Surly Straggler: A Cyclocross Experiment

Surly Straggler 1x11 Ultegra to XTR via Tanpan.

Surly Straggler 1×11 Ultegra to XTR via Tanpan.

I spoke to Captain Obvious and he told me (confidentially) that cyclocross is kind of a big deal. I was loath to believe him as I usually don’t trust people with ridiculous names. But a quick look at sites like the Radavist convinced me. It’s everywhere!

Cyclocross has been around since the early 20th century. It was a niche category with niche bike builds (usually totally custom) and a little-understood reason for why anyone would want to ride a drop-bar bicycle in the mud. As it turns out, human beings, especially cyclist humans, are filthy creatures. They love getting all dirty and holding it up as a badge of honor. Remember that guy who drove his 4×4 to get groceries with his truck all covered in mud from the last time it rained? The same theory applies to cyclocross. It’s just plain rad, is what it is. There’s nothing like getting all tricked out in some amazing, colorful kit, then getting it all muddy. Entropy is awesome. As humans and cyclists, we’re damn good at it.

So in response to getting older and wanting to be more awesome, I decided to build a cyclocross bike…only build one that would get me more points in the rad department. Though not a pure cyclocross frame, the Surly Straggler seemed to fit the bill for my needs. I love steel and Surly makes some pretty nice frames with disc tabs. I decided to do a frame-up compete build from scratch, including lacing my own wheels. So strap in and get ready, I about to attempt to blow your mind…

After acquiring a mint-colored 54cm Surly Straggler frame from my shop, I set to work building the wheels. Since I wanted to get a nice colorway going, I thought lacing red anodized White Industries XMR 6-bolt disc hubs to WTB Frequency Team CX hoops would look pretty neat-o. DT Swiss 2.0/1.8 Revolution spokes? Don’t mind if I do.

Disc brakes are always fun, but I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to hydraulic disc setups. I am still not comfy with the whole bleeding and olive and barb thing. Besides, cables are easy to maintain and can be fixed in the field. So I took a look at the new Paul Components Klampers and decided that the cool factor was too high for me to ignore. After much truing of the wheel and bolting on of the discs, I had a rolling frame.

Next was the drive train: I could have gone the traditional 2-by route and got myself a Ultegra or CX-specific setup. But I wanted to go deeper. I wanted the ability to climb, race, and haul heavy loads (like myself, for instance). I chose an Ultegra-to-XTR-via-Tanpan setup. Didn’t get all that? Well I wanted STI shifters, a single chainring, and the ability to run a 40-tooth cog. The only thing I could see that works well enough is the Wolftooth Components Tanpan cable pull adjuster. Now, with a Wolftooth 39-tooth narrow-wide chanring attached to my Ultegra crankset and connected to an 11-40 cassette lovingly cradled by an XTR 11-speed derailleur, I could get as rad as I want.

Combine all this with Salsa Cowbell 2 Handlebars,  Thompson stem and seat post, Chris King Headset, Brooks Cambium C15 saddle, Raceface Atlas pedals (until I get used to the ride), and S-Works Renegade 29 x 1.8 tires, I am now ready for some serious dirt assault. It’s entropy time!

Partial build list (costs MSRP or sale in US Dollars at the time of posting). Please order from and support your LBS (local bike shop) unless link provided below:

  • Surly Straggler 54 cm frame – approx. $500.
  • WTB XMR 6-bolt disc hubs – Front: $189, rear, $379.
  • WTB 32-hole Frequency i19 Team CX rims – $79.95 x 2.
  • Shimano Ultegra 6800 Crankset – $169.99 from Chain Reaction.
  • Shimano Ultegra 6800 2×11 shifters – $196.49 from Chain Reaction.
  • Shimano XT M8000 11-speed 11-40 tooth cassette – $59.95 from Chain Reaction.
  • Shimano ICE-Tech SM-RT86 6-bolt rotors (160 mm) – $32.00 x 2
  • Paul Components Klamper short pull disc brake calipers – $175.00 x 2
  • Wolftooth Components 39-tooth Chainring for 110 BCD 4-bolt Shimano cranks – $78.95. Get direct.
  • Wolftooth Components Tanpan inline pull adjuster – $39.95. Get direct.
  • Shimano XTR M9000 Shadow Plus Medium Cage rear derailleur – $149.99 from Chain Reaction.
  • Thomson Elite X4 70mm MTB stem (31.6 clamp) – $99.99
  • Thomson Elite 27.2 seat post – $99.95
  • Chris King Red Sotto Voce 1-1/8 Threadless Headset – $149.99
  • Brooks Cambium C15 saddle – $175.00
  • S-Works Renegade 29 x 1.8 tires – $59.95 x 2
  • Salsa Cowbell 2 handlebars – $50.00
  • Salsa Lip Lock seat post clamp (30.0 clamp) – $22.00
  • Raceface Atlas pedals – $150.00

Ride it!

9 thoughts on “Surly Straggler: A Cyclocross Experiment

  1. I have a Cannondale slate bike with Ultegra 6800 groupset, front crankset 52-36, rear cassette 11-32 and a medium cage derailleur.
    I cannot afford to buy the expensive SRAM FORCE 1 or Apex, so I was thinking the solution of a small upgrade package with the roadlink and a new cassette.
    What style of setup do you recommend ? For sure I will need the road link, but what about the cassette?
    Given the fact I need more “climbing setup” style, I was thinking changing the current Cannondale Hollowgram Si 52 / 36 double chainrings, with the Wolf tooth DIRECT MOUNT FOR CANNONDALE HOLLOWGRAM — CX AND ROAD OFFSET, 38Tooth.
    Summing up, I need, a new cassette 11-40 Deore XT with cost around 70 Euros + the Wolf Tooth RoadLink, cost around 25 Euros+ new Wolf tooth DIRECT MOUNT chainring, cost 100Euros , so the total cost will be around 200 Euros.

    Alternatively, another solution ( link: ) is to replace also the rear Ultegra derailleur with the Shimano XTR RD-M9000-GS Shadow RD+ Rear Derailleur medium 11-speed cost 140 euros, without the not needed Wolf tooth road link, but with the necessary Wolf tooth Tanpan adjuster 40 euros, (plus the cassette 11-42 Deore XT , 70E and the wolf tooth chainring 100E), the total cost will be around 350 Euros.
    What is your opinion?

    • Sorry for the delay. Actually, if I were to re-do this project, I might take a look at the SRAM NX1 group. It retails for about 100 dollars and gets you an 11-50T, 12-speed gearing.

      • Nice alternative , NX1 costs about 350 euros. On the other hand, my Cannondale Slate bike came with the Ultegra 6800 groupset, so how the SRAM NX1, 1×12 groupset, will be combined with the Ultegra road shifters?

  2. What kind of thru-axis are you using and have you had any issues with the wheel sliding without flipping the wheel holder screw to the front on the drive side?

    • Sorry for the delay in the reply.

      The Straggler is great. But I have found that the frame is pretty unresponsive when technical work is required. I think I would like to try a frame made of a higher quality steel like Tange or Reynolds. I think it should be fine for general adventure biking, tho. But for cyclocross or gravel, I think we can do better.

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