Surly Long Haul Trucker

Jul 18, 2009

Here at Adventure Cycling headquarters in Missoula, Montana, the bike touring season is approaching its midway point. Throughout the past four and a half months, we have greeted over 250 touring cyclists, which amounts to quite a few bikes. We have seen riders aboard standard touring bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, recumbents, and tandems. Of all these bikes, there has been one make and model that has stood out as the clear favorite amongst tourists

The Surly Long Haul Trucker (LHT) has been heavily spotted this year, gracing the Adventure Cycling bike racks at least once a week. What attributes to this bike's popularity? Let's take a look at it piece by piece.

Frame and Fork

Like all Surly bikes, this is built with low grade, heavy, durable 4130 CroMoly steel. No frills, no fancy lugs, no weight saving features, just a tough bike that will get you from point A to point B with confidence. The geometry of the bike is classic touring all the way. You have a long wheelbase that handles very well whether you load the bike or not, and you have plenty of clearance for fat 45mm wide tires (42mm with fenders). There are a few touring friendly features that can be found throughout the frame, such as a third set of water bottle mounts underneath the downtube, a pump peg, and spoke holders along the non-driveside chainstay that hold two spokes. You won't have any trouble looking for places to bolt racks and fenders to, as this bike is riddled with eyelets to make sure everything is securely bolted down. It's important to note that if you ride a 54cm or smaller frame, the bike will only accommodate 26" wheels. Frame sizes 56cm and larger take 700c hoops.

Components

This bike can be purchased complete or as a frame and fork only. If you choose the complete bike option, you have everything you need to start riding, minus pedals and racks. The build kit is just as simple and burly as the frame. For starters, they skip on STI style shifting and provide you with low maintenance bar end shifters. The Shimano drivetrain gives you 9 gears on the rear cassette (11-34t), and three chain rings up front (48-36-26t). Some other component highlights are the Shimano XT derailleur and the nicely overbuilt Alex Adventurer rims laced with 36 spokes to Shimano XT hubs for excellent dependability. Lastly, I really want to applaud Surly for replacing last year's harsh Velo saddle with a much more forgiving WTB seat.

Potential Upgrades

Like any complete bike, there is always a bit of fine tuning to be done. Inline brake levers are becoming a popular addition to many bikes, and allow you to access the brakes when your hands are resting on top of the handlebars. The SRAM chain is a little on the weak side, and I would suggest looking at a something a bit stronger, such as a Shimano LX/105 chain.

Is This The Bike For Me?

The Surly LHT isn't going to be a fast and nimble bike by any stretch, so don't expect it to get you anywhere quickly. It will, however, give you a very smooth and comfortable ride once you get rolling, and handle all the gear you can throw at it. At $1095 for the complete bike ($430 frame and fork only), the price is hard to beat, and the 2009 edition comes in an Olive Green or Truckaccino color.

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TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack, a part Adventure Cycling's Member Services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.

Comments

Anonymous

Just wanted to point out that the 26" wheeled version (54cm and smaller frames) can take up to 2.1" MTB tires and still have fender clearance.

July 18, 2009, 5:46 PM
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Josh, Gear Reviews

Right you are. Just another wonderful aspect of the Fatties-Fit-Fine clearance. Thanks for the comment. I do believe it's the first one we've had since the launch of our new blog.

July 18, 2009, 7:37 PM
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Anonymous

I'm loving my LHT, and while it's certainly no lightweight, it's not horribly heavy, and for a bike of its kind is surprisingly nimble. I used it on my first tour (part of the Atlantic Coast route, from NYC down to southern VA) last month, and it was a fantastic ride.

I've since been using it on my 37 mile round-trip commute about three times a week - a much more comfortable ride in anything but heavy wind than my aluminum cyclocross bike - and I achieve almost exactly the same cruising speeds: average of 18 to 19 miles per hour in moderate wind conditions. The smooth bearings and drivetrain help, amd it's definitely no slouch!

July 18, 2009, 10:20 PM
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Mark S.R. Williams

Hi Josh,

Re your comment:

"The Surly LHT isn't going to be a fast and nimble bike by any stretch, so don't expect it to get you anywhere quickly."

That's interesting. I regularly do an 18 mile loop ride in Santa Fe made up of rolling hills, little or no traffic, no stop signs, no lights etc. When riding tempo, my times on my 35 lb. Surly Long Haul Trucker set up as a randonneur bike are virtually identical to my times when I do the ride on my 18 lb. Litspeed Tuscany with full Campy Record and Kysirium wheels.

There seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding about the relationship between speed and bicycle weight, especially in terms of what TYPE of riding one does.

The Litespeed is much faster in aggressive group rides that involve constant acceleration. It also climbs faster. However, the Long Haul Trucker is much faster descending twisty mountain roads.

