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Old 05-23-13, 02:14 PM   #1
groovestew
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Surly Disc Trucker, 1000 Miles Later

After my beater bike was destroyed in a collision with a car, I took the opportunity to put together the Ultimate BF Commuter Approved (TM) commuter bike: Surly Disc Trucker frame, BB7 disc brakes, drop bars, Alfine IGH, 26" wheels, plenty of clearance for knobby, studded tires, fenders, rack, the whole works (pics and writeup here.)

One year and 1000 miles later...I hate it.

Actually, from the very first ride, I was pretty disappointed. My biggest gripe is the sheer weight of the thing. I've really come to love the feeling of a light bike, and this is anything but. I'm not even a weight-weenie (I don't own a carbon bike), but the Trucker feels like a tank. The weight doesn't make much difference on flat ground, but I feel it on the hills, and my overall perception is that the bike feels sluggish.

I've read many testimonials from people extolling the virtues of the LHT frameset, mainly how comfortable it is, but I don't find it any more comfortable than my other bikes. If anything, it seems to be worse on Edmonton's pothole-ridden streets. That said, I've never taken this bike on a really long ride - maybe over significant distances, I would notice a difference. (If an LHT really is a poor-man's Rivendell, I'm convinced that I would hate a Rivendell too.)

I'm also not thrilled with the IGH. There are some nice things about it - great for winter (not that I ride much in the winter), fast and reliable shifts, can shift while stopped - but the gear spacing is a bit awkward, and I often find myself wishing for gears in between the ones that are there. I don't seem to have the same problem with my derailleured bikes. I've had some annoying problems with skipping gears too. Of course, the IGH makes a significant contribution to the weight of the bike, another point against (for me).

The disc brakes are okay - great stopping power, and again, they work great in the winter. I wanted disc brakes because of problems I had with rim brakes in the winter, and they've delivered. They were a bit of pain to set up, and the pads need to be replaced already (I'm at the limits of the barrel adjusters), but I don't have any significant complaints.

I thought maybe having a rack would convert me to a pannier guy, but I found panniers just made a heavy bike heavier, and I found panniers horribly inconvenient to carry around off the bike, so I've reverted to a backpack. I probably look silly wearing a backpack with a perfectly good rack on the bike, but oh well.

Despite these complaints, I have no intention of getting rid of the bike. I have to admit that the bike is exactly what I intended it to be: a bike suitable for any riding conditions. But it will never be my go-to bike on a dry spring, summer, or fall day. Unfortunately, my fair-weather commuter bike (an old steel road bike) is temporarily out of commission, and I haven't had time to get it fixed. So I'm riding the Trucker every day, and liking it less all the time.

Still beats taking the bus.
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Old 05-23-13, 02:33 PM   #2
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that's too bad that you hate a bike you built up specifically the way you wanted.

is it possible that "hate" is overstating the matter? i only ask because, like you, if conditions allow, i'd rather commute on a lightweight speedy road bike with a backpack than with any other kinda of bicycle. i like going as fast as i can; it's exhilarating to me. at the same time, i also have a foul-weather hybrid with hydraulic disc brakes, IGH, and full fenders and, while i find it slower and less of a joy to ride than my nimble, speedy little road bike, i understand and respect its ability to handle certain weather conditions better than my road bike. my hybrid may not be as much fun to ride as my road bike, but it serves its purpose and i certainly don't hate it.

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Old 05-23-13, 03:08 PM   #3
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I get where you're coming from. I bought my Brompton to replace my old FlyBy. Wanted something that folded easier and was lighter. The Brompton met both of these requirements,but I'm not completely happy with the ride,the shifting is weird and gear spacing odd,and pulling the rear wheel is way more of a PITA then it should be.

Look at the bright side,how many rim brake pads would have needed to swap(and wait till you see how easy replacement is)? Would you also need a new chain/cassette if you were running a der setup? And I think you'll be glad you have the rack if you ever need to haul something heavy. Much better on the bike than on the back. As for carrying a pannier,maybe you'd like this. Saw one at REI awhile back,seems to be a good balance between on and off bike.
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Old 05-23-13, 03:51 PM   #4
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Very interesting.

I built myself up a CrossCheck, and while I don't love it as much as I hoped, I certainly don't hate it. I sure know that, whenever the CC is down for a day or two when I'm tinkering with it, I hate commuting on my knobby-tired, energy-sapping-suspension-forked, a$$-hatchet-saddled mountain bike, and then getting back on the CC is a big relief.

