On a recent tour from Pittsburgh to Washington DC I logged my 20,000th mile on my Surly Long Haul Trucker. I have trained and toured on my LHT since 2013. There are a lot of great memories connected with my bicycle.
What remains of the original bike reveals the durability of the stock build. The wheelset lasted until last year at about 17,000 miles. Other things that I consider major components are still on the bike. That includes the bottom bracket and cranks, the brake levers and calipers, the stem and fork, and, of course, the frame. After market equipment has also fared well, including the Tubus racks and Shimano clipless pedals.
At this point I have some bragging rights on my bike. There have been occasions for considering a new bike, but now I can’t possibly do that. People like to admire a new bicycle, but they also can’t help being drawn into a story about a bike with 20,000 miles on it. The bike is a continuing challenge for me to achieve the next milestone: 25,000 miles. There is really no reason for me to change from a bike that fits me very well to an unknown bike that is shiny and new.
Today I was reminded of my very first bicycle tour in 2012. It was a self-supported ride from Buffalo to Albany along the Erie Canal. All of my camping gear was new, purchased at REI after careful research. The weak link was my bicycle.
I was nostalgically attached to that bike because of the history that I had with it. At the time I bought it in 2010 I was living and working near London in Uxbridge. I purchased it for about $200 and toured around London with it every Sunday. It was an Apollo, a brand carried by Halfords, one of the UK auto supply chain stores. This was not a carefully researched purchase and at the time I didn’t know that bicycle touring was a thing.
After working in London for three months I moved back to the United States. I had the Apollo shipped back with me. While in Uxbridge the bike took me along the Grand Union Canal towpath into London, north past the M25, and southwest through Slough into Windsor. My Sunday day tours were all around 40 to 50 miles round trip. There were a lot of memories built around travels on that bike.
Early in 2012, two years after retiring, I began to research travel by bicycle and discovered the Erie Canal route. My camping plan and my camping gear were thorough and I had backup plans for any problems along the way. The only thing that I did to the bike was to add the bar end extensions and a rear view mirror.
The image shows my camp site at the Niagara County Camping Resort, my first encampment of that tour. The bike is featured up front in the photo as the star of the tour. The stock saddle was ill suited for touring and 50 or more miles per day. By the third day I was slathering Desitin(R) on my raw thighs. The worst problem was that the rig was very top heavy when loaded with two large Ortlieb(R) panniers and my tent on the rear rack. The tour stressed the low-end components on the bike and at the end of the tour I found that two or three teeth had snapped off of the cassette.
The tour was a smashing success, the experience itself rising above the problems with the bike. I overcame the problems and learned a lot about touring. It was a confidence builder that left me wanting more.
Late that year I bought my stock Surly Long Haul Trucker. As of this moment I have over 16,000 training and touring miles on that bike. I plan many more miles before hanging up my clipless pedals.