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  1. #1
    !BAMBOO! Contour's Avatar
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    Build or buy complete (LHT)?

    Hello all, I've been going through the touring section and threads like a madman over the past few days trying to figure out what kind of bike I should buy. I've been riding a junker over the past year to commute to school (on 2 miles round trip) so it hasn't really been an issue. But now I feel as if it limits me from traveling further because of its low quality. Ideally what I'd like to do is take some short tours over the course of this year and eventually (summer '10 or '11) tour across the U.S. At the time being I haven't done any long or even moderately distant rides but I don't think fitness will be an issue as I can build up over the course of the year. I will say my budget for the bike is around $1,000 but I'd rather pay more and get the better part than use sub par gear if it comes to that. I also plan to gradually acquire the more touring related gear as needed.

    Now for the questions. I've been looking at the LHT as it seems many in this forum use and recommend it. However people usually end up replacing at least the saddle, tires (my bike knowledge is limited for now so it's harder for me to recognize the other changes people have made) and likely a good bit more. So I was wondering if it is more economical to piece together a bike with nicer parts vs the stock surly components. From what I've read a brooks saddle is a must have and the schwalbe marathon tires are pretty highly recommended.

    I'm sure I'll have more questions as I get closer to purchasing and touring. So far this forum has been a great resource so thanks.

  2. #2
    Senior Member kk4df's Avatar
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    I bought a Surly LHT complete through my LBS. While I basically paid full retail, they swapped tires for Schwalbe Marathons, and put KoolStop salmon pads on for no extra cost. Then I paid the additional cost for fenders and aerobars at full retail but no labor for installation. It was a great deal for me, and allowed me to get a few modifications that I wanted. When I picked up the bike, the owner was in the process of selling the stock tires he had removed from my LHT complete. I recommend you get your LBS to quote you the Surly LHT with the mods you want to make, and see what they say.
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  3. #3
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    It'll cost you at least 50% more to build up from parts,,$500 is a heck of a lot to pay for a seat and set of tires. The only reason to build up from parts is that you like to and money isn't the issue. I used to own a bike shop twenty years ago and recently bought a LHT retail because it's a good value, I changed the tires but not the seat. While I haven't used a B17 or Brooks I rode on a leather Ideale saddle for 1/2 yr and don't find leather saddles an improvement over plastic/foam saddles. People can become accustomed to a variation in saddles like they can become conditioned to riding for hours on end,,that doesn't mean it's "the best". There's a reason leather saddles were supplanted with molded plastic and foam coverings. They're lighter and you can make a wider variaty of shapes than suspending a piece of leather between a metal frame.

    If you've been riding a clunker for only a few miles it's possible that your posture on the bike isn't optimum for long distance riding and you'd benefit from a knowledgable shop fitting you or reading up on fundamentals. That's where you might get the impression building up from parts is preferable, some people can develop a set of preferences where price isn't a factor and the stock build isn't to their liking. But it doesn't take an expensive build up from bare frame to make sure the seat is at the right height or your posture is correct.

    To think a custom build is necesary is like thinking a custom pair of shoes or pants is necessary.

  4. #4
    cycling n00b Black Shuck's Avatar
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    Buy the complete, ride the parts into the ground and replace with parts of your choice when needed is what I would do. I've built a few bikes from scratch and they always wind up 30-60% more expensive than a comparable complete and with the level of components on the stock LHT, it's just not worth it.

  5. #5
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    i built up my thorn, bought the frame /fork, bought all the parts seperatly over the course of six months..much more expensive i think doing it this way, simply because your going to buy the best ,it's a man thing ..as black shuck said, buy it as it is ride it and change what ever you think needs changing.oh if you can get the supreams instead of marathon plus ,all the other parts will be spot on .best of luck on your new bike ,let us know how you get on.

  6. #6
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Contour View Post
    Hello all, I've been going through the touring section and threads like a madman over the past few days trying to figure out what kind of bike I should buy. I've been riding a junker over the past year to commute to school (on 2 miles round trip) so it hasn't really been an issue. But now I feel as if it limits me from traveling further because of its low quality. Ideally what I'd like to do is take some short tours over the course of this year and eventually (summer '10 or '11) tour across the U.S. At the time being I haven't done any long or even moderately distant rides but I don't think fitness will be an issue as I can build up over the course of the year. I will say my budget for the bike is around $1,000 but I'd rather pay more and get the better part than use sub par gear if it comes to that. I also plan to gradually acquire the more touring related gear as needed.

    Now for the questions. I've been looking at the LHT as it seems many in this forum use and recommend it. However people usually end up replacing at least the saddle, tires (my bike knowledge is limited for now so it's harder for me to recognize the other changes people have made) and likely a good bit more. So I was wondering if it is more economical to piece together a bike with nicer parts vs the stock surly components. From what I've read a brooks saddle is a must have and the schwalbe marathon tires are pretty highly recommended.