Most long distance cyclists basically ride tempo, either alone or with a couple of partners. For that type of riding, the added weight and the more stable frame geometry of a bike like the Surly LHT doesn't really slow things down. I think it's useful for people to keep this in mind.

Based on all the misinformation that gets thrown around about bicycle handling, someone on a Surly groupnet was thinking that he needed to get an agile racing bike for commuting because he thought that would better allow him to avoid hittle puddles on his commute. Needless to say, a bike like the LHT is agile enough to avoid puddles--not to mention, to do so at comparable speeds to racing bikes in tempo type riding.

July 19, 2009, 5:37 PM
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bloodsweatgears

Doh! I was the first comment on the ACA blog and forgot to actually use a public account. Now I'll forever be known as "Anonymous".

July 20, 2009, 2:06 AM
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Josh, Gear Reviews

Thanks for the input Mark. It looks like two readers are finding the bike pretty nimble. I didn't want to give the impression that it's a bike that you are going to have to muscle around a lot. The ride is smooth and predictable, so you can really hold a solid line on the descents.

Also, very good point about there not always being a standard relationship between bike weight and speed. My personal riding style favors a lighter bike as I'm not a power rider, and I tend to ride in bursts. A rider who is more consistent and powerful can benefit from a much broader range of bike weights.

It's worth mentioning, that when it comes to touring bikes, there really shouldn't be much talk of speed, and that was my mistake. Touring bikes are built to be comfortable, durable, and versatile. In the end, you don't want to be riding so fast you miss all the great scenery!

July 20, 2009, 3:51 AM
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chuck davis

Doesn't sound like you took a ride on a LHT

July 20, 2009, 12:34 PM
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Ordinary Bob

I ride an LHT as well as a Trek 1200. The LHT is much faster, the wider tires and more comfortable ride allow me to keep rolling even on the nasty roads we have in NY state. On the Trek with the skinny little road tires, I have to slalom to avoid the potholes. The Trek has been retired to the windtrainer, the LHT is my preferred road ride now.

July 20, 2009, 2:10 PM
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Blue Train

I've had my LHT for a couple of months and do not find it sluggish or slow. Certainly, it's not a racing bike, but it handles quite deftly in every situation I've been in. Talking weight/speed in a touring bike discussion is kind of off-topic anyway. Who cares if the bike weighs a few extra pounds when you going to install racks, bags, and three water bottles?

Coining a phrase from the late, great Howlin' Wolf, this bike is "built for comfort, not built for speed."

July 20, 2009, 4:46 PM
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Josh, Gear Reviews

This post has been removed by the author.

July 20, 2009, 6:48 PM
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Josh, Gear Reviews

Wow, the comments are rolling in hard. I'm happy to be getting these new insights, as I can only speak from own experience. I do in fact own a LHT, and have for almost two years. It has proven to be an excellent bike, and stood up to the rough roads of Montana, as well as parts of South America.

Thanks for everyone's comments. I need them to keep me on my toes.

July 20, 2009, 7:17 PM
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BloggingBlob

Josh, there is a Surly LHT Google Group with over 1,600 members worldwide. Someone posted your great article, most comments on the site are supportive and happy that you wrote it.

http://groups.google.com/group/SurlyLHT?hl=en

July 20, 2009, 11:43 PM
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Jerome

I've had my LHT since last fall, and haven't yet toured on it, but I've used it for my 26 miles each way commute, and now use it for my 4km each way commute. My new commute being much less distance has the option of some nice gravel and dirt paths and the trucker handles those with ease too. I've got the 60cm, so 700 wheels, and I would buy these bike again in a heartbeat. I wish I had bought one sooner (I was on the fence for about 2 years before I actually went out and bought mine). Just a great bike that can do many things very well. This is my favorite bike (I've got 8 bikes right now and have had 23 bikes in the past 5 years) and I think this bike is one that I will wear into the ground before I ever think of selling it. If I ever do wear it out, I'll be replacing it with another 60cm LHT. And BTW, you can get these suckers moving quickly. While I haven't done anything to lighten it up, or put on skinny tires, I can keep up with 60km traffic when I want to. Long Haul Truckers Rock!

July 21, 2009, 2:28 PM
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Kris

I built an LHT up from the frame as did a friend for a recent trip to Ireland (from the UK). Unfortunately his snapped where the rear dropout meets the chainstay after about 30 miles - not a good start. I'm taking mine on a round-the-world trip next year and unfortunately have this worry in the back of my mind. The braze has been changed on his replacement frame so I'm even more concerned that there is an issue.

Luckily we got it welded and still went on our trip. I've not heard any other reports of this happening so I'm keeping my fingers crossed..

