Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Surly Big Dummy Review, Part 2

The Build

Well, there it is. I have to say that it went together really well. I did have to clean some powdercoat out some of the threads, but like I had mentioned in Part 1, I have the taps for those, so no big deal. Everything else fit without modification—the dropouts, the fork, the disk tabs, the seatpost—all of it. Surly's builder has excellent quality control as far as I can tell.

The disk brakes were a bit of a challenge. They're Hayes HFX Mag Hydraulics, which are great except stock lines come only in 900 and 1600 mm lengths. For the Big Dummy, the rear needed to be 2200 mm. After a couple of failed go-rounds with a couple of local shops, I e-mailed Hayes tech support. Four e-mail volleys with a very helpful young man and $40 on the ol' Visa card later, UPS dropped off a box containing a one-off line from the factory, complete with permanent crimp at the caliper end. Problem solved.

Then I had to juice them up. Quite unlike a car, but honestly, much more fun

I also added this little hinkeypunk to keep the contents of the Freeloaders (the Xtracycle's side bags) from messing up the rear caliper. This is more of a problem with mechanical disks, but I had the part, so why not? Anyways, the hydraulics are great. Much better feel than a long cable to the rear brake in on my other Xtracycles. Front and rear are very similar in feel and power.

The Ride

Yes, it is decidedly much more like a regular bike than my Xtracycle conversions were. Having a wheelbase about 15 inches longer than the average bike, it's still not nimble, but the folks at Surly really did get the finer points of the geometry right. The steering has a light, normal feel and the frame feels stiffer and more solid than a conversion. Things do get a little strange in low-speed, tight-radius turns, but hey, we're talking about an eight-foot long bicycle.

Pedaling out of the saddle also has a different feel than a regular bicycle, but it's fine. Quite stable, and better again than an Xtracycle conversion.

Oh, and for those of you concerned about weight, this thing is a moose. I think the frame weighs almost as much as my road bike. With the freeride wheels, Big Apple tires and big dorky handlebars, not to mention the Xtracycle bits, it's probably tipping the scales at close to 45 pounds. But the point, of course, is not to race this thing but to wring more utility out of it than a normal bicycle. I love it.

Part three will be a bit about hauling and a bit about buzz. See Commute By Bike and Dirt Rag for more ride reports, and Vik's Big Dummy Blog if you want to know just plain everything about Big Dummies.

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