Meet my little tank – Surly Long Haul Trucker 2009

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If you have landed here after a search, click here to read my review only about the Surly Long Haul Trucker. Below is a ride report too so if you don’t mind the extra do read on :)

A little prelude :

This is a shake-down ride, review of the Surly Long Haul Trucker and write up of our attempt on the DunRun, so bear with me, but hey you get three stories in one :)

Surly Long Haul Trucker 2009

The story :

Over the last few years we have read and heard so many wonderful stories about people’s journeys on their bikes, riding across a continent or just around the local dales. And especially over the last 8-9 months the “being out there riding and enjoying the freedom” really has pulled us in.

We also both loved camping over the years and cycling. So why not join these two things? If others can do it and enjoy it, so can we.

So after a lot of asking around and reading up we settled for the Surly Long Haul Trucker.

The last few weeks has been full of mad online shopping, we got nearly everything ready. Though I fecked up and got the wrong front dérailleur for Peli’s bike and we didn’t get her front wheel built in time.

So after a bit of panic and what the heck are we going to do, do the DunRun or not do the DunRun, on which bike fixed or geared, but how do we get home etc etc.

So, we decided “f” it, get my bike ready, I’ll carry everything and we’ll go to the local campsite.

That decision was made at 11:00 on the Saturday where the DunRun was due to take off at 20:00’ish. And my bike was still not ready, cables, gears, seat etc were still missing!

Surly Long Haul Trucker 2009

By 14:00 the bike was ready, though I had to use an old stem and ride without mudguards. Had a quick little spin around the parking lot, testing out every thing, yup it rides and I haven’t forgot to adjust the brakes :)

A quick ride over to our LBS (local bike shop) to show our friendly mechanic my new baby, he has helped us a lot with these builds (thanks, Cory!). And after a check over from the master himself, I went home to start packing.

2 sleeping bags, 2 mats, 1 tent, 2 set of clothing for one day, plenty of water, flapjacks, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, 1 mini track pump, tools and all the small odd bits. Took a lot of space and added a fair old weight to the bike. Peli tried to lift it and was sure that she was somehow standing on it as it never got off the ground :)

At 0 miles:

I have never ridden a fully loaded touring bike before and therefore was a bit worried how it would handle. At slow speed I was sure that I would wobble, but there was nothing to worry about.

As a friend said, who also has an LHT, you load it up and it just says “bring it on!”, e.g. load me up with more.

So at this point I had done less than 2 miles on this new bike and I have just fully loaded it up, ready for a 9 miles ride across town to London Fields, where we would met nearly 1000 others that were ready for a trip to the beach, 116miles away. Well you have to have a shake down ride don’t you?!

At 10 miles:

Surly Long Haul Trucker 2009

Riding around town, on roads that I know very well, I could not feel the bumps as I can on my other bikes. The LHT was dead steady, just rolled along. I could not feel the weight when setting off, that is when I remembered to gear down before I stopped. The Shimano XT group set just worked, a little flick of my thumb or index finger and click I was in another gear. Stopping this heavy load, (yes that does include me), was also made easy with the XT v-brakes.

The LHT is just so solid and straight, I had no problem with controlling it in and out of traffic and the speed I could easy keep up. The best way to describe this feel is that it got 4 wheels, I did not have to think about balance, the LHT just sat there on the road rolling the miles away.

We arrived and had a quick hi and hello and spend some time looking at some bike p0rn and talk about what, how, who, where others had planned for this ride. From the ‘Bat out of hell to beat the queues at the food stops’ via ‘I’m taking my dingy for a dip in the water’ to the ‘I’m riding my penny farthing up there’. There were the ones who would cycle back, had arranged a pick up, planned to ride to the nearest train station or take the coach that Southwark Cyclists had arranged. As for us, we had booked a spot in the local campsite a mile away, no way I would faff around with the train or bus after a long night ride.

Most people started to move around 20:00 but we got talking because you just kept meeting people you know, so our start was at 20:45. Plodding along NE London with hundreds of other cyclists was easy and most of the time I was beating them at the lights. Because I use my gears, set my pedal and can use my clip-in shoes. They start in way too hard a gear, scoot along with their feet and can’t get their fancy LOOK pedals to clip in because they do not know how to use them, sorry rant over.

At 22 miles:

At the petrol station, the last change to get provisions, we meet up with the Penny Farthing group. For the next many mile we just plodded along. Again the LHT just rolled along, I had done a good job while putting it together in the rush.

