My Surly Long Haul Trucker had its first taste of singletrack, and found it rather tasty.
The LHT is not exactly a mountain bike, but it performed admirably on the trails at Dornwood Park and MacLennan Park in Topeka. These trails are more fast-and-flowy than technical, but there were still plenty of rocks and roots to challenge my limited mountain biking skills.
The main thing was that I didn’t fall. This was my first return to singletrack since my crash last December, and I definitely played it safe, keeping the speed in check and walking the bike whenever it got too sketchy. I still ended up riding a number of sections that were pretty scary, but I made it through unscathed.
I had the LHT set up with knobby mountain bike tires (which is the same thing I’ve been using on recent gravel road rides), and they gave me really secure traction on downhills, uphills, and corners.
The LHT’s drop bars actually worked quite well. I found them comfortable, and they provided great control under all conditions.
Shifting was something of a problem, though. The bar-end shifters were just too difficult to reach on short notice. On terrain with lots of ups and downs, a good deal of shifting is required, and the bar-ends are pretty obviously not the right choice for this type of riding.
The brakes, which I’ve been somewhat unhappy with on road rides, actually worked just fine on singletrack. They’re a little wearying for long descents, but I found them adequate.
All in all, the Long Haul Trucker was a pleasant surprise — it worked better than I expected, and as well as I could have hoped. It’s obviously no match for a real mountain bike — the lack of suspension is especially missed — but it did work.
I wouldn’t want to use this bike on a purely singletrack tour, but it could certainly handle a tour that includes short sections of singletrack or rough roads.
The LHT at Dornwood Park in Topeka, KS, within the crumbling ruins of an old dairy barn.