The Ultimate Machine: Surly Long Haul Trucker
I’ve received a lot of emails asking about the gear I used and how my bike held up during my summer U.S. bicycle tour. I initially wanted to do infield reviews while out on the road but only had the opportunity to squeeze in a few videos but nothing in-depth. However, since my trip is completed I can nip this in the bud and give you my perspective on the bike and gear I traveled with. This gear review will be broken into two parts, one with the bike and lastly the gear which you will find in a second post. Stay tuned for that as it will be featured in the gear section and blog.
When I realized this trip was going to happen I immediately started looking for a bike. I visited local shops and the Internet for research and used frames. While there’s a plethora of bikes to choose from, the Surly Long Haul Trucker is coined to be the go to, or what I call “The Ultimate Machine”. I thought about some of the gear that I’ll be bringing and the different terrain I may encounter. I was looking for something that was durable, comfortable and easy to ride, versatile, easily repairable when things go south and aesthetically good looking without a hefty price tag. I checked this all off on the list and LHT seemed to mark my needs.
After spending sometime unsuccessfully finding a used frame and ringing several shops asking for a green or black 56cm LHT. I was pretty much decided on a black or green color way since I was buying it new and was planning to have this bike forever. Everything fell into place; I ended up finding a black one at my local shop and was off to take a look. They were psyched to hear about what I was doing and hooked me up with a 2013 model ringing in just under $1250.
I took the metro to the bike shop to pick it up and was excited to ride back home and put its first bit of mileage on it. I had the bike about 3 months before my trip in May so this gave me the winter season to ride and gather all other components I needed. As I mentioned earlier, I was in search for a bike that was versatile and that can also used as a commuter, on a single track and durable to hold my gear when it’s time to take off. I started riding it to work as I do with my other bikes, along with weekend adventures to the local trails. I noticed the bike was pretty heavy right out the door. But I knew this before hand and when fully loaded should be fine. I mean for a bike that can lug around 300 pounds don’t expect riding a feather light carbon or aluminum. It’s a made from 4130 chromoly which is very strong, reliable and repairable.
The bike came complete with SRAM, Tektro and Alex components. The drop bars have bar end shifters which for me was a first coming from STI shifters. However, for touring bar end shifters are the preferred way for shifting. They make for comfort and durability in any event you somehow take a spill. I noticed while on my tour I sometimes get hit in the knee while standing which can be quite annoying. I thought about upgrading to the Gevenalle shifters which are great because they will help me to stand without worrying about smashing my knee while in the woods or going high speed on a single track. You can put your existing bar end shifters in the brake levers, which then act similar to STI’s
Building up the new rig was exciting and I was really anxious to get it out there in just a couple of months. When I went into getting my components I was looking for something that was light and strong enough to hold up all my gear. In terms of the racks I needed a front and rear base to place gear on top of. I was bringing my tripod, dolly slider and panniers that were loaded. I spent some time testing out different racks in shops and doing research on the internet.
I ended up with a Jandd Expedition rack for the rear and Old Man Mountain in the front. Because of Jandd Expeditions 75lbs load capacity, wide and long platform, it was perfect for placing my gear. It also has a set back so my size 13’’ boot heel and won’t clip my rear panniers while riding. The Old Man Mountain Sherpa is a great rack and has higher horizontal rails, which is what I was looking for. I wanted my gear to sit higher and away from the ground with my panniers mounted. The platform is wide and long enough to seat my tripod and other gear securely while riding. The SKS p50 fenders are great and I’m glad that I included them in my build. They add a nice classic look to my trucker as well. I almost didn’t get them because I figured I’d be in mainly dry climates and both my front and rear racks platform acts as a rain and mud shield. However, the nice range that the p50 has, has kept my boots from getting soaked and kept gunk away from my drivetrain when conditions didn’t favor. They’re wide enough to fit 700×45 tire width’s which is great for more demanding terrain.
I used BMX platform pedals instead of my LOOK Keo Blade’s because I knew I’d be on and off the bike. While some of the climbing could have been performed better with cleats or SPD’s I’m happy that I didn’t bring them. These Fly Bikes Ruben Graphite pedals served me well and came off my old BMX bike. They started breaking down in Colorado but got me through the rest of the trip. I replaced them with Wellgo MG-1’s which are on my current rig.
The bike came stock with Shimano Deore Lx derailleur and Sora FD-3503 front derailleur. It’s a responsive 3×9 system and does what it’s supposed to do. While I’ve looked into changing these I have them running perfectly fine on my current rig. Other parts like my seat post and saddle came directly off my other bike
When I first got on the bike with it fully loaded I immediately noticed that it was unstable. Part of it was my oversized load and lack or organized packing. This is when I decided to really take a step back and compartmentalize everything. I’ll go into this further in part two of this review, but I put all my electronics in one bag and camping gear in the other. My two front panniers housed my food in one bag along with water and other necessities. Here’s a few images below with the bike fully loaded and in the field.
Current winter setup: I’ve had this bike for about 10 months now and it’s a real treat. I use this bike for just about everything from commuting, grocery shopping, single track, group rides and solo ventures to the woods. It’s the ultimate machine that suits my needs. It reminds me of the transformers, burly, fast and easily broken down and modified to your liking. On trails getting over logs can be an issue. The bottom bracket is lower so it’ll hit the sprocket or chain stay. A fast bunny hop over most can clear your bottom bracket and sprocket from getting hit, but when it get’s technical you want to get off to get around them. Most of the parts are the same except a new Shimano 9 speed cassette, Jagwire sport derailleur cables, sealed Wellgo MG-1 pedals, Cinelli Cork bar tape and Schwalbe Marathon Modial (front) and Marathon Plus (rear) tires both at 700×35. Check back here or our Facebook page for part two covering the gear used for this trip.
Ridden & Written by
Dwayne Burgess (Manual Pedal)