This review was originally published in April 2014 and is based on the specification of the Surly Disc Trucker at that time. The platform has been substantially updated for 2021, as explained in this blog post on the Surly website. This post will remain online for posterity and for those buying second-hand.
The Disc Trucker is a mid-range, disc brake-equipped steel touring bike from American bicycle manufacturer Surly, with a great deal of built-in customisation potential, a wide range of adventure touring applications, and enough versatility to be adapted for secondary uses.
In this review I’ll be looking at the bike primarily from an adventure cycle touring and bikepacking standpoint, as this is the bike’s designed purpose and the focus of my blog in general. After looking at the broad perspective, I’ll cover the frame features and the stock specification in detail, followed by taking a look at the ride quality both loaded and unloaded.
Finally, I’ll make buying and customisation recommendations based on my own extensive touring, bikepacking and expedition cycling experience.
The Surly Disc Trucker: Overview
If there was ever a contender for the prize of ‘Most Well-Travelled Touring Bike Of All Time’, the Surly Long Haul Trucker (that is, the rim-brake version of this bike) would be it.
The LHT, as it’s affectionately know, has been ridden round the world countless times since its launch in 2007. I’ve seen more of these in the middle of nowhere than any other long-distance touring bike — including intrepid riders in Ethiopia, Jordan and Iran, amongst other memorable encounters.
I’ve also noticed, however, that they are ridden almost exclusively by American and Canadian bicycle travellers. They’re ubiquitous for domestic touring in these countries, as I noticed when travelling down the U.S. West Coast in 2012. It was on that trip that I first had the chance to try out a fully-loaded Long Haul Trucker, and I understood immediately what has made it one of the most popular adventure touring bikes Stateside.
Surly bikes are distributed in the UK by Ison, and though you won’t find the bikes as widely available as old-school British brands like Dawes, you’ll find that a lot of the country’s touring specialists do indeed carry the bike, or can order them in on request.
Surly Disc Trucker Frameset
Built of Surly’s own-brand 4130 double-butted steel tubing and with a specially-designed cromo touring fork, the Disc Trucker looks – at a glance – like a fairly standard mixed-terrain touring or gravel frame with disc mounts.
The lack of brand-name tubing might swing some potential buyers over to other bikes, but for no good reason: there are many factors besides tubing that affect frame quality, as this article on Surly’s blog explains.
One of these factors is frame design. And a closer glance at the frame and fork speaks for Surly’s understanding of the needs and concerns of the adventurous cyclist who’s in it for the long run, and who anticipates taking their bike into the back of beyond.
The geometry is spacious: a relatively long head tube together with the traditional top tube geometry (as opposed to the current vogue for sloping top-tubes) means that the main triangle is substantially-proportioned. This allows for one of two things, depending on how you’re riding it: either the kind of frame stiffness that only becomes noticeable when a bike is fully loaded up with panniers, and in bikepacking mode the fitting of a very spacious full frame bag.
The rear triangle and fork also feel nice and roomy. That’s partly because the wheelbase of the bike is longer than you’d find on a road racer or hybrid, which is a common mark of a touring bike, making for maximum stability, comfort and responsive handling under load.
Tyre clearance is generous too; the frame and fork have been designed for tyres up to 2.1″ on the 26″ frame (with or without fenders) and 45mm on the 700C frame (without fenders), so dirt-road riders can take their pick from a decent range of knobblies. This is notably generous when compared to the Disc Trucker’s traditional competitors in the mid-range touring bike market.
This is a huge plus-point in the versatility stakes, and one of the many features that puts the Disc Trucker well and truly in the round-the-world expedition category of bikes, as well as in the crossover zone for fast & light dirt-road bikepacking.
Being built of steel, minor frame breakages (such as braze-ons snapping off) become much more repairable ‘in the field’ than aluminium frames. (I’ve written in detail elsewhere about the never-ending steel vs aluminium debate.)
Detailed frame features are where some real thought has been applied. The three bottle cage mounts are present, as they should be on any serious adventure bike; the seatstay-mounted spare spoke holders are a really nice touch and a nod to the generations of travellers who’ve been taping spare spokes to their seatstays for decades; and there’s a mounting plate for a kickstand, should you choose to fit one.
Braze-ons and bolt holes for mounting racks and mudguards are present and correct, and the rear rack seatstay mounts are oversized for added peace of mind.
The positioning of the disc brake caliper eliminates the need for a ‘disc-specific’ rack, so pretty much any rack can be installed on the Disc Trucker.
(I installed a Tubus Logo for the test-ride, but it turned out the extra heel clearance of the Logo wasn’t really necessary — the classic Cargo would have been an equally suitable choice.)
The front fork’s rack and lowrider mounts are plentiful, with bolts available for mounting to the fork crown, the mid-blades (inside and outside) and the dropouts – a very welcome feature, given the plethora of ways in which people botch front racks onto forks in ways they weren’t designed for – which again opens up the choice of front racks and lowriders considerably.
Consideration will still be required to ensure that the front disc caliper doesn’t interfere with the rack when it’s installed. This is a weakness of pretty much all disc forks when racks are involved. Surly make a front rack themselves, which of course fits perfectly, but personally I’d go with the more minimal Tara or Duo lowriders from Tubus, both of which will fit with additional spacers and carry small front panniers very happily.
Cable routing lugs are of the traditional variety. Personally I’d like to be able to install shifter cables with full-length uncut housings to prolong the life of the inner cables, but that’s a minor point and something I say about pretty much every touring bike I ride. (If I really wanted to, I would drill out the stops and repaint them myself.)
Surly Disc Trucker Specification & Build
The 10-speed drivetrain is pretty much exactly what I’d expect to find on a do-everything tourer at this price point, though I’d use an 8‑speed drivetrain if I was doing my own custom-build (as I’ve done for my own expedition bike – full specs here).
Mountain-biking components abound, as they should for a bike that’s designed to be ridden up steep hills all over the world with a full complement of luggage. The triple chainset is a 26/36/48t setup, which together with the 11–36t cassette provides as wide a range of gear ratios as you’d ever need. Ubiquitous, interchangeable derailleur parts from Shimano’s Deore, XT and Sora ranges take care of shifting, and the chain is a standard KMC 10-speed model (I highly recommend installing a quick-link for ease of chain removal).
