Home > Gear > Surly Pacer – Pragmatically Cool and Nothing I Wasn’t Looking For

Surly Pacer – Pragmatically Cool and Nothing I Wasn’t Looking For

I’ve developed an allergy to carbon.  Lycra too but that’s another story.  Needing a replacement for my aluminum and carbon Specialized Sequoia, I just could not bring myself to spend hard earned cash on another bike that will need replacing after only a few decades of hard use.  I wanted a bike I could ‘ride hard and put up wet’ as the cowboys say.  I wasn’t looking for a feather-weight racing bike; I don’t race.  I wasn’t looking for an overly-built truck-cycle either.  I have a dedicated touring bike.

Pacer on a tree

The first bike I took a serious look at was the Surly Pacer, a no-nonsense steel old school roadie.  At first glance I was sold.  The Pacer had none of the design features I wasn’t looking for, such as silly space-age materials, goofy aerodynamic shapes or ‘technological advances’ in bicyclery.  It’s a bicycle, not a Mars Rover.

Being the thrifty fellow I am, I ordered the frame through Bryson City Bicycles (support your local bike shop!) and set about stripping parts off my Sequoia and bolting them to the Pacer.  Andy
(BCB’s co-owner and head wrench) was a great help and did the more complicated parts of transplant procedure.  This is the second bike I’ve done major work on and the most important thing I’ve learned is: I really hate working on bikes.  On my first rebuild I pressed my own headset, installed a bottom bracket and even pulled my own crank, and as fun as that may sound, I just found it too tedious.

Pacer in a tree

The Pacer frame weighs about 4 ½ pounds and add 2 pounds more for the front fork if you choose to ride with one.  That’s 6 ½ pounds for folks in Alabama.  24 1/2  pounds completed; not a feather-weight, but not bad for a bike with no fear of pot holes, room enough for 32c tires (28c with fenders), braze-ons for fenders and even a pump peg.  The pump peg alone is worth the price of the bike.

The Pacer’s color, ‘Sparkle Boogie Blue’, is not as crippling ugly as the Traveler Check’s ‘Brown Low’.  Out of the box it’s not very attractive, but built up with shiny things attached I think it works.  I’ve added a set-back seat post and a stem from Velo Orange.  And of course the saddle is my old worn in Brooks.  Andy dressed up the cables, chopped the steering tube down to size and generally made the thing ridable.

Tree under a Pacer

The Pacer’s ride is snappy and responsive with its tighter geometry and narrower tires compared to the Travelers Check (Cross Check) but not as snappy as a more modern style ‘racing’ bike.  The front fork rake seems forgiving of road vibration but admittedly not as cushy as the Sequoia’s carbon and “Zert” inserted fork.  The Pacer will allow me to run a wider tire that should more than make up the difference if I choose, but really, I’m not so delicate that road vibration is an issue.

The Pacer seems to be manufactured solid, with clean welds and a good paint job.  I’ll do a more comprehensive review after a few thousand mountain miles but my initial impression is very positive.  This is a great bike (frame) at an affordable price, practical and unpretentious.

Thanks for reading The Velo Hobo!

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Categories: Gear
  1. March 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Brilliant bike, super sentiments. Hope it will prove a lifetime success in use.

    • The Velo Hobo
      March 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Thanks Milemuncher!

  2. March 30, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    I’m sure the Surly will give you a lifetime’s worth of joy. They make good bikes, though I’ve never owned one myself I’ve heard nothing but “I love it” from owners.

    Glad to see that you set it up without the super aggressive “high saddle – low handlebars” thing. Of course, it’s YOUR bike, not mine, and you can and should do with it as you wish. It’s just that I’ve been aggravated by the way some bike shops build their bikes for super-aggressive racing regardless of the intended use.

    • The Velo Hobo
      March 30, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      Yes, but I have freakishly long arms and the torso of a dwarf.

      I agree with you about the set-up from most bike shops. That’s why I’ll never buy another ‘off the rack’ bike. It’s really not much more expensive to build one up to fit. I don’t know why more people don’t do it.

      Thanks for the comment Mark.

  3. March 30, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Really nice. What kind of handlebars are those? The bend looks interesting.

    Gina

    • The Velo Hobo
      March 30, 2013 at 10:00 pm

      Thanks Gina, thats the handlebar off my Sequoia. I was too cheap to buy another one. It does have a funky bend to. Pretty comfortable.

