a Surly Long Haul Trucker Review
A while back I posted a series of touring bike reviews that look mostly at touring specs, bike design, function, and price. By far my most popular post was the review on the Surly Long Haul Trucker. So I’ve decided to do a follow up review to have a deeper look into the bike.
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Here is a link to my first review of the Long Haul Trucker.
Frame- 100% Surly 4130 CroMoly steel.
Chainstay Length- 18.1 inches
Brakes- Tektro Oryx cantilever
Tires- 26×1.5” on 42-54cm frames and 700c x37mm on 56-62cm frames
Hubs- Shimano XT, 36h
Components- The Surly Long Haul Trucker has a mix of components. Shimano Tiagra front derailleur, Shimano XT rear, Deore Cassette, SRAM chain, and a Sugino 😄 600 (48-36-26t).
Price- $850 Complete, $419 Framset
Now I’ll delve into the bike a little bit and talk about some first-hand experience with the bike.
Strength and Feel:
The steel frame of the Surly Long Haul Trucker (LHT) is very strong and comfortable. What you will notice when riding the bike is significant shock absorption from the frame. As you probably know, this is not a mountain bike and there aren’t any shocks to cushion road blows. Fully loaded, or as a heavy rider, you will notice a bit of give in the frame. I weight 70kgs (155 lbs) and don’t notice it much, but have had larger friends tell me they get a bit of give in the frame under stress. Not really an issue to most though and I like it.
I’ve inspected 7 Surly LHTs to compare their build quality and have come to the following conclusions. What you will probably end up with, whether you buy a complete LHT or just the frameset, is a very well constructed bike. The TIG welds are very smooth and consitent throughout the frame. You will see there is a lot of clearance for big tires and fenders on the front and rear. You will find a ton of braze-ons (little frame holes that allow connections to parts like fenders, racks, and brakes), here is a list of them all;
- Upper bosses and dropout eyelets for racks front and rear
- Fender eyelets
- Chainstay spare spoke holder
- Pump peg
- Downtube shifter bosses
- 3 sets of bottle cage bosses
- rear housing stop for canti brakes;
- housing stops for brakes and derailers
That is certainly a lot of options. Here are a couple of issues that have come up with these brazeons.
- The 3rd bottle cage mounts a little too close to the front wheel if you’re using fenders and there is a lack of clearance on turns because of this. I’ve had to single secure the bottle cage lower towards the bottom bracket.
- This design problem is also evident on turns while riding with SKS fenders. My toes get clipped by the fenders on turns and that is annoying. I am in the process of moving the fender around and shortening the supports because they, not the fender, are hitting my shoes.
- The extra set of fender eyelets are a life-saver. I’ve got Surly Nice Racks on my front and rear and their connection to the braze-ons slightly inhibits the natural resting position of a fender attached to the same hole. This causes SKS fenders to pop in and out of their quick release cages and mess up the front tire. With the extra set of braze-ons located just a bit higher up on the fork, I was able to re-attach the fenders to those new braze-ons and eliminate the problem.
The paint job is mostly top-notch, with the exception of a couple of areas around the bottom bracket and chainstay that got a bit too much paint. Everything was covered though and none of the brazeons or holes were clogged. Logo stickers are easily removed with a hair dryer and show no sign of earlier presence.
The Surly LHT is designed specifically for touring and it is pretty evident in frame and feel. The relaxed head angle keeps you in a more upright position that a road bike, and a more downward position than a mountain bike. That sounds just peachy, doesn’t it? Well, it is. Even with the stock handlebars, which I will probably replace because of my wrist problems, you get 3 nice positions for riding (upright, semi-race, and race). These aren’t the proper terms, but imagine they are and they will make sense. The other nice part of the design is the long chainstay. I’m just going to explain this as basically being the distance between your foot and the back hub or cassette. This translates into how much clearance your foot is going to have on your rear panniers. I have size 13.5 feet and ride with clipless pedals and have no problem clearing my Ortlieb rear panniers (which by the way are on sale at REI right now, so check them out below).
Ortlieb Panniers are on SALE NOW! Get them while they’re available by clicking above, thanks for supporting!
So this chainstay length of 18.1 inches translates into foot clearance, speed, and confidence. Why speed and confidence? Think about it…if you are constantly worried your heels are going to clip your rear panniers, are you gonna pedal your heart out up those hills, or are you gonna hold off for fear of getting stuck and unclipping your cleats? More confidence will help you go faster and be more relaxed. Look at the chainstays for other similar sized bikes:
Surly LHT: 18.1 inches
Trek 520: 17.7 inches
Cannondale Touring:18 inches
Fuji Tourer: 17.34 inches
Raleigh Sojourn:18.1 inches
And for comparison….the Trek 3700 Mtn. Bike has a chainstay of 16.9 inches.
The Surly LHT comes with Tektro Oryx cantilever brakes. I’m not too happy with the pads on these brakes and have already replaced them. The originals were making horrible streaks on my rims and the new ones show no sign on the streaks. I also find them a bit difficult to use from the handlebars, so I am in the process of replacing the mounts and bars with something with more like 5 riding positions.
The Surly LHT comes with a series of Shimano components. The Shimano Tiagra front derailleur, Shimano XT rear derailleur, and a Deore cassette.
None of these components are horrible and none of them have given me any problems thus far.
The Surly LHT comes with a SRAM chain, and a Sugino 😄 600 (48-36-26t). I have replaced the chain with a Shimano and use the SRAM for a replacement. I made the move after reading a lot of reviews on the SRAM chain. I found the shifting much smoother with the new chain. The Sugino 😄 is a very good model for the price of about 75 dollars. This crankset isn’t going to fail on you and unless you are willing to replace it with a top of the line Shimano or Campy crankset, don’t even think about an upgrade. Many people are actually upgrading to the Sugino 😄 600.
I like the ride of the Surly. A lot of people say the bike is heavy and slow, but it is a couple of pounds lighter than my last mountain bike and is definitely faster. Of course this isn’t a racing bike, but what I’m trying to get across is that this isn’t such a slow bike as you get the impression it is on the web. You’ll hear a lot of talk about how heavy and slow it is, but I don’t find it all that true. I can easily get the bike up to 45kmp/h.
The saddle on the Surly LHT is a Velo Gel. It isn’t all that comfortable and just about everyone (95%) of the LHT owners I’ve talked to and read about, have swapped out the saddle. I personally don’t mind it and have been on a 500 mile tour with it, no problems. I ride with padded pants, that may help. I will upgrade the saddle before my Korea to Portugal ride though, I want something a little wider and easier on my sensitive parts.
I like the feel of the tires and have had no flats, punctures, or pinches in 750 miles thusfar. 500 of those miles were loaded front and rear. That’s a decent record. I will upgrade the tires to a little bit wider and thicker when the time calls.