The bottom bracket is a Shimano UN-55 square-taper model; very welcome indeed given that square-taper bottom brackets still rule most of the developing world. Most manufacturers in this market go with Shimano 3‑piece cranksets as part of a groupset deal with the component maker, so Surly gets a brownie point here. The Andel cranks vary in length from 165–175cm depending on frame size – just as they should.
The wheels are 36-spoke models, with the Alex DH19 rims Surly have used for years on this bike built onto Shimano XT 6‑bolt disc hubs. It’s great to see that good quality DT Swiss spokes have been used for the build. Many manufacturers skimp on spoke quality to save money, but this is a mistake given that the largest proportion of wheel breakages on tour are to do with broken spokes — either because they’re poor quality, or because they’re badly tensioned (or both).
There’s no substitute for well-thought-out hand-built wheels when it comes to the ultimate in strength and reliability. But assuming the spokes of a new Disc Trucker’s wheels are brought in for tensioning after a few hundred miles, there’s no reason they shouldn’t see off several continents’ worth of fully-loaded touring. (And if a spoke does break, you’ve got your replacement right there on the seatstay.)
The hubs are high quality Shimano XT with easily-serviceable cup & cone bearings and good part compatibility with Shimano hubs from other ranges and generations. This is all sensible stuff.
Shifters are of the Microshift bar-end variety; some riders coming from other disciplines don’t like this, but on a long tour where ease of maintenance and repair are more important than so-called ‘efficiency’, it makes perfect sense to separate shifting and braking systems and to keep both simple. A friction shifter for the front derailleur allows precise adjustment to avoid the chain rubbing so common with even the most finely-tuned index shifting systems.
Brake levers are simple and dependable Tektro models with adjustable reach – nothing unnecessarily fancy.
Avid’s BB7 cable disc brakes have been chosen for braking both front and rear, and rightly so: these are one of the few examples of cable disc brakes with a true record of reliability on worldwide, long-distance rides over the years. Stopping power is second only to hydraulics, and they feature a fine-grained level of adjustability, as well as using the same cables and brake levers as V‑brakes do, so you’ll not have a problem finding spares in this department.
(Bikepackers heading for the dirt roads will almost certainly choose the Disc Trucker over its V‑brake sibling, the LHT, because of disc brakes’ better modulation in technical terrain and higher resistance to mud and grit.)
The headset is from long-standing manufacturer Cane Creek, and is a premium sealed cartridge bearing model (a la Hope and Chris King). Like spokes, this is something many manufacturers will skimp on to bring overall cost down; no such compromise has been made with the Surly, and a good quality headset like this should last for years with zero maintenance.
Customising The Surly Disc Trucker
The Disc Trucker – like the Long Haul Trucker – has been designed by Surly with customisation in mind. They come out of the factory without racks or fenders or pedals, and the saddle (like almost all stock saddles on touring bikes) shouldn’t seriously be considered for touring.
(The first thing I did on setting up the Disc Trucker was put my Brooks B17 on it – and most experienced tourers will do the same with their own favourite saddles.)
Likewise, the stock tyres on the 26-inch model I rode were Continental Tour RIDE 1.75″. These are good all-rounders and will get you going, but there’s little more to say than that. Those on long-haul road rides will probably be fitting the Schwalbe Marathon Plus or Supreme; those with dirt roads in mind might opt for the fattest version of the lighter, grippier Mondial – or something even knobblier.
Neither racks nor fenders (mudguards) are supplied as standard; Surly’s rationale in these departments (with which I wholeheartedly agree) is that there are different tools for different jobs. Bikepackers likely won’t want racks at all, and some tourers will only fit a rear rack.
But since you’re most likely going to buy your Disc Trucker from an independent local bike shop, as opposed to online (right?), all this means is that you’ll choose any such additions at the point of purchase and your mechanic will fit them for you.
I do feel that part of the Disc Trucker and Long Haul Trucker’s cult status comes from the fact that Surly have done such a great job of meeting their riders halfway, specifying parts of the bike that need little discussion (drivetrain, wheels, etc) and leaving room to choose where there’s potential for meaningful differences in preference or what’s appropriate to a particular rider and the trip they have in mind.
What this does mean is that when you’re comparing the cost of this bike to other options, don’t forget to factor in the cost of whatever racks and/or fenders you’re planning to fit.
How Does It Feel To Ride?
Few bikes have quite the same ability to inject such a feeling of fun into the act of fully-loaded riding, and to do so with admirable effortlessness. Everything about the bike’s handling under load feels natural — almost happy. It’s a bike that can inspire you to ride long and far.
Though fitted with drop handlebars, which aren’t my preference for touring, the steep-angled stem and spacers together with the frame geometry make for a bike that feels comfortably breezy and upright to ride; nothing like the cramped, tucked position of a road racer.
The cork grip tape is… well, it’s there, and you’re unlikely to notice it.
Unloaded, the bike zips away from a standstill, despite its relatively heavy weight, and while it feels solid and quite unforgiving without luggage, that’s what you’d expect from a touring bike. Yet I’d happily ride it unloaded or lightly loaded as a commuter or on a day-ride, because it’s just so much damn fun to be on.
Loaded up is when it comes into its own, of course, and the same solid and reassuring feeling is still right there when there’s 20kg of gear in a pair of tightly-packed rear panniers and a tent on top. Don’t take my word for it after just a few hundred miles of test-riding, though; take it from the countless folk who’ve ridden (and continue to ride) this bike across continents.
The bottom line is that it’s been designed for an adventurous and aware style of travel, comfort over speed, reassurance and stability over lightness, and this is just as it should be, as a continuing series of long-distance tourers and bikepackers can attest to.
Like any bike, whether it feels right to ride is mainly a function of whether you’ve had it sized and set up properly by someone who knows what they’re doing.
Should I Buy The 26-inch Or 700C Disc Trucker?
This is one of few adventure bikes that are made for both the 26-inch (mountain bike) and 700C (road bike) traditional wheel sizes.
I’ve written in more detail about the 26-inch vs 700C debate here, but there are a few things to consider when deciding which is more appropriate to you.
The first is your own size. If you are very tall (much over 6 foot 2) or very small (below 5 foot 4), you’ll probably be better suited to the respectively large or small wheel size, because frame geometry gets a bit weird when trying to put small wheels into big frames and the vice versa (though you can get away with it).
