Strengths: Ridiculous flexibility. I've done week long self supported touring rides, low and high speed group rides, triathlons. For a rider who doesn't have the ability to have multiple bikes, this is the only choice.
Weaknesses: Long head tube. I need a 46cm frame, so I am limited in how much drop I can get. Seat tube water bottle mounts a little too high so I can't fit all 24oz bottles there. Frame design always wants me wanting more for whatever situation I'm in, ie twitchy handling when fully loaded, heavy for a road bike, ect.
Needs a heavy duty skewer for the wheel (like one used on trainers) to keep wheel from sliding forward under hard pedaling.
Huge pricetag for an off the shelf steel frame, but that's the couplers.
I don't love this bike. That's really the first thing that comes to mind with it. However, this is my only bike. With my lifestyle I can only have one bike now and I am as varied as any rider can be. I will do everything from loaded touring to triathlons (even some mild mtb stuff) and be able to travel around the world. This is the only one bike that can meet that criteria. Every once in a while I find myself longing for something else; a Surly LHT, a carbon TT/Tri bike, a 29er mtb, classic steel road frame, ect. However, once I start putting a list together of parts I will need to get I always end up glancing back at the Travelers Check and end up thinking, "Nah, this bike can do that well enough" and scrap my plans.
When it comes down to it, I always wanted a good steel road bike again, I always wanted a cyclocross bike and I wanted a bike that can travel with me. It's stiff enough that I can do some good sprints with it. It's comfortable enough that I enjoy it more than my T500 and I'm not afraid to ride it over any terrain because I can equip it with the proper tires. While I said I don't love this bike (like when I want a red equipped tri bike), when I'm actually out riding the bike and the only thing that matters is me and the experience this bike fulfills that every time.
Similar Products Used: Felt F90, Cannondale T500, Marin Muirwoods, vintage Takara 12 speed. This bike has the soul of every bike I've ever ridden.
Bike Setup: This always changes. Sometimes it's a 48/36/26 for loaded touring, 3x7 gearing with 38mm tires. Sometimes it's got aero bars, 2x9 with lightweight wheels. Depends on where I live and what I'm doing will decide the setup.
Common parts are always bs77 bar end shifters, Shimano SLX rear derailleur, Sora Front, Tektro R200a brake levers, Diacomp 987 cantilever brakes, Brooks B17 saddle
Date Reviewed: October 17, 2009
Strengths: Crosscheck geometry that fits into an airline-ready suitcase. What more could you want than that?
Weaknesses: No lowrider braze-ons on the fork.
Fabulous bike. Excellent for touring, traveling, commuting, day-rides, anything. One of the few bikes that really does it all.
I wanted a travel bike, and looked into retrofitting one of my other bikes with S&S couplings. It turned out to be cheaper to get an off-the-peg Surly Traveler's Check instead. (Most frame builders I contacted wanted $700 or more to do the retrofit--before paint.)
This bike replaced a sage green Surly LHT. That was a good bike for heavy loaded touring, but I didn't like its ride when unloaded. (It was even a bit rough for light touring.) Not a good commuter bike, at least not for me.
It is GREAT having my bike with me in another city, and AWESOME to be able to check it without the desk attendant batting an eyelash!
I just got back from a 23-day, 1200-mile tour on the TC. (I was carrying about 40 lbs of camping/touring gear.) It was fantastic. It felt a little willowy for the first 1/2 mile, but then we got used to each other and had a nice time.
This bike has a very smooth ride and is very comfortable on all surfaces, yet it's more eager and easier to muscle around than the LHT. I thought it was a better touring rig than the LHT.
Strengths: steel is real, rides like a good bike should. not fancy, takes the abuse, don't have to worry about it like i would with my carbon bike.
Weaknesses: at $1075 for just frame and fork, the price is a bit high considering it's more than twice the cost of a standard crosscheck. But if you travel a lot it will pay for itself with money saved in airline fees.
I've had no complaints with this frameset. It's a Surly afterall and the ride would be as expected for a good basic steel frame. It rides like a regular Crosscheck except I'd say it's a tad stiffer due to the S&S couplers adding a bit of reinforcing to the downtube and top tubes. The couplers have not loosened at all and the few times I've traveled with it I have not had any issues come up. When I first got it I built up more for road riding (with 28c slicks) and took it out to the SF bay area for a vacation and had a great time riding all around the city, and doing more serious rides up Mt. Tam and Mt. Diablo. If I had wanted to do some dirt riding I could have packed an extra set of fat 45c knobby tires and tubes in the case and been ready for that too. This frame can do it all, literally.
Intial buildup; I framesavered the inside of the frame tubes and then lubed the S&S couplers with the special 100% teflon grease that S&S strongly recommends you use. The frame comes with one small syringe of this stuff and according to S&S you should use nothing else. I I've applied the grease once when I built it up a year ago and that's it. I periodically loosen the the coupler rings and re-tighten to make sure they aren't seizing up but so far so good. The teflon grease really must be special. Anyways, this frame does NOT come with a case like the Ritchey Breakaway bikes do, but I've heard the Ritchey cases are cheaply made with weak stitching. The hardcases available by S&S and other makers are pretty nice but pricey. I opted to buy the S&S soft backpack case because I initially thought I'd pack light on my first trip and be able to ride away from the airport with all my small carry-on put into the backpack after putting the bike together at my destination. That is totally possible but I ended up taking a lot of extra luggage and got a ride from the airport each time, but perhaps one trip I'll try it. The backpack case is solid, tuff and takes a beating but there are no wheels so lugging it around in an airport is not easy. I had no problems with checking it in, as long as the total weight is under 50lbs your good to go.
Be sure to use sections of foam pipe insulation around the main frame tubes, and wrap the bars in bubble wrap, to make sure nothing gets banged up. Mine is a 60cm and it still fit fine. I had to remove the cranks but it's no big deal. Just be sure to bring the right tools. It's a good idea to keep the special S&S coupler wrench with you at all times just in case as you never know when you'll need to pack your bike into someplace, like a car or whatever. My first trip a friend and I were stuck in the city after the last BART train and we had to get a lift from a friend with a small station wagon. With her bike and mine it seemed we all wouldn't fit, but I just took off my wheels and took the apart the frame and everything fit no problem. Just be sure to NOT loose the wrench like I almost did my last day in SF. That would have been bad if I had been unable to loosen them when it was time to pack up the bike!
I have a stable of bikes including a regular Crosscheck, a 29er, a few track bikes and high-end carbon Bianchi. But lately it's the t-check that is been getting the most use. I have it now built up as a single speed with big 43c knobbies for winter commuting and love it.