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 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!