Things We Like: Surly Long Haul Trucker

With the economy tanking, cyclists who want a high quality, affordable touring bike — meaning, under $1,200 — need look no further than the Surly Long Haul Trucker. It is not nearly as light as a more expensive touring bike such as my Rivendell Atlantis (at $1,800 for just the frame & fork) or other higher-end makes. But the Surly stands its ground in every other way. One of the many smart features is an extended headtube, which brings the bars up and back, making for a more comfortable position. Further sweetening the deal is a massively excellent Shimano XT and Sugino parts kit.

MG on her LHT at the White House Plaza
MG on her LHT at the White House Plaza

MG formerly commuted on a Novara Randonee (admittedly, a nice, less expensive bike) and liked it at first, but over time found the frame had a dull feel. Then she tried the LHT and bought it that same day. She opted for the 54cm frame with 26″/559mm wheels, which she said felt better in overall sizing compared to her 56cm Randonee. On the Randonnee she had to experiment a lot with reach and saddle setback to get a good fit, compared to an instant fit on the Surly.

Her initial frameset was marred by a slightly over-reamed seattube, and the seatpost kept slipping down. After contacting Surly, they quickly sent a free replacement frameset to her dealer, City Bikes, which moved over the parts at no charge, and all has been well since. She added a luxe Nitto rear rack, which is really stiff. It costs a ton, but preserves the bike’s handling even with panniers full of clothes and groceries.

Here’s MG’s take:

The LHT- I love it, and it’s bomb-proof!

My commute last year: Robotically fill up my panniers, plod my way into the rush hour traffic, and eventually make my way into the office. Lock up my bike and start my day. Boring. THEN I bought myself a Long Haul Trucker and my commuting life changed.

My commute today: Admire my bike, fill up the panniers, admire my bike — the color scheme, head badge, and stock parts — ride out the door, sail into the morning rush hour, and joyfully pedal my way to work. Lock up bike, thank it for its service and start my day. AWESOME!

What is the difference? Having a bike I love. Prior to the LHT, I rode an REI Novara Randonnee– a totally reliable bike, but no “it” factor. It did not feel responsive in traffic, and I never grew to love the color combination and “Novara” logo. Am I shallow? Perhaps so, but I think it was more of a personality clash between the Randonnee and me. We were just not meant to be commuting together long term. I was meant to be on the LHT.

I love the Utility Blue frame color, and the way the bike moves. The bar end shifters feel good, and the gearing is perfect for loaded commuting to the office :). I also love the 26″ wheels… it not only brings variety to the current bike stable, but the 26″ tires are better suited for international touring. That’s not in my near future, but it could be now that I have the LHT that makes me happy (and allows for some good workday office daydreaming)!

The one downside to the LHT is that it is a little heavy. However, as Ed would say, that makes for better brevet training! And anyway, what do I need a lighter bike for? I would just get to the office that much sooner!

20 thoughts on “Things We Like: Surly Long Haul Trucker

  1. I second MG’s LHT Trucker love…and heavy? No way. Compared to what?
    I just got a new front wheel: a SON20R with 28 Wheelsmith XL 14 spkoes and Aerohead rim: that’s light enough to make the LHT trucker qualify as light!

  2. Holy smokes, I swapped a Novara Randonee for a LHT too! I am also having the same wonderful experience. I love my bicycle, I bought the prebuilt version in green, added a b-17, Honjos, a dyno setup, and scrubbed off all the decals (except the headbadge). Super clean, especially after all the extra branding on the Novara. Absolutely perfect…I only wish my commute was longer!

    1. my 54 cm LHT with a rear tubus rack, 2.1 conti town & country tires and fenders is almost 27lbs. It is not my light bike. It’s my commuter go any where bike. It’s a full time fender bike. I’d like to get some conti grand prix folding tires, but at 50 apiece I have not.

  3. frame and fork are 6.5 lbs. in a 56cm. although, it is a dumb question — nothing turns on the weight of the LHT frame and fork. I rode a 24 lb. all steel bike bike in a 40k time trial last year and broke an hour — even though i was 45 years old. bikes matter very little when it comes to performance gains. what matters is relative fitness, and the efficiency and comfort of the bike that is ridden…esp when it comes to longer distances.

  4. If want your surly LHT to be a light bike and a touring bike, you really need two sets of wheels. It’s not a light bike. Taking weight off the wheels, will make spinning easier. I have a three bikes that I can equip for touring, a surly Lht, an Indy Fab Deluxe, and an Indy Fab Ciub Racer. I bought the two Independent fabrications first. Those frame sets at an employee price were around $1075 apiece. When I saw a complete Surly LHT frame set, the 54 cm with the 26″ wheels at $335 shipped, I thought “that would be a unique bike, I can’t pass that up”. I had many spare parts that I could use. However, I took it on a 2000 mile tour for the hell of it, and found it to be a load. The LHT is a great value, I love having 26×2.1 wheels and fenders on it for my winter beater. It’s a great bike to have as a commuter with no clipless pedals, but if I go across country or down the continental divide again, I’ll love having one of my Independent Fabrications. Yet, those two Indy Fab frame sets that I own now retail for $2000 each. I can see how that’s out of many people’s rang. But if you’re serious about doing something huge, transcontinental, get a custom bike. It will make your tour much nicer. And for God’s sake, if you’ve never toured before, do a thousand mile tour first before trying to ride around the world. Only after experiencing the suffering of taking to much with you, will you leave shit behind. Good Luck.