I respect that you are sticking with your decision, but you don't want to torture yourself forever. There are other bikes in the sea. 1000 miles is a pretty good run, maybe it's time to fix up the previous bike for meanwhile, take your losses selling the pimped-up LHT used, and try again.

After this failed experiment, do you have a better idea of what would work better for you? Maybe a CrossCheck? I was initially reassured that the CC is a more sporty/fun ride, and I'm glad I didn't go LHT myself. There are plenty of other ruggedized/cross-type options out there as well, especially if you want disc brakes, which CC doesn't support). And CC is a little lighter than LHT, but not THAT light; I went with rather heavy, rugged wheels, and my CC built up weighs 27lbs "naked", 33 when I add my seatbag, rack, panniers, pump, lights, etc.

I'd love to let you test-ride mine, but we're kinda far away...
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Old 05-23-13, 04:08 PM   #5
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Hate is a strong word, If I hate a bike I sell it.

With that said, Is there really one bike in one spec that can do it all every day in all conditions? My IGH cross check suffers from many of the same things you complain about the LHT. Yup, It's heavier than I'd like it to be, the BB is a noodle, the spaces between gears are not right where I want them all the time. I switch bars and tires and wheel sets to make it better for the particular season but it's never perfect, in fact it is outstanding at being pretty good at a bunch of things but not great at any one thing. It has gotten 80-90% of miles for the past 7 years, and In the process that stupid bike has become my best friend. Warts and all.
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Old 05-23-13, 04:39 PM   #6
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the Trucker feels like a tank.
Ohh yeah! Thats why I love mine!

All valid points though. Perhaps since you set out to build the ultimate bike with a lot of influence on what others thought was good the expectations may have been set too high before it was even built. It was destined to fail. It's like having Star Wars Episode 1 expectations but ending up with Jar-Jar Binks.
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Old 05-23-13, 04:45 PM   #7
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If an LHT really is a poor-man's Rivendell, I'm convinced that I would hate a Rivendell too.
Oh BTW I went on a group ride and took an opportunity to ride a quarter-mile or so on a friend's Homer Hilsen, it was OK, but I don't think I'd find it all that enjoyable. I don't know if it was just his super-wide bars, but I felt like I was driving a bus -- which I guess also still beats riding the bus...
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Old 05-23-13, 05:11 PM   #8
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I think whenever you build up a bike you end up having to make compromises between speed, comfort, and durability. It sounds like your build put too much emphasis on durability and too little on speed. I'm currently experimenting building up a Soma Double Cross that has a greater emphasis on speed than the Campeur I use for commuting.
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Old 05-23-13, 05:32 PM   #9
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If you really hate it, I'm sure you'd have no problem selling it. I am picking up my Surly CC tonight. I hope I don't hate it!
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Old 05-23-13, 05:48 PM   #10
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I have a LHT and the bike is a tank. It's not fast but it's steady and load it up or pull a trailer and it really starts to shine. I can ride it comfortably all day long day after day it really starts to shine when you are three or four days out and doing 60-80 miles a day.

I do have a CF road bike and a zippy steel fixed-gear for when I am not lugging stuff around and riding all day day after day. Lugging and the long haul are what it is good at and I love my LHT for what it does well.

If I were you I would get another bike for when I was not doing those things.
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Old 05-23-13, 06:57 PM   #11
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Just a thought or two , ( looked long and hard at getting one and building almost the same as you)

What about a double up front ? give you that little bit more range ?

If you are truly set against the IGH , get rid of it . They sell on ebay quickly enough , flog it off get a normal set of gears ( ones off your old bike ?) Yea it means a new back wheel or a rebuild , but it maybe worth it .

Basically what i am saying is change it up . Just because it has X now doesn't mean you have to keep it that way .
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Old 05-23-13, 07:07 PM   #12
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Curious what it actually weighs. You could have built it up lighter perhaps, but the wheels and tires probably contribute to the heavy feel.
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Old 05-23-13, 07:36 PM   #13
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Curious what it actually weighs. You could have built it up lighter perhaps, but the wheels and tires probably contribute to the heavy feel.
I had it in my mind that I wanted to try and shave time off my commute so I converted my LHT to lightweight 26" wheels, 25x1.75 Travel Contacts, compact double, 11-28 rear cassette, and Specialized Romin seat and it felt pretty quick. Steering was sluggish but acceleration and speed were great. It lasted all of about 2 days. With all my commuting gear, it really didn't make that big of a difference in time and I missed the comfort on bad roads. Quickly went back to the B17, Big Apples, and original gearing.

