Surly Straggler  £1499.99

8/10

Wonderfully versatile all-rounder that can hit the trails, the streets or the long-haul open road; it might be the only bike you need, except for all the others

Weight 11900g   Contact  www.ison-distribution.com

by Steve Worland   March 2, 2014  

Surly’s Straggler is a sturdily built and eminently adaptable steel all-rounder. It boasts a handful of interesting design touches, an unusual amount of tyre room, plentiful luggage rack mounts and a very comfy ride. It has a strong bias towards rough roads and trail use, but weight-weenies should look away now.

If you’re not sure why Surly’s bikes are dramatically different from the mainstream, take a look at their info-packed website www.surlybikes.com. It explains a hell of a lot about their design and build philosophy. It’s a very enjoyable read that takes you way beyond the marketing jargon you usually find on a bike maker’s website.

The Straggler is effectively a new approach to one of Surly’s most popular all-rounder bikes, the Cross-Check. The Straggler has disc brakes instead of the Cross-Check’s cantilevers, adding extra appeal for serious off road use, fully loaded touring or, in a perfect world, a combination of the two. Both are built around the kind of purposeful, adaptable and durable framesets Surly are known for, in this case inspired by cyclo-cross and touring applications, but the discs add to the Straggler’s appeal as a true all-rounder.

 

There are other instant appeal factors in the frame design too. The rear dropouts are 135mm wide (mountain bike standard) and have a screw adjusters so you can use a single speed or hub geared wheel or simply to slide the wheel back for extra clearance around big tyres. There’s already far more tyre room than on most cyclo cross or touring bikes.

Frame fittings include threaded bosses, doubled up on the fork dropouts, for full mudguards and every common type of front and rear pannier rack plus two sets of bottle cage bosses.

As per usual with Surly, there are loads of closely spaced sizes to choose from, ten to be precise, from 42cm to 64cm. All get a 72 degree head angle, with seat angles ranging from 75 degrees on the 42 to 72 on the 64. Our test bike is a 56cm (22in) with a horizontal top tube length of 58cm.

The frame shape is unusual. The top tube slopes down slightly to the head tube, which in turn extends about 2cm above the top tube. With the 30mm stack of washers on the steerer that gives you an option of a very high or very low handlebar position and good standover clearance.

Road and trail notes

The Surly guys are refreshingly honest in how they describe the Straggler.

They say: “It’s a day tripper and a weekender. It’s a ‘rough road’ road bike. It’s a cyclocross bike with no pretense about racing. It’s a utilitarian townie. It’s a light-duty touring bike. It’s an all-weather commuter. And when you get tired of one set up, you can swap parts around and turn it into something else.”

It’s that all purpose adaptability that’s the key to its attraction. And that adaptability means it’s built to take a beating on all types of terrain, whether it’s laden with bags or stripped down to the metal and rubber.

I tested the standard build from Surly’s UK distributor Ison Distribution. It weighed in at 11.9kg/26.5lb without pedals. That’s pretty close to the weight of a rigid forked mountain bike at around this price but not as capable as a mountain bike on really demanding terrain.

The Straggler’s obvious rough roads and trails bias makes that comparison inevitable. It bridges mountain bike, cyclocross bike and touring bike, with both positive and negative aspects of all three.

Most of its positive attributes are centred on the fact that it’s obviously built for durability, so you’re not going to be interested if you’re a weight watcher.

The 4130 chromoly steel tubes are cleanly TIG-welded, the main triangle is double butted, the chunky 4130 chromoly fork has a lugged crown and dropouts with curved butted blades fitted with dual rack eyelets.

If you have your own ideas about how you’d want to equip the Straggler, you could start with a frame and fork for £449.99, but the complete bike package is very thoughtfully equipped and looks like a good starting point for the sort of bike that could theoretically tackle pretty much any terrain you choose to ride it over.

Surly’s Knard 41mm knobbly tyres are a strong indicators towards its intended territory, but there’s nothing to stop you fitting skinny treads if your bias is more towards road use.

Inevitably it’s not a particular fast bike on the road with the 41mm tyres fitted, although it is remarkably comfortable and the Knard’s tread pattern features a round close-knobbed profile that runs surprisingly quickly on tarmac.

The weight means that climbing on the road is more sluggish than on a skinny tyred aluminium or carbon framed cyclo-cross bike, but it bears comparison with other steel-framed touring bikes. The Straggler’s high-speed handling on descents is massively confident in places where you’re not quite sure what the surface is going to present you with.