If you’re planning an adventurous tour outside the realm of leisure cycling (typically developed Western nations, though increasingly in middle-income countries), you’ll have an easier a time finding spare tyres, tubes, spokes and rims for a 26-inch wheeled bike than a 700C one.
Consider also the type of tyres you want to fit, if you intend to change the stock tyres. Bikepackers might find a greater variety of knobblies within the 26-inch market, though this is increasingly less the case.
For average-sized people touring close to home with no special tyre requirements, and all else being equal, I’d suggest the 700C version for a little extra comfort and rolling efficiency
In any case, it’s a rather unique feature of the Disc Trucker (and Long Haul Trucker) to actually be able to choose your wheel size, rather than having to choose a different bike altogether. Nice one, Surly.
I’ll continue to recommend the Surly Disc Trucker to those in the market to buy and customise a single, do-everything adventure bike for a wide range of mixed-surface touring and bikepacking all over the world and for indefinite lengths of time. This is because the Disc Trucker is adaptable to so many applications in a way that most other bikes at this price point cannot claim.
It’ll appeal to someone who puts thoughtful, functional, versatile, foolproof design above looks or latest technological trends. It’ll be particularly attractive to someone who wants to be left with a few degrees of choice when it comes to setting a bike up for their particular way of doing things, and who isn’t necessarily afraid to get their hands a bit dirty doing so. Because this represents a minority of people, it’s possibly one of the reasons the bike still has a relatively modest representation in the UK — not that this is necessarily a bad thing.
Whatever you decide, do yourself a favour and get your bike sized, fitted and customised by a touring bike specialist – it’s more than worth the potential savings of ordering a bike online, which I’ll continue to advise against for many reasons.
The 2019 Surly Disc Trucker sits right at the intersection of many adventurous cycle touring and bikepacking applications, striking a formidable balance of utility and adaptability.
It’s uncompromising in simplicity and durability, and rolls out of the factory offering enough scope for customisation to be turned into a machine that will tackle pretty much any terrain you’d expect to encounter on either a full-blown round-the-world ride or a shorter mixed-terrain adventure closer to home. It’s also competitively priced when compared with similar competing touring bikes, though don’t forget to budget for racks, fenders and a decent saddle.
In other words, if you suspect that the Disc Trucker might be the touring bike for you, it probably is.
Check out full specifications and find local dealers on Surly’s website.
93 replies on “Surly Disc Trucker Touring Bike: Legacy Review & Detailed Photos”
Just as well he was a similar height! To ride 50km on a 62cm frame he’d have to be. As that’s a big frame! 😁
I’ve also put Jones bars on my DT. With a 62cm frame, the rig looks enormous but it’s such a comfortable ride! My LBS mechanic questioned my choice of the Surly over a Trek 520 (his fave and the “preferred” make of the shop) so I told him to take it out for a good spin (50kms+). He bought a DT for himself right after. Just the upright, relaxed FUN of the DT coupled with the Jones (or any other wide alt bar) is worth looking at this bike.
Great update. I bought the Disk Trucker in 2018 based on your earlier review of the Long Haul Trucker. Pretty much did everything you suggested with a few additions. I put on mountain bike oversize pedals so I can use my 510s. This past year I removed the drop downs, since I was rarely using them, and put on Jones Bars. Converted the bar end shifters to click shifters and really like it. I have arthritis in my shoulder and the wider bars seems to help that quite a bit. Thanks again for your reviews.
I have a Disc Trucker frame which I built up and have completed many nice tours on. One recommendation that I have, if you’re using drop bars like me, is to get some Gevenalle shifters. These give you the best of both worlds, i.e. toughness and ability to use them with MTB groupsets, but also convenient road-bike STI-type shifting from the brake hoods. They’re far better than bar-end shifters in my view. I bought a set last year and absolutely love them. Mine are paired with a Shimano Alivio 3x9 drive chain and Tektro Aquila cable disc brakes, however they’re available for pretty much every gear/brake combination you can think of. Well worth a look.
Thanks for the tip, Simon!
Thanks for the updated review.
I’m currently using an old steel mtb frame for touring and commuting, but a brief foray into an aluminum bike with discs sold me on discs.
I’m looking at a 42cm disc trucker…they’re hard to find but should work as a replacement for the existing bike by adding flat bars and thumbies of some sort, probably micro shift. The DT seems to fit the spec better than anything else; I’m hoping the decision is correct.
Sure! In case you’re in the UK, Richard at Oxford Bike Works now does disc-equipped steel frames in smaller sizes, with a similar geometry and features to the Disc Trucker. I think he can do you a frame only if you want to build it up yourself.
Thanks for the review. Would you buy a 2018 used Surly over a brand new one to save on money? I understand the components may be worn down.
I’ve spent the last 2yrs touring around SE Asai on my Lht and it has certainly been a faithfull bike with next to no problems. Handles great loaded or not (if I’m only using one set of panniers I’ll use fronts as it seems to handle better with a front load) and quite fast on 50mm, 26″ supremes. I would love to put a Rohloff hub on it but don’t want to run a tensioner (come on Surly, you put ‘do it all dropouts’ on other models). I may modify the dropouts to go from vertical to horizontal. Bit of welding and grinding. I run moustache bars, downtube shifters and a Selle Anatomica saddle which gives me the most comfort.
I see that old thing about 26″ wheels being most common everywhere! Who ever started that hadn’t been to SE asia as its completely wrong here. I haven’t seen too many bike shops with a 26″ tyre or tube. The most common wheel size is 24″ followed by 20″ as in general asian people here have quite short legs. There is a new middle class buying bikes for fun and they are buying 27.5 (650b) hard tails so bike shops are more likely to carry that size. The trucker would be hard to improve in general b u t how about a pinion drive. I’d have to buy one if that came out.
Tom, I’ve enjoyed your website very much and also enjoyed reading the book of how you met Tenny (and did a lot of riding on the way).
Open question to anyone who can comment: I’ve been reading this thread with interest. I live in Malaysia, and I can get a Trek 520 from a local shop or make a 3 hr journey each way to look at an LHT. The LHT will also cost about 30% more than the Trek, and still need a rack, mudguards and an immediate saddle replacement. I plan to ride in Malaysia/Cambodia/Laos/Vietnam, probably in 800‑1000 km tours on tarmac roads with occasional trails.