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Old 05-23-13, 07:49 PM   #14
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load it up or pull a trailer and it really starts to shine.
I have heard that many times, that LHT doesn't really feel right until ridden fully loaded.
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Old 05-23-13, 08:07 PM   #15
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No surprise here. The LHT is a relatively heavy bike even for a long distance touring bike. It's a middle of the road bike in terms of quality and heavier than average. That makes it a great bike for somebody on a limited budget wanting to do long distance, fully loaded touring. When you add 80 or 100lb or more of gear, the extra 5-8lb of bike weight aren't meaningful but if you are commuting and not riding fully loaded, the reality of the weight is a much greater detriment. Even when commuting, faster is usually more fun. When touring on a loaded bike, all thoughts of riding fast are...silly. I hope you'll get your head wrapped around it...nothing to do but let the "tank" nature of the bike become a source of pride. It is, after all, a very well built bike and if you get a chance to load it down for a week of touring you may just fall in love with it.
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Old 05-23-13, 08:08 PM   #16
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I tried an LHT unloaded and it just felt kind of boring, maybe comfortable but not really exciting. In your position, I would think about a sports touring or faux cyclocross frame like Surly Cross Check or Soma's Double Cross disc. Sell your bike and use the money to build a new one or just sell the frame and other parts of it you don't like and replace those things that did not work for you. In the mean time, buy a quick and fast beater to hold you over until you can give it another go with a different frame and different spec's.

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Old 05-23-13, 08:22 PM   #17
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Very interesting.

I built myself up a CrossCheck, and while I don't love it as much as I hoped, I certainly don't hate it. I sure know that, whenever the CC is down for a day or two when I'm tinkering with it, I hate commuting on my knobby-tired, energy-sapping-suspension-forked, a$$-hatchet-saddled mountain bike, and then getting back on the CC is a big relief.
Just curious, what did you find lacking in your CC? Mine is a bit heavy but it is a utility/commuter/touring machine. Racks, fenders, mirrors, 2x bottle cages, fat 700x38 tires, saddle bag with tool kit, sprung saddle. It's great as a long distance bike and as a town errand bike i.e. laundry, groceries, etc. But for daily commutes to work and just around, I really don't need all of that, so I bought a cheap $170 Jamis Beatnik FG/SS to kick around on. It's only been 2 days, so I'll see how it works. It's way lighter to be carrying up and down stairs and I don't worry very much about thieves now.
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Old 05-23-13, 09:08 PM   #18
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After my beater bike was destroyed in a collision with a car, I took the opportunity to put together the Ultimate BF Commuter Approved (TM) commuter bike: Surly Disc Trucker frame, BB7 disc brakes, drop bars, Alfine IGH, 26" wheels, plenty of clearance for knobby, studded tires, fenders, rack, the whole works (pics and writeup here.)

One year and 1000 miles later...I hate it.

Despite these complaints, I have no intention of getting rid of the bike. I have to admit that the bike is exactly what I intended it to be: a bike suitable for any riding conditions. But it will never be my go-to bike on a dry spring, summer, or fall day. Unfortunately, my fair-weather commuter bike (an old steel road bike) is temporarily out of commission, and I haven't had time to get it fixed. So I'm riding the Trucker every day, and liking it less all the time.

Still beats taking the bus.
Oh man... do you realize how short life is? Definitely too short to be riding a bike and thinking these nasty thoughts. Too short to be riding a bike you don't like.

If you have some wrenching skills you could take the bike apart, sell the frame (probably at a premium...) and also any parts you don't want. Then get a Soma DoubleCross frame or something else lighter. The Pake C'mute might be just right. You could take your time and spend all winter researching this. Find the *ideal* frame

You'll be much happier in the long run and the poor LHT frame will make someone else a happy camper.

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Old 05-23-13, 09:13 PM   #19
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Oh man... do you realize how short life is? Definitely too short to be riding a bike and thinking these nasty thoughts. Too short to be riding a bike you don't like.