The tyres are fat enough to allow you to run them fairly soft off road for more control and comfort, but you’ll quickly become aware of the limits when the going gets overly rocky or rooty. But away from truly difficult mountain bike terrain its trail handling is superb.

The combined wheel and tyre diameter is 28.5in, an inch more than on a typical cyclocross bike and that helps in terms of creating an easier roll over the bumps, but there’s still plenty room for mudguards.

The finishing detail of complete bike packages is well thought out. The parts package uses wheels with tough Alex DX-Lite eyeleted rims, 32 black stainless spokes and Surly’s own hubs, allen bolted up front, quick release at the back.

The Shimano drivetrain mixes a 46/34 cyclocross crankset with Tiagra shifters and rear mech, CX70 front mech and an 11-32 ten speed cassette, a good option for off road use or laden touring.

The brakes are the well proven and easy to adjust Avid BB7 cable pull discs, with full outer cables. The seat post and stem are from Kalloy; the saddle from Velo; and the handlebar the compact drop and slightly flared Salsa Cowbell.

If you don’t like the ‘Glitter Dreams’ sparkling finish of our test bike you could go for the  much more conservative ‘Closet Black’.

The Straggler has a rock solid character in terms of both handling and have a go at anything durability. Sure, there are times when it feels like a bit of a lump, typically when you’re trying to keep up with a bunch of mates on skinny-rib road bikes. But there are also times when its steamroller personality becomes very welcome.

On trails it’s inevitably much less skittish than a lightweight race bred cyclocross bike, and that’ll give you confidence to explore further afield. With a fast rolling set of touring tyres, it’ll be competing for desirability honours with lots of traditional touring bikes.

The braking is better than a lot of other disc equipped cross-bred bikes because it doesn’t flutter or judder: that’s presumably down to the hefty build of the fork and the bracing tube between the stays out back; adding weight has pros as well as cons.

The Straggler is a bike for those who value a comfortable non competitive ride and a lot of adaptability in one bike. It’s not for those who obsess about weight or who are  always in a rush.

It could even be the only bike you need to own if you’re an all-round rider of the type who currently owns half a dozen bikes and is trying to trim the fleet back to a sensible number.

You might still need that fast road bike, though. Oh, and the mountain bike, and, and, and...

Verdict

Wonderfully versatile all-rounder that can hit the trails, the streets or the long-haul open road; it might be the only bike you need, except for all the others.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Surly Straggler

Size tested: 56

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

4130 Chromoly Steel frame and fork. Alex DX-Kite rims on Surly hubs with Surly Knard 41mm tyres. Shimano 46/34 cyclocross crankset, Tiagra shifters & rear mech, 11-32 cassette (10), Salso Cowbell handlebar, Kalloy seat post & stem, Velo saddle

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

Surly says "So what is this Straggler anyway? The easy answer is to say that we added disc brakes to a Cross-Check and this is close to accurate. People have asked us to make a disc version of our highly versatile Cross-Check for a long time now and almost everything about the two are very similar. Straggler is slightly different, though.

The most obvious difference of course is that the Straggler has disc caliper mounts instead of rim brake studs. It'll accept rotors up to 160mm. The rear dropouts are unique, too. They're a partially closed horizontal design that accommodates singlespeed or geared drivetrains. They feature stop screws that thread in from the rear to further secure the wheel and to position the rear wheel for optimal shifting, plus a forward-mounted stop screw on the drive side to keep the wheel from slipping forward under the force of your gargantuan legs. The rear dropouts are spaced 135mm instead of 132.5mm like the Cross-Check simply because there are far more options for disc hubs in this spacing.

Straggler shares all of the Cross-Check's braze-ons for fenders, racks and bottle cages. The Straggler's geometry is slightly different, with angles and tube lengths very close but not identical to the Cross-Check, but like the Cross-Check it's ready to take you just about anywhere. It's a day tripper and a weekender. It's a 'rough road' road bike. It's a cyclocross bike with no pretense about racing. It's a utilitarian townie. It's a light-duty touring bike. It's an all-weather commuter. And when you get tired of one set up, you can swap parts around and turn it into something else. We think that's pretty neat."

