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  1. #1
    SpecOps-27 Emerson's Avatar
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    Surly LHT off-road experiences?

    We are getting a new bike for my wife--either a Novara Safari or a Surly LHT. Light touring is intended at some point, but mostly the bike will run around town (running errands/getting groceries), on bike paths, shorter charity rides, and hopefully on some trails. I'm curious if anyone has taken their LHT off-road. I'm not talking about technical trails, but dirt roads verging into light singletrack. The bike will see similar use to my Cross-check, but we think the LHT or Safari (with the 26" wheels) will fit her 5ft.1 frame better. She doesn't care about going fast.

    Any experience on rough roads or trails with your LHT? Would the longer wheelbase made climbing on dirt incredibly difficult (hard to get traction)? Any sense of why one bike would be better than the other?

    I know they are pretty different in price; we could afford the LHT, but if the Safari is just as good or better for what she will do then we would just as soon save the money.

    Thanks.
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    My 2005 Surly Cross-check & some thoughts on riding

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  2. #2
    SpecOps-27 Emerson's Avatar
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    bump. Don't more people have experience with thier LHT on trails and such?
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    My 2005 Surly Cross-check & some thoughts on riding

    "Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous" --David Hume A Treatise on Human Nature

  3. #3
    Person Person jessefive's Avatar
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    Hopefully I will soon...

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    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    There was a post a ways back on the Surly blog, before they released the LHT, about testing it off-road. They said good things about it (of course they did, they built it!), but remarked that rear wheel slip will happen easily on loose ground or steep hills with loose ground. That's because of the long chainstays. Other than that, it should be fine. You should avoid going over too many logs - the lower BB means you could bash a chainring.

    By the way, Surly also makes the smaller sizes of the Cross-Check for 26" wheels, so that's still an option.

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    I have a similar bike, though it has higher bottom bracket clearance. I think the main problem are tires. even 37s don't have much float. I was on a fourty mile section of rail trail with firm stone dust surface, and I had to let a ton of air out of the tires to get up on top of the surface. Of course, you can fit wider tires.

    If you run drops as you probably "should" if you are doing a lot of road touring, there are control issues, unless you can find some dirt drops.

    Finally there is braking, most drops, combined with road levers and cantis, or whatever, do not provide the kind of stick in the spokes stop I want off-road.

    You could deal with the last two, obviously by simply adding flat bars and MTB brakes.

    So I think all the problems you will encounter probably aren't driven too hard by the frame. I have an old 80s moutain bike, and it is pretty similar to a touring bike in it's frame. Also, some expedition bikes design for 50% off-road/road , like the Expedition 26, still have the really long stays.

  6. #6
    kipuka explorer bkrownd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grolby
    There was a post a ways back on the Surly blog, before they released the LHT, about testing it off-road. They said good things about it (of course they did, they built it!), but remarked that rear wheel slip will happen easily on loose ground or steep hills with loose ground. That's because of the long chainstays. Other than that, it should be fine.
    OTOH, the longer chainstays should help keep your front wheel on the ground, which can be a big problem when pedalling uphill on rough trails in the lowest gears. (Hell, I've even had that problem on the road when launching from a stop with a big load in the rear.)
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1
    I have a similar bike, though it has higher bottom bracket clearance. I think the main problem are tires. even 37s don't have much float. I was on a fourty mile section of rail trail with firm stone dust surface, and I had to let a ton of air out of the tires to get up on top of the surface. Of course, you can fit wider tires.

    If you run drops as you probably "should" if you are doing a lot of road touring, there are control issues, unless you can find some dirt drops.

    Finally there is braking, most drops, combined with road levers and cantis, or whatever, do not provide the kind of stick in the spokes stop I want off-road.

    You could deal with the last two, obviously by simply adding flat bars and MTB brakes.

