All I have to say about the All-City Big Block complete is that it may be the best complete to come down the pipe in a long time. I mean that, I’ve been a long time fan of the venerable Surly Steamroller but the Big Block is a whole lot of bike and is my new favorite complete, hands down. As I type this, a legion of beer-sodden demon monkeys have been loosed from the bowels of Surly HQ to hunt me down but it’s a risk I had to take.
Let’s start at the bottom, the frame, double-butted chromoly tubing, a straight-blade lugged fork and stainless steel investment-cast dropouts with integrated chain tensioners. Did I mention the dropout has the silhouette of the Hennepin Ave bridge? Or that the frame clears a 700x32c tire easily? Or that the bottom bracket height is track-legal? The folks over at AC topped it off with a simple, classy paint job too, a subtle red metal-flake with white fork tips, nice. Oh yeah, it’ll barspin with a 25 in it too if that’s your thing.
The heart of a track bike is the drive train and there’s no half-steeping here either. A TH Industries cartridge bottom bracket with real steel cups, no Shimano plastic crap here, nice bearings and 100g lighter than other square taper bottom brackets in its class. From there we step out to the cranks, All-City 612’s with a 46 tooth, 1/8” chainring. You want stiff, here you go, the stiffest 3 piece I’ve found under $200. An All-City 17 tooth cog and a KMC chain round out the package nicely.
Next up we have wheels, a bike can’t roll without something to roll on, right? All-City standard track hubs laced 3x to Alex R540 rims, a fixed/free rear, cartridge bearings, a shouldered axle, triple section rims, these are ready for some beating on. They even threw in a pair 700x25c Vittoria Zaffiros to ice the cake.
You’ve got to have something to hold on to right? Right, how’s about a pair of 30mm rise bars a nice 9 degrees of sweep (my personal sweep of choice) on a 4 bolt stem for you? Not enough you say, well that’s cool, the kids over at AC tossed in a Cane Creek S-3 headset to sweeten the deal. Why throw such a nice headset into a factory complete? Because it makes the bike ride better, it’s a subtle thing. Bars, grips and stem length are all very personal but if you’ve already got a nice headset to roll on you’re more than halfway there. The last little touch is that they give you a pair of cyclocross levers and mid-reach brakes, want to run it as a freewheeling singlespeed? No worries, just strap a nice bmx freewheel on that rear wheel and you’re ready to rock.
All in all it’s a sweet ride, sharp handling, smooth ride, stiff in a sprint and it goes where you point it. A lot of track bikes feel really squirrelly on the street, lots of toe-overlap, oversteer at low speeds but the brain trust over at AC have managed to get around all of that and make a killer bike for everything from gunning for your local alleycat crown to running to the grocery store. Nice work guys.
All images stolen from All City site and blog.