Type 2 Diabetic. Bike tour guide. #NextBurgh Flâneur.   Coffeeneur.    Errandoneur
A bike / map geek with a gadget obsession and a high-viz fetish. by Vannevar Bush       about       /       murals       /       Pgh-DC bike maps new

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Why I Bought Another Surly Disc Long Haul Trucker

I took delivery of my Surly LHT on Jan. 16, 2007. I had chosen to select most of the hardware on it and so it cost a bit more than the "complete LHT". I spend $2597 on the bike, which did not include the rear rack, lights, pedals, or bottle cages.

I had two stems installed, and the second handlebar provided space for mounting - well, more. More lights, gadgets, computers, GPSs. I had a non-standard crankset with 20/32/46 chainrings that I was pleased to have. I had cross brake-levers on the handlebars, and I put a Brooks B73 saddle on it. I had a Wipperman teflon-coated chain that matched the paint.

I really, really liked this bike and I thought it would be the last bike I'd ever purchase. (I was 49 years old).

I rode this bike from Pgh to DC a dozen times. I rode this bike across the Katy Trail, and on parts of the Natchez Trace. This bike got me through a lot of things.

For the record, the frame registration number was M6010754. Whoever was working that week did a remarkable job.

On Aug.7 2015 I made a serious mistake: I bent my LHT. I was engaged as a tour guide to escort a group of six cyclists from Pittsburgh to DC. On the very last day, I was in front of the group a few miles south of White's Ferry, at about 31 miles from DC. There were puddles in the center of the trail every few minutes, and I was riding around them. The puddles were getting bigger, and the trail surface around them was getting smaller.

Finally, I rode on the narrow berm of a big puddle and watched the muddy berm give way under my ponderous bulk and there wasn't anymore dirt under my tires. I went off the trail, down a steep treed slope. I stayed on the bike and tried to keep riding it, and stay on top of it, until I lost it. We hit a tree and came to a stop, and then I fell off on the downhill side.

#FallDownGoBoom. I think I scared my clients. Once I wiggled my fingers and toes, I insisted they take a picture before disturbing the effect:

They came down and lifted the bike and me out of the foliage and up to the trail. I was fortunately uninjured, with only some scratches. My jaw felt a bit rattled. #BumblesBounce™

Since I wasn't dying, we immediately took to checking out the bike:

It was bent. The front wheel was pretty much moved aft against the down tube, so I removed the front fender and then the wheel had clearance from the down tube. Note the zero rake on the front fork - pretty much a straight line from the steerer tube to the contact patch.

This is what I love about the Surly: I bent it in several different places and it still let me ride another 35 miles on it. What a bike!

We got back on the bikes and kept riding to DC. Then we rode around DC and checked out all the nifty bike lanes. The bike rode differently, to be sure - I couldn't peddle and turn independently, because my toes would hit the front wheel. With the reduced wheelbase the bike was a bit more nimble. Stuff like that.

This bike served me so well, even after I bent the frame way beyond normal usability. A carbon-fiber or an aluminum bike wouldn't have got me anywhere beyond the crash scene. The Surly let me ride another 35 miles, and gave every indication I could ride it further but it just didn't seem wise.

I had 28,453 miles on the frame. The previous August, this bike received the both the Best Antelope Award and the Best In Show Award at the 2014 BikeFest. I had replaced both wheels at least once; the front derailleur; the brake levers, hoods, and handlebars (after I bent the handlebars); I replaced the drivetrain numerous times. The saddle had a structural failure and Brooks replaced it free even though it was way beyond the warranty period.

This is what I did to the top tube:

This is what I did to the down tube, near the fork:

I grieved the loss of the LHT, but knew it was also an opportunity to take everything I learned and choose another bike. I have been nurturing an infatuation with the Surly ECR so I rode one a few times. I really liked the bike, and it's the perfect bike for riding the C&O but I don't think I'd want it for my main-squeeze traveling bike. It's not quite a fat-bike so it would be fun in medium snow but really not a snow bike; it's heavy for a touring bike. It tries to find a few different Goldilock's sweet-spots but in the end I wasn't buying it. If I could have a bike just for C&O camping, there's no doubt the ECR would be it.

I rode several other bikes. I rode Salsa's Vayo and Fargo, and I loved the front of one and the stern of the other. The bike that came closest to winning the selection process was the 2016 AWOL EVO. I liked the bike, the ride, the racks, and the electrical-system geek-factor just about seduced me but the ride wasn't quite as good as the LHTs.

In the end, none of them were better than the Surly LHT; none of them beat the LHT's ride. So I got another one, with the variation that this time I got a Disc Trucker (disc brakes weren't available when I got my LHT).

I like my new Disc Trucker every bit as much as my Long Haul Trucker. It's the same comfortable ride and it goes where I point it. I put the front and rear racks, the seat, the lights and the gear onto the new bike. I took off the new crankset and replaced it with my 20/32/46 front chainrings. I love that 20-tooth small chainring. I installed the bottom bracker and the front derailleur from the damaged bike on the new bike (for compatibility with the old crankset). The only bit of gear I couldn't salvage from the old bike was the Deda DogFang, which I just couldn't budge off the old frame.

This is my Original Long Haul Trucker and my recently acquired Disc Trucker.

If Surly wants the frame to examine it, I'll send it back. Otherwise I'll probably use it as a Ghost Bike.

While I'm on the topic, major kudos to Surly regarding their response to #SockGate which is so consistent with their focus: the bikes, not the bullshit.

I recommend a Surly LHT to anybody looking for a comfortable, robust, steel-frame touring bike. I ride this bike for hours and it just wants to go longer.

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