  5. Hello Mary / Ed,

    “Truckaccino” from Saturday’s brevet here. I enjoy reading your write up of the LHT, and of everyones comments. I can relate to so many. I too bought mine immediately after first riding it – which means that to get to the point of test riding I fell in love with it at first sight. I was in the market for a new bicycle – preferably steel – feeling that my aluminum framed bikes of the past few decades just weren’t bringing the happiness I recalled with the steel bikes of my youth (late teens in the early 80s). With no success in the Lancaster, PA area I decided to go to Harrisburg where I stopped in Pedal Pusher and was introduced to the very LTH I have now. They had just got it in and was off to the side, not even in the racks yet. Well it never got to the rack as I ended up taking it home with me. Now that I have bicycled 3450 miles on it since January 8, 2009 the only issue I have with it is for a time I feel I might have paid too much for it. Since I was unaware of this model or even the brand – Surly, I had no idea what its price was. There wasn’t even a price tag on it as it was that new to the shop. I was told it was $1200. I since found out that the MSRP is $1095 on the Surly website – matching and even exceeding that what I’m finding in other locations – online and brick & morter shops. At first I thought they “saw me coming” or that they knew that I had not researched this purchase ahead of time. I did take a bit of comfort seeing on my return to the shop a month later for the free break-in period maintenance that other LHTs were priced at $1200 in thier shop. Otherwise I would have brought it up. Bottom line is I’m happy with the LHT, thus the extra $100 can be easily overlooked (although it would have been nice to have that back so I could get myself down to Velo Orange for some Honjos).

    Greg Schayes – I too scrapped off my decals, with just my thumbnail – with no damage to the paint.

  6. At 220 pounds myself, I don’t let the weight issue of the Long Haul Trucker bother me. I bought my Trucker as a all around bike and wanted durability. When I ride I’m usually carrying stuff on the rear rack so that negotiates the weight and if your doing fully supported touring the weight of the bike is irrelevant in my opinion.

    For removing the stickers cleanly, I have heard of folks duct taping over them and then pulling the duct tape off to remove them cleanly. I haven’t tried this but will give it a try when I have my bike powder coated this winter, to see how it works.

    1. I did 5500 tour five years ago which included over 95% of the continental divide. I had a steel mountain frame built for this ride, but most people pull trailers, Bobs. 220 pounds plus a load is a lot of strain on wheels. I’ve done over 15000 miles of solo unsustained touring and never broken a spoke. My last tour, a 2000 mile ride last summer, I did not even bring spare spokes. I’m getting larger every year, but I don’t get much bigger than 180lbs. I know the wheels I’m riding on. But at 220, and factory built wheels, I might be concerned. Finally, why is everyone so concerned with taking off their decals? I put a wax coat on my slht when I got it, and it looks fine.

  7. Just finished mine (click my name for the Flickr page): powder coated 50cm frame with Surly racks. Did a long fitting session before ordering this size and glad I did that—would have NEVER ordered a frame this small. LOVE the fit and the function.

  8. I’ve been having the same weirdness with an early 90s Randonee, and am now considering getting LHT instead. You are inspiring me!

  9. I Bought an 54 LHT in May and love mine too! Last year I bought a Specialized Tricross to do similar “all rounder” type riding as I do with the LHT. After locating and testing one I bought it iinstantly without any reservations.

    I changed the seat to a brooks Sprung Champion seat and find the ride quite comfortable. I can ride all day long with this thing! Some of my previous bikes included Softrides and Trek Y-Foils. And I can say the ride is just as good with the LHT and Brooks sprung Champion saddle. Plus I get all the other features off the LHT Braze on’s etc.

    Now I ride both bikes and have a little variety too keep it fresh. What a great bike at a great price!

  10. Hi,

    Have been reading a lot on the LHT and living in India, I need to order online from Singapore. My height is 5’8″ and inseam [cycling] is 33″. Would the 54 be fine? Or should I opt for a 52?

    Thanks for any help.

  11. @Deepak Rao: I’m 5’8″ with a pants inseam of 32″ and as you might have seen above, I ride a 50. If you’re not able to have a thorough fitting done, I’d opt for the smaller 52cm LHT.

  12. I also went from a Novara Randonee to a Surly LHT. Nothing really wrong with the Randonee, but I like how much fatter tres I can run on the LHT. The one thing I really hate about it though is how weak the breaks are compared to those on my Specialized Paris Roubaix. On the PR, I know I am going to stop when I pull on the brake levers. Requires more planning and body positioning on the LHT. I still use the LHT for commuting because of the nice rack system and the wider tires to handle the rougher urban streets. I also worry less about its being stolen than I would the PR.

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