Empowering The Bicycle Traveler

Surly Straggler

picture of bike on snowy trail
This is the Surly Straggler bicycle. It’s similar to a Surly Cross Check but with a few crucial differences; most notably the Straggler has disc brakes and comes stock with Surly Knard 700c x 41 tires. Surly sent us this bike to try out after the Interbike trade show in September and I have had the chance to ride it a few times now. The first thing I notice is that the handling is different than my Cross Check. The steering feels more nimble and responsive. The other thing is that although this is a 56cm frame and my Cross Check is a 58 this bike seems to feel fine fit-wise. Not surprising once I look at the Surly geometry chart and see that the 56cm Straggler’s effective top tube length is identical to the 58cm Cross Check top tube.

But why does the handling feels so much different I wonder. The seat tube and head tube angles are the same on both bikes, so I’m thinking the bigger tires change the fork trail pneumatically. Also, the bottom bracket drop on the Straggler is 6 mm greater than on the Cross Check and the Straggler’s chain stays are half a centimeter longer- both of these are probably in consideration of the bigger tires for which the Straggler is designed (the increased bottom bracket drop makes the standover height manageable),but they can’t help but affect the handling of the bike.

There are a couple of quirky details which I think are unique to Surly (no surprise, that);
-The rear dropouts are a “partially closed, horizontal design” made to accommodate single speed set ups or derailleurs. When used with a derailleur, the rear wheel slips up into the vertical part of the dropout where it is held in place partially by the clamping force of the quick release but also by the set screw threaded in from the rear of the horizontal part of the dropout. In a single speed application the wheel slips into the vertical part and then slides back in the horizontal part to tighten the chain and is partially held in place by the same set screw which in this case is threaded in from the front of the dropout.
-The front hub is Surly’s Ultra New Hub which features a hollow axle for standard quick release but the inside ends of the axle are threaded. Surly provides two stainless steel bolts with caps which thread into the ends of the axle and clamp the wheel in place. This setup gave me a sense of added security over a quick release- especially with disc brakes which place a lot of torque load on the hub.


The “partially closed horizontal” dropouts.


The fixing bolt cap on the Surly Ultra New Hub is heavily knurled to help hold the wheel securely.

The fixing bolt cap on the Surly Ultra New Hub is heavily knurled to help hold the wheel securely.


handlebar and brake hoods

The Salsa Cowbell 2 handle bar felt very good with the Shimano Tiagra brifter hoods. The bars have a very short top ramp but it mates nicely with the hoods creating a nice flat cradle for the hands.

Overall Impression and Conclusion.
I already noted how even with the big Knard tires the bike’s steering is nimble and responsive but these tires roll nice too. The bike feels quick in every way, and the tires felt nice and stable on the snow packed trail I rode.
I am in my retro-grouch phase now but I have to admit I like the brifters on this bike. Even though they are Shimano Tiagra level, the shifting is precise and easy and being able to shift without moving the hands is pretty important on any technical terrain. Like all Surly bikes there is nothing especially fancy about this bike but everything works and the bike is solid. This “Glitter Dreams” color is a love it or hate it proposition- I happen to love it- but they also make the bike in black.
It’s not technically a touring bike but it has all the braze-ons and clearances for racks so one could call it a camping bike. It also is a great bike for just ripping around in the hills on single track or gravel roads. It makes me want to go for a ride and that can’t be bad. I like this bike a lot- in fact when Surly asks for it back I will probably buy it.

8 comments… add one
  • G.E. December 22, 2013, 8:26 am

    Hmm… I’m a little disappointed that the effective top tube is longer (for us shorties – and I’m not even the shortest of the short). I’m already riding a 42cm CC, which would mean that the 42cm Straggler would likely be too large (or at least have too long a top tube). Perhaps this is something Surly will address in future iterations of this model? Their geometry measurements look like the Straggler is actually 1/10 of an inch shorter (on the 42cm), but if it feels longer, that is a bit disconcerting to someone who’s already bordering on too long a top tube. I was really looking forward to trying this one out, but am appreciative of an idea of fit you’ve provided. It may simply be too large for those under a more standard height (at least when it comes to bikes). Bummer.

    • Bike Hermit™ December 22, 2013, 11:29 am

      The 42cm Straggler’s top tube is indeed a little shorter than the same size Cross Check. So if the Cross Check fits you the Straggler should as well. It’s only on the larger size Stragglers (52cm and bigger)that the top tube is longer than the Cross Check. The standover height is a little less on the 42cm Straggler which is a bonus.

    • Slim March 11, 2014, 8:46 am

      the Straggler frame is not bigger than the Crosscheck. Perhaps KC had his set up different?
      The two numbers to check when comparing frame sizes are stack and reach, and these are virtually identical on the 42 cm Straggler and Crossscheck. (21″ stack and 15″ reach).
      What this means if you are not familiar with the terms is that if you set your(identical) saddle in the same position relative to the cranks(with same cranks) and use the same stem and handle bar, the fit will be exactly the same.

  • KC February 1, 2014, 9:13 pm

    This is the best/most descriptive review of the Straggler I’ve read to date. I just rode one earlier this month, put down a deposit on a frameset and listed my Fargo for sale as soon as I got home. Really looking forward to the sportier handling of the Straggler.

    Since you’re the touring guy… have you set up the straggler with front/rear racks yet? I really like the Racktime products, I had an Addit on my Fargo (which was sold along with the bike) and I really like the idea of the Topit/Baskit combo for for around town- and trips to the store on the Straggler. Have you tried to install any of these on the Straggler? I’m confident that the front rack will be compatible, but those mid-stay rear rack braze-ons are kinda high. Thanks.

    • Bike Hermit™ February 2, 2014, 11:05 am

      Good point about the high braze-ons on the rear stays. I dry fit a Racktime AddIt on the rear and it sits crazy high and the front of the rack actually bumps the seat post. Even the 26″ version of the Tubus Cargo sits high, although it would work. As for the front- the Racktime TopIt does fit but the Racktime BaskIt doesn’t fit between the handlebar.

      • KC February 4, 2014, 3:05 pm

        What size baskit are you using, 20L or 23L? Thanks for the info.

        • Bike Hermit™ February 6, 2014, 9:52 am

          I have the large BaskIt. By the way, the solution for the rear rack is Old Man Mountain! Either the Sherpa or the Pioneer fit beautifully on the rear since they mount to the axle with a quick release.

  • Doug December 23, 2014, 4:15 pm

    I bought one and really like it, but I can’t figure out why. It’s like a Swiss Army knife: It does a lot of things, but none of them particularly well. It’s not fast, light, or race-worthy (I don’t race). I call it a tank and bought it instead of a new hardtail. It’s stable, responsive, and pretty comfortable, although I’m gonna swap out the nice-looking stock saddle for a WTB. I plan to tour on it and hit packed dirt (or mud) in the spring as soon as things thaw out up here in Maine. For road use, I put on some Gatorskin 32mm tires and I can hang with the groups going 20-23 mph without huffing and puffing. This was a pleasant surprise, I must say.


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