Pining for a New Bike: Surly Cross Check edition

A beautiful day for a ride. The sun was out and the temperature was just right. I headed into the District, with the aim of going no way in particular, but by the time I found myself along L Street after coming through Georgetown, I figured I would stop off at what's probably my favorite bike shop, Bicycle Space. It's a newish store, only open for maybe 6 months now, but in terms of customer service, it far surpasses the other shops in town. Maybe it's because the general manager is from Boulder and I'm subconsciously identifying with some Colorado cool that I secretly aspire to. It might just be that they stock Bromptons and carry Brooks stuff (anglophilia much?). I don't really know, but for whatever reason, whenever I'm remotely close I swing by, mostly just to look around and see what's new. Today, however, I decided to be bold and actually suggest that perhaps I was looking for a new bike, something along the lines of a Bianchi Volpe or a Salsa Casserolle. The salesperson I worked with asked some of the standard questins- how often do you ride, where do you go, what do you like most about your current bike (that question is really hard to answer- maybe that's why I think I need a new bike so much) and got a general sense about what I was looking for. He then, very patiently, showed me some bikes that seemed to fit the bill to varying degrees. First, the Jamis Aurora, which is a touring bike and though it's steel-framed, it seemed maybe a little too staid for me. It also comes stocked with terrible fenders, that, rather than cover the tire in a semi-circular shape, are just flat blades that rest about a half-inch over the tires. Weird looking. Also had this weird brown bar tape that evoked leopard print. Aesthetically, just not doing it for me. Next, the Surly Cross Check, which I'll come back to. He also showed me a Kona Jake the Snake- which is a great, great bike and was on sale for 25% off. Everything about this bike is great, especially for the discounted price. But vanity (or dignity) prevented me from considering buying a bike that shares its name with an 80s wrestler. It also had an aluminum frame, which was my stated reason for declining on account that saying you don't like a bike because of the blue comic sans-style letters spelling out Jake the Snake sounds priggish, plus you never know if your bike salesman is going to be a wrestling fan.
I know what bike Dan Gilbert would ride. 

He also pulled out some other Jamis road bikes that had carbon forks and were way outside of my budget. But, since they could accomodate racks and fenders, I guess theoretically they could work as commuters. I don't think he was trying to upsell, but he was just mostly excited about these bikes and since I was wearing tights and a biking jersey, maybe he thought, I would be excited by the idea of a carbon fork and racing geometry.
I decided to take the Surly Cross Check for a test ride. The Cross Check is basically an everything bike- a steel frame Cyclocross style bike that can fit a rear rack, fenders, and wire tides for a sort of gravel path ride or could be stripped down to thinner tires and be used for more of a road style bike. My only reticence about the Cross Check was due to the bar end shifters. Rather than being integrated with the brake levels, bar end shifts (behold my descriptive powers) come out of the end of the bar. I suppose this makes them moderately inconvenient. Apparently, though, they're easily replaceable so if "for example, you're in the middle of South America," according to my salesman, they could be easily fixed and replaced. I would have to be rather off-course on my daily ride to find myself in the middle of South America, though I suppose if I accidentally biked off a bridge and fell onto a barge heading to Baltimore and was accidentally mixed in with its cargo (Obama merchandise maybe) that was loaded onto a container ship bound for Uruguay, then yeah, it would be convenient to have this kind of shifter because invariably the result of the plummet from the bridge would have caused some damage.
Anyway, he pulled the pedals off my bike and put them on the Cross Check. The Cross Check was a little too small, but still rideable. It was a robin's egg blue, but it also comes in black. My test ride consisted of a few times up and down a few city blocks. At first, I couldn't quite figure the bar end shifters, like which way they went vis-a-vis the gearing. But I go used to it relatively quickly and actually enjoyed them- having brakes and gears so close together makes me kinda antsy, like I should always be shifting gears, which is totally unnecessary. The steel frame really smoothed out the ride and my ride home on my Trek felt bumpy and jarring, though that might have just been I street. I sorta fell in love with the Cross Check in a way that, looking back, I just didn't with the Bianchi. It might just be too many episodes of Top Gear, but I'm just not entirely convinced about the mechanical durability of anything Italian. Surly is from the good ol' USA (Minnesota, so it's still blue America- inshallah) and in a pique of patriotism, I decided that it was the bike for me. It ticked all the boxes and more than anything else, it just felt right.
Next step was calling the wife. She didn't pick up. I tried again. Nope. I checked my email. From a half hour earlier, there was an email that read something like SO HUNGRY. This was supposed to be a quicker trip, that culminated in my bringing home lunch, and I was (selfishly) running later than I expected. This was an account of the salesperson's thoroughness, which I my mind, would be something that she would appreciate. The quality of customer service in DC is so bad. Anyway, I told them at the bike store that I would call them after I got home. I restarted my phone because sometimes the phone loses the ability to make calls mysteriously and I was finally able to reach her. Here's my synopsis of the conversation with creative licenses taken. DISCLAIMER: All conversations recorded in this blog are based on my general understanding of them (and their subtext) rather than an accurate reflection of what was actually said.

ME- Hi. I'm at the bike store. I love this bike
HER: Hungry
ME: Yeah, I think it's the right bike. I'm trying to decide if I should get it.
HER: Don't care. Sandwich.
ME: Yeah, I'll get some sandwiches on the way home, but should I get the bike now or call them later or...
HER: Don't care. Sandwiches. Please. So hungry.
ME: Yeah, I could get sandwiches or I could get the makings of sandwiches. You know, buy a man a sandwich, give him lunch for a day. Buy a many sandwich ingredients, then feed him lunch for multiple days.
HER (clearly losing patience with my overall asininity): Don't care. Get bike. Come home. Bring sandwiches.
ME: Yeah, bike. Woo hoo! Sandwiches later. Love. Sorry. Love.

So, I went back into the store and I ordered the bike. Not the robin's egg blue (which just earned a disappointed scoff from my wife, who did get her sandwich but like a good ninety minutes after the initial plaintive email), but the black. Here's a picture:
My bike. 
They had to order it since I needed a bigger size, so it won't be in for another week and a half. When it arrives, I'm going to bring my current bike over and ask them to remove the seat, rack, fenders and pedals and put them on the Cross Check. My goal is eventually to get some different fenders for it, but that can wait. At which point, I'll post my Trek on Craigslist (feel free to twitter me if you want to buy it- it's a great bike, just not for me anymore) and defray some of the cost of this. I'm probably gonna put 28 slick road tires on it, since most of my riding is on city streets anyway. So, yeah, this concludes the Pining for a New Bike series on this blog. It's been fun.


  1. Nice story, I have currently opted for the Black Surly Cross check. I am waiting for it to arrive in a bigger size as well, so of course I google (even more) reviews while I'm waiting and find a piece about someone waiting for one to arrive.

  2. Hello there! I have seen that the RSS of this website is functioning without any mistakes, did you somehow complete all the settings all by yourself or you left the initial settings of this widget?