Surly Long Haul Trucker Commuter Bike…

My LHT revamped as a commuter bike...

My LHT revamped as a commuter bike…

For my ~50km round trip commute to Sidney the most appropriate bike in my fleet is my Surly Long Haul Trucker. So I swapped in a dynohub + lights and made a few more changes to dial it in for this mission. The LHT is a versatile bike that can carry lots of stuff in any weather day or night. It’s overbuilt for lightly loaded riding so it doesn’t respond efficiently to hard efforts. Instead it encourages a steady speed in the low to mid 20kph range. I can sprint over 30kph, but the LHT does not get in sync with my pedal stroke and I get quickly tired.

B&M light with Shimano dynohub...

B&M light with Shimano dynohub…

I really hate charging batteries for my bike lights and have been let down many times by batteries that were supposed to be charged, but ran out earlier than expected. Happily I had a 26″ wheel with a Shimano dynohub available as well as a B&M IQ Cyo Plus light. It’s nice having lights 24/7 without having to give them a second thought.

B&M light mounted to an OMM Sherpa front rack...

B&M light mounted to an OMM Sherpa front rack…

These B&M lights have a vertical cutoff so light goes where it’s needed – down on the road and not into the eyes of oncoming riders, pedestrians or vehicle operators. I mounted it inside my front rack so I can still attach panniers and so it’s protected when I lock it up at a bike rack. I leave the light on 24/7 as there is virtually no difference in drag at the hub either way.

Schwalbe Big Apple tires, Velo Orange fenders and Buddy Flap mudflaps...

Schwalbe Big Apple tires, Velo Orange fenders and Buddy Flap mud flaps…

Fenders and large volume balloon tires make riding in the wet on dirt and gravel trails comfortable and both my LHT and I stay clean.

1 x 9 drivetrain and flat pedals...

1 x 9 drivetrain and flat pedals…

This is my current drivetrain setup. 1 x 9  with a 36T chain ring x 34T cog low gear. I left the front derailleur on the bike for now. It will get removed during the next major overhaul. I can’t see needing higher or lower gears.

I started riding with flat pedals for their versatility and comfort. I have since switched to clipless pedals and stiff bike shoes. Interestingly I have set all my commuter PRs on the flat pedals.

OMM Sherpa rear rack, Brooks B17 saddle...

OMM Sherpa rear rack, Brooks B17 saddle…

OMM racks are strong and light. My Brooks B17 saddle is comfortable without any padded bike shorts.

Dual rear lights, VO fender and long Buddy Flap...

Dual rear lights, VO fender and long Buddy Flap…

Metal full coverage fenders work very well with long mudflaps that nearly reach the ground. This keeps my bike and I clean – not to mention other riders who may be behind me on wet days. I have dual rear lights mounted for redundancy. I use the top Radbot 1000 on slow flash most of the time because it uses little power and the flash mode is not irritating to other folks I run into. The Superflash on the bottom is a backup and for particularly dark or foggy rides. Because it has an annoyingly fast and bright flash mode I use it set to steady in consideration for other people who have to look at it. By using two lights I can just let them run out of power and recharge them at my connivence since it’s highly unlikely both will die at the same time.

Retroshift brake levers with shifters mounted...

Retroshift brake levers with shifters mounted…

These Retroshift brake levers with shifters are nice since I usually ride on the hoods or just behind them. Living in the PNWet both my GF and I use rim brakes on our bikes for year round riding. They stop us just fine and we aren’t wearing through rims.

Cateye computer...

Cateye computer…

I generally don’t care about ride data, but since I am using the LHT to get to work this keeps me on track for an on time arrival. It also lets me keep track of my mileage so I can plan effective preventative maintenance.

Velo Orange bell...

Velo Orange bell…

This bell is nice because it doesn’t use up any handlebar real estate and it has a nice sound. As long as I ring it early enough it lets other folks know I am coming without startling them.

Idiot Blaster 4000...

Idiot Blaster 4000…

Although this looks like a bike light it is in fact a visual communication device. If someone is coming at me with one of those highly irritating powerful fast strobe lights I activate the Idiot Blaster 4000 to give them some negative feedback. This is much easier than trying to explain my displeasure as we pass at 50kph relative to each other.

Most of the time I leave this device off. It’s loosely mounted so it can be swivelled up or down depending on how much emphasis the situation requires.

Clippless pedals and Grand Bois tires...

My usual riding position just behind the hoods…

Lately I’ve been using some stiff soled bike shoes and Time ATAC clipless pedals. I use flat pedals on most of my bikes, but I already own these shoes and they fit easily into some goretex rain covers I also own. Since there is no walking on my commute the stiff soles and limited versatility of the pedals isn’t a problem. Conventional wisdom says clipless pedals allow you to put more power into the bike. At least for my commute all my best times have been achieved on flat pedals and street shoes.

I’m not sure if I will keep using these shoes and pedals for my commute. On one hand they work well for that purpose and having rain covers means my feet stay warmer and drier as we head into winter. On the other hand every time I go to use this bike for a non-commute ride in street shoes I either have to swap in flat pedals or deal with a crappy shoe to pedal interface. Since this bike gets used for more than commuting that’s a hassle.

