The Perfect Commuter Bike: my Surly Long Haul Trucker

Recently, I took a break from riding my Surly Long Haul Trucker because it was just too dirty to ride. Every time I touched the bike I deposited dirt somewhere on my person. I washed it over the weekend (OK, Felkerino washed it over the weekend) and now it’s too clean to ride.

Surly Long Haul Trucker

In the interim, I dusted off my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket and have been tooling around on it instead. I really like my Bike Friday, but spending the week on the Pocket Rocket made me realize why I hop on my Surly LHT almost every day for my commute.

  • Carrying Capacity

The Surly LHT can really be loaded down. I don’t have a front rack on it, but I do use a small Rickshaw Pipsqueak front bag for my phone and camera. On the rear I affixed a Carradice Pendle for days when I don’t feel like carrying much. This bag is also a home for my lock, tools, spare tube, and patch kit.

For days when I want to carry more and use a pannier, I installed a Nitto Campee rack. That rack is awesome. First, it’s beautiful. Second, I almost always use at least one pannier for commuting and the Nitto rack is so sturdy that I don’t feel the pannier pulling the bike at all.

  • Utility

The Surly’s setup also allows me to make any post-work grocery or shopping runs. I don’t even have to plan them. I suddenly realize the cupboards are bare? No worries! I steer my Surly to the nearest grocery store knowing that it can easily tolerate the weight of groceries.

If I had to suddenly evacuate my home, I’d be hard-pressed to choose any other bike besides the Long Haul Trucker. It carries all the stuff I need without making me feel like I’m going to fall over, and the mountain gearing allows me to pedal steadily without any fear of hurting my knees.

Stocking up with the Surly at the White House Farmers’ Market
  • Tire Width

My Surly is a size 54 and all you Surly LHT owners know what that means. Twenty-six inch wheels (and no toe overlap, yay!).

Originally this bike came stock with 38 millimeter tires, but that seemed a little excessive for urban riding and after they wore out I switched to 32s.

I lapsed into not appreciating 32s until this week, when I was tooling around on 28s. I think I might need to see the dentist from all the jarring bumps I’ve thrown myself over on this week’s commutes.

Wider tires that require lower pressure like those on the Surly allow me to roll easily over almost everything. Pothole? No problem. (OK, I’m being hyperbolic here.) But you know what I mean? It’s just an easier ride in the city with those wider and slightly softer tires.

I also don’t have to worry as much about those cracks in the pavement into which a narrower tire (like the 28s on my Friday) can get stuck. Again, the Surly doesn’t even notice these. There were a couple of times this week where I forgot I was riding 28s and almost lodged my tires and myself into a dangerous spot. I didn’t go down, but I felt the bike herk and jerk out of the little crevasse the tire had fallen into.

  • Aesthetics

I like the look of my Surly. I think it’s a cool color. I like the little detailing on the fork. I like that it’s steel. The decals don’t even bother me, though I could do without the “fatties fit fine” on the chainstays.

My Surly and me
  • Price Point

Nobody wants anything to happen to their bike, especially a bike they love (as I love my Surly). However, the Surly’s price point and availability in bike shops means that I don’t feel too terrible about locking it up in a public area. I would be SUPER HOPPING mad if this bike were to go missing on me, but it is not an irreplaceable heirloom bike.

Second, given that it is not an heirloom, I don’t feel too bad about locking it to a pole or bike rack, leaving it exposed to the elements, and risking a little dinging up of the paint. That said, if the forecast predicts rain I always try to cover my saddle with a plastic bag and I did buy my bike a little sweater/top tube protector from a nice person on Etsy to help keep the dings at bay.

  • Comfort

My Surly fits me perfectly. Remarkably, the stock 54 cm build required no post-purchase alterations, not even in stem length or handlebar width.

I have ridden this ride as far as century distances and I have experienced zero pain. That kind of comfort makes me feel like the bike might actually love me back. (Is that possible? Say it might be possible!) It’s hard not to love a bike that offers this kind of comfort.

There you have it, people. The reasons I think the Surly Long Haul Trucker has treated me right and become my go-to commuter bike. Like I say, I might not be riding it for a while as I would hate for it to get dirty again, but the utility, fit, and ultimate comfort of this bike make it hard for me to not ride it.

What about you? Have a favorite commute bike with a feature I didn’t mention? Inquiring minds (i.e., me) want to know what they are.

37 thoughts on “The Perfect Commuter Bike: my Surly Long Haul Trucker”

  1. My LHT is my go to bike for.. Well everything. Its the only one I own. My carradice camper provides carry-all utility without a rack and comes off quickly for weekend club or rando rides when I prefer NOT to carry all. I’m very happy with it.

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  2. Do I have a favorite commuting bike? It’s a TIE!!!! I rotate my riding among a 1993 Specialized Sequoia, a 2002 Tour Easy recumbent, and a 2007 Bike Friday New World Tourist. My favorite is usually the one i am riding. I feel like a bicycle bigamist.

