Well, it’s done. The Bike is spec’d up and ready to go and currently being built at Richardsons cycle shop in Leigh on Sea, Essex. It’s a Surly Long Haul Trucker in Smog silver with a 56 inch frame and 700c wheels.
Choosing a touring bike that is going to be your travelling companion for nearly three months is a tricky decision, particularly if you’ve never ridden one before. In the end all you can do is read as many reviews, articles and blogs as possible and then mix this with the best advice you can find. Richardsons have built-up several LHT’s and staff were full of stories of bikes being ridden across China, India and Australia. All the reports back had been really positive.
It’s always tempting to buy a bike on-line and I could have bought an LHT already built for around £1,000. But having gone down the on-line route before with Trek, it really is a false economy. Yes buying a bike from your local cycle shop will probably be more expensive (although not always so) but the advice and support you will get will be invaluable and will probably save hundreds in the long-run. Buying from specialists with experience means you get the right bike first time – and they’ll usually throw in a free service after you’ve done the first few hundred miles – something you’d never get over the web.
Without going to Richardsons I’ve have ended up with a frame which was far too big. I’m just short of six foot tall (although my legs are on the short side) and my everyday bike is a 2007 Trek 1200SL with a 58cm frame. But the geometry of Surly frames means they tend to come up big and Martin at the shop convinced me a 56cm frame would be just fine.
The big choice when choosing a Surly is whether to go for 700c or 26″ wheels and you’ve got to make this right at the start because the frames are specific to each wheel size, not interchangeable. The advantage of the 26″ appears to be the wider availability of these wheels across the world and the greater clearances, particularly useful over rougher terrain. However for the TransAmerica which is mostly roads and spares availability not a problem, I opted for the 700c. But if I was heading to India it would have been the 26″.