After riding my 1980’s 66cm Norco Monterey for a season, it was time to ramp up my getting into biking to the next level. I needed a stiffer frame and a more versatile bike that could take me on country roads and trails in addition to paved roads. A cyclocross bike with two wheel sets best suits all of these riding styles. Also, I knew I was going to put 200mm cranks (for my 962mm inseam) on the bike, so needed a high bottom bracket, and cross bikes typically have larger bottom bracket drops (higher bottom brackets) than road, touring, or hybrid bikes. At 6′ 7″ and 220lb I can be hard on things. For this reason, and not wanting to spend too much money, I decided I needed a sturdy steel frame. Finally, my height meant I needed something with a long effective top tube length. After looking around at the various cyclocross bikes, I finally settled on the 700c 62cm Surly Cross Check (geometry and specs below). I had no idea at the time I had selected a very popular bike. The pic below is with the stock 175mm cranks.
Tube Length (Center-Top)
Tube Length (Center-Center)
The widest stock drop bars you can get are 48cm. The 62cm Cross Check comes with 46cm, and this is good enough for me. I swapped the cranks for some aluminum square taper 200mm cranks with a compact 110BCD double spider from High Sierra Cycles. Putting them on a frame designed for 175mm cranks did some interesting things. Most obviously, it left me with poor pedal clearance and a greater risk of clipping a pedal while banking. The flip side of that is that I got to lower my seat an inch and thereby my center of gravity and my drafting in groups got more effective. Also, by lowering my seat, the handle bars were relatively higher (something a lot of taller riders would appreciate). In order to keep my patella over the 3 O’clock pedal position, the seat had to move forward. This effectively shortened the cock pit, so I put on a 140mm stem (up from 120mm) to compensate.
Despite all these needed adjustments, the bike ended up being a very good fit with nearly even weight on both wheels and the 200mm cranks gave me a big performance increase. The main problem is the low pedal clearance, particularly when I put the smaller road tires on. You certainly couldn’t do criteriums like this. However, being careful about it, I have only ever clipped my pedal twice when I was banking on rough ground and it wasn’t dangerous at all. However, I have read of others that were not so lucky!
Cons: I can’t stand bar end shifters, especially when riding in a tight group, it’s inconvenient and can be dangerous to be moving your hands to shift. I find cantilever breaks don’t provide enough breaking power. I’d prefer V-brakes or disc breaks for their power and cleaner cable routing. Of course, this would mean getting compatible drop bar brake levers and the Cross Check doesn’t have disc tabs. It is a heavy bike, though this is the cost of the sturdy steel frame I was looking for.
Pros: The bike is nice and stiff, very versatile, will last a long time, and was designed with an endearingly functional approach. Even if my needs change, I’m pretty sure I will be able to put this bike to good use for a long time to come.