The bikes…

(#1) Paul’s Surly Cross-Check.


I love this bike!

I REALLY love this bike!!

I own 2.5 bikes currently, this one, my daily – cycle to work and don’t mind locking it up anywhere – bike and a long term project based around a 1985 Saracen Kili Flyer ATB.

The Cross-Check is my best bike or, as my little boy calls it, my posh bike. I finished building it up in September last year and from the very first shake down ride it has proven to be the best bike I’ve ever owned and, eclipsed my original ideas about what it would give me in terms of how I wanted to experience and enjoy my cycling.

After years of riding racing bikes I wanted a bike that I could do dedicated ‘road riding’ on, but one I could also ride down the canal on, or comfortably tackle bridleways, tracks and trails on. I wanted full mudguards, a dynamo light and the ability to carry everything I needed on any given ride, be it a Sunday breakfast run or an overnighter. I also wanted a more traditional riding position – a fistful of seat post and bars up nice and high (no more 12cm of drop!)

In a perfect world we’d all be up to our necks in ‘dream bikes’ and if I could have any bike I’d disappear down that Rabbit Hole and probably never make it back! Thankfully, one of the ideas I had for this bike was practicality and function over anything else. I still wanted a lovely looking bike, but I wanted to get away from the whole blingy modern nonsense. And it was definitely to be a bike that gets ridden, not an OCD – money no object – project. I wanted the opposite to the bikes I’d been riding and something a bit more traditional.

I’ve liked the look of Surly’s for a long time and have countless friends who own them, so I was already well aware of their reputation for being versatile, well built, well thought out and –  most importantly for me – reasonably priced!

Build details…

Frame & forks – 62cm Surly Cross-Check with matching Surly fork, the colour is ‘Tangerine Dream’

Wheels – Rims are H + son TB14 32h front and 36h rear. Front hub is a SON 28 dynamo, the rear is a Velo Orange Grand Cru.

The rims are well made, strong and a nod to classic tubular rims of the past – at 23mm wide they provide a good platform for wider tyres – they also look lovely in this polished version. The SON dynamo hub is a well established benchmark and I have wanted one for a long time – such a beautiful design – I had to have one! The rear hub ticked all the boxes in terms of value for money, quality and robustness. It also fitted perfectly with the look I was after. Something with classic styling, mimicking hubs of old with high flanges and lovely decorative drilling on the non drive side.

Tyres – Compass Barlow Pass 700x38mm.


Essentially, a high quality (open tubular) racing tyre that just happens to be 38mm wide! They roll just as fast on the road as racing tyres, but can be run at far lower pressures. Giving them the ability to handle rough stuff with ease, whilst providing a really comfy ride. Believe the hype!

Mudguards – Gilles Berthoud stainless steel 700x50mm (long version).

I knew I wanted mudguards on this bike and after researching the many options available – and some not so available! – I settled on the Berthoud for a few reasons. Availability, cost, material (more robust than aluminium) and looks. As with all mudguards the fitting required lots of head scratching, test fitting, drilling, filing, etc… I had to devise some custom tricks to fit them just so, but all the hard work – and swearing! – paid off and they look tiptop. They are finished off with a Gilles Berthoud leather flap up front, which keeps 99.9 % of water and crap off of my feet, legs and drivetrain. Hopefully we’ll have some ‘Grassupthemiddle’ long flaps for rear guards soon.

Brakes – Tektro CR720 cantilever brakes, Shimano R400 aero levers.

The brakes were super value for money and are actually a fairly nice looking design. The stopping power is not amazing, but set up with patience and a decent set of pads (KoolStop) they are more than adequate for me. The levers are cheap and cheerful.

Gearing – Stronglight Impact double crankset with 48×34 chainrings, KMC 9-speed chain, Rivendell Silver downtube shifters, Shimano 9-speed cassette (12-36), Shimano XT 9 SHADOW rear mech, NOS vintage Gian Robert front mech.

The cranks were chosen for their exceptional value for money and looks. It’s a very practical – no frills – crankset that has a pleasing classic style to it. The Rivendell shifters were actually the first part I ever bought for this bike and in some ways the driving force behind the entire build. I definitely wanted downtube shifters, wanting to slow the pace of my cycling life right down and to get back in touch with some simplicity. They are lovely, a copy of the old Suntour ratcheted friction shifters. The rear mech is able to wrap a huge amount of chain, but is also a clutch model so keeps chain tension very well, allowing for a wide variety of gearing options. The range on the cassette and the 48×34 chainrings gives me the ability to climb and negotiate rough stuff with a fair amount of ease, whilst still having a relatively ‘big’ gear. The front mech is a Campag copy made by a little Italian company long since disappeared. It looks fab and works beautifully!


Finishing kit – Velo Orange headset, BB and Stem. Nitto Noodle 48cm handlebars, Thomson Elite seat post and a Brooks Swift titanium saddle.

Velo Orange produce well made, classically styled components that don’t cost the earth and perform as well – if not better – than a lot of similar, more expensive options. The Nitto bars were a bit of a treat, they are a fantastic shape and are offered in this wide 48cm version. I love drop bars, but as a big chap its makes sense to have wider bars that offer lots more leverage. Especially good when out of the saddle or negotiating rough stuff. They are finished with Velox cloth tape and twine wrap! The seat post is one I’ve had for years and has featured on quite a few my bikes. The saddle was bought from a friend and is superb!

Lighting – SON Edelux II wired up to dynamo hub, Busch & Muller Secula rear light (battery) mounted to mudguard.

The Edelux II is a superb little light, and very much like the dynamo hub, was chosen because it is extremely well made and a lovely design. The rear light is powerful and very reasonably priced. It would be nice to have a rear light powered off the dynamo, but battery rear lights are so good these days there is no real need – carrying a couple of spare AAA batteries is no big deal!

Racks & Bags – Surly 8pack rack, Carradice longflap Camper.

I originally wanted a ‘rando’ style small front rack, but struggled to find anything that would fit without some substantial modifications. Luckily Surly released the 8pack not long after I finished building the bike and is perfect, as it utilises all of the attachment points on the Surly fork. It is a little industrial looking, so it took bit of getting used to, but I’ve grown to love it! It is designed to take a substantially heavier load than most small front racks available and it has a big platform giving me ample space for the Carradice and light mounting. The Carradice was a gift from a friend and fellow CC member Andy K. It is perfect! Capable of carrying an enormous amount of gear, it fits beautifully between the wide Nitto bars. A little modification to the mounting straps and a few neatly placed cable ties underneath make it super secure.


Special mention to Shona & Rich at for all of their help, and sarcasm!

Words & pictures – Paul Rance


3 thoughts on “The bikes…

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