Is Surly Midnight Special a Good Choice? -[Surly Midnight Special Review]

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Surly Midnight Special Review

  • Price: $2349
  • Frame: Steel
  • Tires: WTB Horizon, 650b x 47
  • Gear: 1×11

What we like about it: the high-capacity tires help the rider fine-tune the pressure of different road surfaces and add more surface area in contact with the ground, which can provide greater support.

What we don’t like about it: mechanical disc brakes that may not satisfy some riders.

Rating: (4.7/5)

Surly Midnight Special
Surly Midnight Special

Riding on roads filled with various gravel can be a challenging task, but our adventurous spirit won’t stop us. That’s where gravel bikes come in handy, helping riders conquer gravel roads effortlessly. To enable more off-road enthusiasts to conquer gravel roads, we discovered this steel-frame gravel bike.

Below, we will analyze the riding experience, main features, components, specifications, and other versions of the Surly Midnight Special. In the latter part of this article, we will also compare several best bicycle models. If you want to find more bike reviews, feel free to follow us.

Riding Experience

Surly Midnight Special

To better test this steel frame gravel bike, I bought a plane ticket and booked a hotel on IHG to arrive at Bromont: Montagne d’Expériences.

I chose the “L’expérience gravel” trail at Bromont: Montagne d’Expériences. The route covers a total of 30 kilometers, combining gravel roads, paths, and scenic country roads. Moreover, the route includes some hills and technical sections, making it a moderately difficult trail. However, I was confident in my abilities.

Gravel Riding

Starting from the trailhead, I descended confidently, experiencing the stability and maneuverability of the Surly Midnight Special’s steel frame. Although its TRP Spyre Mechanical Disc brakes are not as good as hydraulic disc brakes, they still provided stable braking performance on this route. I was able to descend safely.

During the uphill sections, the sturdy steel frame and efficient SRAM Rival 1 drivetrain of the Surly Midnight Special provided me with great assistance. I could adjust to the appropriate gear ratio at any time, maintaining a comfortable cadence and steady uphill speed.

When making turns, with my rich riding experience and the agility of the 650b tires, I could handle various curves and bends with ease. Sitting on the saddle, I could tilt my weight flexibly, whether evading obstacles swiftly or taking curves at high speed, the Surly Midnight Special offered excellent responsiveness and stability.

Is that all?

Surly Midnight Special

A comfortable saddle is crucial during gravel riding. The Selle Italia saddle is very soft with good support, providing decent shock absorption on gravel roads without causing excessive pressure on my buttocks.

Moreover, the Salsa Cowbell 31.8 handlebar design conforms to ergonomics. I could find the most comfortable grip position and suitable gripping force for my hands, making it easy to control the bike.

Also, I felt it reduced hand fatigue and discomfort, allowing me to maintain the spirit of adventure even during long gravel bumps.

In addition, the Surly Midnight Special is equipped with Teravail Rampart 650b x 47mm tires. The 47mm width provides strong support, allowing me to roll over small stones directly without feeling jarring.

Furthermore, the center tire surface is smooth and rolls quickly, offering great speed on straight paths. But, on gravel roads, I could feel the thicker center tire surface and durable casing performing remarkably, as they were less prone to punctures compared to ordinary bike tires.


The Surly Midnight Special is an excellent steel-frame gravel bike. It features a 4130 CroMoly frame and 4130 CroMoly fork, as well as a Salsa Cowbell 31.8 handlebar, providing excellent maneuverability. With a 12° flare, the rider’s hands, wrists, and arms can rest in a natural and comfortable position. Additionally, the Selle Italia saddle has a very soft fabric, ensuring a comfortable ride for the rider.

Furthermore, it comes equipped with an SRAM Rival 1 rear derailleur, 1×11 drivetrain, offering smooth gear shifting with a wide range. However, its TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes fall short in braking performance. Nevertheless, its Teravail Rampart 650b x 47mm tires provide excellent traction and support, allowing for riding on various complex terrains.

Moreover, it features a KMC X11 chain, which is designed to complement SRAM systems. With precise chamfered plates, it ensures perfect propulsion and shifting, making it ideal for road use.


What do we like about it?

  • Large-capacity tires allow riders to adjust the pressure on different terrains and provide greater contact area with the ground, offering excellent support.
  • The sturdy steel frame absorbs vibrations well on gravel roads, ensuring the bike’s robustness with strong metal fatigue resistance.
  • The 650b wheels are highly versatile for gravel riding.
  • Excellent uphill capabilities.

What don’t we like about it?

  • The braking performance of the mechanical disc brakes may not be sensitive enough to meet the needs of some riders.


  • Is this bike suitable for beginners?

This bike is suitable for both beginners and experienced riders.

  • Does the 56cm model use the Whisky No.9 CXLR fork?

Yes, it can use this fork, but it requires the use of the Cane Creek 40 series or equivalent products and the Cane Creek 52/40 1.5″ crown race (HD7601) to ensure compatibility between these components.

  • Which retailers sell this bike?

Users can purchase the Surly Midnight Special at ADAMS AVENUE BICYCLE and ADVENTURE’S EDGE.

  • Which wheel sizes come with fenders?

Users can choose between fender-equipped 650b x 50mm or 700c x 38mm wheel sizes.



