R.I.P., LHT

The Surly Disc Trucker, up against the Wall of Science.

A moment of silence, please, for the Surly Long Haul Trucker, which rolled west in November. It was 16.

When I reviewed the Surly Disc Trucker for the July 2020 issue of Adventure Cyclist, product manager Amy Kippley told me the rim-brake LHT wasn’t going anywhere other than everywhere, just like always.

“Our Long Haul Trucker is the best,” she said. “We’re team #savetherimbrake all the way. People love to build that frame up and make it their own. There’s nothing quite like touring-tinkering.”

Maybe so. But there was nothing quite like 2020, either. And therefore never send to know for whom the [bike] bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Come the February 2021 issue of Adventure Cyclist, our very own Khal S. — himself a LHT owner — was reading the bike’s obituary, headlined “Requiem for a Two-Wheeled Dream.”

“It was a bike that could do nearly everything, and usually did. At any given time, you could close your eyes, toss an ice-cream sandwich into Adventure Cycling’s courtyard, and hit a Long Haul Trucker.”

Progress marches on, they say. But when it trucks, from Surly, it will do so with disc brakes.

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37 Responses to “R.I.P., LHT”

  1. JD Says:

    I’ve mentioned this before; but a couple of years ago two of my nephews did a yearlong, self-supported ride from northern Alaska to the southern tip of South America on Surly LHTs. Great bikes, great experiences, and a once-in-a-lifetime “epic saga”.

    Gotta admit, for me anyway, I’d prefer the disc brakes; but sad to see the rim-brake version fade away.

    Great articles P’OG and Khal!! Tip of the sombrero and a “rimshot” too! 🙂

  2. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Inevitable. And desirable, as long as it doesn’t come with Avid single piston brakes.

    “When you realize that everything changes, there is nothing you want to hold onto.” Tao te Ching

  3. khal spencer Says:

    I don’t blame a bike company for cutting its lines this past year. Its been downright weird. Plus, I can’t argue with disk brakes for braking power or the ability to not grind down rims. Heck, virtually anything rolling on the road these days whether car, motorcycle, or many newer bicycles, stops with disks.I still recall the years when I had drum brakes on my motorcycles and kept a St. Christopher medal and a rosary in my leathers in case I had to do an emergency stop.The red BMW K1100RS, my first modern motorcycle, had a pair of big Brembos up front and a single one in back and it stopped like one had hit a brick wall. Likewise with the Salsa LaCruz.

    Still, the visual and mechanical simplicity of rim brakes never escaped me and for the ancient but still serviceable racing bikes in my fleet, I cannot imagine them with disks hung on them. Then again, I cannot imagine myself ever racing again, either.

    RIP, LHT. And I guess I better go out to the garage today and reassure mine that it is still loved. Unlike the flashy new girls in the bike shops with those shiny objects bolted to their hubs.

    LHT in its new surroundings.

  4. carl duellman Says:

    i wonder why they wouldn’t make the frame capable of having rim brakes and disk brakes?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Voodoo did just that with the Nakisi. The bike for all seasons. Flat bar or drop, single-speed or geared, rim brake or disc brake.

      The rebuilt Nakisi

      Click here for a larger image.

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        My old C’Dale Super V and F400 were set up for both disc and rim. The early Disc Saga frames were set up for both as well. My first disc braked bikes were a Bike E RoadE and the Super V.

    • khal spencer Says:

      I wonder if it was simply cost cutting. It must take a few bucks more in time and material to weld on cantilever/V-brake posts fore and aft. In a year when everything was in short supply and where disks are seen as the future, its a little like asking for manual transmission in a car. I wonder what Surly’s split was selling frames vs. complete bikes all tricked out.

