Thursday, March 12, 2009

Slipping the Surly Bonds

Last year I bought a used, incomplete 52cm Surly Cross-Check. I got it because I had heard Surly owners speak so highly of it, and it seemed like a good deal. I had no particular gap to fill in my bike fleet, so I considered different ways to build it up. I've seen these built in almost any configuration. Looking at what it had, including a nice set of wheels, I chose to build it as a light touring bike, something I could ride all day under a wide range of conditions. This meant a wide gear range, fenders, rack, and touring tires. I thought I could recycle a lot of the parts I had accumulated and build this for well under the $1100 price of a new complete Cross Check. It's been a learning experience to say the least. 
Learned: Building a bike always costs more than you think it will. 
Learned: It's cheaper to buy the bike complete than to build it from parts. 
Learned: You can't get your investment back if you sell the complete bike. 
Learned: 52cm is too small a frame for me. 
Learned: A lot about building bikes. 
What I have is a lovely bike that happens to be at the small end of my fit range, and on which I spent nearly the price of a new one, and for which it seems I can get back perhaps 3/4 of my investment if I sell it as it is. The consolations are that some of the parts I used are better than what comes on a complete Cross Check from Surly, that I did learn a few things about building bikes, and that I do have some options for what to do with it. I can sell it complete and take the loss. I can put the parts on a bigger frame and sell off the smaller frame--thus not losing the value of the parts I bought. I can ride it as is. For the time being, I'm keeping it assembled--the easiest way to keep track of the parts. 
What I'd really like is another touring frame like the one I had in the 1970s (pictured in the post "Bicycles in the Living Room"). I don't really need it--I have three other bikes I can ride. Still, I'd like something reasonably light that is suitable for long rides in a wide range of conditions. And such a frame costs more than many complete bikes, including Surlys. 

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