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.
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.