We reckon that's a pretty honest assessment.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
8/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Well, it's more feature laden than any other bike of this type and the build quality appears to be excellent.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

Surly's 4130 chromoly frame and fork tubes emphasise toughness over lightness.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

72 degree head angle on all sizes. Seat angles vary to accommodate different stretch needs on different sizes.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

For those who like a relaxed ride posture with a comfortably efficient stretch, spot on.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Very comfortable. Most bikes with 41mm tyres are comfy, but the frameset structure and ride posture add to this.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Perfect.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Very efficient but inevitably the big tyres add a little squish on the road.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

No. Loads of room.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Relaxed and neutral.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Very easy going handling feel. Certainly not race bred, but great with or without luggage.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

Nice big (but surprisingly fast rolling) tyres. Everyone liked the slightly flared Salsa Cowbell handlebar, and the long wheel base makes stability a highlight.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

No changes.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

Commuters and tarmac fans would mainly want faster tyres. Habitual off road riders will love it as it is.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
6/10

Weight drags at times.

Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
6/10

Weight a downside.

Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
9/10

Amazingly stable with and without luggage.

Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
9/10

Excellent.

Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10

Great stability when meandering in traffic.

Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
6/10

Climbs like many other 26.5lb bikes!

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
8/10

No moans at all.

Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

There'll be riders who'll want smaller and bigger gears but we think the range is ideal for the sort of rider the bike is aimed at.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:
 
8/10

Well built wheels. Tyres fine for a mix of on and off road use.

Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:
 
6/10

The emphasis is on durability rather than low weight.

Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
9/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?

Everyone will have their own ideas about perfect wheels and tyres on the Straggler. The Knard 41s are not quick on the road, although they roll surprisingly well for a tyre designed for frequent off road use.

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
8/10

Love the Salsa Cowbell bar.

Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

The Cowbell bar comes in narrower and wider widths on different sizes.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, very much.

Would you consider buying the bike? If I was looking for one bike that can theoretically do anything, yes.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
8/10

Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?

There are obviously faster and lighter road bikes around, and mountain bikes that lend themselves better to off road riding. The Straggler lies somewhere in between, closer to being a load hauling touring bike. It's especially suitable for occasional off road jaunts and can happily take skinnier tyres if you're going to commute or do fast club runs on it.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 58  Height: 181  Weight: 78kg

I usually ride: Merlin Ti  My best bike is: Ibis Silk SL

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,

 

14 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Yankee Croix de Fer, innit? Just more expensive...

Doctor Fegg's picture

posted by Doctor Fegg [141 posts]
2nd March 2014 - 15:27

22 Likes

Similar, but I would say this is more 'cross' biased than the Croix de Fer. There is more clearance for bigger tyres here, it has a true cross chainset, and the ability to fit a hub gear also gives more touring options than the Croix. The Croix is more at the road end of the spectrum, in my opinion. I hear you with the price though, this definitely seems a few hundred too much.

I'd like to see the black frame, even the Surely site doesn't have pictures of that colour. And, it's a shame they didn't manage to fit the rear caliper on the chainstay, like the Croix does.

posted by rorymcclelland [6 posts]
2nd March 2014 - 16:13

24 Likes

Both frames look lovely, but this has a fair bit more tyre clearance than a Croix de Fer. I'd also wager it's less twangy when it's loaded up, and you can run it SS/fixed for really filthy winter riding. For £75 more when you're already spending a few hundred quid on a frame, I don't think that's terrible value.

posted by Mr Agreeable [151 posts]
2nd March 2014 - 16:31

20 Likes

I like the features but that doesnt look like a 56cm frame, the head tube is tiny like a 50 or 52 road frame? Or does the large clearance of the fork require the head tube to loose some length to correct for it?

posted by MKultra [287 posts]
2nd March 2014 - 19:57

18 Likes

Here's a photo of the black version. Loads more at http://www.flickr.com/photos/revolvero/sets/72157638064363014/with/11059...

straggler.jpg

posted by psclarke [12 posts]
2nd March 2014 - 21:24

18 Likes

Love (and covet) Surly bikes. I think it's interesting that their customer base are ultra-loyal and they have a great reputation for solidly built machines with no corners cut, sold through reputable dealers.

Similar in that respect (and the steel) then to Genesis, but I'd agree with Rory above that there is more of a trail focus in the Straggler than the CdF. I suppose where Genesis make bikes that retain a road focus and track their lineage from proper racing rigs, Surly are a little closer to producing what their end user actually needs.

Nothing wrong with either approach and both make lovely machines. I want one of these though (albeit w/flip-flop fixed/ss setup).

