Experimental music, photography, and adventures

First ride on the Long Haul Trucker

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Aside from some test rides at the bike shop (including one in which an inner tube blew out — I chose not to view that as a bad omen) and a ride around some residential neighborhoods Sunday night, I didn’t get to ride my new bike until last night. It was hot and humid, but obviously that was not going to deter me from riding. I set out to do the Shilo route, as that route has a few good hills, and Shilo is one of the roughest and most fun and challenging roads around.

I rode out to Bethel Lane, which is a nicely-flowing, curvy road. When I reached the big hill, I really let loose. The Trucker feels incredibly solid at speed, and the wider tires grip very well and inspire confidence. There’s a bit of sand at the bottom of the hill that can be a little sketchy on the road bike, but the Trucker loved it.

I rode along the valley for a few minutes and stopped by a creek for a couple of photos.

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Stopped by a creek

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My Brooks saddle and Keven’s Bag look better on the Utility Blue LHT than on my red road bike

Next was a big climb that was an absolute snap. The gearing on the Trucker is really excessive for unloaded riding. I made the climb (which I normally ride in the lowest gear on my road bike) in the middle ring. I am confident that I could make the same climb while hauling a lot of gear with no trouble. I stopped at the top of the hill to snap a few more photos. It was so hot and humid that it was a bit hazy, and I shot into the sun for some interesting effects.

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Long Haul Trucker, leaning up against a fence

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Shadows

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More shadows on Tunnel Road

I reached Shilo Road, and this was a great chance to run the bike through its paces. The handling was solid through all the twists and turns. The fatter tires gave me more confidence and allowed me to lean into the turns a lot more, even when there was sand or gravel on the road. So far I’m not loving the bar-end shifters, though, they are a little inconvenient. I’ll give them more of a chance and see if they grow on me. I also made a few saddle adjustments, and it’ll probably take me a while to get that set up how I like it.

Shilo Road was a lot of fun, and the bike handled great. I sometimes feel on my road bike like there’s some flex when going over a rough road or standing to climb. I don’t notice any such flex with the Trucker’s frame. I do notice some chain slop; I guess that’s the price you pay for having such a wide range of gears. They have repaved one lane of Shilo, and it had a lot of loose bits of asphault. I wonder if they’ll be repaving the whole road.

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Shilo Road

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Another part of Shilo

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Long Haul Trucker along Shilo Road

I rode Anderson Lane over Old 37 to ride back. This bike makes the hills so easy with is low gearing. I did stop and make some more saddle adjustments — I forgot how long it took to dial in the saddle position on my road bike. What a pain. Here are a few more shots from my ride.

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Field

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Anderson Lane

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Action shot. It’s great riding in sandals (I had platforms installed on the Trucker)

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Sun, nearly setting

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Barn

Things I like about the Long Haul Trucker:

  • Smooth ride
  • Solid feel inspires confidence
  • Wide tires
  • It’s STEEL. I love it.
  • Beautiful bike. It looks even better in person.
  • Wide gear range
  • Higher handlebars
  • Three water bottle cages
  • Can haul a lot of stuff (untested as yet, but I have no doubt it’ll be great for this)
  • Handles surprisingly well unloaded
  • Should handle gravel well (not tested yet)
  • Frame has every braze-on known to man (and then some)
  • Incredibly versatile — I plan on trying various combinations of fat/skinny tires with and without racks and fenders, etc.

Things I dislike:

  • The bar-end shifters are inconvient to reach
  • Chain slop
  • The handlebars feel a bit narrow
  • The brake hoods don’t have a place to hold on above the levers; the Tiagra ones on my road bike do. I miss having that hand position.
  • Third water bottle cage doesn’t have much clearance, at least on my 56cm frame. I had to use a small water bottle as it looked like a normal one would rub the tire.
  • Stock saddle sucks (but I replaced it with my leather saddle immediately, so no worries)
  • It’s heavy (but so am I)

I think this bike is going to be fantastic. I’ll make a lot of customizations, but the LHT Complete build is a good starting point. Someday maybe I’ll build a bike from scratch, but I can’t see doing that right now.

9 Responses to “First ride on the Long Haul Trucker”

  1. robert Says:

    Sweet ride, looks like that stock setup isn’t bad. I love bar end shifters myself, but then again I use mustache bars so they are really convenient.

  2. Tim Says:

    I think you’ll be very happy in the long run. Notice your “dislikes”. They’re changeable items like bar width, shifters or saddle selection. I think you’ll take a while to feel out the LHT and customize it as you like. Since I bought mine custom stocked on ebay from a shop in ME(?) I’ve changed bars twice, tires numerous times, fenders, a front wheel and lighting. And I love every bit of it.

  3. Jon Grinder Says:

    I really like the bar end shifters, myself, on Midge Bars. The shallower drop brings the shifters to hand a little better.

    Of course, I’m using downtube shifters on my 650B-wheeled Raleigh Portage, and I like them, as well. Maybe I’m just easy to please!

  4. Apertome Says:

    Jon: good points. I am contemplating switching out the handlebars. But I’ve noticed the biggest issue for me is getting the saddle position right. This may take a while for me to nail down, it did on my road bike. With the saddle position a little better, reaching the shifters isn’t as bad.

  5. furiousball Says:

    I love that bike dude.

  6. Doug Says:

    So cool you went ahead and got one. Although it always makes me nervous when what I write on my blog influences others decisions. In the end, I hope this bike works for you. It took me 250 miles to get my Brooks saddle dialed in. Now that I have it right, all my other saddles no longer feel as confortable as they used to. I like the simplicity of the Shimano Barcon Shifters. I have them on 3 of my bicycles (two of them with Paul Thumbie converters). I have also found my LHT to be unbelievably solid. It seems counterintuitive for a bike with such a long wheelbase, but I’ve found mine tends to corner very good at speed. I was told it really comes into it’s own once it’s loaded. I found that to be very true. All the front shaking and shuddering you experienced on your S24O with your road bike will be gone with the LHT. Happy trails!!

  7. Marty Says:

    Congrats on the new bike — I’ve never seen that type of shifter, and it seems really inconvenient to me, to be honest. But it looks like a sweet bike overall!

  8. Jon Grinder Says:

    Marty, the bar-end shifter was the shifter of choice for touring bikes, back in the pre-STI/Ergo era. They allow you to shift, with your hand still on the bar, a big advantage over having to reach the downtube. With a set of loaded front paniiers, that could be a bit scary.

    The “brifter”-style of shifting, so common today, is also convenient. But, you pay for that convenience with complexity, weight (not really an issue on a tourer, I’ll admit) and non-repairability; not to mention that there is no friiction-shift option, if you happen to bend the derailleur hanger, or something, while on the road.

    Having bars set up to ride in the drops helps (hence my mention of On-One Midge bars), as does practice. It really does get easier to use them, as you get used to them.

    That said, not everyone likes the same things. That’s why it’s good to have coices.

    Apertome, if you decide to get rid of those shifters, let me know. I’ll buy them from you.

  9. Jon Grinder Says:

    Um..”choices”, not “coices”.

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