I will definitely switch back to flat pedals in the spring once the weather improves.

Fender gap...

Fender gap…

The Schwalbe Big Apples in 2.15″ width [~55mm] are comfy and deal well with mixed surfaces like pavement, wooden bridge decks, gravel and dirt. However, they are not a very supple tire so they don’t roll as fast as I would like. I swapped in some 26 x 1.75″ tires from Compass Bicycle. These feature the same supple construction as the Grand Bois Hetres and Cypres models I’ve used and loved. I immediately saw a 12% speed increase on my commute and set a new PR with these tires. At 1.75″ wide [~44mm] they offer a comfortable and fast ride. Not quite as comfortable as the much bigger volume  of the Big Apples, but pretty decent. The only downsides are that my LHT handles better with a larger tire and the fender gap is now off. I’m hoping that they’ll make a 2″ width tire.

Ortlieb pannier...

I ride on the hoods when I have to shift/brake or I’m in the mood to sprint…

I’m using one or two of my Ortlieb front panniers on the rear of my LHT. I don’t need the capacity of full sized rear touring panniers. Since they are waterproof I don’t have to worry that my laptop will get wet on the commute.

19 thoughts on “Surly Long Haul Trucker Commuter Bike…

  1. Very similar to my LHT, which I commute on, at least until I get my velomobile in the spring. It may be slow to accelerate, but it’s comfortable for the long haul.

    • A velomobile? Nice. Which one are you getting?

      I could be just as comfortable on a much faster bike as I can replicate the same contact point positions on a frame that isn’t as stiff and overbuilt for my commute. The contract that has me commuting isn’t long term enough to make a change to a more optimized commuter worthwhile.

  2. Looks like a good commuter set-up for sure!

    Question: Which Shimano hub do you have? I am thinking about giving my Tikit a similar set-up and I know there are some newer shimano offerings. I’m wondering if the higher RPM’s on the 16″ wheels will make that big of a difference. Not a deal breaker if I have a bit more resistance, but would appreciate your thoughts on it.

    Thanks,

    Ty

  3. The specific dyno hub on my LHT is a DH-3D71 I used a similar Shimano dynohub in a 20″ wheel for my rando recumbent as well as my Bike Friday NWT. There were no issues with excessive drag due to the smaller wheel.

  4. Nice write-up. I’m a big fan of Retroshift. Couple of questions about lighting…

    Your dynamo light is mounted to the right side of the wheel. Is your strategy to put more light on the edge of the road? I’ve seen lights both to the left and right of the wheel, and I’m not sure how people settle on one side or the other. Is it personal preference? Or is the right side, well, the right side?

    • @16″WOP – the dynohub power cable comes out on the right side which is why I placed my light there for easier wiring. I’ve put the light on either side of the wheel. I do’t think a few inches either way matters much.

      • Hadn’t thought about that. And I have a hub with the wires on the right myself. (My light mount is centered on the fork crown, but because I haven’t straightened the actual light, the beam goes off to the right. Have to revisit the to-do list.)

  5. Vik,

    I also commute on an Black LHT. with a Brooks B17. If your pannier is heavy, make sure switch out with the other one once in a while. My B17 was a bit lopsided as a result of riding one year with out changing up. I switched the pannier and the B17 is slowly centering back.

    –Michael

    • I ride with small front panniers on the rear. If I have more than lunch and couple items I use two panniers to balance the load. If I was using a proper rear pannier I’d probably always be using just one.

  6. Vik,
    I have a black LHT , 54cm , 26″ with VO fenders as well. Looks quite similar. I do not have the dynohub setup though. I have the stock alex rims and a hub Shimano DH3N72 but I am unable to calculate the spokes size yet. How did you calculate yours? Spoke calculators on the net are simply beyond me
    thanks
    Mahesh

  7. I think you’ve nailed the commuter bike setup. I’ve been looking into a B&M dynamo bike light setup. You might want to look into the Toplight from B&M for the rear. It will run off of most dynamo set ups so you don’t have to recharge a rear light. I’m building a Disc Trucker and blogging the process. Check it out at thechainskip.blogspot.com

    • @Eman – I’m not a fan of dyno rear lights. I figure with dual battery lights I rarely have to worry about recharging them and I don’t have to get a delicate wire from the front hub to the rear light. Good luck with the D-Trucker build. I’ll pop in anc check on your progress in a few weeks.

      =)

      • I have a rear dynao light nd I run two PDW 1 watt lights on the chain stays. If I forget to turn on the extra tail lights or the batteries run down, I have confidence that my tail light is still working. I have the Toplight Plus. The standlight no longer functions, but the light works fine. In addition it has a very large reflector, which car light shine back from.

  8. Wanted to say you might consider dual sided pedals. I have some that are clipless on one side and flat on the other. Always ready, no matter the shoes.

    • @Justin – I’m not spending any $$ on clipless pedals. If I am going to buy new pedals they’d be flats.

      I’ve been using some clipless pedals I already own simply because they are paid for and I might as well wear them out if I can.

      There is no advantage to clipless and many downsides that they don’t bear thinking about going forward.

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