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Bike at bedtime: Surly Straggler

If you're after versatility, this steel rough road bike is hard to beat

The steel Surly Straggler has been a fixture on the all-rounder/gravel scene for years, and it’s still going strong – in more ways than one.

Surly – based in Minnesota, USA – describes the Straggler as “a bikepacking-inspired road/gravel bike mostly at home on pavement but ready for trail duty when called”.

That hints at the bike’s versatility.

Surly Straggler - Full bike

“Straggler is tuned for cross-over exploration on a wide variety of terrain conditions,” says Surly. “It’s a day-tripper and a weekender. It’s a ‘rough road’ road bike, a cyclocross bike with no pretence about racing, a utilitarian townie, a light-duty touring bike and an all-weather commuter. It’s a steel gravel bicycle that thrives on the road.”

2021 Surly Straggler fork.jpeg

We’d agree that the Straggler is multi-talented. When the late, great Steve Worland reviewed it for back in early 2014 he said, “Surly’s Straggler is a sturdily built and eminently adaptable steel all-rounder. It boasts a handful of interesting design touches, an unusual amount of tyre room, plentiful luggage rack mounts and a very comfy ride. It has a strong bias towards rough roads and trail use, but weight-weenies should look away now.”

Oh yeah, at 11.9kg (over 26lb), that complete bike was no lightweight – but that’s not the point.

The Straggler is really a reimagined version of one of Surly’s most popular all-rounder bikes, the Cross-Check – another model that’s still available.

Surly Straggler - riding 4

The Straggler has disc brakes instead of the Cross-Check’s cantilevers, adding extra appeal for off-road use and/or fully loaded touring. Both are built around the kind of purposeful, adaptable and durable framesets Surly is known for, with the Straggler’s discs supporting its status as a true all-rounder.

2021 Surly Straggler frame decal.jpeg

The 4130 chromoly steel tubes are cleanly TIG-welded, the main triangle is double butted, and the chunky 4130 chromoly fork has a lugged crown and dropouts with curved butted blades fitted with dual rack eyelets.

The frame shape is unusual – even distinctive – with the top tube sloping down slightly from the seat tube to the head tube. That head tube in turn extends about 2cm above the top tube. With the 30mm stack of washers on the steerer, that gives you an option of a very high or very low handlebar position and good standover clearance.

2021 Surly Straggler rear dropout.jpeg

The rear dropouts are 135mm wide (mountain bike standard) and have screw adjusters so you can use a single speed or hub geared wheel, or simply slide the wheel back for extra clearance around big tyres.

Frame fittings include threaded bosses, doubled up on the fork dropouts, for full mudguards and every common type of front and rear pannier rack plus two sets of bottle cage bosses. Surly hasn’t left anything to chance here.

The Straggler isn’t particularly fast on the climbs but it’s a confident descender, especially when you’re not sure what type of surface is going to come your way.

Surly Straggler - riding 1

It has a rock solid character in terms of both handling and durability. It’s true that the Straggler feels a bit of a lump at times, especially compared with skinny road bikes, but there are also times when its steamroller personality is welcome.

It’s much less skittish than a lightweight race bred cyclocross bike when you hit the trails, and that gives you confidence to explore further afield. With a fast-rolling set of touring tyres, it’ll compete with lots of traditional touring bikes.

The Straggler is a bike for those who value a comfortable non competitive ride and a lot of adaptability. That’s why it has earned its place on the Surly roster for several years now, and there’s no sign of it disappearing any time soon.

2021 Surly Straggler complete bike.jpeg

The Surly Straggler is available as a frameset for 700C and 650B wheels, priced £650.

It’s also available in a SRAM Rival 1x build for £1,750.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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