1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
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2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    New rider needs insight on whether to purchase different bike

    Hey everyone - n00b here to both these forums as well as biking in general. Before last summer, I hadn't ridden a bike since I was 16 on my Haro Shredder. But after riding an old cheapie for a bit, I splurged and purchased a Surly Cross-Check, a "do everything" bike that was highly recommended in things I read on the net and through speaking with my local bike shop.

    Here she is:

    New rider needs insight on whether to purchase different bike-bike_zpsbe8cfad1.jpg

    That brings me here...

    I've put on about 100-120 miles since last September, about 20 of them just this past week. While I like the bike so far, I'm REALLY sore in my neck after riding more than 8-10 miles. It's so bad that it actually prevents me from riding as often as I'd like to and has me wondering if I made the right purchase. It takes me at least a full day or two to start feeling right and sleeping well. I have chronic back issues stemming from a prior hobby (demolition derbies) and wonder if cycling isn't surfacing these issues more so.

    I love biking and really want to do more of it. Am I crazy to consider selling the cross-check in favor of something different? If I'd classify my riding surfaces, I'd say it's a combo of pavement and gravel with some off-road mixed in. Nothing high speed persay, but it's not a ride in the park either. I'd like to try some trail riding at some point as well, so I'd really like something that I can do everything with.

    Is my probelm with the cross-check itself? Is it the drop bars that are leading to my riding discomfort and will I get used to it?

    Would I be better off with something like a Surly Ogre or Troll? Would it make sense to try putting different bars on the cross-check, or is it the frame and reach on the cross-check that's the real issue?

    I'd really appreciate any insight the community can offer!

  2. #2
    I'd rather be on my bike
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    What size are you, and what size is the bike? Sounds like a cockpit issue to me.
    '13 FELT TK3 48:15
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  3. #3
    local trails rider
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    It is hard to tell from your description and a photo of just the bike.

    Guesstimating just by the seat height and stem length I see in the photo, I suspect that your riding position could be too long - forcing you to reach far forward to get your hands on the bar.

    Is your seat at an efficient pedaling height? My ball park height is reached by pedaling with the heels on pedals and raising seat until I can barely pedal without rocking my hips. Then I have some bend left in my knees when I put the ball of the foot on the pedal.

    If your seat is high enough, I THINK, you have a too large frame with too long stem - and then the drop bar puts you still a little more forward. A drop bar can be great especially if you spend enough time in the sadle to need some changes in your hand positions. But if the bar is not in a good position - you cannot get a good riding position.
    Can you get a side view photo of yourself on the bike? Both hands on the bar in riding position.

    ..... of course, I might be totally wrong. What I wrote is just a theory based on very limited information.

    "it IS possible that you are faster or slower than anybody else who is having at least as much if not more or less fun"

  4. #4
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    Thanks for your input - I'll try and get a pic of my on it later today when my wife gets home.

    I'm about 6'0 tall, 225 lbs. I'd say I have pretty normal arm/leg length for my height, if anything. The cross-check is a 60 cm. When I stop, I can touch the ground with my tiptoes while on the saddle. It does feel like I'm reaching a bit when I ride, so I literally never use the drops and always ride on the top bar.

  5. #5
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    If you can put your feet on the ground while sitting in the saddle I'm guessing you saddle is far too low.

  6. #6
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    There are so many things going on. I'm no fitter, but my first guess is a combination of stem length and handlebar height. For your riding, you may even want to look into a flat bar to eliminate that stretch to the brakes.

    The seat tilt could also be an issue. It looks like the nose is pointed too far down. I had someone who came by the house and complained about shoulder/neck pain and I set his bike up on a trainer and tilted the nose of the seat from your angle to a level position and he said that it helped a lot.

    The other thing is being able to touch the ground while you are on the saddle. On a traditional bike, not a crank forward, that is something that a person can't do unless the saddle is too low.

    In your case you may want to see a fitter that can analyze your back issues and your bike setup. I would not sell the Surly unless a good fitter can't find a comfortable position.

