Convert Your Old Surly Cross-Check to Gravel

This is a pretty easy conversion because the old 2013 Surly Cross-Check was already set up for cyclocross. You can ride it on the gravel just stock, but these small changes make a big difference especially on the heavy gravel and deep washboard out here on the Palouse. 

So here are three easy steps to turn your old Surly into a Gravel-Check:

First, cram the widest tire possible—allowing for mud clearance—into the frame. There’s plenty of room for bigger knobbies than the stock cyclocross tires. In this case I went with a 42mm WTB Resolute. The frame may accept wider (Surly suggests no larger than 45mm), but your pushing the limits of mud clearance and rim compatibility particularly if you’re rocking the old stock 16mm Alex DA-16 rims like this old Cross-Check. Note: the newer model Cross-Checks actually come stock with a 41mm tire on a wider rim.

Second, install as wide-range a cassette as your rear derailleur can accommodate. There’s more friction and rolling resistance on loose surfaces and with wider tires. You’re probably going to want some decently easy gears. You can swap to an 11-34 without issue (in the 2013 Cross-Check’s case we’re talking 9-speed). It’s possible you might be able to squeeze an 11-36 on there. The only way to really know how it will affect shifting is to try it out. In some instances a Wolf Tooth Roadlink will space the derailleur out enough to accommodate the larger gears of a wide range cassette without negatively impacting shifting performance. Otherwise you’re looking at more extensive and expensive drivetrain modifications.

Third, ditch the Tektro CR720 cantilevers for a pair of linear pull brakes such as Paul Component’s Motolite (shiny!). This change may be less essential depending on your experience adjusting and using cantilevers, and your typical riding terrain. The Palouse is very hilly and a bit unpredictable when it comes to gravel road quality. More linear modulation and ease of use are my preferences for long descents over rough surfaces. For the linear pull brakes to function, you need a long pull brake lever. The Tektro RL520 is a practical, affordable and widely available option. Note: the newer Cross-Checks already come stock with linear pull brakes. 

In conclusion, to gravel power up your Cross-Check you can make a few quick and relatively inexpensive changes to your ride, or I guess just buy a new one.

Disclaimer: As always these are my own opinions and ideas. They are unsolicited and unpaid (poor).