      I built my LHT up from a frameset as a hobby indulgence. But in an age when I suspect fewer people wrench their own bikes, I suspect the disks are just seen as a modern improvement, kinda like continuously variable transmissions. If I was headed down a five mile hill with a full load of panniers, I suspect disks would be the best option. Back to the car analogy, I think fewer and fewer of us want to row the gears and frankly, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the CVT in the Subarus. Between the CVT and direct injection, gas mileage is fantastic and the cars always seem to be in the right rpm range. We used to nurse 31-32 mpg on our 2009 Impreza with the old four speed automatic on our trips to Boulder. The ’17 got almost 40 on the last couple trips we took up there before The Bug hit.

  5. Shawn Says:

    I have disc* brakes just like I have a Facebook account and I’m one of Caroline Jones’s best friends. Something that might be quite nice but hasn’t happened. All my not-so-old-to-me bikes have rim brakes. It isn’t that I shun disc brakes, it’s just that I’m light on the brakes and have yet to wear out rims and can make a pair of pads last a long, long time. With the exception of the days of riding MTB’s on cantilever brakes and stock pads, and realizing that the brakes are not slowing you down on that steep downhill (A time I like to call “maximum pucker”), rim brakes have operated well for me. I also don’t like any brake contact to my wheels until I actuate them. On one of my bikes, I’ve modified the v-brakes with an additional return spring to insure no contact with minimal pad to rim distance. To my knowledge, most disc brakes lightly rub the wheel discs.

    The manual transmission comparison is apropos. The sportsman in me very much prefers the shifting of gears myself. Thus, psychologically I suppose the preference of rim brakes may be considered liberating and independent of persuasion. One who is not easily swayed by despot dogma or the moods of the public wind. An interesting study might be to see how many non-Trump voters ride exclusively on rim brakes versus the Trump voters on disc brakes. Of course an exception in this study would need to be that any old Sears Free Spirits or other similar dust gathering discount rim brake velocipedes tucked away in tin sheds and broken down barns are not included in the data set. Ok, so I am attempting to rationalize the use of rim brakes.

    *Or “Disk” for those of the Ultimate Frisbee persuasion.

    • Shawn Says:

      Hmmm? A quick internet check on the usage of disc vs. disk indicates those that use Disc are more likely are musicians or Frisbee enthusiasts (contrary to what I say above), and those that use Disk are more prone to the days of Floppy Disks. Now I see. Disc is for the progressive young set, and Disk is for those clinging to the past. Has anybody seen my Tang?

    • khal spencer Says:

      I can live with auto transmission in the car since I have to deal with the occasional stop and go traffic jam. That said, the day that motorcycle companies abandon manual transmissions will be the death of me. I was really thrilled to go from the 5 spd box on the K bike to the 6 speed box on the R1200RS. Seems to always be the right gear for the job.

    • Pat O’Brien Says:

      Pads rubbing on the discs is a basic design flaw with single piston designs like the Avid BB7 and the like. You have to adjust the fixed pad very close to the rotor for power and lever travel. Any little change in wheel position, common on skewer quick release wheels, or rotor warp causes the fixed pad to drag. A single piston disc brake works by the piston pad flexing the rotor into the fixed pad. So, the fixed pad is adjusted closer to the rotor than the piston pad. Dragging pads is not a problem with mechanical double piston bicycle disc brakes. On those, the pads are adjusted equally close to the rotor. Adjusting for pad wear is with a cable barrel adjuster just like for derailleur. I don’t know how single piston mechanical disc brakes work on wheels with through axles. Maybe rubbing isn’t as much of a problem with them. My favorite road and CX disc brake, mechanical or hydraulic, was the TRP Spyre. They made a mountain bike version of it, but I don’t know if they still do.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Shawn, we used to call cantis “speed modulators.” I still like ’em, though, especially the Paul’s Neo-Retro and Touring models, and with green SwissStop pads. I get pretty good modulation from that combination.

      My fave used to be the Dia-Compe 986. A classic. Still have one wheel’s worth, on the Voodoo Wazoo.

      I have one set of V-brakes, an ancient XT setup. Rivendell is supposed to have a V-brake in the works, and I’m looking forward to seeing it.