    John
    1995 Trek 970 - 80mm Atom Race
    1992 Serotta T-Max - 70mm Z3 Light
    1993 GT All Terra - 46mm Mag 21

  7. #7
    local trails rider
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    Reaching the ground with the toes isn't necessarily an indication of anything. You don't want the seat too high either: that can be as bad - or sometimes worse - for knees and back than having the seat too low. The seat does look tilted forward, and that can make you lean more on the bar. Tilted back isn't good either - for reasons that you'd notice pretty soon... The forward/rearward position of the seat should be set so that you are well balanced on the bike. Many feel that "KOPS" is a good starting point for that (google it).
    I still THINK that you probably have too much distance to the bar.

    "it IS possible that you are faster or slower than anybody else who is having at least as much if not more or less fun"

  8. #8
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    60cm at 6' tall is too large. I'm 6'2" and ride a 58cm bike and in all honesty I could probably ride a 56cm and not be too cramped.
    Quote Originally Posted by Psycle151 View Post
    Friggin' coward. Give me a red chiclet instead of debating like a man. You don't deserve your green blocks.

  9. #9
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    Trying to assess fit over the internet is really not going to work very well. You may want to go to a bike shop and pay for at least a basic fitting. After those adjustments there still are personal changes that you may prefer to make to be more comfortable. Then ride -- a lot. It does take time to get used to the position on a road bike. 20 miles a week really won't do it. While there are some people who are naturally comfortable on a road bike most of us need to condition our bodies for a while to get there.

    And, after stating all that, it may be that you will never be comfortable on a road bike. Especially, if you already have neck issue. A bike that has you sit more upright might be better for you. Road bikes are built for speed and extended riding. Do you care about being fast and being able to ride 3-6 hours at a stretch? If not you may not need a road bike.

    But before giving up on your current bike, get that fitting and see if that helps your neck hurt less and in turn allows you to ride more.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nubster View Post
    60cm at 6' tall is too large. I'm 6'2" and ride a 58cm bike and in all honesty I could probably ride a 56cm and not be too cramped.
    60 cm for a 6' rider may be on the large side but you can't possibly know that it is definitely too large for the OP.

    6'2" rider on a 56cm...? A lot of pros race on really small frames but I wouldn't recommend that for most amateurs. And the pros are mostly made of legs....

  11. #11
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    Wow, this is as great a forum as I'd been told - thank you all for such expedited feedback!

    Being such a beginner, I didn't ask as many questions as I should have when purchasing the bike. At the time I was fitted, I honestly felt as though the bike felt a bit big. However, being new to road bikes, I figured the guy doing the fitting knew what he was doing so I went along with it. Looking back, I wished I'd have requested a smaller bike.

    To the point of riding a lot to sort of "break myself in" - I've been trying, but I'd literally rather not ride than deal with the discomfort. I went out for about 10 miles two days ago and it's lead to discomfort that's finally subsiding today. It's bad enough where it's not ruining my quality of life, but it's not pleasant. It's not fun.

    I'll try and get pics posted later today which will hopefully help diagnose if it's the bike, the rider, or a combination of issues.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by borabora View Post
    60 cm for a 6' rider may be on the large side but you can't possibly know that it is definitely too large for the OP.

    6'2" rider on a 56cm...? A lot of pros race on really small frames but I wouldn't recommend that for most amateurs. And the pros are mostly made of legs....
    By his own posting he says the bike felt/is too big. 6' tall and a 60cm bike...that's pretty much a no brainer that it's too big except for a very few oddly shaped people which the OP stated he was of a normal build.

    6'2" on a 56cm wasn't a suggestion. It was merely stating that at my height I could ride a bike two sizes smaller than the OP's bike while he's 2" shorter than me just to further show that his bike is too big.

    Anything else?
    Quote Originally Posted by Psycle151 View Post
    Friggin' coward. Give me a red chiclet instead of debating like a man. You don't deserve your green blocks.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by cassavant89 View Post
    Wow, this is as great a forum as I'd been told - thank you all for such expedited feedback!

    Being such a beginner, I didn't ask as many questions as I should have when purchasing the bike. At the time I was fitted, I honestly felt as though the bike felt a bit big. However, being new to road bikes, I figured the guy doing the fitting knew what he was doing so I went along with it. Looking back, I wished I'd have requested a smaller bike.