Frame4130 CroMoly, double-butted main triangle, ED coated, TIG-weldedColors: Metallic Lilac; Black
Fork4130 CroMoly, ED coated, TIG-welded
Bottom BracketSRAM GXP
HeadsetCane Creek 40, 1-1/8″
StemProMax, 31.8 4 bolt
HandlebarSalsa Cowbell 3
SaddleWTB Volt Sport
SeatpostPromax, ProMax SP-2019 27.2x300mm non-offset (for 40-50), ProMax SP-2016 27.2x300mm offset (for 54-64cm)


Rear DerailleurSRAM Rival 1
Front Derailleurn/a
CrankSRAM Rival 1 40T
ShiftersSRAM Rival 1
CassetteSunRace 11-42t
ChainKMC X11
BrakesTRP Spyre, 160mm rotors
Brake LeversSRAM Rival 1


RimsAlex Adventurer 2, Tubeless ready, 32H
Front HubNovatech D791, 12mm Thru, 32H
Rear HubNovatech D792, 142mm Thru, 32H
TiresWTB Horizon, 650b x 47, tan wall
Disk Rotors160mm front and rear

Comparison Table

BikesClick viewTiresDrivetrainFrame MaterialGroupset
All-City Corilla Monsoon ApexClick ViewWTB Riddler, 27.5 x 2.4″1 x 11SteelShimano Apex, FSA
Trek 520Click ViewBontrager H1 Hard-case Ultimate, 700x38c3×9SteelShimano Alivio, Sora
Rondo Ruut ST2Click ViewWTB NANO 700C X 401 x 11SteelShimano Apex, FSA
Panorama AnticostiClick Viewteravail rutland 700×421 x 11SteelSRAM Rival, Easton

Surly Midnight Special vs All-City Gorilla Monsoon Apex

All-City Gorilla Monsoon Apex
All-City Gorilla Monsoon Apex

The All-City Gorilla Monsoon Apex has a tire clearance of 42c, and the maximum tire size it can accommodate is 42c. However, the Surly Midnight Special has larger tire sizes, reaching up to 47c. The 47c tires can handle a greater variety of terrains, including loose sand, snow, and other complex surfaces, providing excellent support.

Additionally, the All-City Gorilla Monsoon Apex is equipped with a dropper, which allows the rider to lower the seat height during standing acceleration, avoiding any potential leg collisions with the seat. So, if you want wider tires, I would recommend the Surly Midnight Special. If you want a bike with a dropper, the All-City Gorilla Monsoon Apex would be your best choice.

Surly Midnight Special vs Trek 520

Trek 520
Trek 520

The Surly Midnight Special comes with a steel fork, while the Trek 520 has an aluminum fork. Additionally, the Trek 520 is equipped with 700c aluminum wheels, whereas the Surly Midnight Special has 650b wheels. 700c wheels provide better rolling performance, while 650b wheels offer greater agility and flexibility.

Furthermore, the Trek 520 has a 3×9 drivetrain, while the Surly Midnight Special features a 1×11 drivetrain. The 1×11 drivetrain offers a smoother and wider gear range. The single front chainring design also reduces the risk of chain drop. However, the Trek 520 is less expensive compared to the Surly Midnight Special.

In conclusion, if you have a limited budget, the Trek 520 is a great option for you. If you prioritize a superior drivetrain, the Surly Midnight Special will better suit your needs.

Learn More: What Makes The Trek 520 Such A Powerful Gravel Road Bike

Surly Midnight Special vs Rondo Ruut ST2

Rondo Ruut ST2
Rondo Ruut ST2

The Surly Midnight Special is equipped with mechanical disc brakes, which are not as responsive as the hydraulic disc brakes on the Rondo Ruut ST2. Hydraulic disc brakes offer greater sensitivity, but they are not as easy to maintain and repair compared to the mechanical disc brakes on the Surly Midnight Special.

While the Rondo Ruut ST2 has a tire clearance of 40c and can accommodate up to 40c tires, it still falls short of the Surly Midnight Special’s 47c tires. The 47c tires on the Surly Midnight Special can handle a wider variety of terrains. However, the Rondo Ruut ST2’s 700c wheel size provides a stable ride, while the 650b tires on the Surly Midnight Special offer greater agility during rides.

So, if you’re looking for a more agile bicycle, I believe the Surly Midnight Special would be a great fit for you. If you prioritize a superior braking system, the Rondo Ruut ST2 would be a better choice.

Surly Midnight Special vs Panorama Anticosti

Panorama Anticosti
Panorama Anticosti

The Panorama Anticosti features a superior hydraulic disc brake system with excellent braking performance, but it may not be as convenient to maintain. Additionally, the Panorama Anticosti has more mounts, allowing riders to carry more luggage or water bottles, which greatly facilitates their journey. The 700c aluminum wheels on the Panorama Anticosti provide excellent support.

Furthermore, the Surly Midnight Special has a Stack/Reach Ratio of 1.476, which is smaller than the Panorama Anticosti’s Stack/Reach Ratio (1.57). A larger Stack/Reach Ratio allows for better stretching, providing riders with a more comfortable riding experience. However, the Panorama Anticosti is slightly more expensive than the Surly Midnight Special.

In conclusion, if you prioritize a more comfortable riding experience, the Panorama Anticosti will surely meet your expectations. If your budget is limited, the Surly Midnight Special would be an excellent choice.


The above is our complete review of the Surly Midnight Special, a remarkable steel gravel bike that offers an outstanding experience on challenging off-road trails. Based on our evaluation, we give it a high score of 4.7. If you’re looking for more bicycle information, feel free to check out our other reviews.

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