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Surly Lowside Review

By James Heath   /  Last updated - March 22, 2022   /  Mountain Bikes, Reviews, Surly

27.5" single-speed mountain bike Surly Lowside

Surly Bikes specializes in the design and manufacturing of steel frame bikes. Their bikes are designed for the average person who wants above-average performance from their bike.

To do so, and their team of engineers builds steel frames that match the intended use and loading characteristics with the frame’s design.

Steel Bikes brand logoThey achieve this by making size-specific tubesets, custom butting profiles, and specialized forks. All of this hard work ensures that Surly bikes have their own consistent ride feel based on comfort and compliance.

The Lowside is a Surly single gear mountain bike much like a “grownup BMX”. This bike’s versatility means it is as comfortable riding singletrack as it is on urban streets.

Since the company began, they have slowly perfected the single-speed bike and the Lowside shows what exactly is possible with this dedication and attention to detail.

Quick Specs

  • Rigid MTB
  • Steel Frame
  • Single Speed
  • Clearance for – 26 x 3.0″ / 27.5 x 2.8″
  • Tektro hydraulic disc brakes
  • Tubeless-ready tires & rims
  • Best use – XC, Trail, Commuter, Urban
  • MSRP: $1,425

Surly Lowside Review

Biker with helmet riding with Surly Lowside and balancing on front wheel only

The Surly Lowside is a simple 27.5 mountain bike that delivers far more than meets the eye.

This is a single-speed bike that is perfectly at home on singletrack thanks to careful frame design and component selection. Additionally, this bike performs well in urban environments, especially as a day-to-day runaround.

A 4130 steel frame and fork along with the single-speed drivetrain mean this bike is highly durable and requires very little maintenance compared to a regular geared bike.

The frame uses “Gnot-Boost” 145mm rear spacing for running a Boost or non-Boost hub depending on your preference. The frame is also compatible with the dropper post and other mountain bike standards with the ability to add tires 26″ x 3.0″ or 27.5″ x 2.8″.

Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, WTB ST i35 TCS rims, and Maxxis Rekon+ tires provide a more controlled and durable ride when tackling rough trails and wet conditions.

Who Should Buy Surly Lowside?

This bike’s versatility makes it perfect for many styles of rider. Of course, it is primarily a mountain bike and has a single-speed drivetrain so there are limitations to its ability to tackle steep gradients or ride for many miles.

Any rider who wants a highly durable and comfortable mountain bike to use both on singletrack and on urban or rural roads will certainly enjoy the Lowside.

What’s special about the Surly Lowside?

As a rigid mountain bike, the Lowside is still quite comfortable. A flexible and high-quality Chromoly steel design mean that this bike absorbs more vibrations than an aluminum or carbon frame. Additionally, the bike has comfortable BMX-style geometry.

Without the expense of suspension, Surly has been able to use premium rims, tires, and brakes which allow this bike to perform better than other rigid mountain bikes in this price range.

  • 4130 ChroMoly Steel frame
  • Rigid
  • Single-Speed

Why give up the suspension on a mountain bike?

The main advantages of a rigid mountain bike over a hardtail or full-suspension alternative are:

  • They are lighter as the suspension is generally quite heavy
  • A rigid bike is more efficient than one with suspension. Power is lost through each pedal stroke on a suspension bike
  • They are faster because they are lighter and more efficient
  • Steering sensitivity is higher meaning you can corner faster

Related: Rigid vs Hardtail vs Full-Sus MTB

Why give up on the gears?

lowside surly fixie mountain bike dropouts

A single-speed MTB is much easier to maintain and repair which results in a longer lifetime for your drivetrain. For riders without the need to tackle steep gradients, a single-speed bike reduces complexity without reducing your ability to do exactly what you want with your bike.

Benefits of steel frame

Steel is one of the cheapest and easiest metals to manufacture and manipulate and the technology for making steel frames is common around the world, further driving down prices. Additionally, it is also very easy to repair and maintain long-term giving it much better durability than other frame materials.

For lower-priced bikes steel is a great choice because a high-quality steel frame is most certainly better than a low-end carbon or aluminum frame. Another great benefit of steel is the comfort it provides. Steel is a natural shock absorber and therefore it works great as a frame for touring bikes where riders travel long distances over varied surfaces.

Surly Lowside Full Specs

  • Frame – 4130 Chromoly Steel
  • Fork – 4130 Chromoly Steel
  • Seatpost Clamp – Surly Stainless 33.1m Clamp
  • Headset – Cane Creek
  • Brakes – Tektro Hydraulic Disc M275/276
  • Rotors – 160/160mm
  • Stem – Sunday Freeze Top Load 22.2mm Clamp
  • Handlebar- Surly Sunrise
  • Grip – Velo Black
  • Saddle – Selle Italia Black
  • Seatpost – 2 Bolt, 30.9mm
  • Crankset – SRAM NX 32t
  • Bottom Bracket – SRAM PS
  • Cogset – Surly 17t with Spacer kit
  • Chain – KMC x10
  • Front Hub – Novatec 15×110
  • Rear Hub – Novatec 12×148
  • Rims – WTB ST i35 TCS
  • Tires – Maxxis Rekon+ 27.5×2.8 60tpi

Surly Lowside parameters


Surly Lowside Size Recommendation

  • XS – 4’8″+
  • S – 5’+
  • M – 5’5″+
  • L – 5’9″+
  • XL – 6’1+

Other Noteworthy Features

This fixie mountain bike performs extremely well on trails thanks to the Maxxis Rekon+ tires and Tektro dual-piston hydraulic disc brakes.

These 2.8″ tires are designed for aggressive trails with wide middle knobs that add control when braking and L-shape side knobs that add grip on loose turns while dual-compound rubber tread provides lower rolling resistance. Additionally, reinforced EXO protection increases durability and puncture-resistance in the sidewalls.

These premium tires paired with powerful 160mm rotor dual-piston hydraulic disc brakes provide huge stopping power which further boosts control and confidence in all conditions.

Surly 1×1 vs Lowside

surly 1x1 in 1998 year's catalog

Image credit: Surly 1×1 catalog of the year 1998

From early on in their existence, Surly’s 1×1 was their popular 26″ single-speed MTB. Until it was discontinued, the bike remained popular with Surly riders for its affordability, performance, and simplicity.

With the Lowside, the brand has given the 1×1 an update with modern technologies while still maintaining the original spirit of the bike. These updates include the ability to run 26″+ tires, Gnot-Boost dropouts, and modern components which make for smoother, higher-end ride quality.

Surly Lowside vs Co-op Cycles DRT 2.1

surly lowside vs co-op drt 2.1

  • Both under $1,500
  • 27.5″
  • Trail geometry

These two bikes have some similarities, namely the price and geometry, however, some of the most important components are very different meaning the Co-op Cycles DRT 2.1 is the more specialized of the two.

While the Lowside is a trail mountain bike at its core, it also performs great in more day-to-day use. The DRT 2.1 has 12-speed gearing, 140mm travel Suntour fork suspension, and a dropper seatpost.

All of this makes the DRT 2.1 a higher-performing mountain bike compared to the Lowside. That being said, this comes at a weight disadvantage and slightly lower performance off of the trail.

Buy DRT 2.1


With everything considered, we believe that Surly’s Lowside is a great, versatile MTB with an affordable price and high-quality where it counts. With the right care, this is the type of bike that can last a lifetime thanks to the innovative frame design and premium steel used in manufacturing.

For riders who want a pure trail mountain bike, this may not be the best option, but for those with slightly broader needs and an appreciation for style, comfort, and durability, then look no further than the Lowside.

Find it on Surlybikes.com

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