I have a black Surly Straggler – The Struggler. The wife conspired with Jake to get it for me for Christmas in 2014. I assume they chose it for at least two reasons: 1) it’s black, like my soul, and 2) it’s a Surly, like my attitude.
Either way, it was love at first sight. Imagine, if you will, a shiny black steed with road bars and giant, knobby 41mm Surly Knard monster truck tires (that was before; now it looks like the above picture).
The Struggler was a machine built for gravel, and I’ve put it through its fair share around Kellyville and in Osage county, as well as two Land Runs. I did most of last winter’s Night Ops rides on it (the better to survive potholes that go bump in the night … ).
It’s an insanely comfortable bike, but also, a starter project. My road bike isn’t something I need to upgrade. The Struggler, on the other hand, well … Let’s just say I think I could do better than the stock Shimano Tiagra component set. But man, bike stuff. You have to budget. You have to plan. You have to budget and plan.
Here’s what got me off high center; Steph started talking about making another pilgrimage to Mt. Scott. What Mt. Scott is to a bicycle rider is about 1,000 feet of climbing in three miles, ranging from seven percent to 18 percent grade. It will punish you.
When last we did this, I’d had my Scott road bike for about a month. It was great on the climb, though I thought I was going to hyperventilate and die, but on the descent, it scared me. The crosswinds blew it all over the place, and I didn’t feel at times like I had enough braking power.
When Steph mentioned the return trip, I knew it was time to modify the Struggler. At the very least, slap some road tires on it. I assumed the weight of the bike would combat the winds, the disc brakes would help with stopping power and control when I needed it.
I mentioned the mission to Jake. He’d had heard me complain about the Tiagra stuff. It wasn’t that it was bad, it was that my road bike has Ultegra, and the transition between the two was jarring. When I mentioned the Mt. Scott trip and my desire to put some road shoes on the Struggler, he had another idea. He said: “I have a killer idea. I just got my hands on a better group set for you. SRAM Rival, hydraulic brakes … great price.”
I said, “Okay, but you have to let me build it.”
He said yes. He mostly lied. We rebuilt it a couple Mondays ago. There was bourbon involved. And in addition to the upgraded components, there were also new bars, a new seat post, new cranks and chainrings, and a set of 32mm Gatorskins. Even ended up upgrading from a 10spd rear cassette to an 11spd (which Jake accomplished by hauling my rear wheel to the machine shop).
Sure, I was trading weight for control, but … as it turns out, despite probably a significant weight difference between my carbon bike and the steel one, I didn’t feel I sacrificed a whole lot of speed, and I had another climbing gear out of the deal. Mountain climbing ready.
The Struggler was real.