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Friday, December 20, 2013

The Long Haul Trucker: Why the hell did I sell?

Hello friends, yes, this is the post that all eight of you have been waiting for, the reason(s) why I sold my Surly Long Haul Trucker.

First, let me get two things out of the way:
  1. Whatever I say below, please note that I'm not saying that an LHT is a bad bike in the least, nor would I discourage anyone from purchasing one if they wanted to do. And I never regretted purchasing one!
  2. Unfortunately, there's no "other" bike that is coming into the picture, not just yet. It was more a downsizing of the fleet than "making room" for something else. While I'd love a custom bike, that ain't in the cards right now.
Ok, so why did I sell it? Why did I get rid of a bike that served me well for 5 1/2 years, a bike that I did a lot to and a lot with?

In short: I didn't love the Long Haul Trucker anymore.

Let's go back to the beginning of the story, which is February of 2008. The frame on my then-current touring bike, my Centurion Accordo, had broke. After I got past the initial shock and despair, I realized that I needed to get a new bike. But what? I knew that I loved touring, and the Accordo wasn't the most appropriate bike for the job (hence the break). It's hard to imagine now, but back then I wasn't such a bike geek and all the esoterica that I go ga-ga now would make my eyes glaze over. I just knew this: The Surly Long Haul Trucker was a touring bike, a lot of people liked them, and through my LBS I could even get a frameset for under $300. With that option I could swap over componentry from the Accordo. Sold! The only glitch in the whole setup was while I should've gotten a 54cm frame, that year that size was 26" wheels only, so if I wanted to use the 700C wheelset from the Accordo I would need to go for the 56cm. And being on a budget I did.

The Long Haul Trucker was the best bike I had ever owned up until that point. It could carry the touring loads I needed, and do it comfortably. And I was happy riding it for several years. Up until the summer of 2011. That was the summer of the Big Tour, a four-plus month adventure across the continent. Oh sure, the LHT never let me down, but I got tired of all the crap I was carrying. Now a cross-continent, open-ended trip necessitated the carrying of more crap that I wanted, and it wasn't like the loads on the bike made mountain climbing that much of a chore than it already was. But a lot of stuff is just a lot of stuff, more things I had to worry about, more things to schlep from bike to hostel or from bike to bus, etc. I was dreaming of the next tour, one with much less crap, and maybe one with a different bike, one that would be more suited for lighter weight touring.
But returning home, one thing kept me from the dream of a new bike: I was broke. So I did the next best thing: I invested some money into the LHT, adding some nice bling, and setting it up for the lighter weight touring that I wanted to do. And this served me happily throughout the spring and summer of 2012. It was my go-to bike for anything that wouldn't be as practical on a three-speed.

Then other derailleured bikes came into the picture. First, the Crested Butte in the fall of 2012, then not much later, the XO-3 in spring of 2013. Now I didn't have one go-to derailleured bike, I had choices. And I found myself choosing the LHT  less and less. Yes, it was my go-to for anything revolving touring and camping and anything requiring long-distances since the other two bikes hadn't proven themselves (yet) in that department. But both the Crested Butte and the XO-3 were more fun to ride. And I couldn't be satisfied with riding the LHT, even when I was riding it! I'd do a camping overnight, like to Willamette Mission in October. The whole time I'd be thinking about a different bike than the one I was on, wondering "How would the XO-3 handle this? What about a custom build?"
Then two things happened: I did the San Juans mini-tour with a very minimal setup. This meant I didn't need to carry a lot on a tour, so the XO-3 could be capable of the same load. And then I did an overnight to Ainsworth with the Crested Butte and realized, yes, this is a camping bike.

So I had been thinking about selling the Long Haul Trucker for a bit, but maybe in the spring, when it would be a better time to do so. But my move into the new house necessitated more money than I currently had, so I ended up selling it a few weeks ago, and at a loss. Sometimes you have to do things like that.

And I think I made the right move. I held onto the LHT because I didn't know if the two other bikes were "ready for prime time", so to speak. But if I needed to replicate a beast of burden, the Crested Butte would be even better than the LHT in some regards, with its beefy tubing and long chainstays. And I knew the XO-3 could handle moderate loads, so when I figured out how to pare down the kit enough that I didn't need panniers and such, I figured I could make the XO-3 work for touring purposes. Hopefully this decision won't bite me in the ass!

It wasn't the easiest decision, to be sure. As I said above, it was my first "really nice" bike and I had loads of adventures on it. So there's lots of memories tied to it. But I can't get hung up over that. The Long Haul Trucker was a nice bike, but it's by no means rare. I could get another one if I really wanted to. But honestly, I came up against the LHT's limitations: great for hauling stuff, but not a sprightly bike by any means. This was fine when I wanted a pack mule. But my touring style has changed, and I want something different. And now the Long Haul Trucker has found a new loving home

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