Thursday, 6 September 2012

Surly Cross Check Build

A few weeks ago I embarked on a new build project. I did have a Boardman CX which acted as my sort of crossover bike, sitting somewhere between my carbon road bike and my Gazelle town bike. It did the job very well, it could take a wide variety of tyres, panniers and had disk brakes, however it was aluminium framed and grey which made it just too dull for my tastes.

So I decided to sell it, which I did on eBay and received a nice little pile of cash to add to my savings for my new build. I had already decided on a Robin Egg Blue Surly Cross Check, but there were many important decisions to be made and a fair amount of money to be spent.

Surly Cross Check Build

Campag, Shimano or Sram? - I already have Shimano on my road bike and find the lever hoods a bit broad, Sram is very uncomfortable for my small hands and always felt cheap and nasty. Having never used it before and for no reason other than the hoods are relatively narrow I decided to go with Campag for the drivetrain, levers derailleurs and cassette.

Surly Cross Check Build

Around this time I decided I wanted to do some touring and this bike would have to fit that requirement and would take the style of a randonneur, that meant mudguards, racks, bags. I have admired Velo Orange parts for some time, fabulously shiny, before I knew it I had thrown a serious chunk of my budget at mudguards, stem, front rack, chainset, handlebars and cantilever brakes all from VO, well worth it, it all seems well made and is gorgeous to behold.

Surly Cross Check Build

Saddle was always going to be Brooks after a lot of consideration I chose a Swift in Honey and very handsome it is too.

I generally despise anything black on a bike, I think it lacks imagination so I chose some brown Hudz to match the saddle and yellow cable outers to add an accent of colour.

Surly Cross Check Build

Tyres were always going to be cream, but I wanted 32s and I could only get white Vittoria Randonneurs in that size.

For the wheels I ordered some handmade Ambrosio hubs laced to Exal LX17 rims from Spa Cycles, after a few discussions with Andrew the wheelbuilder there. They have the right balance of strength and lightness for lightweight touring.

Initially I had yellow bar tape on it, but with all the chrome and the white tyres it seemed just too bright so I toned it down to brown.

The final pieces in the puzzle was to be luggage. How much would I need to carry for a week of credit card touring? I figured the absolute bare minimum would be waterproof jacket, 1 x shorts, 2 x tshirts for the evenings, change of socks, camera, phone, wallet, paperwork, tools and spares.

Surly Cross Check Build

I gambled on a small saddlebag for the tools and spares and a front bag for everything else. They have finally arrived, I had to order the Gilles Berthoud Handlebar bag from Wallingford Bikes in New Orleans as nobody in Europe seemed to have it in grey (strangely actually a shade of blue). I have my kit list and have fitted everything in the bags with room to spare to carry some food, hurrah!

I've only ridden the bike a couple of short journeys so far and once I had all the rattles and squeaks sorted it became a very quiet, very smooth machine. I am impressed with this Campag Veloce gear, slick, smooth and quiet. The VO chainset too, from big/big to small/small, no rub and very little sound.

The freewheel is particularly quiet, something I'd not thought about at all when ordering the wheels, but now I realise it's something I really wanted. My road bike has a very loud freewheel, but I imagine myself rolling along through France in almost total silence without a noisy freewheel to disturb the peace.

The only thing left to fix is the brakes, unaccustomed as I am to cantilevers and haven't yet got them to shut up!

Surly Cross Check Build

I am very pleased with how it has turned out in the end, I just hope now that it makes a willing companion on my holiday.

 Surly Cross Check


  1. Absolutely lovely build. I think that chainset looks fantastic. I too have had problems cantilevers until I dialed in quite a bit of toe-in. At last, powerful and quiet brakes!

  2. Beautiful,
    I currently build a cross Check too and i'm looking for brown hoods Like yours,
    Which model is your brake levers and your hoods (i have shimano 105 5700 brake levers and i don't find hoods for this model )

  3. Lovely build , I have a cross check too I need new brakes what are the ones out used they look powerfull

    1. It's VO Grand Cru Zeste Cantilever, I bought the same for me on freshtipe website

  4. I wish they still did this frame in blue. This is pretty much my perfect build