    So I think all the problems you will encounter probably aren't driven too hard by the frame. I have an old 80s moutain bike, and it is pretty similar to a touring bike in it's frame. Also, some expedition bikes design for 50% off-road/road , like the Expedition 26, still have the really long stays.
    letting out air from tires to ride on soft surfaces is common practice. even 4x4s do this.

    you can get plenty of control from drop bars, just make sure they're nice and wide (44-46 mm). salsa bell laps are nice.

    road levers with cantis can provide tons of stopping power. especially if you use old school high profile cantis - you'll have no problems locking up the wheels (not that you would want to). low profile cantis work fine too. Heck old mountain bikes used these and no one ever complained.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Thor29's Avatar
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    I've had both the LHT and the Crosscheck. The extra 1/2 inch of bottom bracket height makes a big difference off road. I prefer the Crosscheck for all around use (including touring) and would only get the LHT if it were going to be used strictly as a touring bike. When it isn't loaded, it feels more tank-like. The Crosscheck is more nimble but not quite as rock solid when loaded down. Either way, they are both great bikes.

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    "letting out air from tires to ride on soft surfaces is common practice. even 4x4s do this."

    That's why I did it, but it was vastly less preferable to having real mountain bike tires, so my advice would be, depending on how much of the time one is planing on using this bike as an MTB, then consider an MTB, for the tires and everything else.

    Other than city bike uses this thing is to be used "some day" for light touring, and "hopefully on trails", though the thread is all about offroad performance. Other than Surly threads, the other most likely one around here is probably the "can I use my MTB for touring" For which the answer is always an enthusiastic "yes". Hardly seems as though the LHT is required for the uses described. Actually my Urbanite which is 1/2" or more higher in the BB, and otherwise a light frame loaded touring bike might be an all around better choice.

    "you can get plenty of control from drop bars, just make sure they're nice and wide (44-46 mm). salsa bell laps are nice."

    Exactly, the dirt drops are wider still, but probably not necessary for this rider.

    "road levers with cantis can provide tons of stopping power. especially if you use old school high profile cantis - you'll have no problems locking up the wheels (not that you would want to). low profile cantis work fine too. Heck old mountain bikes used these and no one ever complained."

    Not really true, I have Paul Neo Retros on my bike, and have been riding and wrenching cantis since the first MTBs appeared on the scene. There is a loss of power from road levers for sure, and I am far from the only one saying so. And I do want the capability to lock up my wheels, I don't want to always skid, but I do want to use all the power available right up to that point. "To infinity and beyond"

  10. #10
    addicted to coffee velotimbe's Avatar
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    My 62cm LHT has clearance for WTB Exiwolf 29x2.3 tires.

    Very narrow clearance, but they do roll.....

    Hows that for versatility?
    gunnarroadiesurlylonghaultruckergiantcypressstgunnarruffiantrekfuel90

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    wow

    Quote Originally Posted by velotimbe
    My 62cm LHT has clearance for WTB Exiwolf 29x2.3 tires.

    Very narrow clearance, but they do roll.....

    Hows that for versatility?
    post a pic if you can. I was nagging the surly guys about this before I bought a LHT, they said a 29er tire would fit but not be practical, that 45's were the suggested max. if 2.3's fit its got even more clearance than the crosscheck!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermute
    you can get plenty of control from drop bars, just make sure they're nice and wide (44-46 mm). salsa bell laps are nice.
    This would be way too wide for a 5'1" woman.

    The smaller sizes of any bike tend to have a longer wheelbase (proportional to the size of the rider). The handling of a M size LHT is no sure indicator of the handling of a small version.

    For just riding along trails, a drop bar, 26" LHT style of bike will be fine. I have taken my tourer over mountain trails and down extreme slopes that cause less experienced MTBers to bail out. The major variable is the style of tyres. Fit a knobbly, semi slick or narrow high pressure slick according to the conditions.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW
    This would be way too wide for a 5'1" woman.
    Give me a minute while I pull this size 11 out of my mouth.