July 26, 2009, 1:09 PM
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Dylster

My Trucker should be rolling across the US next summer if the plan stays on track. Just finished tweaking the details a few weeks ago. I would recommend a solid fitting by a reputable LBS for the Long Haul Trucker frame. If I hadn't done it, I'd be riding a much bigger size. Instead, my 5'8", 175 pound frame fits a 50cm LHT like a glove.Almost 600 miles later, I really love this bike!

Photos:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cargonistas/sets/72157617092400912/

September 7, 2009, 2:50 PM
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Victoria

Best bike for touring. Period. I went Vancouver, BC to Maine without any mechanical problems whatsoever. None. I didn't even have to adjust my cables or brakes.

I'd also highly recommend Specialized Armadillo tires. I got one flat in 4200 miles.

I love my Surly!

September 14, 2009, 5:56 PM
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Josh

I've got the 60cm, so 700 wheels, and I would buy these bike again in a heartbeat. I wish I had bought one sooner (I was on the fence for about 2 years before I actually went out and bought mine).

September 26, 2009, 6:15 AM
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Aaron

Just bought a 2009 LHT the other day! I'll keep commuting with my old ten speed for now, but can't wait to get it going across the country next spring.

And maybe when I get back to NYC in the fall it won't be so shiny and new looking and I won't have to worry so much about theft.

October 26, 2009, 10:59 PM
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http

I purchased an LHT in August and have since then put 3000+ miles on it. Everything has pretty much been bombproof so far. I toured from central Illinois to the East coast and down to Atlanta, and I had one flat. After getting back to Illinois, I broke my chain riding around town, but with a new cassette and chain, Jade once again rides like a dream.

I am now considering another tour, possibly in South America.. any ideas for wheel/tire options for such a journey? Can a 58cm LHT take 26ers? I think there would be a problem with the rear brake set-up?..

December 12, 2009, 8:31 PM
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John Schubert

Dear HTTP:

Assuming your bike came with 700C tires, the answer is 'no.' The parts won't fit.

Here are the numbers: your rims have a bead seat diameter (the diameter of the rim, measured at a standard point on the rim) of 622 mm. So-called 26-inch rims have a bead seat diameter of 559 mm, which is 63 mm smaller. Your existing brakes don't adjust enough to make up that distance.

Surly used to make the bike with 26-inch wheels in the smaller sizes (which allows them to fit a smaller top tube to go along with the smaller seat tube -- something you can't do if you design the frame around larger wheels) and make the bike with 700C wheels in the larger sizes.

Now, Surly also offers 26-inch wheels in the larger sizes too, precisely because people like you want that widespread tire availability and big fat tread when touring in far-flung places.

Here's what they say about it: http://www.surlybikes.com/frames/long_haul_trucker_frame/

Since one can never have too many bikes, I heartily recommend you buy another bike for this trip.

-- John Schubert, technical editor, Adventure Cyclist

December 14, 2009, 6:42 PM
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surlysteve

The 26 inch size is all about availablity.Not size 26 inch tires are available in every country and just about and store that sell bikkes.You can go to K-mart in the sticks and find a 26 in tire.yes 700c are available there now but I am talking any where in the world.

February 24, 2010, 7:29 PM
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Kaptain Amerika

Dylster, that sounds like a *tight and tiny* glove. Is your saddle jacked way up? All your weight on your wrists? 55 - 56cm should be your range. It sounds like that LBS gave you some kind of extreme "race" fit. If, when your saddle is properly adjusted, it's more than an inch or so higher than your bar flats, your frame is too small. Your saddle should be even, maybe even slightly lower, than your bar flats. This is century-old fit gospel.

March 8, 2010, 3:56 AM
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Nickname unavailable

I love most everything about my Long Haul Trucker... I hate the brake levers.

I have an average size hand, but the levers are so far forward I can comfortably only get two fingers on the levers, three if I really reach. Not enough for adequate brake action. And no, they are not in the wheel release position.

March 22, 2010, 12:51 AM
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roger

Hey Kap'. I am not surprised by Dylater's seemingly small frame. I am about the same size, a little heavier, and I was torn between a 50 & 52cm frame (I typically ride 53-54cm sport frames). Surly's tend to run this way. You should automatically size down. It actually came down to a bike fitting session at a reputable Seattle LBS with stem swaps to make a final decision on size. This is the best fitting bike I have had in a long time. Since I am no longer a rail thin, flexible, young buck the touring position is a perfect all around fit for me.

As with everyone else my LHT has become my preferred ride out of 6 bikes. I am actually beginning to sell some off now. As far as speed goes, I average only a few MPH less than on a sport bike on the flats, even with 26 X 1.75 tires + fenders. Not as fast up the hills, but way less energy spent. Descents are RAD because of the weight and long wheelbase. Even when moderately loaded.