If you have some wrenching skills you could take the bike apart, sell the frame (probably at a premium...) and also any parts you don't want. Then get a Soma DoubleCross frame or something else lighter. The Pake C'mute might be just right. You could take your time and spend all winter researching this. Find the *ideal* frame

You'll be much happier in the long run and the poor LHT frame will make someone else a happy camper.
Exactly.
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Old 05-24-13, 01:03 AM   #20
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I picked up a non-disc LHT frame earlier this year and built it up (thread here). I went with relatively lighter parts than you typically find on a Trucker and it came out around 25 pounds.

I generally prefer bikes with a sportier feel. I've got a couple of sub-20-pound road bikes, and my usual commute bike is a CX (Kona Jake) that while not quite as zippy as the road bikes is still pretty fun to ride. The LHT doesn't ride like those bikes. Obviously I knew that it wouldn't before I built it, but when I first put it on the road I tried to ride it as if it were like the other bikes anyway. I tried to sprint for traffic lights. I tried to make tight turns. I generally tried to go fast. It did OK, but I felt like the bike was working against me.

Then one day I had kind of an "a ha" moment. It was like the bike was trying to teach me something. The bike wanted me to slow down. So I started riding it as if I were on my way to see a covered bridge or something on a sunny Saturday afternoon. That felt a lot better. The decisions I had made in the build process (the bar end shifters, the low gearing, the 65mm of spacers under the handlebars), decisions which I had originally made to be consistent with the "spirit" of the bike, suddenly started making sense.

Of course, I still like to ride fast most of the time. I just save the LHT for days when I'm in the mood for a relaxed pace.
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Old 05-24-13, 01:46 AM   #21
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And so we see another example of why people end up with several bikes. If you only ride 5miles every month, you just find any bike that works and "why would you need more than one bike". But if you're riding 1000mi a month and somedays you want to ride hard and fast and other days you expect to be on a gnarly trail while yet other days you're commuting with panniers....well...one bike doesn't really do very well, does it. I guess once you get much past 4 or 5 bikes per person you're into collecting to some degree, but I'd love to add a LHT to my bikes since my touring bike is a mtn bike that works...OK...but not as nicely as that LHT!
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Old 05-24-13, 05:23 AM   #22
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Oh man... do you realize how short life is? Definitely too short to be riding a bike and thinking these nasty thoughts. Too short to be riding a bike you don't like.

You could take your time and spend all winter researching this. Find the *ideal* frame
It took me over a year to find a candidate that might turn out to be an ideal frame. I studied bicycle geometry and how it affects the "feel" of the bike and then compared the bike I've been riding and figured out what I wanted to change and looked for a frame with those characteristics.

I'm not overly concerned with weight but I do feel that generally speaking, lighter is better. The idea of a "comfortable" bike appeals to me when I'm sitting here at my desk researching bicycles but once I'm in the saddle I'm all about sporty handling, racing down twisty sidewalks, and overall just acting like an overgrown little kid on my bicycle.

The frameset I decided on was the Handsome Devil. It's designed as an all-rounder that can be used for commuting, touring and even cyclocross. Handsome Cycles lists the weight of the frame as about 3oz heavier than a Cross Check and just a fraction lighter than a LHT. My digital kitchen scale (of questionable accuracy) showed the frame is just slightly lighter (4.8 lbs) than the Cross Check's listed weight. More importantly, the Devil has road sport geometry, which is basically a road bike built for comfort (rather than performance). The seat and head tube angles are 73 degrees, the fork has 45mm of rake which yields 60mm of trail, which is right in the middle of the "neutral" handling range, the bottom bracket drop is 70mm, which results in a lower center of gravity, which many believe makes the bike feel more stable without taking away from it's liveliness. My understanding is that all of these measurements are pretty standard for road bikes. Where the Devil differs is in chainstay length. It has forward facing dropouts and although the chainstay length is listed as 43.6 cm, mine is set up with a 44.5mm chainstay length, which lengthens the wheelbase and smooths out the ride a bit. The Devil is rated for up to 700 x 45 tires but I've found that fat 40mm tires (Schwalbe Duremes) are pushing the limits. The LBS weighed the bike at 26.7 lbs as pictured. Replacing the Duremes with my 32mm Vittoria Hypers would drop the weight to 25.5 lbs, which is a pretty decent weight for a steel-framed hybrid.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the Devil. I think it likely has similar durability as the Cross Check and even the LHT but it's geometry likely results in a livelier feeling bicycle. I haven't ridden the two Surlys but I've read several reviews where riders have confirmed that the Devil has a livelier ride.

