After several cycling tours, even some multi day excursions with our bicycles, we always ended up talking and dreaming about a real long distance tour with the whole equipment.
We already had some hiking gadgets that could be used for such a tour (tent, sleeping bag etc), but a real touring bicycle was required. After I had sold my trekking bike, I started to look for a new touring bicycle. Generally, I had two options: buying a new one, or to build up a custom one meeting my requirements.
Buying a complete bicycle is in average cheaper than buying all of the components part by part and building up a custom one. However, the experience that you can gain during a custom assembly is unaffordable and such an experience is generally required on long tours, far away from home.
Searching for information on custom touring bicycle setup online, I came across the Bicycle Travel Forum, where many cycle touring experts share and exchange their knowledge. Martin Moschek is one of them. He posed an online survey containing 46 questions on the forum, by collecting the characteristics of “the” touring bicycle. The survey was very convincing to me, because very experienced touring cyclists participated. All of the results have been published in a extensive and nice presentation (Touring Bicycle Part I, Touring Bicycle Part II).
With respect to the mentioned evaluation, a touring bike consists of the parts listed below. My preferences are bold and underlined, whilst parts not mentioned in the survey, but still interesting for my own assembly, are put in [square brackets]:
- Size: 26″, 28″, 29″
- Material: Steel, Aluminium, Titan
- Fork: Fixed, Suspension
- Geometry: Trekking, MTB, Randonneur, Cross
- Rims manufacturers: Ryde/Rigida, Mavic, DTSwiss, Exal
- Tires manufacturers: Schwalbe, Continental
- Types: V-Brake (mechanical), V-Brake (hydraulic), Disc Brake (hydraulic), Disc Brake (mechanical)
- Manufacturer: Magura, Shimano, Avid
- Manufacturer: Brooks, Selle Royal, SQLab
- Seatpost: Fixed, Suspension
- Gearing system
- Types: Derailleur Gears, Hub Gear, Pinion
- Drive: Chain, Belt
- Rear hub: Shimano, DTSwiss, Chris King, White Industries
- Front hub: SON28, SON Deluxe, Shimano XT, [Shutter Precision]
- Bottom Bracket and Crankset
- Bottom Bracket: Square Taper, Hollowtech II
- Crankset manufacturer: Shimano, Truvativ, Sugino, Sram, FSA, Campagnolo
- Stem: Fixed, Adjustable, Suspension
- Headset: Chris King, FSA, [Acros]
- Handlebar forms: Flat with bar ends, Drop Bars, Multibar, Flat without bar ends
- Types: Dual Platform, Clip-less, Clip
- Types: Fixed, Clip-on
- Rear rack manufacturer: Tubus, Racktime
- Front rack manufacturer: Tubus
After a wide research about touring, many read blogs and forum entries from touring cyclists, I found myself looking for a 26″ steel frame that could be built up as a randonneur. A randonneur handlebar allows different cycling positions and gives variety on long distance tours.
On my short list I had the following bicycle frame manufacturer, who all have good reputation within the touring domain:
To make it clear and short: all the mentioned manufacturers provide great bicycles and frames. When contacting them, they are all very friendly and willing to answer all your questions. However, I decided to build up my very own Surly Long Haul Trucker. The reasons for my decision ware the following:
- Roadbike Feeling: I have a roadbike and I like it. Surly is manufactured for drop bars and many cyclists have confirmed its roadbike friendly frame geometry. Besides Surly, Thorn Sherpa also provides two different top tube lengths for their bicycles. Other frames can be used with drop bars as well.
- Price: Compared to the Surly frame, all other frames cost 200-300 Euros more in average. Special configuration on the frame, like the extension of the top tube, costs a bit more. A custom built frame would obviously be the best fit, but comes with an even bigger price-tag.
- Test drive: Generally it is difficult to test drive with the mentioned bicycles in the required size. On the Bicycle Travel Forum one of the participants offered me to test his Surly Long Haul Trucker. From the beginning, I liked the cycling position. It was the final peace leading to my decision.