Question 1. Is the LHT worth that much time and trouble more than the 520?
Question 2. I’ve done a little cycling here in Malaysia, and so far have seen more 700c on the road than anything else. Does the 26″ wheel thing really matter here in Asia?
Thanks all for any advice you can give.
The Long Haul Trucker and the Disc Trucker are both targeted as great starting points. Her in the states the 700 tires are readily available in multiple sizes. Choosing your own pedals and racks just adds to the enjoyment of ownership. Price point is very reasonable State side. Customization is the ticket. I had brooks seat, rack and pedals on before ink dried on receipt. I’d suggest just add what it takes to ride as a commuter first get some mikes then go after the custom goodies.
Be careful out ther
Hope this thread is not dead..
I’m currently trying to work out the best LHT config for me.
At present, main custom approach:
* Hydraulic disk brakes
* Butterfly bar (drop bars aren’t compatible with Hydraulic disk brakes, I’m told by LBS guy)
* Hub gear (I guess the Alfine 8; the Rohloff is very enticing but psychology of spending wad of cash on just one part is off-putting)
One concern is the requirement of a chain tensioner to make the hub gear work correctly.. This bums me out .… either for mechanical or aesthetic reasons… Can you comment ?
Man you guys really seem to know bicycles. I believe in Toms opinion strongly ( for some reason ), so last night I went and bought my wife a Disc Trucker, also bought there front and rear racks. Planning a tour across the northern tier of the good old USA ( from Alaska ) Since the LBS seemed very reluctant to help ( first guy said they couldn’t get the bike until I told him I just drove 50 miles to his shop because they said they Could over the phone ), I went by the Surly bike chart. She is 5′ tall and inseam of 263/4″. I bought the 42cm Disc trucker, and now I’m a little afraid it won’t fit her. I will know for sure in a ” week or so ” . Was hoping Tom could give me some good news! ( other then the fact I’m sure there’s more helpful Bike shops in the world )!
I have a 35 year old Panasonic touring bike and am ready to upgrade. I used to be fine with the 50/40/28 and 13/30 freewheel, but not so much any more. I am looking at the Disc Trucker and read your recommendation to add a 22T granny. I am excited that that is a possibility. Can this be done or added to a built bike? Thanks
I was in San Francisco, and having some time on my hands, was walking around town. I entered a bike shop, and there, fully decked out with racks and fenders and 26″ wheels, was “my” Surly Disc Trucker. I purchased it. It has now sat in my living room for more than two months, never ridden. I just cannot bring myself to change out the pedals from my 1993 Giordana racing bike, my daily mode of transport during the last three years, to the Surly, which as you mention, does not come with pedals. I gave up the vehicle, as well as the television, more than three years ago, and don’t expect to own either ever again. At 62, I ready for a journey which will last a minimum of four months, and hopefully much, much longer. Being nomadic all my life, and now not encumbered with wife or children, perhaps I was meant to move on a constant basis. Just a few more weeks of remodeling work at a friends’ house, then I will be spending my days on the Surly. Both the pedals AND the seat from the Giordana will be changed over, and off I will go. Man, I was born to ride!
inspirational was thinking the same thing…gettin out of dodge.
Your website was my first inspiration to actually start bicycle touring, and I finally did a tour of Taiwan a few months ago on my Kona Smoke. Just 1200 km, but enjoyed it so much, I decided to see more countries on a saddle.
I am in the process of buying a Surly Disc Trucker in India where I live. I remember repeatedly reading your view that a rear cassette with more than 8 speeds is not ideal for a long distance touring bike as the chain becomes thinner and weaker. But the SDT comes with a 10 speed cassette, and I am told that with modern chain technology, it is no less reliable. Would you agree?
Many thanks for your wonderful site.
Hi Tom, I wanted to thank you for hours of excellent reading.
I also wanted to share my new website and the information on “how to build your own Surly Long Haul Trucker” from the frame up.
and leave me comments good or bad on the content.
The instructional website begins with frame selection and steps through powder coating, component selection and then detailed steps for a novice to follow.
Additionally, I share some of the components I’ve made special for my LHT. My favorite is the “lock-link” which holds the handle bars stationary when you are not on the bike. Additionally, I have included detailed steps on how to build a kickstand mount that won’t damage your chain stays.
I’ve put a lot of effort into this website because I enjoy building bicycles and it’s great to share that knowledge with people who like the idea of building there own touring bicycle.
I hope you enjoy it!
Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. That’s a very impressive resource you’ve built there and I’ve no doubt it will come in super useful to people looking to build their own LHT. Massively well done!
I love the lock-link idea.
Have you considered creating a wider collection of different build options? One of the great things about building a bike from the frame up is the ability to tailor the components and create a unique and specialised ride. I think visitors would find it useful and interesting to see the range of final builds that are possible when starting from the LHT frame, rather than just the single build currently listed on the site. Perhaps that’s something that could help the site grow over time – getting ‘guest’ LHT owners to contribute pictures and component listing. Just an idea.
Well done again, and keep up the great work!
Thanks Tom, I appreciate your encouragement. Also I like the idea of different build options.
Great review, I always find your articles to be helpful and reassuring, I am looking to invest in a Surly for a 10,000 Km tour of mainly Europe but also including Morocco. I’m going to buy either the LHT or the Disc Trucker frameset and build up from there but I was wondering whether you would recommend one over the other?
I’m also car free and plan on using this bike for many years to come.
Happy cycling 🙂
They’re both great frames and either will do the job well. Have a read of this article for more on the rim/disc brake discussion.
Safe roads 🙂
Thanks for a great review, and an inspirational site- keep the good stuff coming!
I’m on the go to get a 26″ LHT disc, but I have some question about sizing. Surly doesn’t offer a size chart-for good reason but this certainly makes it a bit more complicated if you need to order from the web. An the local bikeshop didn’t seem very keen on helping me out.
I’m 183 cm, and usually ride a large. I thinking that the 56″ should be alright. I’ve heard that many people choose a smaller size for lht/touring bikes, but i am a bit worried about my heels touching the panniers. Do you have any general tips for people like me?
Thanks once again!
I prefer 700 wheels. Try Leisure Lakes, they frequently will have the cyclocross surly bikes in store. Some Manchester bike shop will have the long haul trucker in store.
