Sunday, June 26, 2011

The new whip

After around 30,000km of loyal service my Surly Cross Check has completed what was probably its last ride. Yesterday morning I swapped the parts over to a Thorn Audax frame - ordered over the internet and delivered in about two weeks. I'd had my eye on a Velo Orange Rando but their requirement you pay in full before they quote their shipping costs plus those astonishing costs (around $US300 to post a frame to Tasmania versus around $75 from the UK) meant the Thorn was much  value for money.

I'll admit to being just a little bit sentimental about my last ride on the Cross Check, though it was just a short trip up the cycleway from work. We've done some miles together: two Oppys, several Mallee Routes, my first 300km ride, a most enjoyable tour last year, the Dovernighter and many other backcountry trips. It's a bike that's served me well but it's showing the wear and tear you'd expect from a frame that's been ridden hard and long across all sorts of terrain. To give the Crosscheck its rightful due, I'm actually replacing it with two bikes - the Thorn as a fast tourer and Audax bike, and a yet-to-be-decided back country bike-packing cyclocross bike - probably based on a Geneis Croix de Fer frame.

The problem with the Cross Check is that it's not designed for longer rides, a 'fault' - if it is one that - it shared with my Bianchi. I needed something fast, which easily took lights and mudguards and with the ability to carry a little gear, say something that I could ride for a week to to Mallee Routes for example and then use for the 600km. The Cross Check and the Bianchi seem to reach their limits around 300km.

The bike went together reasonably easily. There was some fiddling with the mudguards - as there usually is - but apart from that it was pretty straightforward. It seems to be everything I wanted is there: there's no toe-clip overlap at all and there are plenty of braze-ons for racks and mudguards and the like. (Though the second waterbottle mount is a bit low, meaning it clashes with the front derailleur band. Some filing will be required.) Being able to use caliper brakes is a blessing after years of cantis although much of the benefit is probably aesthetic. (The long-reach Miche brakes were a real bargain for just $27 the set at Speaking of aesthetics, the fender line is also much neater than on the Cross Check. The tighter clearance however means I'm limited to 28mm tyres at the widest. Thanks to some cracks in my Son generator hub rim I'm using the Shimano road wheels from the Bianchi for a few days until I can replace the rim, so I'm without lights - a problem I hope to remedy pretty quickly. A bike without lights (or fenders) just isn't really that useful a bike in my opinion.

So how does it ride? Very nicely. The steering is noticeably quicker than the Crosscheck, more like a racing bike than a tourer, but it still rides just fine no hands. The shorter chainstays mean the bike handles short bursts of acceleration well. There are a few minor quirks that will take some getting used to - like a tendancy to pop wheelies with a rear load aboard up steep hills. I think I need slightly wider and more supple tyres than the 25mm Gatorskins I'm running, particularly on dirt roads. I need to sort out a front rack for my handlebar bag. On the whole I'm very  happy with the frame. It seems slightly lighter and just as comfortable as the Cross Check. I have some big plans for this bike - if I share have half the adventures on this as I had on the Surly, I'll be well pleased. With some luck we'll go far this new bike and I. My only worry is that I might have to find a new nickname.

2744km so far this year.


Benny said...

T'horny' Dave would fit.. you did mention visiting a particular website once or twice..

Benny said...

T'horny' Dave would fit.. you did mention visiting a particular website once or twice..

Melbourne Randonneur said...

"I'm actually replacing it with two bikes...". Now there's an interesting precedent. It would sure help ease the pain of retiring the old Surly.

Sara said...

Really nice and informative blog, keep it up buddy…Thanks for sharing.