    I'm sure I'll have more questions as I get closer to purchasing and touring. So far this forum has been a great resource so thanks.
    While there may be things on an LHT complete that a connoisseur would change, the bike as is has a pretty good parts spec. And the price can't be beat. A build will cost you more so if you are budget limited and not that picky (even I wouldn't be that picky if I were buying an LHT), go with the complete. Learn to love the sport then start changing stuff
    Stuart Black
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  7. #7
    Twincities MN kuan's Avatar
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    My LBS has a blue LHT in 54 sitting there waiting for someone to buy it. Sugino 600 vs. Sugino 300 crankset.

  8. #8
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    I built up a 54 cm LHT from the frameset for $1800. The differences from the complete (which wasn't available at the time) are: Fitting service, Brooks B17, Salsa Bel Lap handlebars, Crane Creek S8 headset, custom wheel build with Velocity Aeroheat rims, DT Swiss Competition spokes and Continental Travel Contact tires, Race Face Atlas 46/36/26 crank, Shimano A520 pedals, custom fitted Salsa stem, Avid Ultimate Single Digit linear pull brakes, S&K fenders, bottle cages. I think other things like XT hubs and XT derailleure are the same on the complete.

    The Complete is an excellent value and of all the differences from my custom build, I think that the custom fit and the Brooks saddle are the major benefits for my extra $700-800 and if you buy the complete from a good LBS these can be had for a lot less.

  9. #9
    Proxymoron
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    As has been mentioned, the LHT complete is pretty well spec`d as is, better than just about any bike I`ve owned. The only thing I felt needed changing on mine were the brake pads. The Tektros were pretty crappy so I went with some Aztecs instead. Also, for me, the stock WTB SST saddle`s not that bad, either. I`ve tried 2 different types of Brooks B-17s but find the WTB more suited for me bum`s sit bones. And there`s really no need to swap the Conti Contacts either unless you just want something different. They`re solid tires. Buy the complete and you`ll have many miles and smiles.
    We`re all Bozos on this bus.

  10. #10
    !BAMBOO! Contour's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice guys! When I go to the LBS are they generally willing to negotiate on their prices, especially if its a cash deal?

    Also on a semi unrelated note, I've read some people use hammocks instead of tents when touring. What benefits would this provide and would it be recommended for something like going across the US or would a tent be more well suited for that?

  11. #11
    Senior Member bats's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Shuck View Post
    Buy the complete, ride the parts into the ground and replace with parts of your choice when needed is what I would do.
    This is what I did/intended to do, but the parts that came on the complete have held up through thick and thin!

    I am glad I went with the complete.

  12. #12
    Bike Nerd Mr. Jim's Avatar
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    I bought the complete, haven't had to change a thing, someone knifed my seat, I hunted around and found the same one for about 20 bucks. Would I like to get a brooks saddle? sure, they look nice, but I don't need to. Also I have been very happy with the stock tires.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Contour View Post
    Also on a semi unrelated note, I've read some people use hammocks instead of tents when touring. What benefits would this provide and would it be recommended for something like going across the US or would a tent be more well suited for that?
    There is a recent hammock vs tent thread here.

    I only know what I've read about the LHT, but I have built up a bike from scratch. Unless you are very, very, very careful about your parts buys it can be the most expensive way to go. I agree with the suggestion that you start with the complete bike.

    Speedo

  14. #14
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Riding across the US on the TransAmerica I didn't see a single person using a hammock. We may have missed some because they were stealth camping, but we spoke to most riders we met on the road and discussed places to stay and so on and I didn't get the impression that any of them were hammock camping. I think that there is good reason for the dearth of hammocks on the route.

    OTOH: There are places where they absolutely make sense. For example places where you can't find a flat non-rocky spot. We didn't have that problem at all on the TA.

    My opinion is that on a tour across the US a tent wins hands down.

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    I'll add my voice to the chorus in favor of the complete. I can't speak to the cost of a custom build (I'm not that experienced) but I just bought a new LHT from my LBS and struck a similar deal to others. I swapped the saddle at the LBS' cost for the Brooks and folded in a whole host of other goodies (racks, panniers, shoes, fenders, lights) for cost or less and walked away with a good deal. I didn't test the stock seat, so I can't speak to that, but the stock tires have been terrific so far and are a good fit for the bike and its purposes. I think the only think that "needs" replacing is the break pads; otherwise, the bike is good to go. You won't be unhappy with the complete.

  16. #16
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    Another vote for complete. The LHT has some very decent components on it. Ride 'em till they break.... (Which, as far as I can tell, will be awhile)

    As to haggling with your LBS, most can't sell the bike for less than retail. Surly won't allow it as far as I know. You could buy last year's model at a break though....maybe. They will, however, work with you on parts and accessories as already mentioned above. Mine gave me 15% off everything else that I bought at the time, so I took advantage and managed some good savings on surly racks, ortlieb panniers, fenders, etc.....
    Ride.
    Enjoy.
    Repeat.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Contour View Post
    ... I've been looking at the LHT as it seems many in this forum use and recommend it. However people usually end up replacing at least the saddle, tires (my bike knowledge is limited for now so it's harder for me to recognize the other changes people have made) and likely a good bit more. ...
    Can't add much more than what's stated above, except a comment about perspective.