I an also 183 cm (6 foot in the U.S.), but I went with the 58cm (26″ wheel). I was fortunate that my LBS had both in stock so I rode both the 56 and 58. The 56 just felt too small and I felt like the 58 gave me a little more options in adjust-ability. In the end, I think it comes down to preference. I could have easily gone either way.
thanks for quick response!
well, I live in sweden, and in sweden it is a bit hard to find surlys in general. There is this one internetstore that sells them but they don’t really run a store where i can try it out unfortunately. Just heard of this small nerdie bikeshop in gothenburg that sells some surly, I will see if they can help me out.
Very interesting francis! Especially since you have choosen the bigger one(bollocks, i just decided for the smaller one;)). Would it be to much to ask for your inner legs measurement?
mine is 85–86(stand over height is 811.9/ 829.7 on the trucker 56/58″), an my ape-index is 1–1,5 cm plus. Is that somehow similar to yours?
Anyway, I think both of them will suit me just fine. By this calculation(recoemended by surly, i should go for a 57″. And about the same goes for two other calculations i’ve done.
thanks to you all!
Gustav, is this site of any help ?
I measure 85.72cm. Exactly like Tom said, the 56 was on the small side, even after coming from a MTB that I purposely like smaller. If your stuck with the 56, I don’t think you’ll hate it. Being used to a smaller bike, I could have gone either way, to be honest. The 58 just felt right for me.
Just tried out the 56″ from a new friend in lund. Overall it felt comfortable, but I am sure that I’ll have some problems with my knees hitting the gearshifters when turning in slow-speed for example. To bad, cause I really like the idea of having it mountet on the bar end. And it felt to far away to put the shifters on the frame. Do I have any options left if I still want the brake levers and gear shifter mounted seperatly? thanks a lot!
Perservere, you will get used to it and ultimately will love it. Try moving the saddle up a bit. Welcome to the Surly.
Sizing should be top priority. I wouldn’t worry about heel clearance as that can be solved in other ways. If you usually ride a large frame I would expect a 56cm frame to be a touch on the small side. But unless you can test ride the bike you’ll never get beyond guesswork. I’m sure you could find a store with a 58cm LHT or Disc Trucker you could test-ride…?
My long haul trucker has done about 30,000 miles in three years. Single puncture, the continental tyres have been outstanding. The back tyre now needs replacing, the front tyre is fine. I replace the brake pads twice yearly. The brakes could be better, a light soft for my liking but they are fine.
The chain now needs replacing, the front rings and the cassette have seen better days. Overall I would recommend the Surly Long Haul Trucker for commuting, general riding and long distance touring. My friends think it is a little sluggish but the Surly bike has served me well and I would have another one without a second thought. My main criticism is focused on the saddle, I replaced it immediately with a Brooks’ saddle.
I’ve just been reading your review on the Disc Trucker, as I’ve been considering getting one for a round-the-world bike trip. I’ve actually just bought the bike I intend to use for the trip, but as it cost me a whopping £3500 I’m starting to think that I’ve paid too much. The bike ive bought (Thorn Nomad) is built to last longer than the rider. It has Rohloff gears, a dynamo hub, super-strong wheels, and a steel frame that should be able to easily circumnavigate the globe.….a 100 times.
Why, then, do I keep thinking that I’ve over-endulged and that I should return the Nomad (Thorn do a 100 day return guarantee) and go out and buy myself a Surly LHT. Would I enjoy my trip any less on the Surly? Would i not feel as confident on the Surly because it’s not built to the standard of the Nomad? After ive replaced my fifteenth dérailleur, would I be wondering ‘what if I’d bought the Nomad’
I keep coming back to the LHT. After all, it is a legend amongst bike tourers. My choice of bike is obviously the biggest decision I’ll have to make, so I want toget it right. I just can’t seem to justify the enormous price difference between the two bikes, when the differences in build don’t mirror the price. I was wondering what your opinion is.
Thorn bikes are built for people who simply don’t want to think about anything going wrong or needing maintenance. If you don’t mind the odd bit of fettling, I very much doubt that the LHT would disappoint you. You certainly won’t spend £2,000 on keeping it roadworthy, so if that money would be better spent on your trip, perhaps you’re better off reclaiming it. If you need peace of mind, remember that LHTs (and much lesser bikes) have been round the planet countless times…
I see no issue with a LHT. Surly are rock solid no BS bikes. If I was to spend the money on a high end frame I would probably get a Co Motion frame. Considering that a Rohloff hub is around $2,000 Australian dollars, $3,500 doesn’t sound astronomical, but it does sound a little steep. I personally just built up a steel framed commuter that would serve fine as a tourer. I picked up the frame cheap for $100. Add on all the extras, such as handle bars, eccentric bottom bracket, stem, head stem bearings, disc brakes, ‘Surly fork’, tyres, seat post, saddle etc etc, It would probably work out to around $3,500. So don’t feel too bad. If your buying ‘new’, then thats close to what you would probably expect to pay. A Co Motion bike complete with Rohloff would probably set you bak close to $6,000 American dollars ! And though I don’t know a huge amount on Thorn bikes, they do seem to have a good reputation.
Hi Simon. Thorn Nomad very nice tour bike. Probably one of the best available. Good for you if you have the funds to buy one. Met a french girl this summer in spain she covered many thousands on european miles on a decathalon second hand tour bike (40 euros) .bottom bracket was worn 15 euro repair. As Tom says Rolhoff hub as long as it keeps ticking no problem But if u have a problem in deepest darkest peru. Ho hum! Game over. The LHT is popular because it comes as standard with all the right bits. I have toured many miles on orange p7 mountain bike. Not bad but the renolds steel frame flexes at speed also the expensive Hope wheels fell to pieces at 2000 mile. Hope hubs are hopeless for tour bikes You need shimano xt hubs which come as standard on LHT also you need 36 spoke wheels. The Hope wheels buckled regular on camino de santiago. Given the choice I would probably pick the Thorn nomad. But as has been said you could buy maybe 3 LHT for the price. Good luck with your adventures. Keep on trucking. HARRY.
Harry, I just noticed your comments on the Rolloff. You stated if there were any problems with the Rolloff hub out in the sticks its game over. May I ask what you mean by that ?
