In the last few years gravel has matured as a category and in response, bike manufacturers have gotten behind it in a big way with specialized platforms aimed at multi-surface riding. It only takes a look at our recent profiles from Dirty Kanza and Lost and Found to see how purpose-built the equipment has become for those hammering at the front of races.
The singlespeed category is always a favorite as a bastion of the “run what you brung” ethos of gravel in the growing sea of carbon fiber.
At the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder last month, we spotted a Surly Cross Check singlespeed setup that belongs to California’s Jay Barre that, at first glance, seemed to embody the “gravel spirit.”
After taking a closer look, Barre’s bike definitely fits the bill. Barre said the bike is his everyday workhorse, but for Lost and Found he took off the front rack and panniers, threw on some knobby tires and called it gravel ready.
We profile Barre’s classic Cross Check singlespeed setup that he pressed into gravel service at Lost and Found.
Jay Barre’s Lost and Found Surly Cross Check Singlespeed
The basis for Barre’s unique bike is the popular Surly Cross Check frame. This steel frame has been around for years and, like most Surlys, boasts an impressive tire capacity of 700c x 42mm. Surly designed the Cross Check to be versatile in many regards that include gearing. The Cross Check has horizontal dropouts that allow the bike to be run as a geared or singlespeed setup.
The most interesting part of Barre’s Cross Check singlespeed is its drivetrain. Barre mounted two chain rings to the alloy crankset, and the rear wheel’s flip hub had two cogs mounted to the fixed side, implying the Barre adjusts his gearing based on the ride.
For Lost and Found, Barre set the bike up in the smaller front chain ring with the freewheel engaged, giving him a 34-18 gear combination. Barre said he has ridden the bike off-road with a fixed-gear setup before, but the descents at Lost and Found were a bit too gnarly for him to go full hipster for the California race. With his singlespeed setup, he was able to climb all the hills without walking, which is an impressive accomplishment given the climbing required.
The front wheel included a Shimano dynamo hub which was not wired to anything, and both wheels featured a stout 32-spoke construction.
The alloy rims had Bruce Gordon Rock ‘n Road tires mounted to them, which is one of the swaps Barre made to morph his commuter into a gravel bike. He ran his tires with tubes at 50psi.
Whereas Barry Wicks pulled a Tomac/Phelan and put drop bars on his Kona Hei Hei DL mountain bike frame, Barre kept his daily driver setup with swept-back flat bars. His cockpit includes a Thomson stem, mustache bars with Ergon cork grips and a Brooks Cambium saddle.
New gravel bikes are almost exclusively disc brake, but Barre kept it retro with cantilevers on his Cross Check. He ran Avid levers and wide-profile cantilever brakes with Kool Stop Salmon pads. Barre said he was a bit envious of his disc brake brethren at Lost and Found. “This course you kind of want disc brakes,” he said. “I was kind of feathering the front and then going to the back. I made it work.”
Barre rounded out his gravel setup with two bidons, a saddle bag and a frame pump mounted under his top tube.
For more on Barre’s Cross Check singlespeed, see the specs below.
For more gravel bikes, see our profiles from Lost and Found and the Dirty Kanza 200.
Jay Barre’s Lost and Found Surly Cross Check Singlespeed Specifications
Frame: Surly Cross Check, 4130 Cro-Moly, cantilever brakes, threaded bottom bracket
Fork: Surly Cross Check, steel, cantilever brakes
Stem: Thomson X4
Handlebar: Alloy mustache, Ergon cork grip
Seatpost: Alloy, single bolt, setback
Saddle: Brooks Cambium
Wheels: Single Speed with flip hub rear, Shimano dynamo front, 32-spoke, alloy rim
Tires: Bruce Gordon Rock ‘n Road
Crank: Alloy, square taper, two (singlespeed) chain rings
Pedals: Campus style SPD
Brakes: Wide profile cantilevers with Avid levers