My New Long Haul Trucker

Welcome, if you would, a new member of the DirtBum bicycle family, a Surly Long Haul Trucker (follow the link for detailed specifications):

I got this on January 3rd, and have had it out for two rides so far, a 9-mile gravel grind on its maiden voyage, and a 17-mile paved ride today. On the ride today, I intended to get a good picture, but the sun disappeared as soon as I hit the road, and this was the best I could come up with. If it wasn’t for the guardrail, the bike would almost disappear into the brown grass and leafless trees.

I’ve been thinking about this bike for quite a while, at least since late summer. Here were my selection parameters:

  • A bike I could ride on both paved roads and gravel roads
  • A bike I could ride on weekly club rides
  • A bike I could ride on longer events of 100+ miles
  • A bike I could ride with on cross-state tours
  • A bike I could ride on self-supported tours
  • I didn’t want to spend more than about $1000 (hopefully less)

The mountain bike I’ve been riding hard for the last six months handled all of that, to greater or lesser extents, but it really wasn’t the right tool for the job, and for some of the tasks, such as the cross-state tours and long single-day events, it was particularly ill-suited.

Looking at different types of bikes, I could dismiss some immediately. Recumbents were out because they didn’t handle gravel roads well. Pure road bikes were out because they didn’t handle gravel or loaded touring.

I seriously considered a cyclocross bike. It would be light and fast, well-suited for club rides. It could handle gravel with ease. It could handle light touring. I could get a basic model for just under $1K. I could even use ir for racing, if I wanted. But it wasn’t really the right bike for extended tours or loaded tours.

One bike that piqued my interest was the Salsa Fargo. It could handle the loaded touring, it could handle gravel and even some pretty rough singletrack, it would be great for long single-day events. It had disc brakes.

However, it wasn’t available (as a complete bike) until February. It used 29″ wheels (which meant having to stock another size of wheels, tires, and tubes). It was a brand new design (i.e. not heavily field-tested). It was $2000.

So I ended up with the Surly Long Haul Trucker, a touring bike that could take skinny tires for reasonably fast local rides and supported touring, or could take fat tires for gravel and dirt roads. It could handle a heavy load for self-supported touring. It has been field-tested for at least a half-dozen years, with nearly unanimous positive reviews. It used 26″ wheels (in my frame size). It listed for $1100.

On the downside, it used cantilever brakes — OK, but not as solid as disc or V-brakes. It was heavy — about 26-27 pounds stock. And while it could take fat tires and handle gravel and perhaps even some easy singletrack, it is primarily a road bike.

On the balance, the positives far outweighed the negatives, and the decision was made.

At that point, the main issue was frame sizing. Not having ridden a road bike since I was a teenager (and that just a department store 10-speed), I had no clue what size I needed. People of similar height rode everything from 50cm to 56cm frames, and every brand of bike seemed to measure their frames differently, so that a 54cm from one company wasn’t the same as a 54cm from another company. And even worse, I no longer knew what felt right.

In the end, I was fortunate to find two Long Haul Truckers in stock locally — a 50cm in Kansas City, and a 54cm in Lawrence, and both shops were kind enough to let me test-ride them and ask a few questions. Both sizes felt foreign to one degree or another. But I got the impression that the 50cm was too small, and the 54cm too big, so that gave me the answer right there: 52cm frame.

I placed the order with my most local of shops, Bike America in Olathe, on my birthday, just before the end of the year. Thanks to Kevin and, especially, Mark, for getting me a great deal.

Not having any particular preferences on specific components, I went with the Long Haul Trucker “complete”. My understanding is that most of Surly’s component choices are pretty decent, and should serve me well until I learn more about my road bike likes and dislikes.

That’s enough for now. I’ll discuss the particulars of the bike, and what I’ve added so far, in the next post…

DirtBum Written by:

I enjoy riding bicycles all over -- city streets, suburbia, rural roads, gravel roads, dirt roads, rail-trails, and singletrack. I love exploring the countryside and finding the interesting and historical treasures hidden in plain sight. You can follow my rides on Strava.


  1. Mark Rainey
    January 8, 2009

    Good looking bike. What do you think of the bar end shifters? I’m getting closer to having all the parts I need to assemble mine, 11-34 Sram PG990 cassette is in transit.

  2. January 8, 2009

    I’m slowly getting used to the bar-end shifters. They’re definitely not as convenient as the trigger shifters on the mountain bike, and I miss not being able to see a number to tell me what gear I’m in, but they’ll do.

    One thing I do like is that the shifter for the front derailleur is pure friction, while the rear shifter can operate in either index or friction mode, so if the indexing gets out of whack for some reason, I can swap it over to friction mode and it should work fine.

  3. Rob
    January 8, 2009

    I have been seriously considering the purchase of a LHT for ages. I have a complete XT groupset and wheels from a 26″ racing MTB, now in retirement. Hence my question (difficulty), at 6ft I have been advised the 54cm LHT frame that will except my wheels etc. is too small for me(?) – How tall are you? It’s a shame Surly don’t offer a 26″ in all frame sizes, I really think they are missing a niche.

    Any advice would be great

  4. January 8, 2009

    Rob, I’m about 5’9″.

    For a 26″-wheeled touring bike, have you considered something like the Thorn Sherpa? I’ve heard good things about it as well.

  5. Rob
    January 9, 2009

    Yes I have – I actually hankered after a Thorn xTc frame and forks, however, following a telephone conversation with them this week, was appalled at their customer service – I asked about, and quoted the prices advertised etc. and had the response “oh no, you shouldn’t be looking at the website, its out of date, all the prices are wrong!” as if it was my fault (?) they also seemed to have raised the aforementioned price by 30 odd % – I did not quote the ‘Consumer Rights Act’ to them 

    I’m now definitely getting a LHT, just going to have to have some new 700 wheels built

  6. calum
    December 25, 2010

    Hi. Nice looking bike..I’m after a LHT..but i’m unsure as to the size i require.. Its a bit of a puzzle really, I have read on the google groups website people my size ride different size bikes.. I’m male and stand at just under 5’8″ my pbh height is around 80cm… any ideas?

  7. Rob
    January 10, 2011

    Hi Callum,

    I actually opted for a (Beef Gravy) Surly Cross Check in the end. It was a really down to the majority of my riding is light/un-loaded commuting. The Cross Check offers a bit more pedal clearance with sharper handling whilst also offering the ability to tour if the whim arises. Mine is a 58cm frame and I’m 6ft (not sure on PBH?). The saddle is 6odd inches high, with straight MTB bars (& MTB groupset) with bar ends level with the saddle. It’s very comfortable and pretty damn quick. So there’s the quetion really. How do you ride? comfortable and upright, or slung over with drop bars and aggressive stance, do you ride off road OR on-road? I suppose I’m saying that there is no such thing as a perfect answer, as there is no do it all/perfect frame – there is always a compromise dictated by your own preference/style.

    I would write to Surly and ask them? They also have the frame comparision jobby on their websie – I would also find a LBS and try and sit on one.

    BTW I love my Cross-Check – its stunning to ride and I can’t wait to upgrade the groupset. It’s a keeper for Sure !

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