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1103 posts]
3rd March 2014 - 7:20

20 Likes

The head tube is short so you can slam the stem. The fork comes with the world's longest steerer tube so you can blend in at Audaxes. It's a win/win.

posted by Mr Agreeable [151 posts]
3rd March 2014 - 8:55

18 Likes

I've got an ally-framed EBC Evolution Evolution tourer which I've been thinking of retiring and stripping to put the components on a Croix de Fer for occasional tourist duties; no camping, two rear panniers and a rack bag maximum, does involve the odd bit off roughstuff.

Now along comes Surly with this frameset which looks slightly more adaptable. Surly unhelpfully doesn't publish a sizing guide.

I ride a 58cm/60cm frame (am building a 60cm Equilibrium)

Straggler or Croix de Fer folks?

If Straggler what size?

Really, though?

posted by workhard [389 posts]
3rd March 2014 - 9:12

22 Likes

Workhard, surly geo are available on their websites, go have a look and compare geo with the equilibrium. Im not going to suggest a size as Genesis run a lot shorter in the TT than Surly.

I love surly (have 3) but not taken by the straggler, dropouts look horrid to use. Its built just like the CrossCheck tho and they are ace, so a good bike it certainly will be.

STATO's picture

posted by STATO [423 posts]
3rd March 2014 - 12:25

21 Likes

The Planet X Kaffenback 2 is almost half the price of this at £799.99 and is virtually the same thing!
Any chance of reviewing it?!

Dangermouse's picture

posted by Dangermouse [14 posts]
4th March 2014 - 19:08

20 Likes

Looks fantastic if that's your bag & you want discs. I'd like a black one with wide drop bars (& Paul levers please) plus humongous mudguards for all-weather use.

I've got a Surly Pacer frame / fork built up as a mellow day-tourer & it's so good we just sought out on eBay an (ex-display model) CrossCheck for £620 vs the £1049 RRP for girlfriends use - there are bargains around & Surlys don't change all that much year to year, great firm.

posted by hirsthirst [17 posts]
4th March 2014 - 20:59

17 Likes

I've been looking for a sturdy roadbike with disc brakes and ended up buying a Croix de Fer about a month ago and am really enjoying it. For the time being it's being pressed into service for the commute in place of my single speed Cotic Roadrat. My only gripe is that no firm seems to offer the best of both worlds with the disc calliper attached to chainstay like the Croix and the calliper on the front of the fork like the Roadrat to ensure ease in fitting mudguards.

posted by richcc [45 posts]
4th March 2014 - 21:26

21 Likes

so much better looking in black! - good spot, thanks

posted by hirsthirst [17 posts]
5th March 2014 - 9:22

17 Likes

A little more post-test feedback from Surly...
While the test bike seat tube measured close to 56cm by our usual method (BB centre to top of ST), Surly measures the seat tube to the top of its juncture with the top tube, making this a 54cm bike on their web site geometry tables.
Surly also informs us that the top tube is horizontal and that the downward slope effect is an optical illusion. We did use a spirit level but will happily accept a slight margin for error

SteveW

posted by Steve Worland [95 posts]
7th March 2014 - 15:51

12 Likes

road.cc reviews

Latest reviews

10/10
£13.75
September 24, 2014
6/10
£199.00
September 23, 2014
7/10
£69.00
September 22, 2014
9/10
£79.00
September 21, 2014
8/10
£59.99
September 21, 2014
5/10
£39.95
September 20, 2014
8/10
£26.99
September 20, 2014
8/10
£24.99
September 19, 2014
8/10
£89.99
September 18, 2014
6/10
£9.99
September 17, 2014
9/10
£2506.15
September 17, 2014
7/10
£39.99
September 16, 2014
8/10
£20.00
September 16, 2014
9/10
£70.00
September 15, 2014
4/10
£87.99
September 15, 2014
8/10
£32.99
September 14, 2014
5/10
£25.99
September 14, 2014
9/10
£1.79
September 13, 2014
8/10
£279.99
September 12, 2014
6/10
£55.65
September 11, 2014
8/10
£90.00
September 11, 2014
6/10
£64.99
September 10, 2014
8/10
£70.00
September 9, 2014
8/10
£95.00
September 9, 2014
8/10
£39.99
September 8, 2014
8/10
£254.99
September 7, 2014
9/10
£54.99
September 7, 2014
8/10
£120.00
September 6, 2014
9/10
£63.99
September 6, 2014
 
1