Bikes of the Bunch: Surly Midnight Special

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In this edition of Bikes of the Bunch, Lachlan Harrison-Smith (aka Lockyhs aka Lefthandside) shares his steel Surly Midnight Special. This article was initially published as a VeloClub exclusive.


In the UK this bike took me over several days up to Harrogate to watch the 2019 Road World Champs (riding through drenching rains) and I also made it as far as Tuscany and Strade Bianche.

I’ve tweaked it further since returning to Melbourne just before the pandemic began. It’s now much squishier with 650b wheels and a bit slower, but in turn, it’s a capable all-day and all-night overland adventurer. I just love riding it.

I rode it up to New South Wales earlier in the year before blowing my knee to smithereens – I was planning to ride all the way to Canberra. Once lockdown ends you can be sure to find me on some trails around Melbourne’s perimeter. Stop and say hello!

The details

I am 185 cm with long femurs. This is a size 54 cm – deliberately small with lots of saddle setback to match my road bike setup (but with a higher front end and shorter stem). The Surly Midnight Special is touted as more of a road bike with mega tyre clearance and while it’s not light, the quality of the ride is brilliant. I am happy with it on road and off (though out of my depth in terms of skill!)

One of the reasons I set this up as a 1x drivetrain is so I could re-use existing parts from a single-speed alloy gravel bike I rode for years around Cambridgeshire (which is the flattest part of the UK). I use a Dura-Ace 11-speed TT shifter and it works brilliantly, with a satisfying ‘clunk’ as you drop it into gear. The setup is sensitive to cable tension and maintenance of gear inners/housings but I love the simplicity and I love mechanical drivetrains. My road bike (BMC SLR01) also features mechanical shifting and I’m currently hoarding Dura Ace 9000 parts like canned food for the end of days. 

Dura-Ace in the bar end.

I used to ride a Hope 700c wheelset that matched the bottom bracket and seatpost collar as a bit of a nod to one of my favourite UK brands. However, recently I had a set of beautiful 650b wheels built by Commuter Cycles in Brunswick (Melbourne) with a dynamo setup aimed squarely at epic bikepacking. The 650b wheelset did help a lot with toe overlap on the smaller frame size, so the bike is now way better off-road and on bike paths (Walmer Street bridge, I’m looking at you).

The dynamo setup is a bit of a special one. The Schmidt SON hub is super efficient and I run both an ultra-bright Edelux II front light and a Sinewave Reactor USB charger in the top cap. That piece of tech is simply awesome. On an overnight adventure I can use it to charge a battery pack and once that’s full, I keep my Garmin (and anything else) topped up.

Also on the dynamo setup, in the depths of lockdown I did some further online shopping and installed the ‘dyna-snap’ magnetic connectors you can see above the front wheel. These make removing the wheel an absolute doddle.

Universal Surly Bicycle or Universal Serial Bus (USB)?

The DT Swiss rear hub has been absolutely rock solid, though I must say I miss the quick engagement of the old Hope Pro 4s. I might soon upgrade the DT internals from 18t to 36t.

Whatever you want to call them, I’m a fan of fenders/mudguards. Riding in the UK on salted, muddy roads it’s an absolute must to have a set of full-length mudguards. Back in Australia, even moving to 650b wheels I’ve kept them. I think they complete the look and you wouldn’t believe how much difference they make to keeping the drivetrain clean (plus I commute on this thing). The front strut is a custom addition and highly recommended if you’re riding on rough surfaces.

I commute on this bike and while I would prefer not to have the rack (or put a removable one on) I honestly forget about it once I’m riding it. Panniers are ugly but practical.

Finally the King Cage Iris grips bottles like an absolute champion. On a long adventure, I can add the Blackburn Outpost carrier to the front forks for additional storage, which works well generally but on extremely rutted roads you should check they are tightened properly. I did lose one bottle at the top of a long, steep, gravel descent, leading to a 40-minute retrieval hike back up, but that’s another story …

Build

Frame and fork: Surly Midnight Special 2019
Brakes: TRP Hylex levers and hydraulic calipers (with post-mount adapter)
Shifter: Shimano Dura Ace TT
Rear derailleur: GRX 812 rear mech, 11-speed
Crankset: Shimano 105
Bottom bracket: Hope with 24 mm stainless steel bearings
Chainring: Wolf Tooth Drop-Stop Oval, 40T
Cassette: Shimano XT 11-46T
Wheels: DT Swiss 350 rear hub, Schmidt SON dynamo front hub, DT Swiss XM-421 rims (25 mm internal width), DT Swiss Competition spokes
Tyres: Panaracer Gravelking SK 650×48
Handlebars: Easton EA70 AX 16º flare
Stem: Ritchey Comp 100 mm
Seatpost: Alloy, 40 mm setback
Saddle: Specialized Power Expert 155
Mudguards: Velo Orange Wavy Noir 650b
Dynamo kit: Schmidt Son Edelux II front light, Sinewave Reactor II USB charger, Dyna Snap connector kit
Cages: King Cage Iris stainless steel mounts
Mounts and racks: Zefal Gizmo universal mounting kit, Blackburn Outpost carrier (not shown in closeup), Tortec Ultralite rack

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