Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for August, 2008

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.

Stopped by a creek

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.

Long Haul Trucker, leaning up against a fence


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.

Shilo Road

Another part of Shilo

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.


Anderson Lane

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

Sun, nearly setting


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.

A trip to Fort Wayne

Monday, August 4th, 2008

We had a very busy weekend. We had to go up to the Indianapolis area and meet with the minister who is officiating at our wedding. But that wasn’t until 3:00, so we went up a little early, went to a bike shop (Indy Cycle Specialist) and I test rode a Surly Long Haul Trucker — what an awesome bike! I talked to Jim there about the bike and he was very helpful. He had the touring mindset and a lot of the same philosophies about riding that I have, and knew his stuff, too. I was tempted to pull the trigger and get it, but I didn’t … yet.

The meeting with the pastor was good; he really challenges us to look at our relationship differently, and to actively seek out ways we can make each other’s lives better. I want to be the best possible husband for Sarah, so I very much appreciate his sage advice. At first I thought these pre-marriage meetings would be a little weird or awkward (especially as someone who isn’t religious), but I think they’re quite helpful and give us more of a sense of purpose.

Sarah’s mom had to have surgery, so after we met with the pastor, we headed up to Fort Wayne to visit her and help however we could. I’m glad Sarah got to see her mom. I left Sarah at the hospital for a while on Saturday, and I think they had a good visit. Saturday was Sarah’s birthday, and it was too bad she didn’t get to spend it doing something fun, but I was glad she could be there for her mom.

Sunday morning, I dropped Sarah off at the hospital and headed out for a ride. I had printed a route I found on bikely.com that looked interesting. I parked the car at a strip mall and started riding.

I’ve ridden in Fort Wayne a couple of times before, and there’s some good riding in the area. It’s quite flat compared to southern Indiana, but there are some hills here and there, and some areas are quite scenic. When I started riding, I was facing a headwind and actually had several hills to climb. It was warm, but not overly hot.

Flat farmland


The roads were pretty quiet. I saw few cars, but mostly had the road to myself. I saw a couple of other cyclists going the other way and waved. The west side of town, where I was riding, is pretty interesting because you go from being in town to rural areas very quickly. It’s kind of like Bloomington in that way.


Railroad tracks

I saw one of few shady spots and stopped to look at my map for a couple of minutes. While I was stopped, another cyclist passed me. I rode on and caught up with him. We introduced ourselves (his name is Jeff) and he asked how long I was looking to ride. I said about 30 miles, and he offered to show me a route, so I ditched the Bikely route and followed his lead.

Catching up with Jeff

It was really cool to get a tour from a local. I don’t mind following maps and whatnot, but he told me a couple of the roads I had planned on riding on weren’t very good — one has a fresh layer of chipseal and the other is quite busy. The route he took me on was very quiet — we only saw a few cars the whole time and were able to ride side by side most of the time.


Huge power lines

In talking with Jeff, it came up that he knows one of the mechanics at an LBS in Bloomington who has worked on one of my bikes. It sure is a small world. At one point our ride went through the small town of Roanoke, Indiana. It has an interesting and quaint downtown area, and Jeff pointed out Joseph Decuis, a famous restauraunt, and a bed and breakfast there.

Downtown Roanoke, Indiana

One thing that never ceases to impress me about cycling is how strong many older riders are. Jeff told me he’s 58 … but he rides very well. I guess cycling is a sport that doesn’t beat up your body like a lot of others, and the longer you ride, the stronger you get.

At one point we also passed what is now really just a ditch, but Jeff told me it used to be a part of the Wabash & Eerie Canal. A bit of history I never would’ve known about without someone with local knowledge.



Going over a bridge

The ride ended up being 29.5 miles, exactly what I had in mind. I told Jeff to let me know if he’ll be in Bloomington and I can give him a tour.

After my ride I headed back to the hospital to see if Sarah’s mom had been released yet. When I got there I decided to change clothes in the parking lot, using car doors and the car itself for privacy. I had just looked around to make sure nobody was nearby and I thought the coast was clear, thinking “The only way anyone could see me would be from above.” The next thing I know I hear a helicopter coming in for landing. I waited for it to land before changing.

We were hoping we could give Sarah’s mom a ride home, but she hadn’t been released yet and we needed to get going. On our way back I decided I ought to get the Long Haul Trucker. It was good timing. They were selling two other Long Haul Truckers when I was picking mine up … awesome. I don’t have any pictures of it  yet. I’ll probably be selling my road bike (a 2006 Giant OCR2) as I don’t think I’ll be needing it anymore. It’s been a great bike, but the LHT is very versatile and handles a lot better than I expected unloaded, making the road bike seem pretty superfluous.

It sure was a whirlwind of a trip. We’re glad to be home, and I can’t wait to get some rides in on the new bike. Unfortunately I won’t be able to get any longer rides in for a while, since we’re going to Green Bay for a wedding this weekend.

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