July 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.
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.
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.
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.