    A lot of the component-swapping on a new bike is from the starry-eyed shiny-new-toy syndrome (I've been there, too...). Buy a new stereo, a new computer, a new car -- after a month in the show rooms you're pining after every new shiny accessory and upgrade. They can see you coming from a mile away with your wallet open.

    The LHT complete is truly complete. The only durable component I might consider replacing is the saddle, and that's only because Mr. Surly's idea of a good fit probably doesn't match mine. No two tushes are alike. On the other hand, you might go through a series of saddles before you find the right one, for you, anyway.

    Everything else -- tires, brake pads, chain, handlebar wrap, whatever -- are consumables. If you can talk your LBS into upgrading them for no cost, then it's worth it. Otherwise, you should be riding the bike for a few months before your first long tour anyway, and I'd want to be wearing out $20 tires instead of $60 Schwalbes (or whatever). Same for the brake pads. Before you start off you your tour, put on the upgraded (and up-priced) components. If the tires and brake pads still have life in them, put 'em on the shelf for when you return and use the bike for day rides.

    There's no good reason to swap other durable components, from shifters to cranks to seatpost to rims. It's one area that I think Surly did good on -- by using "adequate" consumables they keep the price down, as us buyers will wear 'em out and buy new ones anyway.

    -- Mark

  18. #18
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    I just bought an LHT complete and couldn't be happier. I did swap the saddle for a B-17 which i already owned (and used). I heard comments about the tires (the Conti Travel Contacts) and was thinking of changing them as well. however, I did the research online and discovered that the TCs are well thought of generally. In fact, my LBS knew of a set which had been from Florida to Arizona and back without a single flat (probably luck - but still not bad). The 37mm width is a good one for the intended use - so I kept them. In all, if I had it to do over again, I don't think I would do anything different.

    Ken

  19. #19
    Senior Member Quel's Avatar
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    I always think this, but maybe a mechanic can answer: why the heck is it just as expensive (or more expensive) to buy a frame and parts compared to buying the pre-assembled bike? For most other items, this gives you a pretty significant cost savings, but for bikes you are looking at minimal savings at best.

    I'm mainly comparing it to computer assembly, which is easier than bike assembly once you have the parts.

  20. #20
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Buy the complete. I built an LHT from a frame. I spent much more than the complete (which wasn't available at the time.) After I had finished it was just a matter of time before I started thinking about replacing a component or two because I wasn't satisfied with my first choice, so I don't think you're immune from replacement costs no matter which route you take.

  21. #21
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    I went a simular way with my custom LHt starting with a frame and then spending the national debt on it. Now I have an incredible bike and and can't afford to change anything on it .... ever.

  22. #22
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    The simple answer is economy of scale. The per-unit price of XT derailleurs, tires, hubs etc. is always going to be cheaper when you buy a lot of them. I recently bought a set of the Mavic XC717 rim/XT hub wheelsets from performance for significantly less than the price I would have paid for the individual parts. And I got the wheels pre-built (machine built, true) - built well enough that the wheels needed very little truing before I installed them.

    It's always been the case - buy a bunch, pay less.

    Ken

    Quote Originally Posted by Quel View Post
    I always think this, but maybe a mechanic can answer: why the heck is it just as expensive (or more expensive) to buy a frame and parts compared to buying the pre-assembled bike? For most other items, this gives you a pretty significant cost savings, but for bikes you are looking at minimal savings at best.

    I'm mainly comparing it to computer assembly, which is easier than bike assembly once you have the parts.

  23. #23
    Senior Member
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    The LHT complete is fine if it's what you really want. Any decent shop should exchange any part you don't want, before it's built of course. The only parts that are questionable would be the headset and BB. They likely cost Surly $10 for both. But... just ride them 'till they need replaced. The XT hubs ..... eh ..... not so great either.... and people will surely claim differently, so don't have a cow over my opinion of them. There's just not much for alternative hubs these days though, unless you want to spend a whole lot more.... and when people find out how much more..... they gasp. . . . and I can't blame em.

    Has anyone added up the cost of the parts listed if bought separately?

    If you really know how to shop for closeouts and such..... you can find plenty of great parts for big savings.....if you want to build your own. Wheels are never cheap though.... especially custom ones. That's why there's a savings on the Complete LHT.... wheel labor included.
    Last edited by Garthr; 06-02-09 at 01:32 PM.

  24. #24
    Senior Member
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    Just chiming in, the tires need a lot to be desired. Swap em out and you'll do fine.

  25. #25
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sleizure View Post
    Just chiming in, the tires need a lot to be desired. Swap em out and you'll do fine.
    Or ride them until you wear them out and then swap. Sounds like you have plenty of time to wear them out before you tour.

    I've gone both routes. Building and buying complete. It costs more to build like mentioned above. I will say that the satisfaction level and personal knowledge you can gain from building a bike it pretty great. If you build it you will know everything about it. Might come in handy on the road. You mentioned that you are going to be touring down the road so time is your friend.

    The above only works if you know what you like and don't like. I know what bars, stem and so forth that I want before I buy. If you have the experience of many miles on a bike this is pretty simple. If you come at it with little experience I would suggest a complete for sure. Then put a ton of miles on the bike and you will figure out what does and does not work for you.

    Good luck in your journey and purchase.
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