In the following time, I searched for Surly LHT custom builds that I could find online in order to evaluate which parts I would buy. The assembly of Frank Bauer was very well documented, and I got many ideas for my Surly LHT set-up. Frank was also very helpful by answering my open questions. I defined my list of components and posted it for a check on the Bicycle Travel Forum. Receiving many suggestions and tips on which components I should consider to use or to change, in the end I came up with the following list:
|Surly Long Haul Trucker 26", 58cm, color: not so dark black (2014)
|Acros AH-03 EC34/28,6 – EC34/30 S.H.I.S.
|Kalloy Uno, 90mm, 7°, 25,4mm clamp
|Xtreme Alu Tri Spacer, 35mm, silver
|Nitto B-135 AA Randonneur, 450mm, 25,4mm clamp
|fi`zi:k Microtex Superlight
|Tektro RL520 Drop Bar
|Avid Single Digit 7 V-Brake
|Shimano Road Brake Cable Set with PTFE Inner Cable
|Brake Cable Adjuster
|Xtreme Pro Double Bolt Racing, 300mm, 27,2mm clamp
|Brooks B17 Standard
|Shimano BB-UN55 Square Taper, 122 mm
|Shimano Acera FC-M391 with trouser guard, 22-32-44, 175mm, 3x9
|Shimano XT RD-M772-SGS, 9 speed
|Shimano Deore XT FD-M770 Top Swing, 28,6mm clamp
|Bar End Shifter
|Shimano Dura Ace SL-SB77, 2-/3 speed front, 9 speed rear
|Jagwire Universal Sport Shift XL kit
|Shimano Alivio CS-HG400, 9 speed, 11-32
|Shutter Precision PV-8, 36 holes
|White Industries MI 5 Racer 36 holes
|Sapim Race 2.0/1.8/2.0
|Sapim Polyax Brass Nipples 2mm
|Ryde Rigida Sputnik
|Schwalbe 26" High Pressure
|Schwalbe Marathon Mondial Evo 50-559
|Schwalbe 26" AV13
|Tubus Logo Evo
|B&M Lumotec Lyt T Senso Plus
|B&M Toplight Line plus, 50mm hole spacing
|SKS Blumels, 60mm
|Mounty Special Billy, 25,4-26mm clamp
Finally, it was time to buy all of the required components. With respect to varying prices, I bought the components from different Online shops, like Bike24, Wiggle, Cycle-Basar, Bike-Components, Bike-Discount, Ebay, Meilenweit, Rose. For example, I bought the frame set from Bike-Components. The brakes, bar end lever set, and rear derailleur came from Wiggle. Most of the other components have been bought from Rose, because of a special discount campaign, 20% off on bicycle parts, during that time.
In the beginning, the installation of the bottom bracket, headset, and cutting the fork worried me. In my opinion, these are the most difficult and critical steps of an assembly, because they require special tools. Of course, I had the option to let it be done by Bike-Components or any other local bicycle repair shop for some money. However, one of my preferences was to assemble the bicycle completely by my own, or at least with someone helping me a bit by showing me how things are done.
The German Cyclist’s Association (ADFC) provides interesting bicycle workshops and open their repair shops during specific days for free. There, most importantly, you meet with experienced cyclists, who can help you. In my case, I met friendly helpers, who supported me with several tips and suggestions. In that way, I was able to do the installation of the bottom bracket, the headset, and cutting the fork on my own, but always with a companion.
Although I visited a wheel-building workshop at ADFC, I decided to let the wheels be built by someone else. I asked the following shops for a price with provided hubs:
The addressed shops differ in their price models when providing your own existing components, like the hubs in my case. After my evaluation, I decided to let my wheels be built at Meilenweit.
After I had the first draft version of my assembled bicycle, it was time to cut down the fork steerer tube. Since I didn’t have the required equipment to do that, I visited the ADFC repair shop again and did it there. I decided to let the fork be a bit longer, until I had found my preferred position.
The rest of the assembly was really straight forward. The Bike-Bastl-Wastl Workshop on YouTube helped me a lot to get a feel for how a bicycle is build up from scratch. Below, you can find some pictures of my assembled Surly LHT.
As a final remark I want to say that a self-assembly takes time and requires patience. That is in the end also money, when comparing to your own working hours. Furthermore, the self-assembly costs in average a little more than ready built bicycle off the rack. The experience, however, that one gathers is in my view, priceless.
I am currently trying different fork lengths with my adjustable stem. The Stem Comparison Tool helped me a lot to understand the differences. When I get my final fork length I will cut down the fork if required and replace the stem with a fixed one.
Update: After about 700km of cycling and testing different stem angles and spacer sizes I came to a spacer length of 35mm by leaving the stem at 0°. I left one 10mm spacer above the stem for backup.
Update: I replaced the adjustable stem with a fixed one (90mm, 7°). Spacer length as before (35mm).