This is the first touring bike I ever bought. It started life as a Surly Long Haul Trucker, but these days this custom touring bike is barely a semblance of the bike it once was.
Not only has it travelled well over 100,000km, but it’s been built with:
– Drop bars, butterfly bars, flat bars, riser bars and these alt bars
– Downtube shifters, barend shifters, MTB shifters and grip shifters
– Continental Gatorskin, Schwalbe Marathon Plus, XR, Extreme, Racer, Supreme, Mondial and Almotion tyres
– 10-speed road groupset, 10-speed MTB groupset and a Rohloff 14-speed internally geared hub
– Standard chains as well as Gates Centertrack Belt Drive and CDC
– Various Rohloff shifter locations with drop bars
– Velocity and Mavic touring rims
– B&M and Supernova dynamo lights
– Brooks, WTB and Giant saddles
– Pedal Power Plus and Cinq USB charging systems
– Cantilever brakes and v-brakes
– Planet Bike and SKS fenders
– Various clip-in and flat pedals
Basically, I’ve been tinkering with the specification since day dot.
After using the Rohloff hub for a number of years, I decided to take my bike to a local frame builder to get the frame modified to suit the hub. Through this process, the builder cut off the old dropouts, installed some Rohloff sliding dropouts, fitted some Rohloff cable guides and inserted a split in the seat stay so that I could try Gates Carbon Drive. I’ve been really happy with this combination over the last seven years.
I’ve recently switched from drop bars to Velo Orange Crazy Bars. What was really important to me was the ‘hood’ position from my drop bar. That’s where I like my hands to sit most, and this handlebar replicates it perfectly. I’m not 100% sure if I will use these handlebars in the long-term, but I’m really enjoying all the new positions at the moment. We’ll see over the next few tours.
Another thing that I am really liking is how easy it is to change my brake cables with standard v-brake levers (as opposed to road levers). I also find that these brakes offer much less cable friction than my outgoing road brake levers.
What Would I Change If I Built A Custom Touring Bike In 2017?
Having played around with so many setups, most of the parts that you see on the bike are as good as it gets for touring. After all, this bike has been refined over a really long time to suit my personal preferences.
I would definitely use disc brakes with my next frame. They are much more powerful, they work better in the wet, the pads last longer and I found them to be extremely reliable on my Co-Motion tandem on a two-year bike tour.
Since riding a handful of modern touring bikes, I’d also prefer a frame that is more laterally stiff. Frames with larger diameter / thicker gauge steel tubing will reduce the slight twist I find when I’ve got a heavy front and rear load. I may even try a nice triple-butted aluminium touring frame.
But otherwise, I like the geometry and fit of my custom touring bike.
Gates have a new belt system out called the Centertrack CDX:EXP and I’d love to give this a go on my next touring bike, along with a Pinion 18-speed gearbox. I’m also keen to try out some Velo Orange Mojave or Widefoot Litercage bidon cages with Nalgene or Kleen Kanteen bottles.
My Custom Touring Bike Specification
Frame: Modified 62cm Surly Long Haul Trucker
Fork: Surly Long Haul Trucker
Headset: Hope 1 1/8″
Stem: Thomson Elite 120mm
Handlebars: Velo Orange Casey’s Crazy Bar
Grips: ESI Silicone and Fizik Bartape
Seatpost: Thomson Elite 27.2mm
Brake Levers: Avid SD5
Brakes: Shimano XT
Fenders: SKS Chromoplastic P50
Charger: Tout Terrain The Plug III
Lights: Supernova E3 Pro Dynamo (not in photo)
Bidon Cages: BBB Fuel Tank XL
Phone Mount: Quadlock
Weight: 14kg or 30lbs