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Guide Bike Review - Alex's Surly Cross Check and Adventures on the Pacific Coast

The first date my wife and I went on was Fort Collins Bike to Work Day. As a teacher, I didn’t work and her schedule was flexible so I suggested I ride by her place in the morning and then we head out and enjoy some of the amazing free breakfasts being offered at the 40+ breakfast stations all around Fort Collins on a beautiful morning in late June.

Things went well and we had many more wonderful dates and bike rides. One thing we discovered while dating was that we both wanted to ride the Pacific Coast from Northern Washington (where she grew up) to Southern California (where I grew up). Plans for our first long bike tour began.

I have loved bikes since I was in junior high and would go for long weekend rides with friends along the coast. In high school I got in to mountain biking and in college I got pretty passionate about training for and racing triathlons. As a 39 year old planning my first multi-week self-supported bike tour, I already owned 4 bikes: road/triathlon bike, mountain bike, single speed commuter bike, and BMX bike. None of these wonderful bikes would work for the 30-day, 1700+ mile ride down the coast with camping equipment so it was time to go bike shopping.

After doing some research, talking to some experienced bike tourers and looking for deals, I decided on the Surly Cross Check as the newest addition to my personal bike library. It had a durable (and attractive) steel frame, all the necessary braze-ons for whatever racks I needed, the ability to accommodate double or triple chain-rings and touring tires or knobbies (in case I ever decided to try out cyclocross some day). And, the local REI had one of last year’s models in my size on sale for a very reasonable price. I used the extra money in my October pay check from coaching the middle school cross country team and bought it.

I was pretty happy with my purchase right away. The Cross Check has the crisp handling and responsiveness of a road bike with the comfort and stability of a mountain bike. The bar end shifters took a little getting used to, but after a few rides I became very comfortable with them. I put a rear rack on and got an expandable trunk bag for it which gave me plenty of space for tools, a jacket, snacks and a bike lock. For the tour I decided to go with a single wheeled Bob Trailer instead of panniers and this allowed me to carry the tent, both sleeping bags, cooking gear and all of my clothes. With the trailer, I was able to bungie a bundle of firewood on top to bring to the campsite if we decided it was a good night for smores.

The Surly did a great job pulling the trailer and with the exception of steep hills and narrow sidewalks, I hardly noticed it was there. The Surly Cross Check took me 1750 miles down the coast, fully loaded on an amazing five week camping trip. My wife and I can’t wait to go out for another long tour someday soon. In the meantime, the Cross Check is a great bike for hilly rides in the mountains, brewery bike tours, and easy rides on mellow trails and rolling dirt roads.