    To the point of riding a lot to sort of "break myself in" - I've been trying, but I'd literally rather not ride than deal with the discomfort. I went out for about 10 miles two days ago and it's lead to discomfort that's finally subsiding today. It's bad enough where it's not ruining my quality of life, but it's not pleasant. It's not fun.

    I'll try and get pics posted later today which will hopefully help diagnose if it's the bike, the rider, or a combination of issues.
    If the bike feels too big and is causing pain while riding, it's definitely the bike. You may be able to do some things to get it to a point where it's rideable, but I don't think you'll ever be really happy with the bike. I'd say that you should be on a 56cm, maybe a 58cm bike.

    Did they order the bike for you or was it a bike they had in the store? Where there other sizes there too? If it was a bike on hand, I have a feeling you got duped by the shop so they could unload the bike.
    Quote Originally Posted by Psycle151 View Post
    Friggin' coward. Give me a red chiclet instead of debating like a man. You don't deserve your green blocks.

  14. #14
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    You know 60cm doesn't necessarily mean that frame is too big. It sure looks like a traditional (80's) style frame as the top tube is basically horizontal. If it were a modern style, then it might be.

    Top tube length is probably a more important dimension, regardless, with your back issues, it is really too tough to give accurate advice from a few pictures.

    If you are really intent on trying to solve this without going to a shop for a fitting, my only suggestion is to get a used wind/mag trainer so you can sit on the bike and it will be supported by the trainer. From there you can set KOPS as a starting point, although I like to be a little behind that, and saddle height without worrying about trying to keep the bike from falling over. You will need to prop up the front wheel on a phone book or ??? to get it level with the back wheel.

    The next steps are the trial and error ones. If you can get a shop to let you use (borrow) shorter/taller stems and just keep dinking around until you feel it is dialed in and you feel comfortable. As I have said earlier you may want to swap out the handlebars from a drop bar to a flat or even a swept back bar. My younger brother has played around with different bars so I know it can be done. You would probably have to swap out the brake/shifter levers going to another style bar, but I have seen some where road shifter/brakes will work.

    John
    1995 Trek 970 - 80mm Atom Race
    1992 Serotta T-Max - 70mm Z3 Light
    1993 GT All Terra - 46mm Mag 21

  15. #15
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    If you have a fit problem then no one can tell you what that problem is until they see you pedal on the road or on a trainer for a while. Go to a pro and get fitted again. It wouldn't be first time that the free fitting that they offered with the bike is off.

    If you have a medical problem then obviously you should talk to your doctor about it.

    The way you describe the degree of lasting pain due to relatively short rides, I doubt that this is purely a fit problem.

  16. #16
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    Re: New rider needs insight on whether to purchase different bike

    Quote Originally Posted by cassavant89 View Post
    It does feel like I'm reaching a bit when I ride, so I literally never use the drops and always ride on the top bar.
    I don't really care about any of the other stuff. From this and from the picture, I agree with those who say the bike's too big. If not necessarily for all 6' tall cyclists, certainly too big for you.

    Do you have a mountain bike you like?
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  17. #17
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    Hey everyone - I took a ride down to my local bike shop tonight and learned that while the bike fits ok, it's maybe not the type of bike I should have purchased. The combination of being not used to a road bike and the physical issues I have with my neck and back, I should have looked at something that allows me to sit a bit more upright.

    So here I am, looking to get into something different. The LBS showed me a Salsa Fargo 3 and explained the style of that bike actually allows the rider to sit more upright than some mountain bikes do.

    Since longer rides may not be something I'm able to do for awhile - if at all - I'm actually leaning towards a non-road style bike. Does anyone have any feedback on some of the bikes the LBS and I discussed tonight? Yes, they're a Surly/Salsa dealer.

    Ogre, Karate Monkey, Krampus, El Marichi, and Fargo.

  18. #18
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    A cheap and easy way to experiment is to buy some different stems. Try eBay. You can find a stem for 10-15 bucks easily.

    Figure out what came with the bike, and buy the next smallest two lengths. My guess is that you can dial in the fit that way. Much easier than buying a new bike.

