Surly Straggler 18 Month Update…

Lean and mean single-speed machine…

Back in the late summer of 2014 I built up a Surly Straggler from parts bin leftovers as a low cost all weather road bike. Basically a replacement for my Boulder All Road that I regretted selling, but at a fraction of the price. Now that some time has passed and I just completed my first “event” on this bike I thought I would write down my feelings about it.

My goal was a simple no-frills road bike that was fun to ride basically anytime in PNWet weather. On that score I’d say the Straggler has been a success. It’s definitely a grab and go bike that doesn’t need much attention. It responds well to pedal input and handles like a tame road bike. The relatively wide 32mm tires and steel frame/fork provide a comfortable if not plush ride.

Our local transportation rides are generally under 10kms with a one way commute to Sidney of 25kms as my longest typical ride. Surfaces vary from pristine pavement to broken pavement and dirt/gravel bike paths. This weekend I completed a 50km BC Rando fun ride in about 2hrs which is my longest Straggle to date. I realize that’s not breaking any new ground in the biking world, but it was interesting for me to see how I liked a single-speed bike as the distance increased.

All in all the singe-speed drivetrain has proven perfect for this bike. It’s bombproof and requires minimal maintenance. It’s fun to ride and has only very rarely shown its limitations on a steep extended climb. Unlike fixed gear bikes I have owned SS has no learning curve to deal with so it’s fine for a bike a jump on occasionally after riding my geared bikes.

A testament to how much I like this bike is the fact that I have changed nothing from the original build. It’s fun. It’s works. Why mess with it?

The other interesting experiment with this bike was setting up the Compass Bicycle tires tubeless on some Velocity Blunt SL rims. This has been a flawless combo for me. Setup was simple and I’ve had no flats nor any tubeless issues. I pretty much can’t see a reason to run tubes in any of my bikes going forward. Particularly for the typical road bike flat [wire, thorn or glass] sealant is the perfect solution to a small hole.

If I was starting over the only thing I would change is I’d get the 650B version of this bike and run it with 42mm tires. The ride quality of a wider tire is noticeable when the surface gets rough. 700c x 32mm tires are a good compromise and the difference isn’t enough I would bother making the change, but if I was ordering a Straggler today it would be a 650B frame.

I should note that despite saying lots of good stuff about the Straggler it doesn’t hold a candle to the Boulder All Road in virtually any category except cost, versatility [horizontal dropouts] and wet weather braking. That said it cost ~25% of the Boulder and it’s much more than 1/4 the bike. Since road biking is not a passion of mine a value bike like the Straggler makes a lot of sense.


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