Bikes

Phil’s Long Haul Trucker Custom Build

I sought advice of those with experience when it came to my touring bike. I find one of the best methods of choosing a bike is to first decide how you would like it described, I had two words which stuck in my mind these were ‘strong’ and ‘simple’. There are many useful sites out there to get you started when it comes to choosing a bike, I took advantage of my Uncles knowledge as he had recently completed a tour of Europe.

LHT

From all my research one bike stood out more than any other, the Surly Long Haul Trucker is synonymous with cycle touring. This would be the backbone of my tourer, the complete bike is affordable (£1,050/$1,600) for any budding cycle tourist who would like to buy a bike ready to go, I would highly recommend the 26″ model. The logic behind going for a 26″ version rather than a 700c, is that 26″ is available throughout the world whereas 700c is quite a western development. Another fantastic feature of the LHT is the bar end shifters, they have a small pin which you can pull and rotate to change the shifter from indexed back to friction. Friction gearing is where, rather than clicking between gears, the shifter moves freely and relies on you to find the sweet  spot. This can be an absolute life saver if you are in a remote location, you lose your indexing, and you don’t have the time/knowledge/tools to re index your gears. The frame is steel, which means even if something drastic happens to your bike it can be welded back together, the actual grade is 4130 Chromoly. The Long Haul Trucker has a disc brake version available for those that want a bit more stopping power.
I had decided to go for a custom build, the key here is to work out the most cost effective method of building the bike. In some (rare) cases it’s cheaper and more convenient to buy the complete bike and change components as and when needed, more often than not it’s better to find a good bike shop to do the build for you. Bike maintenance and changing components is not something that I feel incapable of doing, in this instance though the blend of parts was too much for me. Fortunately my uncle also works at a bike shop, very convenient, and the guys at Banbury Cycles know their stuff when it comes to touring. I arranged a consultation with them to get the specification together and this is what we came up with:

Frame & Fork: Surly Long Haul Trucker 58cm Black
Headset: FSA
Stem: Answer Rove AM Stem
Handlebars: Crank Brothers Iodine 2 AM
Grips: Ergo GP3
Brakes: Avid
Shifters: Sunrace Thumbies
Saddle: Brookes B-17
Wheels: 36H Handbuilt (Shimano XT Hubs, Halo Rims)
Tyres: Schwalbe Marathon Plus
Bottom Bracket: Shimano UN55 Square Tapered
Crankset: Shimano MTB (22/32/42)
Pedals: Wellgo Flat Pedal
Chain: 9 Speed KMC
Front Mech: Shimano Deore
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore
Cassette: Shimano 9 Speed (11-32)
Cable Stops: Shimano Chrome
Mudguards: Black

To me this specification shouted simplicity, reliability, and strength, another important aspect to consider when building a tourer is how easy will it be to replace parts if something should fail in a less developed country. I feel confident I could cannibalise a rusty mountain bike to keep my tourer running to the next bike shop. The finished product from Banbury Cycles was better than I had expected and I left the shop feeling like a small child who has just got his first bike.

Ellie’s Oxford Bike Works Expedition

My decision for a bike started with some investigation into what other people were riding, a browse through lists, you know the ‘top 10 touring bike’ style ones, a look into what was available, best prices etc. The culmination of this was an Excel spreadsheet comparing the various merits of off the peg bikes. However, nothing managed to tick all the boxes and frankly I wasn’t keen on the idea of ordering a bike without having tested it or even seen it. Whilst having a browse around on Tom’s Bike Trip I came across this, Tom, seen as a bit of a guru on all things cycle touring had designed an Expedition bike, capable of just the sort of trip we were planning, and the guy who was making the bikes, just 30 minutes up the A34. Seemed worth a look. So Phil and I went along, not finding the place first time round, assuming it was one of the industrial units, we came to a lovely house and a lovely office/workshop just to the side of it, as you peer through the gate more and more bikes become clear to see.