  19. #19
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Do you have a mountain bike you like?
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  20. #20
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    What are you riding with this bike?
    Quote Originally Posted by Psycle151 View Post
    Friggin' coward. Give me a red chiclet instead of debating like a man. You don't deserve your green blocks.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    Do you have a mountain bike you like?
    If I'm reading your question correctly, I do not own another bike. I had a cheap mountain bike prior to this Cross Check, but gave it to my sister-in-law. I never noticed these issues riding that bike either.

    If you mean another I have my eye on, not specifically, no. I'm pretty open to suggestions, but want to be sure the next bike I get works for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nubster View Post
    What are you riding with this bike?
    If you mean the cross check, pavement and gravel. Open roads and city driving.

    If you mean what would I like to ride with a different bike, same as above, but with the option to do some off-road stuff, light trail riding, etc. Sort of a do-it-all bike that leans towards a mountain bike and less towards a road bike.

  22. #22
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    You "may" be able to duplicate the setup that you have on the old cheap mountain bike; i.e. reach and handlebar height and get it close enough to be a comfortable riding bike. You need to take measurements to see if you can get the distances the same, if you can't then you should look to change bikes. The shop should be able to help you with this. For a general commuting bike/comfort bike that will be fine on pavement or flat hard packed dirt. People ride crank forward and recumbent bikes on these smooth surfaces all the time and getting the correct bike balance, or even decent bike handling, is not even considered. Let's face it, most Rans bikes are a one size fits all.

    So it may be possible to get a short/taller/adjustable stem and some upright/swept back handlebars, brake levers and shifters for them and be able to ride that bike for miles on smooth surfaces without an issue. Being more upright on any bike will slow you down but performance is not the objective. And building a comfort bike is not rocket science.

    When you talk about off-road, even light off-road, bike fit and balance become a lot more important. If you get another bike, you need to make sure it will work for you. Since you have a cheap bike that worked, that should at least be a starting point.

    I just have a tough time tossing out a somewhat expensive bike, your Cross-Check, and buying another bike without at least trying to get the Cross-Check to fit you well enough to get some enjoyable miles out of it.

    John
    1995 Trek 970 - 80mm Atom Race
    1992 Serotta T-Max - 70mm Z3 Light
    1993 GT All Terra - 46mm Mag 21

  23. #23
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    I always cringe a little when I read posts in which people ask for a do-it-all bike. The problem is that the missions are pretty different.

    Lately, I mostly mountain bike. But I've done a fair amount of road cycling, and probably go about once a week now. (As opposed to 2-3 times a week, for longer at a time, on the MTB.)

    When I think about road cycling, I think about relatively long periods of doing one thing. I definitely want my bike to be stable enough and handle well, enough to give up on my own nice but too-big bike about a year ago, actually, but the big thing that drives my road bike selection lately is that it fits my body when I'm road cycling. I like drop bars because having my hands about shoulder width and my palms facing in works well for my shoulders, back and neck. I could maybe give up the drops part in favor of bullhorns, but it doesn't really cost me anything to have the drops and I do use them for sprints, big efforts on training rides, and descents. But one thing that's always been a bit awkward for me with road drops is how to use them on rough stuff. If I'm on the ramps or hoods, I'm not that secure. If I'm in the drops, I'm too low. I realize dirt drops solve that, but I'm talking road drops.

    When I think about mountain biking, what I enjoy is climbing singletrack that's a puzzle. I need to be stable at low speed and have a lot of control. And I enjoy descending singletrack. I need to be stable at medium speed and have a secure grip on the bars so I can stay physically relaxed and well balanced and absorb shock. Wide, flat bars (well, 685 mm, so not wide by new standards but a hell of a lot more than 40 cm) serve me well for mountain biking, and since I move around a lot, they don't bother me the way they do if I ride the road for a while with flat bars.

    Between a hybrid and a 'cross bike, I think 'cross bikes do a better job trying to put a foot in each world. Hybrids just suck. But I definitely have to pay a lot more attention when I take a 'cross bike on singletrack, I go a bit slower, and there's some stuff that I do routinely on my MTB and won't touch on my 'cross bike. I was doing MTB before I tried 'cross, and get a lot of mountain bike time on a proper MTB; I think that helps a lot when I try to ride a 'cross bike off-road.

