Well, I ended up spending darn near two hours at the bike shop today talking to two of the sales people about touring bikes, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to go with the LHT. It was a toss up between that, the Trek 520, or two Cannondales which were of course priced about 3 and 700$ higher. Out of my price range, so I didn't really look at them.
I'm still a beginner with off-trail riding, and I didn't want to shell out 2k for a fancy touring bike. Its going to be used for cummuting, basic around-town use, and metrics. So I need something that can handle heavy constant use, and say, "thank you sir, may I please have another?"
So far the surly wins out over the rest because a) the 520 is out of stock in my size, and apparently trek is backordered on them so who knows when I'd even be able to test ride it, b) the geometry is better, c) I like steel over aluminum (cheaper and more easily repaired - one of my buddies is a master welder AND i'm a bit tubby so I just feel more 'secure' on steel), the gears feel really comfortable.
Now, the biggest complaint I've heard about the LHT is the rear wheel is small compared to a lot of other touring bikes to make room for fenders. What else?
The only real issue I saw was the bar shifters - I'm going to have to swap them out for something else methinks. They felt a little clunky.
So do your worst guys - tell me what you hate about the LHT. Once i see what the gripes are I'll be able to decide Thanks!!