The Brooks saddle, well it just ‘supported’ me I didn’t feel I was ‘sitting’ on it, and was very comfortable. Though I have to figure out if I can get a longer one, since I only had one position to sit. If I leaned a bit forward I could feel the hard nose of the saddle. And if I leaned a bit backwards I could feel the rivets at the back.

At 30 miles:

As we were arriving in Moreton, we had a great fireworks display, it was the 4th of July after all. After a quick snack and catch up in the village we headed out again. Shortly after, we celebrated our 2 year anniversary while riding along with 10 or so of our friends in the middle of the night in the Suffolk country side. Nice. :)

We split from the Penny group, on a hill where the rider had to walk, though we did see the Penny overtake on a uphill a few riders, I think they were a bit surprised when that happened.

We then started to see the much talked about candle lights telling us which way to go. But after 3 junctions nicely lit up we saw nothing for the rest of the ride. We then started to follow a few red tail light which looked as they knew where they were going.

I started to feel some pain in my neck where my neck and shoulders joined, we had to stop and move my stem a bit up, by moving the spacers around. Need to find a new adjustable stem. Which helped nicely and the pain disappeared for the next many miles. Though the pain started to come back on the last 20miles, but then again you will start to get some aches and pains after 100 or so miles. If you are only used to ride up to 55-65miles in one go and when you are on a new bike that you haven’t had the time to set up, probably.

When we started to get to mileage point where we should be rolling into the halfway stop, we saw people coming towards us saying that we were on the wrong donkey. Since we didn’t have a clue where to go we just tried out best to hang on to the one who knew and had a route sheet. Peli had a minor ‘ginger moment’ at this point, so we had to dig out the MP3 player and play cheesy pop on loudspeaker to cheer her up.

At 85 miles:

We arrived at the half way stop, to find none of the queues that everyone was talking about, well it was 5.30am :) The Penny group was still there since they were hiding from the rain which we had been in the last hour or so. Though before the rain we managed to see the sunrise which was nice. That little detour added only 20 miles to the total.

As we had our picnic the Penny group took off, and we did think about finding a place to put up the tent and have a kip. But we decided to push on and the rain pretty much stopped.

When you do the DunRun and if you can keep up with others it is easy for you to find your way since there will always be other going the same way.

But because we had stuck to the Penny group (which I was glad for) and that I was carrying a lot of weight, we were some of the last and there were not many others about, so we had to rely on the tracks others had made, either with litter or their wheels. We were lucky to find a route sheet and picked the route up from there.

We played yo-yo with 3-4 others for the next few hours. We stopped they went past and visa versa. One of them was a girl in jeans, with a rain poncho waving in the wind but still soaked to the bone. But she plodded along just fine with a great smile on her every time we passed each other.

And we had a bit of a scare when the tracks vanished and I thought that I had lost the route sheet we had found.

Though 2 miles later luck would have it that another cyclist had lost his/her route sheet and thanks to Peli’s eagle eyes that now became ours. And we could continue more relaxed, because before we found the map we had no idea where we were or where to go.

And a few miles later I found the route sheet I was sure that I had lost, right where I had put it in the handle bar bag. Doh.

At 100 miles:

It was now around 30 miles to go and 8 in the am. And we picked up the Penny group again, but they stopped to have a little kip in Needham Market. We decided to press on since we now had 2 route sheets and felt surprisingly good albeit a bit tired after having been awake for more that 24 hours.

The LHT is an amazing piece of kit, feels bomb proof, rock steady and smooth. I was a bit worried that I would be more knackered carrying the weight I was and doing the distance we did. The steel frame, longer wheel base, 35mm 700c wheels, brooks saddle etc just made it such a comfortable ride even at 100 miles done and 30 to go.

What makes a real cyclist ? When you overtake an other person on a hill at 6 o’clock in the morning after stupid amounts of miles and just about drying off after hours of rain. And that person then ask you ‘isn’t that the Surly, with the longer wheel base?” That makes a real cyclist :)

On the last few miles we started to pick up the tail end of the ride, which gave us some more oomph. And we were booming along the last rolling bit and overtook some people and I set up Peli for a sprint finish ;)

At 136 miles:

We arrived at the beach at 11:10’ish, nearly 15 hours later, the sun was trying to come out and it was nice and warm. So was the water and I had a 10 min dip, oh boy did that do a world of good to my tired and aching body.