Rather than open yet another debate on the pros and cons of Rohloff Speedhubs, let’s please check out the article here which sums up the debate.
hi Tom thanks for message. My comment regarding the rohloff hub is, if it were to develop any problems it would be difficult to get repaired outside of Europe. Although I have met plenty of cycling folk who have ridden many miles with no issue. My friend had an idworx with rohloff hub 29 inch wheels. We have ridden many miles off road 1500 ish. The hub has excess play in bearings and drips some oil. I believe most cyclists including myself feel secure in the fact that nothing on the bike cannot be fixed in the next town. But a Rohloff perhaps not so easy. Harry
Hi Simon. I can’t comment on the Surly’s, but I too have a Nomad. Mine is the X series (which they’ve now discontinued) that was designed to be a little lighter.
It’s still a heavy bike, at 36 lbs, or 16.4 kg (that’s with Thorn’s rear rack and plastic mudguards, a SON dynohub and the Andra rims). It’s proving too heavy for my liking. I’m sure I’d appreciate the peace of mind (and stiffness) if I were riding a long distance across a desert with several day’s supply of water, but when I’m using it in the UK for less intrepid touring, it’s a hell of a weight to grind up a 10% gradient, hour after hour (e.g. when touring in Wales).
For my purposes, I think a lighter (yet still round-the-world capable) Surly Trucker would have been a better purchase.
On the other hand, I can treat my Nomad (with it’s 800g [each] Andra rims) like a mountain bike when descending very lumpy paths, and it shrugs all the rocks off. And I could put a suspension fork on it if I wanted to (I bought it with the bike, but have never fitted it).
I’ve really enjoyed the flexibility of the Rohloff, and it comes in very handy when loaded up off road (changing gear when stationary, for example), but I’ve struggled a bit to keep up with 700C derailleur bikes like the Truckers on tarmac.
I’m tempted by a Disc Trucker with drops, as a more general purpose tourer. They seem like a bargain.
Surly fan, but old school tourist with a new LHT. Re. Shimano bar end shifters for 10 speeds, if they come loose in the bar be very careful with the rear shifter when you tighten the assembly. Tape it together in one piece before removal because the STI mechanism for the rear derailleur will “POP” apart due to the tension in the STI mech. What starts as an easy tighten on the shifter turns into lost washers and a dead rear derailleur shifter. I went back to Down-Tube shifters, I’ve used them for 30 years without trouble. When touring you are out on the road, going slower, more open space, so the troubles of bar-end and STI Brifters isn’t worth the break downs.
Great review. I also own a Surly, Travellers Check that is. I had a Rohloff in it, but am building it into a new bike. Which I plan to fit a Surly 26inch Trucker fork to it.
But theres a catch. I want to fit 700c wheels. Anyone tried this with the 26er fork ?
I’ve heard reports of people having fit 700c wheels into 26 inch mtb frames. They liked the result. Will no longer be able to fit big tyres though. The LHT for can take 2.1 tyres so you should have clearance for 1.5s. Main problem is the V brake mount needs to be higher. If you get a disc fork this will not be a problem. But there are adaptors if you want V brakes. Not cheap mind.
could you add the fork to a non-disc LHT? (need a re-built wheel etc, but would there be a braking advantage in that? The cantilever brakes on the stock LHT are pretty weak )
You could of course add a disc fork to an LHT. The advantage of discs is mainly in modulation, not braking power. A well set-up set of good quality V‑brakes is plenty for a loaded tourer in 99% of scenarios…
do people put aero bars on the LHT or other touring bikes for that matter? I am a recreational rider and have bars on my road bike. I just like to get off my hands / wrists, not so much as a racing thing. I know you can’t use them when in a group. Is this a comfortable option on the LHT? thanks
I just read your review out loud to my husband, as we were driving in our car down the road. I think you just sold him a bicycle!
Well done&interesting review !
Would You consider a Rohloff speed hub 14 on a Disc Trucker ?
Interesting & well done review !
Would You consider a Rohloff speed hub 14 on a Disc Trucker ?
I wouldn’t consider a Rohloff on any bike, but that’s just me…
Thanks for the review.
I was just wondering why you don’t rcommend the rohloff, especially when considering its perceived ease of maintennace? I’m starting to make plans for a pan amercian highway expedition..
There’s no absolute answer when it comes to things like this. Personally, I prefer a system which I can maintain myself, source spares for worldwide, and which saves me a grand towards living costs. (I’m not alone on this!) Others may prefer to spend that grand on something that they’ll probably never have to think about. Both systems will get you round the planet; neither will prevent the unexpected from happening on the way. Different strokes…
Tanks for the review. I’m a bit worried about the spokes on a disc trucker loaded with let’s say 8–10 kg. on the fork days out and days in, so I’m not sure what to choose between disc or lht.
What would you recommend ?
Unless you are finding regular, first-hand accounts of the Disc Trucker’s spokes causing problems when loaded, I’d recommend not worrying about it!
Thanks! That’s what i hope you would recommend.
Great review! I’ve just finished a long weekend ride (240 miles) with friends and two rode the LHT. I’m seriously considering the Disc Trucker. I’m pretty sure your review has made the sale.
Excellent review. I have a Surly Troll and was thinking if you have ridden one could you make a comparison between it and the LHT? Which one would you choose for a world tour and why? Many thanks!
Great review, especially for those just making the move in touring. I’m pretty keen on the LHT but was wondering if it would take a front suspension fork to accommodate off road trips? With lock out it could be the perfect set up!
I’ve just built up a 26″ Disc Trucker and I love it, I’m a touch on the “hefty” side and I was getting tired of truing 700c wheels so I went 26 with 2.00 tyres. I figured as I’m not going to be heading to Outer Mongolia that I could use a Hollowtech crankset, the main benefit is that it is cheaper than an old fashioned square taper set up of good quality. I also used Deore shifters as the thumbies I was originally wanting were over twice the price!
I used BB7’s and they are great, a real revelation in the wet, I’ve previously used BB5’s and the weren’t fantastic but the 7’s are just great.
One wee thing, the Surly Nice front rack is not a perfect, straight on fit, you have to space out the bottom mount to clear the caliper and you have to get a bit creative with your mudguard stays too.
Pretty close to being the “perfect” all round bike.
Thanks, Paul. I’ve found that very few lowriders work perfectly with front disc calipers — there are almost always clearance issues. Cheers for the input!
