Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Custom Bicycle Build: Rohloff Equipped Surly Travelers Check

We just completed this wonderful build of a Surly Travelers Check.  This is a travel bike.  It features machined couplers in the frame that allow the frame to be separated in two halves.  This allows the bike to be broken down into parts small enough to be fit into a 26" x 26" x 10" hard case for air or rail travel.  By breaking down into this small size it makes the bike much more manageable with other luggage.  The hard case also protects the bike and contents.  The small size makes the case under most airline minimum sizes for normal checked luggage as well.  This cuts down on costs shipping the bike by quite a large amount.

Custom Concept

We built this bike for a customer who travels internationally.  He wanted the versatility provided by the Cross Check frame.  This bike will ride and handle just like a standard Cross Check.  It has the same tire clearances, and will fit similar racks if needed.  The general set up is in between his road type position and the more upright position of his Fargo.  He can easily pack a set of larger 44-50 mm tires with him on his travels for more mtb or rough trail sections.  Wherever he will be traveling to, this bike should be versatile enough to make riding enjoyable.

Build Parts

This bike is built around two main components.  The coupled Cross Check frame makes it versatile, while the 14 speed Rohloff hub keeps it visually and set up simple while being mechanically bullet proof.  The hub is really the mechanical focal point of the build.  Classic Sugino square taper cranks make for a clean look while keeping the classic appearance of the bike.  Viva square taper bottom brackets!

Looking toward the future and a possible disc brake alteration, our customer opted for disc brake compatible hubs front and rear.  The front hub is a black White Industries M16.  Spokes are Sapim butted spokes with brass nipples.  While reasonably light, these are plenty tough for touring or mtb use.  Completing the wheels are rims from DT Swiss.  These are their wider TK 540 touring rims.  TK's have an excellent reputation for durablility and quality.

The tires we chose are Continental Speed CX tires.  These are really cool tires.  They are fairly large volume and are very quick rolling.  These retain the aggressive side knobs from some of their tires, keeping cornering decent on gravel or offroad.  For unknown types of riding, these seem to be a reasonable compromise of rolling resistance and capability.

Fitting the disc Rohloff to this frame required a little bit of doing.  Everything eventually fit just perfectly.  Wheel removal is simple, and cable routing allows for smooth, easy shifting. Not much room for error here though.  DT Swiss RWS skewers keep the hubs firmly in place front and rear.

The Rohloff shifter is mounted in the traditional bar end location via an adapter called a Hubub.  Shifting is easy from this position, and feels much like a standard Shimano bar end type movement. Cable routing is smooth and even around the head tube, well away from the front cable or hanger.

The Rohloff cables are help in place with converted Problem Solvers clamp on cable guides.  This allows the cables to be detached from the frame for packing with just three bolts.  A third small bolt holds a padded c clamp to hole the cables to the seat stay.  The rake cable rides just above the clamp on guides and still moves freely and smoothly.

The seat post, stem, and handlebars are from Salsa and Ritchey.  Classic performers at reasonable prices. The brakes are Paul Components Cantilevers.  These are reliable, great looking brakes.  They add another touch of elegance to a really handsome build.


This is a fabulous bike.  The whole impression of it is purposely understated.  This is not a big that immediately jumps out and grabs you.  It is not supposed to.  It is a utterly bombproof, very comfortable, quite versatile bike capable of riding just about any where. I am throughly pleased with how this bike came out.  There were a lot of small challenges involved with putting this bike together.  In the end it was worth all of that.  It's a beautiful thing.


Bill G said...

Nice work Men!

That is a pretty sweet setup!

Erik said...

Cool bike. The average Joe on the street would never look twice at it, but it's just chock full of cool bits.

I've been eyeballing those Conti's for a while now. Looks like they would be a great all purpose gravel tire.

Wally Kilburg said...

Brilliant! I didn't know if one could still get a Traveler's Check. I love this bike Ben. Its perfect for what you describe. You did a great job spec'ing it out and building it. If the customer for some reason decides against it, I call dibs. Seriously.

Ben said...

Erik, these tires are really cool. They make a 42c version as well, although it's a steel bead. A friend has a set of those, and they roll like crazy. For hard pack gravel especially these are pretty much road tire fast.

Wally, these frames were on closeout for a while. They are now out of stock in normal sizes. I'm sure this guy wants to keep it, but there may be other coupled options coming in the near future along similar lines.

Wally Kilburg said...

Yeah, I know about the Traveler's Check stock thats why I mentioned it. I know the Surly LHT is going to be coupled but thats a 26" only deal and I'm not fond of the LHT anyway. Too bad they quit on the Traveler's Check.

Marc said...

Looks like a really nice bike.

How do you keep the chain tight?

Ben said...


The chain is tensioned by moving the wheel rearward in the semi horizontal dropouts. The Rohloff torque arm needs to be adjusted rearward as well to match this, which just entails loosening two bolts. Once the chain is broken in this will not need to be done very often. The DT Swiss skewer easily clamps tight enough to hold the wheel from slipping forward.

Marc said...

I see. I own a Koga Miyata with a Rohloff and my bike has a sliding device, in the dropout, which locks the hub in position. I suppose your system work fine as well but could be a bit of a hassle if you get a flat rear tire.

Ben said...

Actually there is only one addition step on this system to remove the tire.

On your bike you just remove the shifter box and drop the wheel free. On this bike, you remove the shifter box and push the quick release button on the torque arm. The wheel is then free to come out.

The Torque arm screws only need to be loosened to adjust tension in a major way. There is enough play in that system to allow for the chain to be tightened upon installation of the wheel.

Marc said...

Sounds great. The Rohloff is a great device and I really enjoy mine.

Btw, they are coming out with a new twist shifter soon. The numbers will be laser etched so that you will actually be able to tell what gear you are in. The black on black shifter numbers are very difficult to see, especially with sun glasses on and in low light conditions. Not normally an issue but it is nice to know where 7 and 8 are and also finding the right gear when waiting at a red light.


Ben said...

I'd heard about the new shifter, I'm looking forward to it. Honestly I don't pay much attention to what gear I'm in anymore on mine. The numbers have been worn off for so long it's a non issue for me. That new update would be welcomed though. I know there are riders who would like that.

kevin said...

This is a really awesome setup. No frills, just simple parts working hard. I have just a couple of questions (and maybe I'm just dumb and missed it): Are those 700C rims? Would you have to pack them in a different bag in order to fit the setup into a 26x26x10 bike bag?

Ben said...


Thanks for the comments. I've very pleased with how it came out, as is our customer.

They are 700c wheels. It will fit into a standard 26" S and S case with the tires deflated.


Mike said...

I have ridden the drop tube - shifter set up and think it sucks. Recently, Seven Cycles built me a custom commuter with Rohloff, beltdrive, etc. We designed a custom bullhorn bar that puts the shifter in the perfect position. I ride in the same position as on my Seven Axiom Road Bike when my hands are on the hoods. I think it is the best rohloff "Road-type" shifter solution I have seen. Check out the pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/62183662@N08/sets/72157626444213319/