bikes, imparting a satisfying mouth-feel of slightly irrelevant tradition with a peculiarly distinctive bean green-ey aftertaste. With only one gear (46/20) on slightly knobby 700c/35 tires, it's a good Jack-of-all-trades bike; quick enough when necessary yet able to tackle reasonable climbs, on or off-road in most kinds of weather. Without all the heavy gears and other newfangled doodads, it feels light, sleek and efficient, at least to me.

My Cross-Check in downtown Denver yesterday with the saddle inexplicably about an inch lower than I prefer:

I've really enjoyed riding the Cross-Check again these past few days. I know it's an inanimate assembly of quite ordinary steel tubing, but this bike has always had a sort of internal resilience. When pedaling, it is eerily silent, but when coasting the pawls of the freehub click pleasingly loudly, louder even than other frames that have shared the same wheels. For some reason, the clicking freehub reminds me of a happy dog wagging its tail. Maybe there's something special in that snazzy green powdercoat.


  1. I'm jealous. That shade of green is the best.

  2. It's always been perhaps the finest aspect of the bike. It's about the same color as a green M&M. I think Surly would do well to offer all their frames in that shade of green.

  3. My Cross-Check couldn't be more different, but I love it all the same. Bread & butter Taiwanese tubing but a great ride and such a versatile frame. Wish mine was your colour.

    1. Nice looking rig you have there. The Revelate bags top it off nicely, and make it so much more useful. Mine spent some time in similar livery, minus the bags.

      I agree that the CC is a great bike, however I have a couple of regrets with mine. The first regret is that I took the advice of the sales clerk to order a size down (58cm) from what I had intended (60cm), in order that the frame be slightly smaller and as he suggested "cyclocross friendly." Second, I cut about an inch off the steerer tube for its first iteration as a cyclocross bike. Unfortunately, I didn't much enjoy the cyclocross feel. These two mistakes have resulted in the bike feeling small to me, thus not loving it quite as much as I might have otherwise. Ever since, I am not receptive to frame sizing advice that didn't formulate in my own head, and I do not and will not cut any fork's steerer tube.