Surly Cross-Check – first ride review

Cyclocross bike with mudguard and rack mounts

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £1,049.99 RRP | USD $1,149.00

Our review

Perfect off-road handling but it's no lightweight
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At first glance, the Surly Cross-Check looks like a classic steel cyclocross bike, but take a closer look at the beautifully appointed chromoly frame and you’ll find provision for mudguards, a rear rack and even a high-mount front pannier rack. That makes it capable of so much more than just mud-plugging, although when you hit the road it’s definitely more touring bike than sprint machine.


But it’s on the rough stuff that the Surly really shines. With a short top tube, slack head angle and swept forward fork, it’s an absolute joy in the off-road handling stakes. Okay, it can’t compete with a modern mountain bike on dirt – to push one of those and yourself to the limit you’ll likely need to visit a trail centre or venture to Europe’s mountains.

Instead, the Cross-Check, essentially a road bike with fat tyres, makes your local woods, byways or bridleways a genuinely exhilarating challenge. If you make your next commuter bike a Cross-Check and then get yourself off the beaten track, you’ll not only improve your all-round bike handling skills but you’ll have fun doing so.

Our test build is good value with some great kit: a drivetrain that combines a Shimano Deore mech shifting an 11-32 cassette and ’cross-specific 48/36 chainring. Not only is this an ideal off-road range, it’s more than adequate should you decide to hang some panniers on the frame for a spot of weekend touring. Old-school bar-end shifters will run forever without fuss, though you do need to anticipate your required gear before you hit a technical section off-road.

Controlled braking and lots of clearance on the surly cross-check:

Controlled braking, lots of clearance

A solid wheelset and excellent off-road tyres in the form of Kenda’s Slant Six – mountain bike legend John Tomac’s signature series – help ensure that the Surly is surefooted, smooth and comfortable. Steering is handled by Salsa’s super-flared Bell Lap bar, the one drop bar we’re truly comfortable with riding off-road in the drops.

The downside of the Cross-Check is that it comes in the wrong side of 11kg, but that weight translates into toughness; on one 60-mile off-road test ride we took the Cross-Check cross-country from singletrack to cart track, and even a couple of runs down a former national downhill course, complete with drop-offs and jumps. It survived with not even a scratch on its vibrant – ‘Hospital Foam’ – green paintwork. 


This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Product Specifications


Name Cross-Check (13)
Brand Surly

Description Kenda Slant Six tyres
Brakes Tektro CR270
Cranks Andel RSC6
Fork Lugged chromoly
Frame Material 4130 butted chromoly
Handlebar Salsa Bell Lap
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore
Rims 700C Alex DA16 rims on Deore hubs
Seatpost Kalloy
Stem Kalloy
Weight (kg) 11.1
Weight (lb) 24.47