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The Surly Long Haul Trucker is a Peterbilt, not a Ferrari

I finally got to bring my Surly Long Haul trucker home. Understanding and Long-Suffering Bike Widow Lila shot this just as I wheeled it in from a visit to Wayne at Bicycle. It arrived the previous Friday, but I didn’t have a final fitting until Monday.

Then I discovered that I had ordered a new 36-spoke rim, but my SON generator hub takes 32 spokes. Getting a new one shipped overnight cost about as much as the rim, but I was anxious to get riding.

When I wheeled it in to Wayne, it was equipped with my Brooks Champion Flyer saddle, Crank Brothers pedals and my Surly Nice front rack. I told him I wanted to move my ESGE/Pletscher Double-legged kickstand and Jandd Expedition rear rack off the old bike, plus find a clean way to mount my lights on the new ride.

He suggested that I let him figure out the details.

Building the wheel

First, he had to build the wheel. (Here’s a video of the whole process.)

I had never watched the whole process from start to finish. It’s not rocket science, but I’m sure glad I let him do it.

He’s built at least three wheels for me and I’ve never had a problem with any of them.

Truing took less time than anticipated

Wayne warned me that it might take as much as an hour to get the wheel trued to his standards.

I knew from following folks with out-of-true wheels that they wobbled left and right, but I didn’t realize that they need to be tensioned so they were perfectly round, also.

Makes sense, but I had never thought about it.

It took him about 20 minutes to get it where he was happy. “It doesn’t take long when you’re working with a good hub and a good wheel.”

I needed to do some tweaking

Wayne found some creative ways to install the DLumotec Oval Senso Plus and Busch&Müller Lumotec secondary generator light to the front of the Nice Rack, but I thought there might be problems down the road (literally). The secondary light was placed where it was esthetically pleasing, but it was installed upside down, which the manufacturer said could cause water to get into it. In addition, because generator lights are relatively low power and conform to strict German standards, they are built with a light pattern that is bright at the bottom, but cuts off at the top like a car’s low beam. Mounting it upside down would invert that light pattern.

The primary light was mounted it a great location for projecting a long, low beam, but I was afraid that water coming off the fender might be bad in the long run. I moved both lights higher. Since I probably won’t put anything on the top part of the front rack, I wasn’t concerned with them being in the way.

Here’s the final result with the generator lights on the front rack at the bottom and my NiteRider Pro12-E and an inexpensive be-seen LED light on a Sidetrack Excess Access bar mounted to the primary handlebar. The object to the right of the lights is my Garmin GPS.

I love the second stem

Wayne did a good job of installing a second stem. That’s an idea I ripped off from several other bikers: like here, here, here, here and here.

Having a second stem and a mini-handlebar below your main one gives you a place to mount a handlebar bag and other accessories without losing hand positions. It sounds crazy to go-fast riders, but it’s really convenient for folks who like to carry cameras, a GPS, multiple lights and stuff.

Here’s what it looks like with the bag

The small Arkel Handlebar bag fits cleanly onto the bag mounts. It’s very stable and doesn’t rattle around. I like it for my cameras because it keeps them where I can grab them easily. Because it’s suspended, the equipment is cushioned from hard impacts they’d feel if the bag was attached directly to the front of rear racks.

The second stem allows it to be mounted low enough that the lights on the handlebar can “see” right over it.

The plastic bottle in the lower waterbottle cage is the air reservoir for the AirZound horn. If I needed the extra water capacity, I’d move the reservoir to the top of the front rack.

I used plastic spiral wrap like you’d use for computer wiring to cover and protect the wires going to the generator hub.

The whole package looks pretty neat

I’m pleased with the way everything fits together. I’m sure I’ll end up taking some stuff off and rearranging it, but, thanks to Wayne and his attention to detail, I’m way ahead.

