Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Next Adventure Bike

About three and a half years ago, I wrote a piece on the Surly Long Haul Trucker titled The Ideal Adventure Bike.
The Surly Troll.  Image from the Surly website.
We'll, my wife Laura, and I have decided that long distance road touring really isn't our thing.  We'll ride road, but prefer it leads out to some dirt.  She prefers a mountain bike setup as well.  This means we could tour on our mountain bikes (Giant Anthem X), or outfit her LHT with front suspension, flat bars, V or disc brakes, and rapid-fire shifters.  Touring with our Anthems is possible, however, since we've built up the Anthems to race, and they are somewhat precious (not to mention fussy).  Rebuilding the LHT into a mountain bike will cost us more than the stock bike, and so we began the search for our next adventure bike.
Take a few moments to get your head round this mind-boggling slot dropout, and you’ll see how clever it is. I love a bike with versatility. The Troll can run derailleurs, a Rohloff Speedhub – a third bolt anchors the OEM2 plate in place - or slim down to singlespeed. The position of the disc brake tab allows a conventional rack to be teamed with Avid’s mechanical BB7s.  Image and caption © Cass Gilbert
The search lead us back to one of Surly's strong, low cost, steel frames: The Troll.  In short, the Troll is a 26" steel mountain bike that is disc and rack compatible.  But that's not why it's cool.  The Troll can take any brake setup - disc, V or cantis; it's clever dropout design can take a Rohloff, derailleur, or single speed; build it up rigid or front suspension; and fit up to 2.7" fat tires, or big wheels like 650b (or even 29er?).
Unleash the Troll. Take it across a continent… Image and Caption © Cass Gilbert
I've never ridden a Troll, so I set out to find out more information from others who have.

Troll vs. LHT
Cass Gilbert (whileoutriding.com) has allowed me to reprint some of his thoughts on the Troll:

'So which is best for what? If paved roads and good quality gravel tracks are your staple diet on tour, you’re probably better off with a Trucker. It’s built for the heaviest of loads and from what I’ve seen, has become to go-to bike for those tackling the Panamerican Highway. But if you hanker after more challenging trails, envisage battling through muck and mud, and ride singletrack on your days off before visiting the local museum, then Troll is where it’s at. The fact that it isn’t designed to handle as much cargo shouldn’t be an issue, as by default, those heading offroad tend to pare down their kitlist.'

Read the rest of Cass Gilbert's extensive review on the Troll here.

Joe Cruz, my bike guru from the original LHT Ideal Adventure Bike post, adds the following to the Troll vs. LHT discussion:

"Where there's a mix of asphalt and dirt roads with the occasional mountain bikey singletrack (but not weeks of it), I stand by everything I've ever thought about the LHT. In a different sense, it can do anything, too. If you told me I had 600k of asphalt to cover in three days, great, can do on LHT. If you said I then had to ride 40k of mountain bike trail, yeah, LHT can do that, too. When both of those are going to show up on a single tour, that's the bike I'd bring."

Conclusion
Both the LHT and Troll are valid choices, and the bike you choose will very much depend on the type of riding you want to do (dirt or tarmac), and how long you will be out for (will you need racks/panniers).

Oddly enough, what we've taken back from this discussion is that all we really need is just a hardtail mountain bike.  We don't need eyelets for a rack/pannier setup as we travel really light, and although steel is nice, we would rather have a lighter frame that we may also race with.  So we are now looking at getting a 29er aluminum hardtail, build it up with some rugged parts, strap on some bags (like the bags from Revelate Designs) and just go ride.

7 comments:

mynameiskoko said...

In case you need racks for your hardtail MTB (or Anthem), you might have heard about Freeload racks?



http://www.freeload.co.nz

Ken said...

I've heard of Old Man Mountain racks, but not the Freeload racks. Those look good. Thanks for the heads up!

Jenson said...

Hi, if so, could I strongly recommend the 650B Jamis Dragon (there's a Dragon 29er also)?

It's steel, yeah but it's also light enough to race with! Can try checking with Hup Leong in Chinatown, Singapore, to see if they have new stock.

Ken said...

Thanks Jensen. I did take a look at the 650b Jamis Dragon, but the sizing wasn't quite right. For both me and the wife. The Jamis Dragons have a long history and is a worthy consideration.

We've just ended a trip using our Anthem's for a hut-to-hut tour from Durango, Colorado to Moab, Utah. More to come on this blog soon...

mynameiskoko said...

An update - I got myself the freeload rack to put on my Banshee Viento hardtail. Tested it on a 200++km tour, I can say its works as advertised.

However the design has been sold to Thule Group in August.

Ken said...

Nice. Those look like good racks.

I tend to travel very light, and so to eliminate the weight of the rack, I've bought a few Revelate Design bags (Viscacha Seat Bag, Sweet Roll Handlebar bag, and Gas Tank). Combined with a small backpack, it's a minimum weight (although small capacity) setup for fast and light adventures!

mynameiskoko said...

Good choice!