  14. #14
    165
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    LHT frame rated "3", Cross Check a "2"

    I know this is a very old thread, but this seemed the best place to stick some info I just learned related to strength of the LHT frame (related to the OP's off-road experiences question). In short, the 2014 LHT frame is built to withstand tougher conditions (as defined by ASTM F2043) than the 2014 Cross Check. I understand the LHT needs to be tough to haul a load. What I don't understand is the Cross Check, a supposed do-anything go-anywhere bike, based on a cyclocross geometry, is rated as a comparative lightweight. Maybe in recognition that most people don't go off road nor load it down.

    By these definitions, if the LHT geometry allows, you could go into rougher territory more safely on an LHT.

    Surly's Bike and Frames page has PDFs for their frames and forks. The LHT frame/fork is rated a "3", the Cross Check a "2". Here are the definitions:

    Conditon 2 (Cross Check):
    This is a set of conditions for the operation of a bicycle that includes Condition 1 as well as unpaved and gravel roads and trails with moderate grades. In this set of conditions, contact with irregular terrain and loss of tire contact with the ground may occur. Drops are intended to be limited to 15cm (6˝) or less. Please see link to Bike Owner’s Manual on surlybikes.com/safety
    for complete list of riding condition descriptions.

    Condition 3 (LHT and Disc Trucker):
    This is a set of conditions for operation of a bicycle that includes Condition 1 and Condition 2 as well as rough trails, rough unpaved roads, and rough terrain and unimproved trails that require technical skills. Jumps and drops are intended to be less than 61cm (24˝). Please see link to Bike Owner’s Manual on surlybikes.com/safety for complete list of riding condition descriptions.

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    That's really interesting, never noticed that before.
    I wonder how Surly reaches those classifications, tube thickness is supposed to be identical on both the CC and the LHT

  16. #16
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    I would consider the LHT's head-tube and rear drops to be more robust than the CC's.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by 165 View Post
    What I don't understand is the Cross Check, a supposed do-anything go-anywhere bike,
    I don't think it's billed as that. And now there is the new Straggler, which is billed as a CC on 'roids, or something like that.

    I have taken my LHT on some very rough, unpaved roads, including one with washboards on climbs and descents that nearly shook my fillings lose. No problemo.

  18. #18
    165
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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    And now there is the new Straggler, which is billed as a CC on 'roids, or something like that.
    2014 Straggler is rated a "2", like Cross Check. Straggler has similar frame geo as Cross Check, but has discs, STIs, and different drop outs.

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    For offroad and gravel riding riding, and considering the current tire offerings, which one would you prefer, a LHT with 700x47 or with 26x2.0 tires?
    I chose the LHT as my next bike, now I'm trying to decide between 700c and 26" (size 58)

  20. #20
    Slow Rider bwgride's Avatar
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    Longer wheel base is not an issue for off-road. Consider that many older mountain bikes had similarly long wheelbases.

    The primary difference between the Safari and Trucker is top-tube length. The Safari effective top tube is about 3" to 4" longer than comparable sized Truckers. This is significant in determining which type of handlebar could be used comfortably. It would be uncomfortable for many to use drop bars on the Safari due to long reach required; this bike was designed for MTB-type flat bars or similar bars. The Trucker, with a shorter top tube, can be used comfortably with either flat bars or drop bars.

    As for off-road use, either bike could handle that well. Here's my Trucker doing off-road duty with 2.1" tires

    .Surly-LHT-offroad.jpg

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    I own both bikes you mentioned and my opinion is that both bikes are high quality bikes, you would be happy with either one. I would bay particular attention to how the bikes fit you because they are different. And while I love the Safari's trekking handlebars, some people don't like them. But another thing to consider is that the top bar on the Safari is much lower than the bar on the LHT. On the road this makes no difference but off road, where you might have to dismount quickly, it could save your private parts.

  22. #22
    __________ seeker333's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 165 View Post
    I know this is a very old thread, but this seemed the best place to stick some info I just learned related to strength of the LHT frame (related to the OP's off-road experiences question). In short, the 2014 LHT frame is built to withstand tougher conditions (as defined by ASTM F2043) than the 2014 Cross Check. I understand the LHT needs to be tough to haul a load. What I don't understand is the Cross Check, a supposed do-anything go-anywhere bike, based on a cyclocross geometry, is rated as a comparative lightweight. Maybe in recognition that most people don't go off road nor load it down.