Here are some reasons why I picked this particular model

  • It came highly recommended by folks who ride longer, for more days and in places where you can’t find a *-Mart store on every corner.
  • It’s designed for touring and delivers a lot of bang for the buck. The base bike was under $1,000.
  • It’s steel and uses shifters that are unlikely to break. “If I was going to go across Cambodia, this is the bike I’d take. If something breaks, any guy with a welding torch can fix it,” said the dealer in Cape.
  • It has lots of braze-ons to attach racks, fenders and lights.
  • It can handle three waterbottle cages.
  • It will allow wide tires that can handle gravel roads if needed. (Trust me, I’ve tried to ride gravel roads on high pressure narrow tires. It isn’t funny. The wider tires make the steel grate drawbridges less squirrely, too.)
  • There is enough clearance to mount full-size fenders. That keeps your bike, drivetrain and equipment much cleaner. It also keeps you from having a trail of poodle poop up your back if you ride the Palm Beach Lake Trail after a rainstorm. (Folks on The Island don’t feel it necessary to pick up after their pets.)
  • The frame is stretched out to allow plenty of heel clearance for rear panniers and it’s designed to allow you to ride long distances multiple days in a row.
  • It has low gears for helping you climb with a load.
  • It has little touches like a spoke holder on the chainstay for two spare spokes.

So, how does it ride?

Well, I’ve got only two 20-mile rides under my belt, so it’s a little early to judge. It ain’t light. When it left The Racer’s Edge, it maxed out their 30-lb scale and that was before adding the rear rack, lights, generator hub, kickstand and bags. My guess is that it’s in the 40-pound range. OK, maybe 45 lbs, but who is counting?

Son Adam asked, “So, what kind of car would you compare it to?”

It’s a Peterbilt, not a Ferrari

“A Peterbilt,” was my answer. “It’s not a Ferrari that’ll go 130 miles an hour, but it’ll do 85 MPH pulling 35,000 pounds.”

And, that’s sort of the way it rides. Once you get it up to speed, it’s remarkably stable and seems to want to keep going. Of course, that’s on flat ground. When gravity starts exerting its force, I may have a different opinion.

Speaking of that, I told Adam to go on ahead when we got to the Royal Palm Bridge. “I want to play with the gears to see how low they go.” Just as the grade was kicking up, I slapped it over into Granny Gear and found myself spinning like crazy. “Wow,” I thought, “this baby IS really geared low, I’m hardly moving.”

That’s when I realized that I WASN’T moving. Forward, that is. I had thrown the chain. I guess those friction shifters are going to take a little practice.

It’s an eyecatcher

When Adam and Chuck Keefer and I stopped at the Palm Beach Inlet to take most of these pictures, the bike gathered a crowd of interested onlookers. [Thanks to Adam for shooting this.]

The fellow kneeling in yellow is Wisconsin Snowbird Jim Beloian who has ridden across the country from east to west and from north to south.

When HE pronounced the LHT roadworthy, I felt a whole lot better.

The decision process and steps along the way

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20 comments to The Surly Long Haul Trucker is a Peterbilt, not a Ferrari

  • Dad, you’re right. Having a picture YOU took on the front page is pretty neat.

  • kls

    For the record, Son Adam is the person who took the picture at the bottom of the posting.

    I apologize not giving credit where it was due.

    I’ll go up and fix that.

    Thanks for coming along and thanks for documenting the gaggle on the dock.

  • SLM

    At last, at last the bike is here and it is all set up! Looks great. You certainly did your homework on putting this bike together.

    So, I can only hope this means you will get out and ride it.

    Spoke with Matt this morning, who you know is somewhere between here and there in is trek from Florida to Missouri. He is quite pumped up to put some miles on my old bike this season. In fact, he rode in the snow this morning. So you had better get ready to either crank out some miles on your new nifty bike when he gets back home, or come up with even niftier excuses as to why you can’t get your bike dirty…

  • vja4Him

    You really have one awesome and unique bike Ken! Thanks for your patience and time sharing your advice and answering my questions! I just called The Bicycle Business to get a quote for the stock LHT with a few extras — Surly Nice front rack, Surly rear rack, second stem, water bottle cages, fenders (Planet), cadence computer, heart monitor, MKs Touring Pedals, and Schwalbe Marathon XR tires. Will add lots more goodies later ….

  • kls

    Jim,

    It was nice talking with you this afternoon.

    I have the Surly Nice Rack in front, a Jandd rack in the back, a Strada wired cadence computer, the stock tires and tubes, a hand-me-down stem off my brother’s Bianchi for the second stem, a piece of a mountain bike bar for the second bar and Planet Bike Cascade fenders. I moved the double-legged kickstand off my old bike, but I’m finding the Click-Stand gets easier and easier to use.

