I went north last week to help my parents out around their house and run some important errands for them. Along with that, I intended to give the new Surly Cross-Check its first real gravel test. Now, Chisholm is a very small town on northern Minnesota's Iron Range. Most of the locals know one another and news can often times spread fast. Before heading up I had heard that some locals have reported seeing a cougar or cougars north of town. This happens to be the same area where I generally prefer to ride the gravel forest roads.
Ever since I started going into the woods I've always had the liking to being there alone. Friends think I'm a bit eccentric when it comes to this, but the woods have always been a sort of escape for me. That being said, there are definite draw backs to being alone in the woods and the primary one being..."What if something were to happen?" I've had only one incident where I've needed help and fortunately I happened to have a partner with me when things got bad. Had Gary not been there, I more than likely would not be here. I honestly think he saved me from succumbing to a serious case of hypothermia.
I know the risks of going alone and like to think that I'm prepared to handle a lot of different situations, yet if something were to happen and I did need help there have been times when I truly would have been screwed. No cell phone reception, lonely isolated roads, and the big reason is that most people would never know where the hell I'm at. One of the most important rules...If you go alone let someone know where you will be. The problem here is that most of the time I go on my bike I don't stick to an intended route. There too many side roads and trails to ride off on and explore. So, I take my chances.
That being said, I've never been afraid of animal encounters in the woods and for many people who don't spend a lot of time there this is a big fear for them. "What about wolves or bears?" they ask. My reply is usually..."Your fears are irrational." So, when I went for my ride last Wednesday, my fear and nervousness was irrational, but I will admit to being somewhat on edge for much of my ride. Especially when I was riding the area where the most recent sighting I've heard of has occurred. Anyway, it did add a bit excitement to the ride and I really ended up enjoying the afternoon.
We had a good deal of rain, along with a lot of thunder and spectacular lightning displays the previous night and the forecast was for a 70% chance of more rain during the day. Fortunately, I remained dry throughout the ride in which I covered 40+ miles of forest roads.
The Surly Cross-Check has met or exceeded all of my expectations. What a wonderful bike to ride on gravel. It's the most comfortable ride I've had to date and even matches that of the Salsa El Mariachi with bigger tires and front suspension. The roads were wet and soft in spots so bigger tires could have been in order, but that also sacrifices speed and adds rolling resistance. The standard 32mm Ritchey Speedmax Comps worked out just fine.
I'm looking forward to more rides on the Cross-Check and will continue to play around with all the possibilities this bike offers. As my friend Jay stated..."The Cross-Check is the ultimate platform for versatility."