....Just incase the pictures aren't clear enough. The Surly ECR is incredible. Flying around singletrack. navigating steep muddy inclines, powering through bogs and racing along the flat. The ECR does it all. The 3" tyres provide a completely different riding experience and inspire a whole new level of confidence when hurtling along muddy trails, whilst the bike's entire componentry is simply flawless. I'm in love. However, watching my little brother speeding alongside me, brandishing a full time smile and in love with his beat up old bike really proves that it doesn't matter what you ride...all that counts is that you do. As we raced around the singletrack I was completely immersed in the moment. No worries, no cares, just loving life. Get out on your bike, you won't regret it.
So I did it…ignoring all financial reason and common sense….diving so deep into my pockets that I touched my toes….accepted months of potential food shortages and countless hours of overtime and finally succumbed to my lustful obsession with the Surly ECR. In order to justify this completely unfathomable amount of money I’ve convinced myself I’m spring cleaning (…in December) my bank account. It was getting cluttered with some money, negatively affecting my Feng Shui. How could I have hoped to concentrate knowing I had money to pay bills and rent!? Life would lose all sense of excitement and purpose. Thankfully I spent this financial security and I'm now back on the breadline…phew. Ok, so I probably shouldn’t have done it….argghh so I should definitely not have done it. However, I was helpless, a Knard junkie, what was I to do!? Now you’re all feeling sorry for poor little me, struggling under the crippling weight of cycling addiction, lets just ignore my rocky relationship with currency and move on to bike pornography.
I was working in London when I received the news it had arrived. My first reaction was “ damn and blast, justifying another bike purchase to my parents is going to be truly painful ”. Fortunately, my parents were out and the bike was delivered round my Nan’s. Thus, I simply told my parents I was borrowing my nan’s new XXL Surly ECR bikepacking bicycle for a few weeks. Problem solved.
I…ahum I mean my nan….had the bike partially built at the shop to avoid components being assembled incorrectly. Look, If you struggle building furniture from Ikea you can’t take any risks. Boxed up, all you could see was the huge 3” tyres protruding from either side, it was a monster! It wasn’t long until the boxed goliath had attracted the attention of my mini-me. Now, I can only literarily elucidate on the reaction of a six year old, already obsessed with bike touring, to a huge mountain bike with 3” tyres. He encompassed the characteristics of someone who’d just consumed an Apple, Blackcurrant and Cocaine crumble….who’d just been told they had won the Euro millions whilst sky diving…blindfolded….from Space. Yep, kind of like that. At one point I honestly wondered whether Mothercare sold straight jackets.
Once out of the box the first thing that hits you is the size. Now I’m no stranger to giant frames, my custom touring bike is a 26” beast after all and I love it. However, the XXL 24” Surly ECR frame, sitting on top of those huge tyres and brandishing the sizeable Jones Loop bar is bloody huge. Further still, it’s not just the height of the monster, but the length too. I’m 6.2 and reaching the handlebars from the saddle is a stretch. Of course, this could be easily remedied with a new stem, especially as the one fitted seems particularly long. After about half an hour of solidly examining the bike I was seriously impressed with the bomb proof build quality and the beautiful componentry. The surly ECR really is a bike that you can leave the house and cycle round the world on. I originally fell in love with Surly due to their ingenious attention to detail and their refreshing, original and imaginative take on the traditional touring bike. The Surly ECR is a true tribute to the genius of the brand.
Surly have created numerous bikes including the Pugsley, Troll and Ogre which have completely redefined conventional touring bicycles and opened up a new world of cycling possibilities. I for one was quickly hooked on their approach to bike touring, which encourages the rider to escape the roads and traditional cycle routes and instead venture off the beaten track and into the unknown. In a world where life’s signposted at every stop it’s refreshing to see a brand that seeks to escape the norm and instead provides an unconventional and purer sense of adventure. For me, the Surly ECR is the companies flagship model when it comes to escapist cycling and to finally own one is a dream come true. So why is this bike so great? Well lets start with the specs.
Braze-ons. Braze-ons. Braze-ons. The bike is covered with them. If you can’t find a way to fit your gear on this bike then I’m afraid you’ve gone horribly wrong. The Surly ECR provides the platform to create your perfect touring rig….change your mind….and build another one…time and time again. The options with this bike are completely limitless. The bike comes as standard with the Jones Loop bar, which is quite frankly genius. Jeff Jones is another designer that has successfully reinvented traditional bicycle touring. His Loop-Bar bridges the gap between long established drop bars and the less ascetically pleasing butterfly bars. The Loop bar allows for endless hand positions, plenty of space for accessories and all in all a very comfortable riding position. I was particularly impressed by the stability provided by these somewhat unorthodox handlebars, even when flying around singletrack. Then you have the 3” Knards. These things will roll across pretty much anything and the pressure can be adjusted accordingly. Furthermore, standard 29er rims and tyres can be fitted to the ECR providing scope for a slightly nimbler rig if needed (I've invested in some 2.1" Schwalble Smart Sam Plus tyres and Mavic/Deore rims for good measure). The standard 3” beasts won’t be for everybody’s tastes and I can’t help thinking that a slightly smaller tyre would often suffice in most touring situations. However, there is something to be said for the durability and go anywhere appeal of such colossal rubber. Moreover, as discussed, a second pair of 29er wheels would provide greater flexibility. The 3” tyre will undoubtedly be a very new concept to many cyclists, so to get a better idea of what Knards are like for touring do check out Logan’s (www.pedalingnowhere.com) review after 7,500km of riding on them! The ECR has a 36/22t crankset up the front with a Shimano 9-speed at the back providing both sufficient climbing ability up the steep stuff and adequate pace on the flat. The bike comes as standard with Avid BB7 (+ HS rotors 180/160) disc brakes, which provide plenty of breaking power and are easily maintained on the road. Right, so that’s a quick overview of the ECR’s specs (click here for full specifications), but how does all this piece together!? In other words how does this two wheeled tank ride? Well, after a few short escapades I can safely say it’s awesome. I hope to get the bike abroad early next year and put it through it’s paces on a short tour, but for now I’ll let the photos from my latest ride with my mini-me do the talking….