    I’ve had several heart rate monitors over the years, but the one I like best is one I got from http://www.woot.com for $19.95. Unfortunately, that’s a site that has an item up for one day and they may not repeat the sale for another six months, if ever.

    Based on the experience of my LBS, having them install the fenders and Nice Racks will save you a lot of time and frustration.

    I think you’ll be happy with the LHT, based on our conversation. The Surly Cross Check is a sweet bike, but it sounds like you want to carry a bunch of weight and the LHT is built to do that out of the box.

    Holler if you need more info.

  • russell huang

    Dear Sir:
    thanks for your sharing about your great bycicle!
    I am a tour bycicle player in taiwan, and the information here is very poor in the related region!
    I have one question about the second stem.
    what’s the brand and where i can have it?
    there seems no information about it?
    thanks for your apply!

    • The second stem was one that came off my brother’s bike, so any stem should work. The handlebar was one that my bike shop had off an old mountain bike. It was cut down and mounted to the stem. Hope that helps.

  • BEN

    what wheelsize did you go with?

  • Ben,

    The stock Surly Long Haul Trucker Complete in 52CM comes with 26-inch wheels. I’m running with the stock tires right now.

    Here’s a comparison of how much larger a 700 is vs the 26. I was surprised at how much difference there was when I put one inside the other.

    http://www.palmbeachbiketours.com/2009/02/23/26-inch-wheels-vs-700c-wheels-big-deal-or-not/

  • David Driscoll

    HEY THERE! I contacted once before some time ago about your Surly LHT. Thanks to your help, I purchased one… and so far am loving it. It seems a little big at times.. I am only 5’5… but it is the right size as the others were too small…
    I have back and front racks with Arkel Bags. And a front Arkel bag and trunk. Got the Green bike an black bags. I had top brake levers put in. NOW I can’t put my front bag on or my computer, light, etc…
    I see your two extra bars so to speak. I tried to print out the pics to take to my bike shop but they way the pop up I can’t do so. Could you e mail me the pics and info on what kind these are and how you did them. They are perfect.
    I am getting ready to do a bike tour through Glacier National Park in 2 weeks… so my time is running out. :-) Going for 4 days.
    I just did a weekend bike ride from San Simeon, CA to Big Sur, CA on the coast. It was beautiful.

    Thanks a million for any help you can offer me on these bars. AND for all your info on the site. BIG HELP.
    Thanks,
    David Driscoll
    Oxnard, CA
    USA

  • David

    could you e mail me? I have a question about your extra bars on the Surly LHT?
    Thanks,
    David

  • David,

    I’ll send you some pictures that might help. There’s nothing exotic about my setup. The second stem is one that came off my kid’s Bianchi and the bar was a scrap mountain bike bar my LBS had in a junk pile.

  • That’s a nicely set up bike – chapeau!

  • Thanks, Mr. Monkey, Sir.

    And a tip of my helmet back atcha.

  • to ken steinhoff
    if you want to see the surly long haul trucker 58
    bicycle I build it is done

    go to facebook.com peter wilson

  • Phylo

    Great bike! I built up an LHT around a SRAM DualDrive hub with a dyno front hub, 36 spoke wheels, on Schwalbe Marathons, upright handlebar and a Brooks Flyer saddle. It was at first my daily commuter and is now my General Transport, including pulling the kids around in their chariot. The DualDrive is a treat and the upright position makes visibility – both for me and auto drivers – much easier. I agree, it is a heavy rig, but I think it will survive the nuclear holocaust. I scraped off the decals so I have a very muted olive green thing, which I’ve named Innominato. If and when I actually make it to Italy for the Tuscan tour I dream of, I’m taking it with me.

    • Sounds like a sweet bike. I left the Surly decals on mine.

      It’s a good way to start a conversation. People will sidle up to it, then say, “Surly. I’ve heard of those, but never saw one.”

  • phylo

    Just back from Acadia NP with the family and Innominato…three days of riding and re-riding 45 miles of (crushed stone) carriage roads pulling the chariot containing the 5 year old, water bottles, rain gear, camera gear, books bought at Jordan Pond, etc… On 700/35s inflated to 65 psi. Not fast but lots of fun, comfortable and stable. Used the full range on the Dual Drive but never off the saddle.

  • “The fellow kneeling in yellow is Wisconsin Snowbird Jim Beloian”
    Looks like the same hat he wore way back then.