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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.