  4. April 1, 2013 at 9:53 am

    sad puppy…. addiction is a serious thing to deal with… there is a local organization that will help… the” B.A.” (bicyclist anonymous) there are nightly meetings to help those who need that extra bit of support….

    • The Velo Hobo
      April 1, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      I’m still in the precontemplative stage of recovery…one more bike and I’ll quit, I swear.

  5. Moruk
    April 20, 2013 at 7:45 am

    very nice. did almost the same thing two months ago: built a new pacer frame with old components. totally agree with the last sentence: it is a great bike (frame) at an affordable price, practical and unpretentious. cheers from istanbul :)

    • The Velo Hobo
      April 23, 2013 at 6:32 am

      Thanks for the long distance comment. So far I’m loving the bike.

  6. DoubleD
    May 3, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Glad I found this review. Great looking build. I have a 58cm pacer frame on order and intend to use it as a all around and century rider. Love those handlebars!

    • The Velo Hobo
      May 3, 2013 at 11:23 am

      Thanks DD, send phots of your build and I’ll post it if you’d like.

  7. May 9, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I also want to know where I can get a handle bar like that….

    • The Velo Hobo
      May 17, 2013 at 6:55 am

      You might get them through Specalized, the were salvaged off my old Sequoia. I put gel-pads under the tape. They are very comportable.

      Thanks for the comment, Jack

  8. DoubleD
    May 17, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Concerning handlebar availabiility, I checked with my local bike shop who is also a Specialized dealer. Yep, your dealer can get them for you.

    As far as my Pacer frame is concerned, it is hanging on my repair stand, still wrapped with paper and foam but oozing frame saver. Must now get some mineral spirits and clean off the funk. My lbs has received my black Sora components which includes a triple chain ring, 175 cranks and 11-30 cassette. Never built a bike before. Son and I are having fun. Will get some pics and submit. Love the Sparkleboogie Blue better than the blue of my LHT. The Alex Adventurer 36 spokers from the Trucker are going on the Pacer with 700-28s and 48 spoke touring wheels are going on the Trucker. I’ll be ready for anything.

  9. velovoiceblogspot
    May 21, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Hi there, just found your blog when I had a browse through who’s following me on Twitter (the number is low enough to let me do that!). Love what I’ve read so far – looking forward to hours of reading! :)

    I too have a Pacer – I love it so much it’s become my main ride – which was not at all the intent when I bought it (as I have the bomb-proof Cross Check too… now sitting neglected in the back of the garage). I’m just about to write my 1-year anniversary review on the Pacer. Really good to see what others have done with theirs.

    Noticed those handlebars right away as my boyfriend has them on his Sequoia. He did the Durness to Dover route (the other UK diagonal end-to-end) a couple of years ago on the Sequoia and says they’re the most comfortable bars he’s ever had. I’d love to find a pair with that same lovely slope to the tops, but need a really compact/short-reach bar, which unfortunately that one ain’t. (Have a look at my Pacer to see what I mean! http://tinyurl.com/mhswcqn)

    Looking forward to hearing how you like the Pacer as the relationship develops. :)

    Rebecca

    @velovoice
    velovoice.blogspot.co.uk

    • The Velo Hobo
      May 22, 2013 at 8:12 am

      Rebecca, beautiful bike! I like your Carradice as well. I see what you mean by the short reach. I’ll look forward to your review.

      Tailwinds, Jack

  10. Joseph Badger
    August 23, 2013 at 10:00 am

    Bought a sparkle boogie pacer after years of advice to get a LHT or a X-check. My mechanic changed the SRAM chain to a 105 (it helped). It is: comfy (I’ve hit countless chuckholes and have all of my teeth :)), sporty (it allows me to compete against myself and I am making it’s geometry get more aggressive as I progress), a solid group set (tiagra out of the box), fun. My wife has a LHT and we get compliments all the time (although that is more surprising than any reason we bought them). I’ve not ridden carbon nor ti so I can’t compare and contrast, and I love riding my Pacer. If I buy another bike it will be a ti, and except for being able to race (which I don’t), this bike is challenging me and giving me lots of pleasure. I commute home (about 35 very hilly paved to trail miles) and it is fun.

    • The Velo Hobo
      August 26, 2013 at 7:26 am

      Thanks for the comment Joseph. I’ve been communitng on mine as well. It’s a solid bike for sure.

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