    By these definitions, if the LHT geometry allows, you could go into rougher territory more safely on an LHT.

    Surly's Bike and Frames page has PDFs for their frames and forks. The LHT frame/fork is rated a "3", the Cross Check a "2". Here are the definitions:

    Conditon 2 (Cross Check):
    This is a set of conditions for the operation of a bicycle that includes Condition 1 as well as unpaved and gravel roads and trails with moderate grades. In this set of conditions, contact with irregular terrain and loss of tire contact with the ground may occur. Drops are intended to be limited to 15cm (6˝) or less. Please see link to Bike Owner’s Manual on surlybikes.com/safety
    for complete list of riding condition descriptions.

    Condition 3 (LHT and Disc Trucker):
    This is a set of conditions for operation of a bicycle that includes Condition 1 and Condition 2 as well as rough trails, rough unpaved roads, and rough terrain and unimproved trails that require technical skills. Jumps and drops are intended to be less than 61cm (24˝). Please see link to Bike Owner’s Manual on surlybikes.com/safety for complete list of riding condition descriptions.
    The LHT has a larger diameter TT than CC. This was an intentional design feature of the original (2004) and all subsequent LHTs, Trucker Deluxes and Disc Truckers. A larger diameter tube is stiffer (tube stiffness increases as a cube of tube diameter). A stiffer TT is desirable on touring bikes to minimize the likelihood of shimmy, an undesirable phenomena which sometimes manifests on heavily/improperly loaded (touring) bikes.

    The LHT also has a heavier-duty fork {again larger diameter - fork legs) than the CC/Straggler/any other Surly "road" frame.

    The combination of TT and fork makes the LHT closer to a rigid MTB frame WRT to off-roading capability, and is the reason the LHT is classified Condition 3 by ASTM F2043.

    The LHT takes slightly larger tires too - this may be a factor as well in the F2043 classification.
    Last edited by seeker333; 08-22-14 at 02:57 PM.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emerson View Post
    bump. Don't more people have experience with thier LHT on trails and such?
    Yes, it works fine for light-duty offroad.

  24. #24
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    riding un paved roads is now 'gravel grinders' .. now people think they need a special bike for that

  25. #25
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    I know that a lot of people have toured vast distances on a LHT, but I was very disappointed with my LHT this year for loaded touring from Astoria OR to San Fransisco CA. The frame flex was significant and I had a noticeable oscillation. I am not new to touring, I have done several tours on my Thorn Sherpa (26 inch wheels) with heavier loads on both pavement and on gravel.

    Since this trip was going to be all on pavement and there were going to be a lot of hills, I decided to bring my 2004 LHT instead of a Thorn because the LHT is a few pounds lighter and since the whole trip would be on pavement I thought that the 700c tires would be a little better. Within my first 20 miles I knew I made a mistake. But it was too late to switch bikes, my Thorn was at home thousands of miles away. So I just had to go slower, do more downhill braking, take corners really slow and deal with it the best I could. I tried to shift weight all over the place but never got it to the point where I could be really comfortable with it. By the end of the trip my front panniers had only my least dense stuff and my handlebar bag was about half empty.

    20IMGP1292.jpg 20IMGP1255.jpg

    I do not know if my LHT has out of specification tubing or what. I did a trip with Adventure Cycling a couple years ago, of the 16 of us, four had their LHTs (three 700c and one 26 inch) and all were happy with them. But I think all of them were the newer frame re-design whereas my LHT is from the first year of LHT production, which of course is far out of the short three year warranty that expired almost seven years ago (I bought the frame in Nov 2004). All I can say with certainty is that my LHT is never going to see a full load of camping gear again.

    The LHT is a good commuter, but put a load on it and it handled like a wet noodle.

    My Sherpa (photo below) has performed much better on quite a few trips.

    20IMGP4334.jpg

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