The Surly Straggler: The Elusive Everything Bike

Graydon Kolk, one of our Ambassadors this year, and a member of Redbeard Racing, is obsessed with bike gear. He researches every single thing he buys -- and then he puts it through its paces on the road. We asked him to share his experiences with you all in a series of blog posts.

The Surly Straggler: The Elusive Everything Bike
Words and photos by Graydon Kolk

So to kick things off, first a little about my biking background. I choose to commute on my bike every day, rain, snow, hot, cold, it doesn’t matter. My biggest motivator for this was simple, being happy! I found that on days I was taking the train because of snow or rain I was super grumpy. Putting up with a bit of discomfort from the elements far outweighed the luxuries (or lack there of) the train could offer.

I also really enjoy being in control of my commute. There's nothing worse than being "held momentarily by the train's conductor" underground, with no way to hurry along the train! I find that biking I rarely run into any sort of delay. I also have become addicted to the dopamine high you get from exercise. It's now become as necessary as my morning cup of coffee!

I have several bikes, but I got started commuting on a cheap Mercier track bike when I moved to the city. It was fashionable then to ride "fixies" brakeless, and I succumbed to the trends. After I got tired of always having sore knees, and a sweaty back, I transformed the Mercier into a cruiser, with a front rack, brakes, upright townie bars. I then switched to commuting on my 1980's something Peugeot because of the relaxed geometry, flexy steel, and most importantly room for fenders. After being fed up with not being able to stop very well in wet weather, I called up Redbeard and explained my dilemma, and he fixed me up with the Surly Straggler. Its disk brakes and room for fat tires make it the ultimate commuting monster.

The Straggler to me is a platform, or a blank canvas. It’s a bike that allows you to build it up virtually any way you could imagine and easily transform it into something else if you get bored! I currently have it set up as my daily commuter with fat Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires 42s, fenders, drop bars and a Tubus Lowrider front rack. With this set up, the Straggler rides like a truck, a really fun truck that can take a beating and comfortably stands up to terrible road conditions in Queens on my daily commute. When I’m in nature, I strip off the fenders and rack, and throw on some Surly Knard 42s, and the Straggler turns into a super capable cross/gravel bike. I’ve pedaled it on MTB tails, gravel roads and snow. It performs surprisingly well in all conditions.

This is by no means a light bike, but for a production steel frame bike at a relatively low price point it's surprisingly lively. The frame is forgiving where it needs to be and stiff enough to offer some feedback when cranking out of the saddle. All in all, it’s just a super comfortable bike to ride for long days in the saddle.

My favorite thing about the Straggler is that it’s one bike that allows me to do a lot of varied riding. Everyone is always searching for the ever elusive “do everything” bike and for me the Straggler has fit the bill. Sure it can’t replace my road bike, a Lynskey R330, or my track bike, an All-City Thunderdome, but it has filled that sweet spot as my daily driver, bad weather, off road, gravel grinding, cross-ish, touring ready bike.

More reviews to come on some of the gear I use on a daily basis commuting all year round!

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