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Sub-19lbs Surly Road Bike? Surly Reveals an Employee’s Ultra-Light Preamble.

Impossible Surly Preamble hero(Photos/Surly Bikes)
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Minnesota’s Surly Bikes is known for a lot of really cool things, but lightweight bikes are not one of them. And, they’re OK with that. Surly’s bikes are iconic, versatile, steel, durable, accessible, unique, and in many cases groundbreaking segment starters. The Surly Preamble is part of that family.

In one of the latest Surly Transmissions, there was a blog titled, Make it Your Own: The Impossible Preamble. The title piqued our interest. We thought it was pretty cool, and thought we should share it. So read on below.

The Surly Preamble

Impossible Surly Preamble Studio stock photo
(Photos/Surly Bikes)

Retail: $899 ($549 frameset only)

The Surly Preamble is a bike that Surly set out to give attributes that matter most. It is quick and comfy on the pavement, and confident and compliant on the degraded surfaces. Surly calls the Preamble a “pavement and gravel worker”. Continuing to say it “proves you don’t need to cut corners, or clip coupons to make a more affordable steel bike”.

The Preamble has a double-butted main triangle, making it both smooth and efficient. This also helps it withstand the abuse a less-than-perfect road can dish out. It can run racks, and fenders, and carry ample water bottles. It can run flat bars, drop bars, a basket, or bags. Surly says that “on the road to steel euphoria, Preamble is a gateway drug”.

And Now The Sub 19lbs Preamble Blog Post

This next part is taken straight from the Surly website and is the actual Blog Post.

Greetings,

One of Surly’s finest industrial designers, Ryan Callahan, has done the honor of introducing his ultra-light Preamble build to the world. Now that the metaphorical curtains have been pulled back, it’s time to tune those senses and see what it took to get this steel bike to a sub-20 state.

First Iteration

This Surly started its life as a pre-production sample. I was fortunate enough to be involved in the development of the Preamble, so I got one to test ride for evaluation. I rode it around as a flat bar with “production spec” for about 16 months before I got to tweaking it. As I started plotting the build, I was focused on amplifying what made my specific bike special.

See, because of an oversight on our side, the first round of prototypes was shipped without rack mounts on the seat stays. Traditionally, Surly bikes are so versatile, and the exclusion of a rear rack mount had me contemplating a build around “min/maxing” some of the attributes of the bike. What if I leaned into reduced features in the pursuit of a light and fun road bike? So, I got to sifting in my parts bin…

Impossible Surly Preamble stock

Second Iteration

I had access to a SRAM Force 22 Hydro group set. Not only was this much lighter than the stock components, in the modern world of motor-actuated, battery-powered and clutched derailleurs, it holds its own against more expensive gruppos. Next, I got my hands on a Whisky carbon fork that was designed for the straight 1 1/8” headtube, which shaved well over a pound.

I built up some Whisky GVL rims and wrapped those in the new Teravail Telegraph 700x35c tires. I wanted the build to be light but still functional for light mixed terrain riding that I like to do here in the Twin Cities.

After throwing a few other odds and ends at the build, I threw it on a Park Tool scale and saw 21lb 2oz. Agonizingly close to a “sub 20lb” steel road bike. I rode the bike in this condition through the summer of 2022 and tore it apart in the winter to pursue the last few grams.

Impossible Surly Preamble first iteration

Final Form

At this point, getting a lighter bike meant either spending way more money or getting creative with material. My first thought, “well, If I don’t have rack mounts on the seat stays, why do I have them on the dropouts?”. We quickly got the die grinder out and shaved some steel out of the frame in the form of the eyelets for racks and fenders.

Next, I love how E.D. coating and powdercoating the frame makes for a long lasting and durable frame. However, there’s a lot of material on a big bike, so I media blasted the outside down to the bare 4130 tubes. In place of the Skyrim Blue, I opted to have the frame Cerakote’d locally in the “FX Riot” color. Anyone at Surly will tell you I cannot help myself when it comes to obnoxious color-shifting coatings.

Cerakote just happens to be one of the lightest/thinnest options. Aside from that, I shaved the headtube down, cut off unused seat post, and stretched my bartape extra tight to hit the final weight of 18lbs 13oz. There’s definitely room to get lighter, but this was never meant to be one of those British hills-climb bikes with critical components missing. The bike looks great with the new finished and the shaved/streamlined features and it’s a blast to ride.

Impossible Surly Preamble Preamble paint

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17 Comments
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SomeGuy
SomeGuy
5 days ago

I’m not convinced this makes sense, but good on him.

seraph
5 days ago

Honestly unless the frame weighs 10 lbs I don’t think that sub 19 lbs is really a flex here. Given enough resources I’m sure I could get one down to around 17 or lighter.

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 days ago
Reply to  seraph

Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with the bike but I’m not sure what’s supposed to be special about it. Once you slap a carbon fork on it, it’s basically like a carbon bike with a 2-3 pound weight penalty for the frame and you have the durability issues and ride quality associated with carbon on the front end at least. A 16lb carbon bike would be light for sure, but not especially noteworthy.

Grillis
Grillis
5 days ago
Reply to  seraph

It’s not, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be. I think the point is that Surly’s are typically heavy so this build is an outlier. Ultimately its just more marketing.

Zee
Zee
5 days ago

Shaved the headtube???

Rincoln
Rincoln
5 days ago
Reply to  Zee

5 o’clock stubble weighs a ton! /s

John Doe
John Doe
5 days ago

Bike geeks, and especially weight weenies, want more detail.
This is literally the internet version of seeing someone with a cool bike and getting a two sentence description of said cool bike…..

Astro_Kraken
Astro_Kraken
5 days ago

Literal turd polishing and I like it.

SFG
SFG
5 days ago

I simultaneously love this and would never do it.

Kalle
Kalle
5 days ago

How many kilos is that?

gibbon
gibbon
5 days ago

It weighs 47 bananas.

Dann
Dann
5 days ago
Reply to  gibbon

Oh c’mon, gibbon, how much can a banana possibly weigh?

tertius_decimus
tertius_decimus
2 days ago
Reply to  Dann

Several fractions of a football stadium.

Phil
Phil
5 days ago

Good on him, I love it.

King County
King County
3 days ago

Interesting article. My take-away is that he wants to show that a steel bike can be a reasonable weight without breaking the bank of using exotic custom parts. The real queston is what was the weight difference before and after hid mods, (cutting head tube, removing rack mounts, changing the finish, etc). In my experience, a basic medium carbon frame is 2.15 pounds, an alum is 3.15, and a classic dbl butted steel is 4 lbs, but uses an EC headset, while the others i weighed were IS.

tertius_decimus
tertius_decimus
2 days ago

I like it. Kudos to the guy.

jonathan
jonathan
1 day ago

I hit 22lbs on a Surly Ogre with a custom ti fork, but aside from the handlebars, there’s nothing carbon about it. I bet if I grind off half the nipples on it, spend $2000 on some carbon wheels with Berd spokes, remove the seatpost and ride it like a trials bike, I could get it down to 18!

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