I’ve not had the opportunity yet to do any real touring, but I have had a LHT 700cm for about 4 years now and have used it as a primary bike for casual riding and for several century rides and/or MS 150 events. My only changes to the bike were moving the shifters from the bar ends and a Brooks B‑17 saddle.
My non-technical review is this: No matter how tired or fatigued on a ride I’ve become, I’ve never ridden this bike and ever “just wanted off the bike”. Basically, the bike has never failed me…I’ve only ever failed it.
It’s the only mid-range tourer that people time and time again confidently jump on, expect to and do successfully cycle around the world on. It’s possible that maybe being the most common/popular tour bike of all is the reason why it has more successful stories than other bikes in it’s price range. But I think it just stands head and shoulders above anything else in it’s price range and as a bare frame is the best of any. Mainly because of the versatility. The LHT can be modified to be whatever you want/need it to be.
Like any bike, whatever it’s main purpose, the components have such a huge say in it’s performance. But the frame has a say in what components you can choose. The LHT is a perfect frame that allows you to design the bike you want/need. The choice of a 26″ or a 700c is just Surly saying you don’t need to buy any other bike, we have it all covered and I think they do. Personally I think Surly are so popular because they simply make the best touring bike in the world if you take absolutely everything into consideration including what you get for your buck.
Thanks tom for a great write up , I done a lot if resurch when looking for a touring bike,and the surly kept coming up top of the list, I bought a disc trucker and loved it so much I went and bought a long haul trucker for every day use , I normally ride about 25 mikes a day , no1 thing I changed on both was the seat for a brooks , and I use butterfly bars on them
I am currently building a disk trucker. B‑17 saddle, bar end shifters, etc. But I am doing a custom paint job. Glow in the dark white with orange accent. It’s a mid life crisis thing. I am also car free. Your review confirmed the advise my local bike shop gave me. Thanks. From Salem Oregon, USA.
Tom, how do you feel the Surly Disc trucker compares with the 2014 Kona Sutra? I am looking to buy a touring bike for a holiday in Northern France later this year and then use the bike for AUDAX events. Also does the smaller size Surley come with 700 size wheels?
The main difference is that the Surly would be easier to find parts for and maintain on a world tour, and the frame is better featured for long haul touring, so more future proof if that’s on the cards at wll. In the West there’s not a lot in it. Either would do what you’re asking, so it’s a case of which you prefer when test riding. Surly’s site should have frame sizing details. Hope that helps!
I should also add that you’re not going to win any races on either of them – they’re both pretty heavy!
Minor thing but you appear to contradict yourself in reference to the hubs, you first off say
“The wheels are 36-spoke models, with the Alex Adventurer rims Surly have used for years on this bike built onto Shimano LX 6‑bolt disc hubs.”
then you go on to say later in the article
“The hubs are high quality Shimano XT with easily-serviceable cup & cone bearings ”
From the pictures I can see an XT quick release lever so presumably they are XT and you’ve just got a typo in the article. Also the tech spec on gearforcycletouring.com says LX.
Appreciate, and fixed! (They’re XT.)
I have a 700c Disc Trucker and use it for touring, commuting, city riding (before getting a Brompton), gravel grinding and single track. It’s the total do-everything bike.
Great! Thanks for your contribution!
Well written review, Tom.
Although I have my amazing tourer that I built on an old GT mtb frame, the Disc Trucker remains the absolute dream tourer for me that ticks all the boxes for me on paper (although i never actually rode one yet).
What I miss the most from my current tourer’s setup are the disc brakes and the front pannier option (I found the Tubus adapters that simply tighten on the fork not so reliable) and a superlong head tube like on the Disc Trucker would also be nice to have (I installed a fork extender to have a more upright position).
My GT is holding up nicely, so there is no chance for me of getting a new bike any time soon, and until then I continue to proudly gaffatape my spare spokes on the rear stay.
Cheers Daniel. The old mountain bike frames make for great tourers. I’m sure yours will keep going indefinitely…
Goof, accurate review.
I ride the the non disc LHT, had it for 2yrs and done approx 3500miles in that time, mostly commuting 20miles a day but also a 1000mile unsupported tour. Have rear front and rear racks, have standard Schwalbe Marathons fitted and basic mudguards. Other than that its as spec.
I’d agree with your review 100%. Its a comfortable bike to ride, so so so stabl. e under heavy load, I actually prefer to ride it under load rather than not, due to the stability. I have 700c wheels and love how elegant it looks (not important for a tourer, but nice), but so rugged. The spoke holders are such a good feature. Have found bike techs always keen to talk enthusiastically to me about the bike when I collect after small work/adjustments. Usually first LHT they’ve come across and they are so impressed about its build quality and features.
I love this bike.
Good, not goof, obviously. 🙂
This is a spot-on review.
I have a regular Long Haul Trucker that I built up myself with custom spec parts. It is easily one of the best bikes I have ever ridden. It’s not a light race bike, but it is surprisingly sprightly for a bicycle I would have no qualms about riding round the world on.
I really cannot find a single thing to gripe about with regards to me choosing a Surly. Much like a beautiful musical instrument or a dream motor car, my Surly is spires me to want to give more, it is such a pleasure to be on. If I’ve done 50 miles and am nearing the end of what my legs can take, I’ll adjust my route to squeeze another few miles out because I don’t want to get off.
Seriously, if you are looking for a bike to go on an expedition with, do your shopping on, commute on, train on year round etc. then look no further!
Yep, that’s a good bike for touring and can more than get the job done. But I prefer V brakes which are fitted to both my touring bikes.I’ve plenty of experience with discs as I have them on my MTB and road bike ( BB7s and BB5s respectively, but… Discs are too easily bent out of shape and are a devil of a job to straighten out again. This can easily happen while transporting your bike ( and almost guaranteed if your bike is packed on a bus or( heaven forbid! ) goes through luggage handling at an airport! By the way they are heavier and noisier and I can’t say I’ve noticed the significantly better braking power that everyone talks about even though I regularly commute on wet roads. Deore V brakes that I have on my own Surly seem to stop just as well. Also new pads for disk brakes are not always easy to come by, so if you do choose to go that route, better take spares. My money would be on a LHT non disc version. The first thing I do with any Surly bike is also to put a B17 saddle on it. The second thing is to take the stickers off because the frames look quite nice without the ugly logos and don’t attract so much attention.!
