Well after a lot of help and suggestions from people on here, and just reading heaps of bike specs, I am getting a 58cm Surly LHT built for me which will be ready some time this week. And I'm bloody excited! I didn't go for all those fancy (and expensive) XT components, and have settled for mostly deore and some lx stuff. That helped keep the cost of the bike down and still provides me with a level of components with which I'm happy.
Now I've got two fairly important questions relating to my trip (which involves western express/transam west to east starting in may flying from australia)
-It appears that riding through the sierras and rockies in may will mean inevitable problems with snow, either falling or leftovers from the winter. how should i go about planning for this? Is cycling in May pushing my luck or am i likely to have a relatively hassle-free experience? If I had a really negative response to cycling this early, I might consider rescheduling my flight. Are roads plowed/cleared on a regular basis? And even then, can they be treacherous? I pretty much don't mind some detours and delays if that is what it takes to cycle as planned, but I don't want my trip ruined by snow and forced to get some other form of transport through the snow.
-Trailer vs panniers. I've read heaps of prior posts about these. For me, maintaining the normal handling of a bike is important, so i'm leaning towards the bob. especially after I saw how someone was able to stuff it in a bag and check it as regular (ie not oversized) luggage. However, there are of course the issues of having what is essentially a secondary piece of equipment. Also, having purchased an LHT with some very well built wheels, it seems a shame to not put its abilities to good use. How do LHTs in particular handle when towing a bob? And from a sentimental point of view, towing a bob with that flag sticking out of it adds that quaint little touch to my tour!