Behold your touring bicycle. Probably the most important thing you have on bike tour. Hell, it’s in the very name. Tents, cooking gear, toolkits, panniers and other things certainly make life easier on the road, but it’s the bike that gets the glory. When I was looking to upgrade from my heavily modified (non-touring) bike[footnote]for the record, a Marin mountain bike… with front suspension. Not recommended once you decide to make the leap, by the way.[/footnote] to something more built for the road, I spent weeks analyzing, hand-wringing and studying feature lists. In my series on my three favorite touring bikes we tackled my personal ride, the Novara Safari, in part one. This time, it’s arguably the most popular touring bike on the road… the Surly Long Haul Trucker.[footnote]I’ll lump in the Surly Disc Trucker in on this discussion as well… the main difference being rim vs. disc brakes. Demi-celebrity versions include Aaron of The Sprocket Podcast‘s Red Hare Among Horses.[/footnote]
Great specs + customizable
The Surly LHT is probably the standard when it comes to touring bicycle specs. Probably best of all, you can purchase the frame solo and build the bike from that beautiful steel up. For those that want a truly custom build without tossing “stock” parts aside, the LHT is a great way to go.
The first thing you notice with the Surly LHT is how damn solid it is. Most touring bikes of note are steel framed, but the build on virtually every Trucker you run into (and you run into a LOT of them on the road) is sublime.
But don’t take the ubiquity of Long Haul Truckers or their disc-bearing cousins as if you’ll run into a lot of similar looking ones. The fact they are so customizable and tend to be built to meet individual riding needs and preferences means you rarely run into a twin.
It’s hard to find much about the Surly LHT to criticize. Ultimately, it’s pretty pricey. Is it the most expensive touring bike out there? No way, not by a longshot. But a typical build will be at least $1200 and often more if you go with the Disc Trucker variety. The more expensive your taste in tires and saddles, the higher the price climbs. Worth it? Yeah. Necessary? It depends.
I dig the Long Haul Trucker. It’s in many ways the ultimate touring bike, and I know a TON of people who ride and swear by them. My good buddy MJ really swears by his and has ridden many, many glorious miles on that bike.
Next time… part 3: Whatever the hell bike you have access to. Seriously. That’s part 3.
There’s a whole series on my favorite touring bikes that I already mentioned, but you might also be interested in listening to The Pedalshift Project bike touring podcast. If you’re really into bike touring (new or not!) consider signing up for the free Pedalshift monthly newsletter for even more bike touring goodness.