      • khal spencer Says:

        We have V brakes on the tandem and on the LHT. Work great on the Trucker. They are a bit iffy on the tandem with a lot more mass to slow down and to make matters worse, the Travel Agent adapters lessen the mechanical advantage. I would not advise heading down Hyde Park Road on the tandem with those brakes.

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        You guys make a really good case for disc brakes. Our friend’s new Co-motion tandem has through axles and hydraulic discs. Seems to me that is a really good combination for a tandem, especially in the mountainous Southwest.

        • khal spencer Says:

          Word. If my better half starts riding more once I finally (ahem) retire, I’m thinking of a new tandem. On mountainous roads, the gearing and the brakes on our Primera are far from optimal for a couple of overweight old coots. The gearing I can fix with a new compact crank system. The brakes? At minimum, I’d need a new front fork and wheel just to put a big disk on the front of the thing.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          This is why I hold onto the Soma Saga (disc-brake edition). It has the TRP Spyres and a dynamo headlight, both of which could come in handy if and when I ever get to tour again.

          The Co-Motion Divide Rohloff likewise has discs, but not Spyres. This is a situation that demands my attention, ’cause ain’t no way I’m getting rid of a Co-Motion Divide Rohloff.

  6. JD Says:

    One view on the future of bikes and cycling, from Joe Lindsey at Outside Online.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      José is a smart fella. I wouldn’t bet against him. That said, inertia is a powerful force, and I expect that when and if things get back to what passes for normal, a number of our new velo-brethren and sisthren will drift back to their La-Z-Boys and remotes, or wander off to some other, newer, shinier object (electric motorcycles, anyone?). The kinks in the supply lines will prove an issue as well.

      • SAO' Says:

        I’m not seeing the infrastructure changes on this side of the pond that they pulled off in Rome, Paris, etc. Denver shut down some streets in a few higher rent neighborhoods, but I don’t think they did anything permanent. Can’t think of anything significant in Boulder or Fort Collins.

        So, yeah, inertia.

        E-bikes might be the wild card. 200% growth, that’s a lot of $4000 machines laying around that might motivate folks to make a grocery run or two on two wheels instead of four. Either that, or lots of garages now have an extra place to hang extension cords.

    • khal spencer Says:

      Didn’t Joe used to write for BuyCycling?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Joe’s a contractor like me, but he really, really, really works at it. He writes for a ton of people.

      • khal spencer Says:

        I just read that article you linked. Good reading and Joe was one of the folks who wrote at BuyCycling who knew his shit.

      • SAO' Says:

        Joe was one of the first people to reply when I floated the idea of a Chef Willy Balmat cookbook. Back in the day, wasn’t odd for writers, especially freelancers, to sign off with their email address. And Joe had just done an interview with Willy, so I reached out.

        Joe gave me Willy’s cell phone number in Switzerland, plus a whole bunch of tips about getting published. Called Willy up, and he answered by saying, “Yeah, Joe said you would be calling …” Totally went out of his way to help out some knucklehead with a crazy idea.

        Was fun for a couple of months until the guys paying Willy’s salary caught wind of it. Too bad, their loss.

    • SAO' Says:

      Sales numbers are interesting. Transit is the #2 category? But it’s lumped in with fitness, which does not include road? So are touring bikes part of lifestyle?

      Gravel is the next big thing that’s not the really big thing, but that could be just jumping from squat to squat-and-a-half.

      I’m not going to pretend to be an economist or an industry insider. But if you’re talking about whether Americans are tweaking their way of life, and lifestyle bikes showed the least amount of growth …. that’s gotta mean something

      • khal spencer Says:

        What I am finding is the gravel bike is simply comfy. Its not quite as fast as the Cannondale Filling Looseners version I and II but easier to ride and more versatile and is good on pavement or dirt. If I really want to go fast, I’ll probably hop on the CAAD5 or Six Thirteen. Otherwise, I won’t.

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