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Surly invents a new category of bicycle.

 

Midnight Special3

 

As Rule #12 maintains, the correct number of bikes to own is n+1, with ’n’ being the only algebraic symbol I have ever been remotely interested in: it represents my current stock of bikes.

Even when I am content with the various bikes I have, I read reviews, look at what is on other people’s roof racks, and get excited whenever I visit a bike shop.

I have two beloved road bikes that have seen long stretches of unpaved road and even the odd dirt trail and handled everything thrown at them, but I have not missed the bike industry’s latest thing to buy: gravel bikes.

Allegedly, we need a whole new class of bike to go forth on gravel roads. I resisted this trend, and continued taking shortcuts through the forest on whatever I was riding, sometimes feeling bad about subjecting bikes that are hard to replace to such treatment, but doing it anyway.

Then Surly released the Midnight Special. Surly are usually ahead of the curve, inventing categories and filling them with simple and hard working examples, and the MS looked like it would be different enough from a regular road bike to be a good thing to have in the stable.

So I got myself one, goddammit.

 

Midnight Special 2

 

It’s unique. It’s not a cross bike. It allows a lot more options that most gravel bikes. It's a new category we are calling Fat Road. And having one may extend the life of my skinnier road bikes.

It has a steel frame bristling with locations for stuff to be bolted on to. It has a decent gear range for road riding, 2 X 11. It has disk brakes. There is enough room to fit proper mountain bike tyres on the 650b wheels that are in the box, or pretty decent sized tyres on 29er wheels if those are things you want to do. The stock wheels are tough. MTB hubs, eyelets in the rims, bolt through axles.

The geometry is one of a relaxed road bike, but definitely a road bike. It feels fast and quick handling on tarmac, and going fast on it is a lot of fun.

The stock tyres are semi-slick 47mm wide ballooners. Run at around 35psi they stick to pavement like shit to a blanket. Conventional wisdom would make you think riding a road bike on tarmac with big low pressure tyres would be a drag, literally. The reality is far from it. OK, you are going to be faster on your roadie. But not that much. And the big tyres are stupidly comfortable. If you are riding by yourself you wont notice the difference speed wise, until you consult your recording device, which is something you should do in private anyway. What you will notice is that rough chip roads are butter smooth, and you barely even notice the potholes, manholes and arseholes we share the road with. And when the tarmac turns to gravel, dirt or even rocks, the bike will happily go where you point it.

As a bonus extra, I procured mudguards, decorated them and bolted them on. In these unpredictable equinoctial days, having mudguards means any time it isn’t actually pissing down is ok for a ride. Somebody much wiser than me reckoned mudguards allow him to wrestle his demons with a dry arse. I have different demons, and a wider arse, but I can report he is correct and it is a good thing.

But to be honest none of these things are the best bit about this bike. What I really like is what it allows me to do: amble along a main highway without really being part of the traffic. I recently did a couple of longish rides on the Coromandel, and while the views were stellar and the traffic light, riding on the shoulder of the road felt like the safest place to be. On a roadie that would not be an option. The glass, nails, and other crap that lay among the ragged bits of asphalt, gravelly sections, and other gnar beyond the white line felt like the Midnight Special’s natural environment.

It’s not just a gravel bike, it is a road machine for the apocalypse.

 

Midnight Special 3