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  3. I bought a leftover 2008 LHT in early 2009 and couldn’t get comfortable on it at all. I swapped stems, saddles, bars, seat posts, and did damn near everything I could to adjust the fit to me, but nothing worked. In 2011 I sold it and bought an rSogn, which was easy to set up and I love her dearly.

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    1. Really? That’s too bad; I wonder what the underlying problem was. It’s great to hear that the Rawland worked out for you. I like the look and utility of the rSogn, too.

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      1. I can’t explain it. Maybe bikes are kinda like shoes. Sometimes we get all the numbers right, but it still feels off. FWIW, whenever someone asks me what kind of bike they should get for commuting or touring, I almost immediately point to them to the LHT.

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  4. I’ve looked long and hard at a LHT and may go there now that they have the Disk Trucker. I’ve got its distant cousin (though likely it is a cousin in a family tree with few branches) and have had amazing amounts of fun with it.

    Great post. :D

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  5. I hear so many good things about Surlys from owners. It certainly does look like a sturdy and utilitarian bike.

    I think I’m the only person who loves 28mm tires.

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  6. I prefer my Masi single speed for commuting. Such a simple and honest bike with almost no maintenance. Fortunately, I don’t see many hills.

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    1. I love a single speed commute, too, for the reasons you say. My Quickbeam has great gearing for hills, too, though it spins out on the flats.

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  7. I’m another with the LHT, and I love it. The things it allows me to do, in addition to everything you mentioned, is some light trail riding! I have an option for about a half mile on my commute to ride some dirt, and it’s a lot of fun, and I pretty much feel like I can throw the LHT at anything and it will keep on trucking.

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  8. I don’t own an LHT, but I like them for all the reasons you mention and recommend them to people. I especially like the versatility – you can set it up in so many different ways. I’m also a fan of 26″ wheels. My main commuter for awhile was a Bridgestone XO-2 with fat 26″ tires. Since I parted with the XO-2, I’ve been commuting a lot on my Miyata 1000, which is very similar to an LHT.

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  9. I love my Bianchi hybrid, enough so that I get a little offended when people say “You rode 300 miles on that?” But when my husband and I have kids, I’m going to ask for a Surly with an Xtracycle on my baby shower list. I love that you can carry kids, their kid stuff, and groceries around simultaneously on it without needing to use a trailer.

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  10. I too love my LHT. It’s smooth, comfortable on the 26×1.75 tires, fits well, and is a blast to ride. I always smile when I get on the thing. Fortunately it got knocked over while locked to a bike rack in the (secure) underground parking garage at work, leaving a nice dent smack dab in the middle of the top tube. It is seasoned now, and I consider the dent a badge of honor – I’m proud of the thing, it just keeps rolling along. But my gosh it is heavy. I can barely heft it overhead to hang it from the ceiling of my garage.

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    1. Oh no! Sorry to hear about the dent. We had a similar thing happen to our tandem so Felkerino put a sticker over it so he would not have to look at the actual dent. Not like the sticker does not belie its existence. So true! My LHT is a TANK. I’m pretty sure I could not lift it up to hang on a rack.

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  11. Ok so I have 4 bikes but I have to say if I had only one it would be my LHT (size 50). I changed the tyres to 1.5, the seat to an avantiplus zeph (super cheap) and put koolstop brake pads then off I went. My LHT has been on many short trips, two cycle tours (NZ and Western Australia) and always been wonderful. When I cycle tour I take 4 panniers and handlebar bag (about 20kgs), when I just want to ride for a day it goes with nothing – it is always fun to ride and I am never sore. I love it!

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  12. This is one crazy chick approaching you from Finland, it is raining and 1 am but canĀ“t stop reading bike related blogs :) gone throughcountless touring blogs raving about the LHT, problem is, our LBS does not have a stock setup, only frames and sizing puzzles me a LOT, I am 5,5 with an inseam of 31 in. Longish orang-utan arms.. my current laid-back cyclocross is with 515cm effective toptube but ended up with an 11cm stem cause cockpit felt cramped. The drops are around 5cm lower than the seat now, would like the tourer with drops at the height of the saddle for long hours of riding. How tall are you if I may ask? Great reading your review, thanks a lot & goodnight :)

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    1. Hey! Thanks for the note… I am 5’8″ and also have a 31.5″ inseam. As I said in the post, my Surly LHT is a 54 cm with 26″ wheels and the fit is great. Good luck in your bike search!

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  13. Just picked up a frame/fork/headset/seatpost collar/stem deal off C-list DC. It’s the 2009 army olive green color in their 50cm which fits my 5’7″ frame with long legs – 30-31 standover and short arms. I am going to build with 26″ wheels. Thanks for the excellent post.

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  14. I commuted from NYC to NJ on my Bike Friday Llama exclusively until I started riding a disk trucker. OMG! It’s like riding my sofa…even with the new Brooks saddle and a bony butt. Tires are 26×1.75! And a carradice Barley!

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