Surly ECR XXL four months on – Evading Clichéd Rides?

I’ve had my mahoosive Surly ECR since March.

In that time, it’s been on numerous trips over the trails near home, took part in a celebratory ride for the bike shop that supplied it (and was greeted with nods of approval from the Surly dudes), lugged bikepacking gear on an epic trip from Settle to home along the Pennine Bridleway and ferried me out for coffee on a hill when I just couldn’t take it any more.

Surly ECR in the Pennines
A sunny day on the trails. An ECR day.

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Keep Pedalling’s Third Birthday Ride

So this week has been a little different…

Rather than spending Wednesday up to my armpits in the usual heady mix of meetings and miscellanea in the Smoke, I boarded a Routemaster bus armed with my ECR alongside a bunch of like-minded folks with a plethora of impressive steeds.

The reason? Manchester’s best bike shop (now official) Keep Pedalling celebrated its third birthday. Naturally, the only way to mark this occasion was to go for a ride and follow it with a party in the shop… with beer, pizza and a fantastic cake courtesy of The Baking Room.

A couple of those very fine folk from Surly also came along… great company they were too.

The Routemaster was a very novel touch and provided the perfect entrée to a day of mud plugging in the Pennines. Despite my lowly off road skills, I didn’t crash… my only misdemeanour was losing my bottles when I got the beefy ECR airborne.

Riding bikes in the sunshine = happy days. Thanks so much Keep Pedalling for the invite, your advice and my two rather excellent Surlys. Here’s to your continued success.

More pics from the day can be found here courtesy of Steve Makin. Read Tim’s always entertaining account on Life in the Cycle Lane.

Surly ECR XXL – listen up tall folks

Got my Surly ECR yesterday. It’s a massive Humvee of a bike. While it’s too early to give an impression of the ride, let’s just say… so far, so ruddy marvelous.

The sizing of this bike caused a bit of head scratching but I am glad I went for the largest model. I feel I am sitting ‘in’ this bike rather than ‘on’ it.

I’m 6’6″ with a 37 1/2 cycle inseam and wanted an upright position. The result seems perfect for throwing my sizeable weight backwards on descents while the ‘aero’ position on the Jeff Jones loop bars is  comfortably within reach.

It’s early days, but I’ve found a bike that feels ‘right’ and inspires confidence off road.

Anyway, you’re probably not interested in my babble. Here are a spec list and some pics, including one of me on it for scale…

Frame: Surly ECR. size 24”
Rims: Velocity Dually, 32 spoke
Tyres: Surly Knard folding, 29×3”, 120 tpi (running inner tubes for now)
Front hub: Hope Evo, black, 32 hole
Rear hub: Shimano Alfine 8 speed black, 23 tooth sprocket, Surly Tugnut
Brakes: Avid BB7, front rotor 180mm, rear 160mm
Brake levers: Avid FR-5
Grips: Ergon GP-1
Bars: Jeff Jones H bar, 660mm
Shifter: Shimano Alfine trigger
Stem: Salsa Pro Moto, 90mm, 25 deg rise
Headset: Hope, black
Bottom bracket: Hope stainless, black
Crankset: Middleburn RS-8 X-type, 32 tooth ring, hardcoat
Seatpost: Thomson Elite layback, black
Saddle: Brooks B17
Pedals: Shimano Saint
Rack: Caradice Bagman Expedition
Bag: Nelson Longflap

ECR inspiration and festive best

All good things... The Surly ECR (Pic: Surly)
All good things… The Surly ECR (Pic: Surly)

It’ll be some time until I get my paws on my new Surly ECR. Time, then, to carry on thinking about specs and where I can get it muddy in the New Year.

I can also take some inspiration from riders who’ve built up steeds from the first batch of frames.

If you are similarly ECR-afflicted, you can read about them here:

Pedaling Nowhere

Visit this excellent blog to read about an ECR build and follow a great adventure in South Africa.

Gypsy by Trade

Another inspirational blog and a perfect tonic for those dark Manchester evenings… Here you’ll find an excellent, objective review of the ECR sporting a Krampus-esque paint job.

Run Out, Off Route

One of the first to post about the ECR in detail, read about some early impressions on the trail.

For those wondering if I’ll ever go walking again and stop posting about ruddy bikes, I hope to get out in the hills between Christmas and the New Year so there might be a post before year-end 🙂

Until then, may I wish you and yours a restful festive break.

Best,

Matt

You say ‘Alf-ine’ and I say ‘Alfeen-eh’…

With my Troll now Rohloff-ed, and efforts redoubled to sell my Thorn Club Tour, I’m in the market for a new off road rig.

As good as the Troll is, I prefer the steam-rolling capabilities of a 29-er and I’m going join Surly’s 29+ movement – such a sucker for Surly’s anti-marketing marketing – in the form of an ECR. The order’s been placed and I should get my grubby mitts on the frame in January all being well.

While die-hard MTB riders may struggle with the notion of the ECR, finding it limiting over the trail-hungry Krampus, it seems perfect for me. A stable, dependable animal for my ponderous progress off road… plus the all-important ability to load it up with camping junk.

Having to wait until January means I have plenty of time to consider the build. I’m leaning towards Velocity Dually rims, Surly Knards, trusty Avid bb7 brakes, Jones bars, and a similar chainset arrangement to my Troll, Middleburn.

Shimano Alfine 8 (Pic: Shimano)
Shimano Alfine 8 (Pic: Shimano)

However, I am struggling with the rear end. I need a fairly low range yet reliable set up on this machine. The bike is already heavy – particularly in the mahooosive size I need – not to mention the various stuffsacs and associated crap I’ll lash on to it for these weekend jaunts.

Early positive impressions of the Rohloff have me optimistically eyeing the uber IGH again. However, I don’t think I can find the funds unless someone is very generous on my 40th birthday.

So I’ve looked at alternatives, namely Shimano’s Alfine units.

Tap seemingly innocent queries into Google – ‘ Alfine reliability’ or ‘Alfine low ratio’ – and you’ll be greeted with acres of forum chuntering about this hub. Available in an eight speed and a more complex 11 ratio unit, the Alfine has loyal followers in the MTB community and a fair number of detractors who claim it is not up to the rigours of off-road touring.

I’ve spent a few hours wading though this stuff and it would appear that you can push the design constraints of the simpler eight speed over its pricier brother.

In the interests of a clean drivetrain I’ll take a long, hard look at the simpler eight speed, ideally running a 32 up front and a 22 sprocket on the rear. However, this may lead to its premature death and I might be better off with a 1×10 or 1×9.

Decisions, decisions. Any thoughts gratefully received…