March 26, 2010, 6:09 PM
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Hawaiianpopeye

Sorry, but I purchased a 58cm 700c Surly LHT for a cross country tour I'm doing now. Fork flexes and bike wobbles with full loaded panniers. And I'm only carrying 60#s of gear including my 173# weight. Surly has blown me off and I am in the process of changing fork to Salsa cross fork and adding brake booster to rear to stabilize ride. Bike has become very dangerous on descents and when trucks blow by as it tends to drift from side to side. I have lightened the load as much as possible yet problem still exists. Three shops have looked at it and checked alignment and bearings. I should have bought a Cannondale instead of wasting my money on this and listening to all of the people who rave about the LHT.

May 17, 2010, 5:13 PM
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Anonymous

I loaded up my 54cm LHT with 35-40 lbs. of gear and I weigh about 195 lbs... it doesn't flex and wobble. Sounds like you might need to redistribute the weight on your bike.

My LHT rides so smooth...even fully loaded climbing steep hills at 5mph to cruising downhill at 40mph I never had an issue with the handling of the bike.

The only thing I've really changed from the stock setup is getting rid of the WTB seat for a Brooks Flyer. I've added things such as fenders, racks, bottle cages, etc...but changed out none of the original parts.

I think I will change tires to Schwalbe Marathon Plus, but other than that, I'm happy with the bike.

June 23, 2010, 5:56 PM
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Dylster

Kaptain Amerika and others: Just returning to see the comments. Wish ACA could code faster, more comment notification!

You said,

"Dylster, that sounds like a *tight and tiny* glove. Is your saddle jacked way up? All your weight on your wrists? 55 - 56cm should be your range. It sounds like that LBS gave you some kind of extreme "race" fit. If, when your saddle is properly adjusted, it's more than an inch or so higher than your bar flats, your frame is too small. Your saddle should be even, maybe even slightly lower, than your bar flats. This is century-old fit gospel."

I thought the same thing, and to these points, the LBS said I *could* swing a 52cm LHT. But she felt the 50 would be best, and she was right. I did swap drops for a butterfly bar (Modolo's), and in doing so extended the stem just a bit to accommodate for the controls being pushed backwards with the butterfly bar. But a couple thousand miles laterĂ¢??and a leg of the Western Express later (SFO to Fallon, NV)—this is a great fit. All day long goodness!

July 7, 2010, 11:29 AM
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Cyclocross Wheels

I love my LHT, I carry my cyclocross bike on it to the races. It is a great warm up!

July 24, 2010, 5:22 PM
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Ray Gill

I am about to exchange my old bike and the LHT seem perfect for me. The price is very affordable. Is anybody know if we can purchase LHT in Canada?

August 3, 2010, 12:59 AM
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Rims for Sale

This article reminded me of my time in Missoula, Montana. Really gorgeous areas. Have never felt so relaxed again. I'm looking for my own Surly Long Haul Trucker as we speak!

August 3, 2010, 2:52 PM
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Anonymous

hello, I currently ride a 54cm Mercier Galaxy light touring bike with pretty much everything stock except tires, I still use the stock Alex R500 rims, but use a Continetal gator tire. I wiegh in at 230 pounds being i am a weight lifter,and when i tour i tend to carry 30 pounds in my panniers, currenty i only use rear panniers as well. looking to get front ones yet to help even out the weight on the bike. I have tried the bob yak trailer, however it sucks up hills so i prefer my arkel panniers. My question is this, how does the Surly compare to what i have. I am looking for ways to upgrade. Thanks.

January 9, 2011, 10:01 PM
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Josh, Gear Reviews

One big difference between your Mercier Galaxy and the Surly LHT is that the Surly will use cantilever brakes, as opposed to the caliper style brakes on the Mercier. Cantilevers give you some extra room for wider tires and fenders, which can give you a slightly more comfortable and stable ride.

The Surly also has low rider eyelets on the rack, which aren't found on the Mercier, but you can work around that by using band clamps to secure a front rack.

If you are interested in upgrading your current bike, which I think would be a good idea, I would focus on the drivetrain. It could be a good idea to make the upgrade when you are ready to replace your current chain and cassette. Other than that, most static components (seatpost, bars, stem) are plenty durable and functional, so I wouldn't worry about them.

January 12, 2011, 10:11 PM
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Anonymous

Thanks Josh, i have recently learned that the frams are made of the exact same steel, however the mercier is a freaction of the cost, so there is no need to upgrade in frames at this point in time, i have also found a place called old man mountain that makes a geat front rack with a mounting system. I would like to go with alittle wider tire, however, how much will that take away from road travling? I normaly travel at 14 to 18 mile per hour if that makes a difference, as a average that is. what types of drive traines would you suggest as a up grade for long hauls. i curently have had great luck knock on wood...but i am always looking to up grade. thanks again for you help as well as others.

February 3, 2011, 7:43 AM
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