    So my purchase advice is to decide whether, at least for now, you're more interested in mountain biking or road cycling. Don't worry about riding around town - either bike will do that fine. Then get either a mountain bike or a road bike that fits you. If you want a road bike with clearance for fat tires, that's fine. Just understand that they're a lot harder to ride on trails than mountain bikes. Focus on making whichever bike you get good at its primary job. If you're more interested in road, you may not get to do a lot of trail for now and the more challenging ones may be out. If you're more interested in trail riding, you'll have a harder time riding the road with other people, and longer rides may be out. All life is compromise, and you're not getting a single bike that'll work for every trail on the mountain and a five-hour Century.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    I always cringe a little when I read posts in which people ask for a do-it-all bike. The problem is that the missions are pretty different.

    Lately, I mostly mountain bike. But I've done a fair amount of road cycling, and probably go about once a week now. (As opposed to 2-3 times a week, for longer at a time, on the MTB.)

    When I think about road cycling, I think about relatively long periods of doing one thing. I definitely want my bike to be stable enough and handle well, enough to give up on my own nice but too-big bike about a year ago, actually, but the big thing that drives my road bike selection lately is that it fits my body when I'm road cycling. I like drop bars because having my hands about shoulder width and my palms facing in works well for my shoulders, back and neck. I could maybe give up the drops part in favor of bullhorns, but it doesn't really cost me anything to have the drops and I do use them for sprints, big efforts on training rides, and descents. But one thing that's always been a bit awkward for me with road drops is how to use them on rough stuff. If I'm on the ramps or hoods, I'm not that secure. If I'm in the drops, I'm too low. I realize dirt drops solve that, but I'm talking road drops.

    When I think about mountain biking, what I enjoy is climbing singletrack that's a puzzle. I need to be stable at low speed and have a lot of control. And I enjoy descending singletrack. I need to be stable at medium speed and have a secure grip on the bars so I can stay physically relaxed and well balanced and absorb shock. Wide, flat bars (well, 685 mm, so not wide by new standards but a hell of a lot more than 40 cm) serve me well for mountain biking, and since I move around a lot, they don't bother me the way they do if I ride the road for a while with flat bars.

    Between a hybrid and a 'cross bike, I think 'cross bikes do a better job trying to put a foot in each world. Hybrids just suck. But I definitely have to pay a lot more attention when I take a 'cross bike on singletrack, I go a bit slower, and there's some stuff that I do routinely on my MTB and won't touch on my 'cross bike. I was doing MTB before I tried 'cross, and get a lot of mountain bike time on a proper MTB; I think that helps a lot when I try to ride a 'cross bike off-road.

    So my purchase advice is to decide whether, at least for now, you're more interested in mountain biking or road cycling. Don't worry about riding around town - either bike will do that fine. Then get either a mountain bike or a road bike that fits you. If you want a road bike with clearance for fat tires, that's fine. Just understand that they're a lot harder to ride on trails than mountain bikes. Focus on making whichever bike you get good at its primary job. If you're more interested in road, you may not get to do a lot of trail for now and the more challenging ones may be out. If you're more interested in trail riding, you'll have a harder time riding the road with other people, and longer rides may be out. All life is compromise, and you're not getting a single bike that'll work for every trail on the mountain and a five-hour Century.
    Thanks for the feedback. As John stated above, I think I'll try and make the cross-check work for me. If I can't, I think I'm going to lean towards a mountain bike. I feel I'll be doing more off-road and trail riding than I will long road rides.

  25. #25
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    Hey everyone,

    Was back at my LBS today and got another perspective on my 60 cm Cross Check. The guys said it's too big for me, period. They said I should be in a 58, and would even be better off on a 56 than on a 60. As a result, I've put the CC for sale and am going to buy a new ride.

    The LBS listened to my wants and my riding style, and have stated the Salsa Fargo would be a solid bike for me. In addition, they added another Surly to the 'think about it" mix - the Long Haul Trucker. They felt it may actually be a better fit for my riding than anything.

    What are your thoughts on the Fargo and LHT?

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