Words and photos by Wayne Reid (@freewheelimages)
Hey, I’m Wayne Reid. I’m a photographer and child mentor from Bristol, UK. As we are in the grips of lock down during one of the finest periods of weather our little island has recently experienced, the irony of discussing adventure is not lost on me. I say this with a wry smile, as my last trip was punctuated with constant rain and illness!
My obsession with bikes started at a very young age. A paper round funded my first proper bike build, sourced from—in hindsight—a dodgy local outfit. They had mountain bike framesets displayed on a wall that could be built up to suit your budget. My basic specced 1993 GT Karakoram Elite was almost physically attached to me from then on, with constant upgrades and anodised trinkets of the era. That was right up to the point that it was stolen from our home, a pattern that befell most of the shop’s customers!
This was Wells, in Somerset, on the edge of the Mendip Hills. We had great riding on our doorstep with a fantastic riding scene, including an amazing local bike shop. They eventually got so sick of me hanging around that they gave me a Saturday job. I was a teenager living the dream: Kona hardtails, GT RTSs, Cannondale Ravens, Trek Y Bikes, and Oakley sunglasses. My love was simply riding as fast and as far as I could, often with no plans for nutrition! Seb was ridiculously good at wheelies and loved dirt jumps, downhill, and breaking himself. Dave the mechanic had a passion for building shiny, beautiful bikes, and often not using them. Andy, the young shop owner, had a wonderfully supportive family and an unhealthy love of road bikes.
Fast forward through the years of XC and marathon racing, the birth of the 29er, and demise of the 26” wheel, and I find myself here. I guess gravel and adventure riding is the natural home for an inquisitive 40-year-old father of two young kids. I’m still a child, really, and this Surly Midnight Special is the most childish bike I own. It takes me back to simply riding my bike and having micro adventures as I did as a kid.
Its look and component choice are a direct result of previous build experience and a reflection of my personality and where I am as a rider. I don’t tend to be too keen on paint unless I absolutely love it, in which case I worry about it. So, I removed it! The Midnight Special’s versatility and ability to function in most terrain is something I really value. It has morphed from adventure rig, gravel grinder, road bike, and winter steed with fenders and a rack. The external routing and BSA bottom bracket is so simple and practical to live with and makes switching components an absolute breeze.
As pictured, it’s perfect for rides that take in multiple types of terrain, as long as they’re not too rowdy. I’ve been trying to choose components that are interchangeable among different framesets, especially important with wheels to have swappable end caps for different axle standards. The wheels are 3T Discus 650bs, set up tubeless with ever-reliable Stan’s sealant. The WTB Byways are my favourite all-road tyre. They’re tough, supple, pretty fast rolling, and have enough grip in an exciting under biking kinda way… and they look the nuts!
The matte slate Chris King headset is a lifelong investment and blends in with the bare steel. The bling SRAM AXS Mullet groupset was picked up at a bargain price. It works flawlessly, intuitively, has a huge ratio, and can also be easily swapped between bikes. The Nitto stem and Seatpost are beautiful pieces of bike sculpture. The handlebar has seen many bikes over the years and simply works. It’s somewhere comfortable to place my hands! The Brooks C13 Carved saddle is super comfortable. Fenders are recommended in the wet as the carved section results in a localised peculiar (and fairly unpleasant) sensation.
- Frame/Fork Surly Midnight Special (58cm)
- Wheels 3T Discus Plus C25
- Tires WTB Byway 650B x 47mm
- Handlebars ENVE
- Headset Chris King
- Crankset SRAM Force 1, 40T
- Pedals Look X Track
- Cassette SRAM Eagle X01 10-50
- Derailleur SRAM AXS XX1
- Brakes SRAM Force
- Shifter(s) SRAM Force AXS
- Saddle Brooks C13 Carved
- Seatpost Nitto S83
- Stem Nitto Craft 5
- Front rack Pelago
- Front bags Restrap Rando Bag
- Frame bags Wizard Works half frame bag (not pictured)
- Other accessories King Cage stainless cages
This is a bike I like to run fairly minimal with as little flapping, wobbling, or dangling as possible! A seat pack will never grace this bike. The Pelago rack is strong and sturdy; I’ve used it to strap dry bags full of camping gear and camera tripods without complaint. That’s also another positive of electronic shifting: you can stuff your front end right up against the hoods without worrying about shift lever issues. The Restrap Rando Bag is great for carrying my camera gear and other valuables safely and within easy reach. I also use a Restrap hip bag for carrying my DSLR and fixed lens or a compact camera and many snacks! The frame triangle is pretty big, and I have a Wizard Works half frame bag planned to finish off this setup.
Overall, I love this bike. I don’t think I will ever covet a carbon bike again. Steel is real. Adventure and fun are king. As soon as we’re allowed out, an elongated Trans Cambrian trip is at the top of the list. Stay safe everyone!
Find more from Wayne on Instagram @freewheelimages.
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