I'm sure there are other options out there (the All-City Space Horse almost got the nod for me but there was one aspect, that I now forget, that didn't meet my criteria) so I recommend that you keep riding your LHT just long enough to find a replacement that will make you happier.


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Old 05-24-13, 07:09 AM   #23
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I picked up a non-disc LHT frame earlier this year and built it up (thread here). I went with relatively lighter parts than you typically find on a Trucker and it came out around 25 pounds.

I generally prefer bikes with a sportier feel. I've got a couple of sub-20-pound road bikes, and my usual commute bike is a CX (Kona Jake) that while not quite as zippy as the road bikes is still pretty fun to ride. The LHT doesn't ride like those bikes. Obviously I knew that it wouldn't before I built it, but when I first put it on the road I tried to ride it as if it were like the other bikes anyway. I tried to sprint for traffic lights. I tried to make tight turns. I generally tried to go fast. It did OK, but I felt like the bike was working against me.

Then one day I had kind of an "a ha" moment. It was like the bike was trying to teach me something. The bike wanted me to slow down. So I started riding it as if I were on my way to see a covered bridge or something on a sunny Saturday afternoon. That felt a lot better. The decisions I had made in the build process (the bar end shifters, the low gearing, the 65mm of spacers under the handlebars), decisions which I had originally made to be consistent with the "spirit" of the bike, suddenly started making sense.

Of course, I still like to ride fast most of the time. I just save the LHT for days when I'm in the mood for a relaxed pace.
My Troll weighs in at 26 lbs with a rack and 700c wheels. I'm very pleased with the weight of the bike. It's plenty fast, although not quite as fast as my 18 pound road bike, and handles great. Perhaps the geometry is contributing to the slow feel of the Disc Trucker, along with the heavier build. It is a touring bike after all, not a race bike.
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Old 05-24-13, 09:21 AM   #24
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Wow you guys sure are thinking long and hard about which bike to get. Perhaps less thinking and more riding is in order?

For comparison: here's how I arrived at my commuter bike. I liked the idea of a 29er and the look of a mountainbike. I went to the three nearest bike shops and did some test drives, settled on a 900 euro ridley. I don't need knobbies to commute so I traded those in for Big Apples at almost no cost. After a few months it occurred to me that the front derailer was never getting used, so I removed the front shifter, front derailer, big ring and granny ring. Another few weeks and I discovered the chain would occasionally come off the original middle-of-a-triple chainring, so I bought a downhill ring with full teeth instead. Another month passed and I noticed I only use half of the rear cassette (no grease on the top 3 cogs). So I bought a road cassette to get 9 gears in the range of the 6 I previously used. The result: a 26lbs bike just the way I want it, with a lot of upgrade potential left in it.

What I'm saying is: don't need the rack? Get rid of it. Don't like the tires? Try new ones. Frame too heavy? Sell it and buy another. Every time you modify a part, you get a great boost in motivation (at least I do) and your bike keeps getting better all the time.
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Old 05-24-13, 09:24 AM   #25
groovestew
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Lots of great replies here.

Yes, "hate" is a strong word and perhaps overstating it a bit, but the fact is that I don't get any joy out of riding the bike. I'm feeling particularly gripe-y these days because my fast commuter is broken, so I'm stuck riding the LHT.

It's a good bike, and on a level, I'm quite proud of it, since I built it up myself (even hand-built the wheels!), and as I stated earlier, it's exactly what I intended it to be...it's just not what I want.

I'm not ready to ditch the bike yet. At a minimum, I think I'll convert it to a derailleured bike, and since that means a new rear wheel, I'll build a new front wheel as well. The wheels are pretty heavy-duty (mountain bike rims), but going to a lighter rim will save me grams, not pounds. It's a 54cm frame designed for 26" wheels, but there's tons of clearance, and since it's disc brake equipped, I don't have to worry about brake mounts, so I might try larger wheels. 650B would definitely fit; I think I could maybe even go as big as 700C, but it might be tight - I still want fenders on this bike. Anyone have any experience putting non-26" wheels on a 26" LHT?
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