I'm looking at getting a replacement tourer. I had used a Surly Cross Check - and based off what I learned before that one was wrecked (car hit us) - I think I want a Surly LHT. However, a semi local shop can sell me a Trek 520 for what I'd pay for the LHT. The only wrinkle in everything is the fact that I'd probably ride a 54 LHT (I had a 52 cross check - and it felt small - the shop I bought from 'race fit' me I found later).
I guess I have a slightly unusual build. I have a 29inch inseam - yet I'm 5'11" - short legs long torso.
So since I'd ride a 54 - I have the 26" wheel issue. I've tried to read up on it - and it doesn't seem to be that big of a deal. I do enjoy weekly group rides with a 'semi quick' group of guys though. I was already the 'oddball' with a steel frame and brooks saddle on my cross bike. However, I never had any problem being one of the faster members of the group. We do 40-60 mile rides with 18-20mph averages.
So my choices are:
Surly Cross Check - just get a bigger one this time (would have to spend money to upgrade rear cassette for hill country - and putting road slicks on instead of the cross tires)
Surly LHT - (I like the gearing better, I would have to spend money to add range on the cross check as I did before).
Trek 520 - seems to be a sweet bike - but I would have to order sight unseen, and I know nothing about the bike's reputation.
All three of the bikes would be with $100 dollars of each other, with the trek topping out the local prices.