In 2012 I did my first bicycle tour and it was a 400 mile, self-supported tour. The bicycle that I used on that trip was one that I bought in the United Kingdom. It was an Apollo hybrid that I purchased at Halford’s in Uxbridge UK for $300 brand new. It had sentimental value since I rode it on weekends during the months that I lived in the UK, touring the roads and canal towpaths outside of London, so I brought it home to the US. It was poorly balanced when it was fully loaded with panniers and tent. After about three days I was applying creams to my thighs to manage the chafing from the stock seat.
That experience made me love bicycle touring in spite of the problems that I had and served to convince me that I need a better touring bike. In late 2012 I bought a stock Surly Long Haul Trucker. At that time I had quite a bit of research that narrowed the touring bike choices down to three and I chose the LHT. The other choices were from Trek and Raleigh. My choice of the LHT was probably based more on availability than any other factor. There was a dealer that had the frame size that I needed and I went for it.
This week I rolled up the 10,000th mile and I’m happy with the choice that I made. During my touring over the past four years I met many other Surly owners who were as committed to the brand as I am. They were not necessarily all riding LHTs. I’ve met people touring fully loaded with Crosschecks and Karate Monkeys.
My LHT was completely stock and everything operates today as it did the day I brought it home with notable exceptions. The exceptions are not unexpected. For example, after my first tour on the LHT I replaced the stock saddle with a Brooks B17. I made the switch to Shimano clipless pedals. Tires wear out and I have been buying new tires each year. That is, except for his year when I discovered that my Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires were not ready to be replaced. I usually get 3,000 miles out of a tire. The Schwalbes have 4,500 and going strong.
The next exceptions on the stock items are the brake pads, chain, and cassette. I replace my brake pads each year during annual maintenance. Since I ride at least 3,000 miles a year, I replace the chain each year as well. Many experts give chains a life of only 2,000 miles. I lubricate the chain frequently whether training or touring and I am able to confidently get 3,000 miles. I check the wear in mid-season to verify that my chain is well within tolerance. When the chain is worn, the cassette should be replaced as well because the sprockets wear to accommodate the greater distance between the chain rollers as the chain wears.
Everything else on the bike gets checked each year and adjusted when needed.
Every once in a while I get a hankering for a new touring bike. Those urges are becoming fewer and fewer as the miles rack up on my LHT. As the LHT gets older, I have come to depend on its reliability and road characteristics. The bike has a lot of sentimental value that you can’t measure very easily. I’ve trained many miles on it and I’ve taken it to the Adirondacks, to Canada, to Cape Cod, to the Erie Canal, and to the GAP and C&O. It’s been loaded with gear on both front and rear for long self-supported tours. I’ve ridden it unloaded on supported tours. My cadence and personal performance are tied to my feeling for the weight and geometry of the bike as well as the gears and shifting. I’m going to stick with it until it breaks.