Puch Puzzler

I’ve been riding the heck out of my old garage sale find, and enjoying it greatly, but it’s confusing me as well.

My speeds on the Puch are consistently higher that they are on my Surly Long Haul Trucker, and I’m not quite sure why.

Sure, the LHT is loaded up with fenders, a rear rack, and panniers, but is that enough to account for the difference?

Weight-wise, the Puch is about 34 pounds, and the LHT about 38. A difference, but significant?

The LHT has 26″ wheels with 1-1/2″ width tires. The Puch has 27″ wheels with 1-1/8″ tires. The LHT is running aluminum wheels (3 lbs 11 oz for the front) vs. steel wheels (4 lbs 2 oz for the front) for the Puch. The LHT is using the stock WTB Slickasaurus’s, by all accounts a decent tire; the Puch is using the cheapest rubber I could find.

Otherwise, the bikes are very similar. They have essentially the same geometries (see this photo), though the Puch is a slightly larger frame size.

The LHT is made of better steel (CroMoly) than the Puch (high-tensile “gas pipe”).

Yet the Puch feels faster, and is faster. Sometimes the LHT feels sluggish, like I’m pedaling through mud.

Here are the two bikes side-by-side with near-identical setups. Both have pumps, two water bottle cages, seat bags, kickstands, and tail lights. The LHT, in addition, has fenders, a rear rack, a heavier tail light battery (hidden inside the seat bag), and a top tube bag.

As shown the LHT is 33.4 pounds, an the Puch is 33.8 pounds. So basically the same.

Year-to-date speeds: The LHT is at 12.79 MPH over 271 miles. The Puch is at 13.90 MPH over 1033 miles. So about 1.2 MPH faster.

After reflecting on it, I’ve come to the conclusion that the difference is mostly in my head — the “new bike” placebo effect.

The Puch has been ridden unloaded, primarily on pavement. The LHT has been ridden mostly for shorter utility rides (hauling groceries), and is usually outfitted with panniers.

I think that if I wanted to, I could swap bikes, make the Puch the utility bike, and the LHT the “fast” bike.

Actually, my speed on the LHT has been a concern in the back of my mind for some time. It has gone down every year: 13.3 MPH in 2009, 12.2 MPH in 2010, and 12.0 MPH in 2011. Granted, some of that increase is due to my using the bike for more utility and touring, as opposed to pure recreational, riding. But still, it seems like even when I’m trying to go fast, it’s rare that I get an average over 13 MPH any more.

And on the Puch, I can average 15 MPH with the same apparent effort.



  • Perhaps the bigger wheels are faster. Folks have told me there was a difference, but I’ve never quite believed them. Maybe it’s true.
  • Perhaps the skinnier tires on the Puch are faster. Both are “road” tires with little tread, and the LHT’s are better quality, but maybe the width really does matter.
  • Maybe the larger Puch frame actually fits me better than the smaller LHT. The first few times I rode the Puch, I felt “stretched out”, but it feels natural now. A slightly more efficient body position, perhaps?
  • Maybe the SPD pedals on the Puch allow for greater pedaling efficiency than the platforms on the LHT.
  • Maybe the Surly frame is overbuilt for touring, at the expense of responsiveness, while the skinnier Puch tubes provide a livelier feel unloaded.

I’m not sure what to believe.

The LHT has been fast, on occasion, before: a 16.2 MPH average on a century in 2009, a 15 MPH average over 136 miles in 2010. Could I push it to those speeds again? Perhaps I need to try…

So for now, I’m just rolling with it, and enjoying the ride…

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.