We went to the cafe only to find out that they had sold out of eggs and didn’t do fry ups anymore, later read that over 700 eggs were sold that am. We’ll let them off.

The Penny group arrived 30 or so minute later that us, chapeau!

Highlights:
-Riding a new Surly Long Haul Trucker
-Seeing the Penny Farthing overtaking on a uphill
-Hearing someone shouting “what the f is that” when he spotted the Penny Farthing (I kinda wish I was mad enough to do this to get this glory)
-2 years anniversary shared with friends
-The fireworks
-The sunrise
-Dip in the sea

At 137 miles:

We were well tired so we bid our goodbyes and headed to the campsite, only a mile or so away. The site is very beautiful and the sun came out in full form while we pitched our tent. So having a kip was a bit hard since our pitch was in direct sunlight, but we managed to get a few hours in.

Again this tent is so easy to pitch took less than 15min to get ready even when we were so tired from 137 miles in the saddle and being up for more that 24 hours.

The campsite is Cliff House Holiday Park which have holiday homes, caravans and an area for tents. And in the middle of the site is a small pub and restaurant with a little shop for the basics when you camp.

After having slept for a few hours in the sun, we headed to the pub for lunch/dinner/evening meal combo. I picked one of the signature dishes of English pubs: bangers and mash and Peli had the mixed beans and veggies casserole.

Not only does food taste so much better after a long ride, but the chef hit my stomach with some home made (I’m sure) Suffolk bangers and mash that was made just as I like it. New potatoes, boiled not peeled, a knob of butter and some milk and then lightly mashed (not into a pure, leave some lumps) namnumunumnum. All flushed with a nice pint of Adams Broadside. Peli’s casserole was very nice too, I managed to talk her into giving me a taster, all the different veggies and beans you want and a crunchy cheesy top.

After the feast we went back to bed and slept happily until the am. Peli went up to the loo at sunrise and managed to snap these while I slept. The new sleeping bags from Alpkit on the mats are just the best combo, so comfortable :)

We had a quick dip in the North Sea before packing up, would be rude not too since we just had to walk down a flight of stairs to get to the beach.

At 137 miles:

Just as we had packed up and headed out of the gates of the campsite, the thunder and rain big time started and we got well soaked.

The route into the Ipswich that was on the route sheet is not the best, quite busy roads on a Monday. But we took our time and got soaked 2-3 more times en-route.

At 155 miles:

We found a nice pub sign and bit later a nice pub only to find it was closed on a Monday. A few miles more we passed the Crown Inn which was open, where we enjoyed filled roasted peppers, Ploughman’s lunch and chips to share.

At 177 miles:

Arriving in Ipswich, is nothing to talk about, finding the train station was a bit hard but got our bit pricey tickets back to the smog and got on the train easy too.

At 185 miles:

Arrived home, 16 and a half hours of cycling later with adv. speed of 11.4mph. Totally utterly knackered, but feeling good and had enjoyed the last 2 days.

The Surly has now been baptised “my little tank” (a la ‘Allo ‘Allo’s Gruber) because of it being that heavy and able to carry a heavy load so easily. It just eats the miles away and I can’t feel the bumps on the road as I can on other bikes. Handling is so easy at high speed and slow speed, always dead straight, no worries about balance under heavy load.

I truly believe that spending a bit more on some good kit you get a good ride, but you don’t have to spend way too much on it. There are more expensive group sets, frames and other kit out there but is it worth it. Yes the Surly Long Haul Trucker weighs in on the heavy side, but it is built solid and can take the 30kg+ you would put on it. And still ride away nice a smoothly, balanced and takes in the miles without a flutter of an eye lid.

I got on my other bike, MTB with 1″ slick tyres, today to ride to work and it was so twisty and hard. I used to think this bike was at bit hard to ride but very stable, but compared to “my little tank” it was all over the place.

The best part is that I’m not hurting all over as I did the last time I did the DunRun. And the Brooks saddle is the bees knees for sure, I still get water in my eyes when I think about the days after the last DunRun I did. But today there was nothing, just a wee bit of tired legs, which is understandable after 185 or so miles.

7 COMMENTS

  1. reat report and congrats on the ride. I bought my LHT in April 09 and after just 100 miles, rode LEJOG on it in May. (932 miles)What a fantastic bike! I agree with all your comments about it, particularly comfort and stability. When is the next DunRun? Sounds like a good weekend!! Regards and happy cycling.

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