The Surly Midnight Special truly stands out as a unique frame. As mentioned in my previous post <If you can only have one bike>, the MS is not really a gravel bike but it can be if you want to. Initially introduced by Surly as ‘Road Plus,’ it inherits its geometry from the discontinued Surly Pacer, yet modernized with disc brakes and ample clearance. Beyond its classic road geometry, what distinguishes it from contemporary frames is the retention of a distinctive feature—the down-tube shifter boss. Although seemingly minor, this feature enables backward compatibility, allowing for an old-school purist build if desired.
Contrary to this backward compatibility, the current build represents a forward step into the future. The challenge lies in how modern components can complement the Surly MS’s vintage essence.
In its recent state, the bike featured a 2x setup, smothered with decals, losing some of its classic charm. Inspired by English Cycles builds, I was determined to restore its classic appearance and simplify the cockpit.
Striving for that classic aesthetic, I reverted to the classic fork, opting for the steel fork over the stylish Spurly, as it enhances the bike’s classic character. Additionally, I swapped the tires for tan wall versions of the Pirelli Cinturato RC, adding a more retro vibe. In a homage to its origin, I slapped it with classic Surly Pacer decals. Just to add some minimalist details, the Mori Mono tool keg will now house my riding tools.
In adapting to the modern times, this is where things got exciting. I switched the classic looking White Industries cranks from 2x black chainrings to 1x silver 40T. The Vision Tech wheel set, the official equipment partner of Team Jumbo Visma and EF Pro Cycling, and the SRAM eTap AXS Xplr group set further modernized the setup. Retained the shifter boss and covered it with the Blue Lug covers which keeps it clean and ready to use if needed. While the decluttering may seem too much, the wireless setup seamlessly ties together the entire aesthetic.
I’m thrilled with how the build turned out, and surprisingly, the transformation wasn’t that costly. The parts I removed—Spork, VBC 2x chainring, SRAM Rival 22 group set, Paul Clampers, and DT Swiss wheelset with Pirelli Cinturato RC/H mix—retain value in the second-hand market. Or I’m just justifying the upgrade.
If you’re interested with this type of build, feel free to drop by the shop or send us a DM for consultation and build services.