I recently ordered my 2nd “real bike “, a Surly Cross-Check built up for commuting and touring. I like the Cross-Check because it’s the “Swiss Army knife of bikes”: it’s capable of doing so much – single track/cyclocross, singlespeed/fixed-gear, touring, commuting – due to certain features of the frameset , namely clearance and the horizontal dropouts. To quote Surly: “Think of the Cross-Check like an army jeep: tough as nails and used for everything”.
When I was considering the Cross-Check a lot of the cycling forums guys said “save up more money and get a custom frame”. The difference in cost is huge, however. If I get a custom frame built I’d be looking at ballpark 1,000 euros for the frame, because I wouldn’t accept half-measures. Paying 400 euros for the Swiss Army knife of bikes, I will accept half-measures. I know the TIG-welded 4130 Cro-moly tubing is heavier and uglier than 853 Reyolds with beautiful silver lugs (yes, I know lugs miss the point of air hardening the 853).
To me the beauty of the Cross-Check is that a couple of years down the line when I decide to upgrade my commuting/touring bike to something special custom built for me (like the King of Mercia) then I can reuse the Cross-Check frame. My current plan is a fun single-trail capable fixed-gear bike, but maybe at that stage I’ll want a fixed commuter and keep the King for long haul – who knows?