Oxford Bike Works Touring Bike

I cannot sing Richard’s praises highly enough. He is a very down to earth and all round nice chap, full of advice and answers to any question and I honestly believe he would not sell you anything you don’t need or want. After a couple of meetings, consisting of me quizzing him on every detail and option and him duly giving answers to all of them, and bike tests, with me enjoying the bikes more and more I decided to order my own Oxford Bike Works Expedition Bike. The frame is manufactured in the same factory as the Surly Long Haul Trucker (well tested across the globe), made of Reynolds 525, strong material, it is similar to the LHT in design, with one bonus, a mounting point between the chainstays, this allows for a kickstand to be added. Useful for keeping your bike off the ground, and also, if you choose the twin leg option, for doing maintenance work as it lifts your rear wheel off the ground. The standard specification has been picked with the input of Tom Allen, who knows a thing or two about touring. However, a definite bonus to my mind, you can adjust the specification exactly how you want. Want different gearing? done. Would love it in a different colour? done. Just know that you don’t want to spend more than x? done. Richard is happy to help you choose your spec or have you say exactly what you want the bike to be. I went back and forth with various options, with Richard obligingly offering help and quotes, but basically came full circle and decided that the standard specification is spot on for a world tour and everything has already been well thought through, down to the use of a headtube sticker rather than a badge to make the bike less conspicuous.

The only change I made was to opt for Marathon Mondials, rather than Marathon Plus tyres, simply because at least for now I will be on tarmac most of the time so don’t need the extra toughness (and weight) of the Plus tyres. So here is the specification in it’s entirety:

Frame: Oxford Bike Works 26” cromoly touring/expedition frame (Reynolds 525)
Forks: Oxford Bike Works cromoly touring forks
Colour: Deep red (also available in baby blue or custom)
Headset: Chris King NoThreadSet 1 1/8”, black
Rear Mech: Shimano Deore RD-M591, top normal, long cage, black
Front Mech: Shimano Deore FD-M590, dual pull, low clamp, black
Cassette: Shimano CS-HG41-8ao, 11-34T, 8-speed
Shifter Levers: Shimano Ultegra SL-BS64, friction front, 8sp indexed/friction rear
Shifter Mounts: Oxford Bike Works custom-assembled shifter mounts
Chainset: Shimano FC-M361, 165-175mm, 22-32-44T
Middle Chainring: Middleburn Hardcoat 32T (CR-104-90-32)
Bottom Bracket: Shimano UN55, 68mm, English thread
Chain: Wippermann Connex 808 8-speed
Rims: Rigida Sputnik 26” (559), 36H, silver, Schrader valve
Front Hub: Shimano Deore XT HB-T780-S, 36H, silver
Rear Freehub: Shimano Deore XT FH-T780-S, 36H, silver
Spokes: Sapim Race double butted (front, rear non-driveside), Sapim Strong PG (rear driveside)
Rim Tape: Velox 19mm cloth
Skewers: Allen key non-QR
Tyres: Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 26×2.0”
Innertubes: Schwalbe AV12, 26”, Schrader valve
Brake Levers: Shimano Alivio BL-T4000, silver
Brake Calipers: Shimano Deore BR-T610-L, black
Brake Shoes: Shimano S70C with cartridge shoe inserts (re-order code Y-8A2 98030)
Pedals: M:Part flats
Saddle: Fitted my already owned Brooks B17
Seatpost: Ergotec
Handlebars: Ergotec 58cm
Stem: Deda 110mm
Grips: Ergon GP1
Bar-Ends: Oxford Bike Works rubberised anatomical bar-ends
Rear Carrier Rack: Tubus Cargo (Classic)
Front Lowrider: Tubus Tara
Mudguards: Axiom Rainrunner LX Reflex, 26×1.5-2.2”, with rubber mudflaps
Kickstand: Pletscher twin
Extras: Marine-grade stainless steel bolt replacements, Pletscher centre kickstand, System EX steerer-tube bell, spares package

All in all this bike is strong, reliable, durable and fixable in most parts of the world. Ideal for a big trip. I was extremely happy with the service at Oxford Bike Works and would happily recommend it. The spares bundle and aftercare service, such as the comfort guarantee, giving you a year to swap out parts if you are not comfortable are great additions to a great bike.

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