Mar 19 2011
If I’m to judge from the forum posts I see, many new owners of stock (“complete”) Long Haul Truckers are puzzled by some of the bike’s features. It isn’t hard to understand why. The LHT is a purpose-built touring frame. As such, its design incorporates elements seldom found on either road bikes or mountain bikes: the extra-long chainstays, for example, and the third set of water-bottle cage bosses, not to mention the seatstay rack bosses and dropout eyelets for both fenders and racks. Moreover, the LHT’s frame is made from welded steel. If all your experience to date has been on a carbon-fiber road-racing machine or an aluminum-frame comfort bike, you may find some things about your new LHT a little hard to fathom. That’s why I decided I’d put a brief guide online. Think of it as an outline course in the anatomy of a Long Haul Trucker. (NB The model in the following pictures is my own LHT. It’s several years old now, and Surly has tweaked the frame and component set a bit in the interim. But the family resemblance is still good enough for our purposes. To get a closer look at anything, just right click the image.)
Since I’ve already mentioned water-bottle cage bosses, let’s check them out. There are three sets in all: one on the seat tube and two on the down tube. The second down-tube set is the one which may come as surprise. It’s located on the underside:
And it’s a good place for a reserve water bottle or a bottle of stove fuel. But be warned: If your frame is on the small side, space here will be limited. You won’t have room for anything much bigger than the smallest water bottle (20 fluid ounces or 0.6 liter).
Now, while we’re crawling around inspecting the underside of the down tube, let’s take a look at the bottom-bracket shell. It, too, has a story to tell:
Several stories, in fact. This is where you’ll find your bike’s serial number. If you haven’t done so already, write it down now. You’ll need it if you have a warranty claim or if your bike is stolen. On a happier note, the bottom bracket shell also plays host to the cable guide that routes your derailleur cables where they need to go. It’s a wear item, made of plastic and held on with a screw. Inspect it when you clean your bike and make sure the screw hasn’t loosened. You’ll also want to buy a spare guide to replace the original when the cables finally saw through the plastic. (Don’t worry. Replacement guides are cheap. But you won’t find them in Walmart.)
OK. Before we stand up we might as well take a closer look at the right rear dropout. It sports two threaded eyelets in addition to the derailleur hanger, and so does its counterpart on the other side. (Though the left dropout doesn’t boast a hanger, of course.)
The rearmost eyelets accommodate a fender stay, while the other set supports a rear rack. These eyelets are threaded, by the way, and the threads on new bikes (and new frames) are sometimes choked with stray powdercoat. The remedy? Just thread a screw into the eyelet and remove it a couple of times before mounting any hardware. That should do the trick, and most times it will, though especially stubborn cases may need a properly sized tap to do the job.
Now here’s an “insider’s” view of the same dropout:
You can see the bits of old inner tube I used as washers. They serve two purposes, protecting the finish of the dropout and eliminating squeaks. They also do a pretty good job as lock washers, but I still check the security of the screws every month or so—more often when I ride on rough roads.
Next, a look at the inside of the left dropout:
The holes are probably intended to vent superheated gases while the frame is being welded. They allow air to circulate through the frame, too, reducing condensation, though of course they also permit rain water (and road salt) to enter the frame tubes. I don’t worry much about this—I use another bike from most of my winter riding, and I figure the LHT will outlast me—but if you aren’t as sanguine as I am, you can buy aerosol sprays that are said to protect frame tubes from internal corrosion. Do these sprays work as advertised? I’ve no idea.
Let’s move on now—to the front fork:
Like the dropouts, the fork ends sport two sets of threaded eyelets. I used the rearmost set to mount the front fender stays, reserving the second set for my front rack. There are braze-on bosses set into the fork blades, too:
These can be used to mount lowrider racks or lights.
Continuing up the fork, we come at last to the fork crown. An unthreaded hole passes right through the crown. It’s perfectly placed to accommodate the bolt securing the fender’s hanger, though the hanger itself can’t be seen in this picture. It’s on the other side of the fork crown.
You can see it in the picture below. As the photo shows, the same long bolt that supports the fender hanger also anchors my front rack. I chose to mount an old-fashioned front rack rather than a lowrider. Many (most?) touring cyclists favor lowriders, citing stability concerns. I’m not among them. Though I’ve carried as much as 30 pounds on my front rack, the load has given me no trouble. Except on the hills, of course. And a lowrider wouldn’t be any help there, would it?
Now that we’re back on our feet—I hope your knees aren’t as sore as mine are!—let’s check out the so-called rear triangle, that part of the frame formed by the seat tube, seatstays, and chainstays. The rather grainy photo below shows my new LHT right out of the box, before I mounted the rear rack and fenders:
Some stock LHTs ship with Surly’s black Constrictor seatpost clamp, like the one in the picture. Others have a shiny stainless steel clamp, embossed with a Surly crest, no less. Is the difference only skin deep, or is it more substantive? Well, the Constrictor does seem to be a bit beefier, but Farwell—whose LHT came adorned with the shiny silver clamp for some reason—hasn’t had any problems, and while it’s true that he’s no Clydesdale, he grinds through a fair number of miles on stony, unpaved roads. So it’s a good bet that both clamps are up to the job.
Moving away from the seatpost now, you’ll notice a braze-on boss on the brake bridge (see photo above). It’s perfectly placed to secure the hanger for a rear fender. (There’s another braze-on fitting on the chainstay bridge. Use it to anchor the fender’s leading edge.) You’ll also find brake bosses halfway down the seatstays. The stock Surly comes with cantilever brakes. Some cyclists find them to be less than satisfactory, and if you decide cantis aren’t for you, the LHT will accept linear brakes (aka direct-pull cantilevers or V-brakes), though you’ll have to swap out the brake levers as well.
We’re not done with the seatstays yet. There are two threaded bosses for a rear rack located some distance above the brake bosses, one to a seatstay. Rack supports can be fastened on either side of each boss, affording a maximum of flexibility in mounting. You’ll appreciate this. Mounting racks is often a fussy business, and any help is appreciated.
Here’s a rear view of the rack bosses:
I took the shot while fitting a Planet Bike K.O.K.O. rear rack. The screws securing the rack’s curving rails are still loose, but you can see the shape and size of the braze-ons. You also get a good look at the brake-cable hanger.
Now let’s move forward from the rear triangle to the down tube, where you’ll find another pair of braze-on bosses:
These bosses support cable stops for the derailleur cables, and each stop is fitted with an adjuster, making it possible to tweak the adjustment without the nuisance of loosening the cable clamp bolts. The bosses could also be used if you wanted to replace the stock bar-end shifters with old-style down tube levers. You’d lose something in convenience by so doing, of course, but you’d gain in simplicity.
There’s one final fitting worth mentioning: the two spare spokes, screwed into braze-on bosses on the left chainstay:
It’s a nice enough touch, though the braze-ons can get in the way if you want to mount a kickstand on the chainstay. (The lack of a kickstand plate on the LHT is its most glaring deficiency.) I know of at least one LHT owner who’s ground them off as a result. The spare spokes can also loosen as you bump along, and you really don’t want to have one come adrift and foul your rear wheel. That’s why I stuck a length of black plastic cable wrap over them. (I use another piece to protect the right-hand chainstay from chain slap.) And I periodically tighten the nipples on the spare spokes, too, just to be on the safe side.
That’s it. You now have a working knowledge of the things that make the stock LHT special, right out of the box. Of course, you’ll have plenty of ideas of your own to make a good thing even better. Luckily, customizing your bike is easy. But don’t spend all your free time in the shop. You’ll want to go riding now and then, won’t you? Sure you will!