Putting new handlebars on my Surly Cross-Check

With Salsa Bell-Lap handlebars

With Salsa Bell-Lap handlebars

The Surly Cross-Check comes stock with a Salsa Bell-Lap handlebar, and it’s pretty wild. It’s got an ergo bend mid drop, and all a pretty decent flare outwards at the end. After putting about 50 hours on the bike I realized it just wasn’t working right for me. I did some research online and found the bars were too wide, and the reach was too forward. I also didn’t care for how large the drop was to the bottom of the bars because that’s where the bar-end shifters were. I already felt hunched over with too much pressure on my wrists and lower arms, but I had to actually lean more to reach the shifters. (A pic of the original set up showing the bars is to the left – click to enlarge.)

So I did some measuring and the Salsa bar was 44cm wide – much too wide for a person of my size – and for a lot of other people too. I ended up with a 40cm wide bar from FSA, the Omega Compact. Because the bars fit into a 31.8mm clamp, and the stock Salsa I had was a 26mm clamp, I had to find a new stem to hold the handlebars. I ended up with a generic 80mm, 7° rise stem made by Specialized that was a pull-off part at a local bike shop. They had a bunch of random parts in a drawer for sale for people like me when the need arises. I also ordered some cork bar tape, orange, from Profile Design on Amazon. It doesn’t have an adhesive backing, which I wasn’t sure I’d like or not, but after wrapping the bars earlier I can say yes, I like it more (mostly because if you screw up you don’t have to worry about a sticky mess or ruining anything!)

This was new territory for me. I’ve been back into biking for about a year and have dabbled a little with bike mechanics here and there so far. But this was a first. In order to put on a new stem and bar, I needed to remove the previous one – which for some bikes isn’t a big deal. But I had to remove the bar-end shifters, remove the brake levers and hoods, and take apart the headset and switch out stems. All-in-all, not a super hard task, but enough to make a first timer a little nervous. Plus wrapping the bars with tape is always a blast – especially with extra cable from the bar-end shifters. I took a few pics to document the melee…

Here are the original handlebars. Sorry about the out-of-focus but you get the idea. Also apparently Rayleigh is angry at Chainsaw for photobombing my picture.
After attaching the new stem and handlebars:
IMG_0224You’ll notice all the cables dangling down…
IMG_0223These are the brake levers and the bar-end shifters just hanging out, waiting to be attached to their new home.

Leveling out the brake levers was a little challenging, but I got to put them where I wanted them – and I think they’re level! I was also able to angle the bar-end shifters so they were more perpendicular to the ground. The person who assembled my bike at the shop wasn’t as detail oriented as yours truly. Heh.

This was also my first time wrapping a drop bar with tape. I’ve done some small bar-ends on my mountain bike, but that’s a piece of cake. Thank God for YouTube, because otherwise I’d be screwed. There are a million bike maintenance vids out there, but I ended up watching this one, and it worked nicely, so thanks to those folks for helping me out. Of course, I always have to be the odd man out – and because I had bar-end shifters, I have to wrap the cables underneath the tape far enough, and then leave a hole for them to pop out to run down to the derailleurs. You’ll be able to see it more closely in the pictures to follow. I could have wrapped those shifter cables underneath all the way to the center like the brake cables, but I’d need longer cables and that’s beyond my ability right now, so I just redid how Surly does it on their bikes.

Anyway, here’s the finished product! I survived! …and so did the bike!
IMG_0228 IMG_0227 IMG_0226I’m not 100% sold on the orange, but it’s one of only a very small number of colors that go well with the bike’s color (Hospital Foam Green). When I get tired of the orange, or it gets too grimy, I think I’m going to try yellow.

I already took it out for a 20 mile ride this afternoon, and everything still works the right way, and it rides great. I think the new bars definitely helped. The only thing I might change is swapping stems to a 17° rise, to get a little more upright position. We’ll see how it goes for now.

Thanks for sharing in my adventures of bike maintenance.


3 thoughts on “Putting new handlebars on my Surly Cross-Check

    • Thanks! Finding something that contrasted nicely with the lime-ish green was difficult but the orange worked well. I think I might try yellow as well. I’ll always love orange though because it’s a Syracuse Orange!

  1. Pingback: Rebuilding a 1984 Raleigh road bike into a commuter; a learning experience. | the surly biker

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