Not long after Aereo filed for bankruptcy around November 2014 I decided to buy a bike that I could use for my commute, to grind some gravel and possibly even some touring. I settled on the Surly Straggler because it matched those uses very well. And it also had disc brakes!

Disc brakes

I haven’t owned a bicycle with disc brakes since high school and have never seriously maintained them either. A year after purchasing the Straggler I noticed a significant loss of power while braking. One winter evening while commuting home in significant rain I slammed on the brakes to avoid a slow moving car, but the wheels kept moving and I ended up bumping relatively gently into the side of the car. Shortly after that far too dramatic run in, I brought my bike in my local bike shop. The rear rotor was warped like a contact lens and both rotors were badly glazed, a product of heating the disc by applying a great deal of force, which in turn leaves a shinny and mirror-like surface.

After previous struggles to align the disc brake calipers and this latest turn of events I was almost wishing I went with some serious cantilever brakes. But inevitably I’ve settled on the fact that there is a learning curve. Slamming on the brakes generates more heat than slowly applying force does. Also knobby tires have less traction on paved roads, which make the brakes work harder. However, since my commute is nearly evenly split between fine gravel and paved roads I wanted something more than a 28C touring tire with a little tread.

I could simply replace the rear rotor and sand the front one, but that wouldn’t solve the apparant underlying problem. Therefore I’ve settled on a two part approach, more appropriate tires and a caliper upgrade. Although the caliper won’t necessarily prevent the above from occuring it is more appropriate for the road-style riding that I’ll be doing.

TRP make a cable actuated hydraulic caliper called the HY/RD (pronounced “high road). The best online price appears to be $120/caliper. Merlin Cycles recommends using a compressionless brake housing (see Cyclocross Magazine Mechanical Monday article).


I found several tires that are around 40mm wide, but don’t have knobs:

Make Model Width (mm) Weight (g) Price Shipping
Compass Snoqualmie Pass lightweight 44 325 78
Compass Snoqualmie Pass standard 44 366 59
Compass Barlow Pass lightweight 38 359 78
Compass Barlow Pass standard 38 390 59 14.45
Resist Nomad 35 370 24
Resist Nomad 45 519 24
Jack Brown Blue lightweight 33 58
Jack Brown Blue tough 33 68

The 45C Resist Nomads are now only available with a red stripe.

Brake levers

Gevenalle take TRP levers and attach a shift lever. This combines the durability and simplicity of shift levers with the ability to shift while on the hoods. The one notable drawback is that you can’t shift while in the drops, which makes them better suited for touring bikes. Additioanlly they can be paired with a larger mountain cassette. Finally, they are well suited for a 1x system since the shift lever can be easily removed from the brake lever. Their most appealing lever is the GX at $219/pair, which also comes as a hydraulic version for $400-450/pair.

I called Gevenalle and they said they should be restocked in July or at least in time for cross season. In mid-June they started accepting pre-orders and despite a billing error they said they would ship me a set of their hyrdraulic shifters.


I would like to replace my stock stem to reduce the stress placed on to the steerer tube by the long stem and numerous spaces. The Straggler came with an unbranded 120mm long stem with 7° angle. The Straggler’s head tube angle is 72°. The shop added spacers measuring 2 3/4” or 7cm, which I haven’t removed.

The maximum angle for Thomson stems is 17° for the X2 and 10° for the X4. Both are roughly $100. Similaly, Paul’s Boxcar Stem is manufactured with a maximum of 15°for $90.

Other components and parts


Pogies, also known as bar mitts, provide a suprising amount of warmth over riding with winter gloves. They allow for a much thinner glove making it easier to brake and shift. Well known manufacturers include 45NRTH, Wolf Tooth, and Revelate Designs. Unfortunately, they’re primarily designed for flat bars and I’m sure none account for Gevenalle shifters.

The only company that appears to make pogies for drop bar bikes (especially those with external routing or bar end shifters) is named Bar Mitts. They are available for $50 on Ebay.


In August, 2020 I paid for a large upgrade to the drivetrain at Maine Bike Works. microSHIFT had recently released the inexpensive and lightweight ADVENTX line that includes a derailleur and corresponding 11-48T casette. It is especially promising since microSHIFT make Gevenalle’s shift levers. Inevitably, I got a 42 tooth cassette. Additionally, FSA had released a new 46/30 crankset targetting gravel.

Four years later and the drivetrain is heavily worn, especially the chainrings. Although the direct drive mount pattern matches between Cannondale and FSA there have been some bad experiences when doing so.

FSA has two set of rings that look almost identical, but are priced differently; energy direct mount chainring and road modular chainring. There are some other options like the k-force light modular supercompact chainring, but at least in that case it is twice the price.