Thanks for the comment! You’re making an argument against disc brakes in general, not specifically about this bike, and I don’t fully agree (especially as I’ve used disc brakes for 90% of my touring).
First, I would always remove the disc rotors before travelling with the bike on a plane or bus — very easy with 6 torx bolts per wheel — removing the risk of bent rotors in this situation. You can often straighten them with an adjustable spanner if they do get bent.
Spare pads are tiny, lightweight and not at all onerous to carry — besides, good pads will last much longer than most rim brake blocks on tour, meaning the frequency of replacement will be reduced.
Finally, I don’t believe there’s any real doubt that a properly set up set of disc brakes will do a better job of slowing and stopping a fully-loaded tourer than V‑brakes. I’m able to stop my expedition bike (with trailer) on a downhill with a single finger on each brake lever.
Having said all that, V‑brakes or discs will both stop bikes at the end of the day. So it’s nice that Surly make both 🙂
I’d definitely agree with removing the decals; thankfully they’re just stickers!
If anyone is in doubt about disc brakes do a trip like Cycle Oregon where the hills are so steep that you have to stop two or three times gong downhill to cool the rims.
Exactly — it depends on the requirements of your tour. Needless to say, cycling across the Netherlands wouldn’t call for disc brakes!
I disagree that disc brakes are safe for touring and easy to adjust if bent. The idea of straightening out a bent disc with a spanner is fantasy. Even the very slightest unevenness in the disc, even when invisible, will mean either disc rub or the brake gap so wide that there is long travel before the brakes grip. Even trying to straighten a disc in a fully-equipped workshop is hours worth of very patient work. In the field carrying a spare disc is the only sensible option, and the only option I would consider.
I’ve personally straightened bent disc rotors with an adjustable spanner on several occasions (a trick I learned from a professional mountain-bike guide), and in doing so restored the brakes to full working order. Which isn’t to say it’s always possible, of course, just that the idea is a very long way from being ‘fantasy’.
I’m quite keen to give discs a proper try, but I feel the quality of V brake (and no doubt the same thing applies to discs) plays a big part in this question.
I’ve got Shimano XTR V brakes (now discontinued as they were too expensive to make) on my tourer, and they’re absolutely phenomenal. I only ever need one finger on each lever, and I’ve stopped nerve wracking-ly quickly with 4 full panniers and a tent on my 36lb tourer while descending steep hills at 40mph. I certainly wouldn’t want to stop much quicker, if you know what I mean.
I’ve read that XTR V’s stop better than discs, but I’m sure that discs vary a lot as well.
How do discs compare to V brakes on long descents, when pads and rims can heat up and braking power can decrease? I wouldn’t be surprised if one design of brake was a clear winner in this respect.
Graham. Heres a though. Have you considered a ‘mullet’ ?
By this I mean Disc up front and a V out back. Best of both worlds 😉 You have the weather conditions adaptability of a disc brake, and the reliability of V brakes in the rear.
As for comparing the two. Disc brakes are generally regarded as better in wet weather AND are less prone to brake fade on long decents. They are also less affected by buckled rims. Of course, they are not happy if/when you buckle a rotor. So there are obvious pro’s and cons.
As for me, well, Im yet to build up my ‘fixed gear’ bike with a disc brake up front, which I’ve wanted to do for some time now. However, I am in the process of building up a mountain bike with a coaster brake out back and disc brake up front.
I only wish that Rohloff would do a coaster brake version. One of my pet hates is a rear brake cable. the less clutter the better. And with their new 170mm spaced hubs I can’t help but think this would be achievable. Are you listening Rohloff ?
Thanks Stathis, that’s an interesting idea. I’ll give it some thought.
Great review Tom. I have been riding the 700c non disc Long Haul Trucker for going on 5 years. Its outfitted with the Surly Nice Racks, front and rear, carrying Arkel Panniers, Bamboo fenders, Paul Canti Brakes, a Brooks Professional, and a Sanyo Generator Hub. Although I have only done a week of self supported touring and a bunch of overnights, I use this bike as my main transportation as I am car free. I have many thousand miles on it and agree that its nimble and capable unloaded but really does find itself when its loaded. I haven’t found its limit yet and have loaded it so heavy that its hard to get started, but once rolling its quite comfortable. In all my miles I have replaced the chain and brake pads and have experienced no other problems. I am a full time bicycle mechanic so I do take care of my gear, but I think the LHT is bombproof. I’m such a Surly fan, I purchased their new Straggler, disc cross bike, but that’s another story entirely.
Keep the words and photos coming.….
Sounds like a lovely bike build. Well done on going car free (currently enjoying that myself!). Thanks for the contribution!
Thanks for the review. The LHT does seem like the defacto standard for American tourers, and I’m sure that is for good reason but I have to say the review reads a little like an informercial. The contact points on the bike are the most important part yet you say you are unlikely to notice the bar tape, its just there? It seems anything that was a bit average you swept under the rug. In any case though, thanks for taking the time.
Unfortunately I don’t have any real criticisms of the bike. And I think that’s why it’s become the ‘defacto standard’ – there isn’t really anything average about it.
Grips you don’t notice are exactly the kind of grips I’d want on a tourer.
You said the same about the hubs, and after a little thought, I understood what you meant. It’s when you notice something that is the problem.
Great review, just in time to help me decided which bike to take on a multi continental tour.
I see a lot of people fit flat or butterfly bars to the LHT, Would you keep the drops or change them if you were planning on hitting the dirt tracks in Asia?
I’d probably swap them for riser bars and bar-ends. (Which would also mean changing brake levers and shifters.) But that’s just me — it’s a matter of personal preference really.
Great review — How would you say this compares against the Cinelli hoBootleg??
I recommend Salsa Cowbell 2 drop bars. They give a nice flat area on the top behind brake levers, a short drop, and the drops come back further than std. road bars. Eventually on a tour your bike will fall over, when it does, STI and bar-end shifters can break. Bar ends today have a spring loaded tensioner assembly, if it comes out of the bar the many parts get lost. Touring, bullet proof, Down Tube shifters. Cane Creek SR5 brake levers w Salsa Cowbell 2 bars. My 26″ LHT and I are crossing the US right now.