LHT, Sutra or Cross-check (yet another newbie post)
I'm starting to prepare myself to do a self-guided light tour earlier next year from amsterdam to paris (very good and flat roads from what I've seen so far) and I'm looking at what bike I should buy.
After reading lots of different posts around the forum and visiting the shops here in Lisbon I've narrowed my choices to
- Kona Sutra
- Surly Cross check
I'm a bit more inclined to the cross check, since I'll probably won't carry much weight to justify the other two, but I'm a little worried that it won't be comfortable in the long run.
I know I should test them for fit, but the problem is the LBS only has the LHT to test, if I were to buy one of the others I would have to order it without testing.
Any ideas on what I should do?
Also, my girlfriend has an herniated disc, will the LHT be more comfortable for her back? Should she look at a VSF Fahrrad (they seem to have a more upright riding position)? Any tips to prevent further damage to her back?
Try to do a test ride on the bikes you are considering, preferably several, and have the bike shop owner adjust your position.
I have an LHT and coincidentally my wife rides a Kona Sutra. Her other, older, bike is a VSF T400, their classic 26" frame. So fire away!
We bought the Sutra and LHT together. One thing we noticed during test rides was that the Sutra actually feels more stable and calm at low speeds, which might be due to the different geometries of the forks. The LHT was the more responsive of the two, but it is in no way a 'nervous' bike.
We're not very happy with the paint on the Sutra, it's a bit too sensitive to scratching. But the bike offers an attractive package for a low price: a disc trucker is more expensive for fewer parts.
The disc brakes were an important consideration for my wife, I'm okay with cantilever brakes. My wife is often uncertain on descents, so she appreciates the power of the disc brakes. They do need to be calibrated every now and then, which you will need to familiarize yourself with. A long torx screwdriver is indispensible for this.
I love my LHT. I've seen claims that it rides like a stroll with your grandpa, but I use it like a racing bike with no second thoughts. It's just an allround randonneur for me. But it is true that when it is fully loaded, perhaps with a cart behind it, it feels very solid, much more than any previous bike I had.
Finally, here in the Netherlands the VSF bikes actually have a reputation of having 'long' frames, with longer top tubes and a lower position for the rider. The T400 served my wife wel. It's not a 'fast' bike: when she rides the Sutra, we go along well, but if she's on the T400 I have to wait after every turn. I don't like how it rides, the steering feels nervous and not very effective at the same time. But it's a tried and tested frame in Germany, many including my wife love it, so I don't think it is a bad choice.
If you buy a VSF, ask the bike shop to check if it has been built correctly. The manufacturers do not put a lot of effort into this and tend to ship bikes that have not been set up properly. But once eveything is running smoothly, you get a really reliable bike for a low price with lots of quality parts. The days that they made bikes with Marathon XR tires, Rigida explorer rims and tubus rack are sadly gone, but VSF still stands for the no-nonsense approach where costs are cut to produce an affordable mid-quality combination for a low price.
I would not rely on advice from a forum with regards to a herniated disc, but ask a medical specialist.
I roots for the lht every time I see one of these threads. Granted, I haven't tried the other two, and the cross check was a close second for me. But for a strong, durable, responsive, comfortable bike, I love the lht.
But the Sutra's problem might be that it is sold less widely, and therefore gets less love.
One thing I also remembered: the Sutra's fork feels more stiff. I notice this particularly on cobbled roads, having ridden my wife's bike every now and then. The fork is very strong to accomodate the disc brakes and lowriders with bags.
I love my LHT. Like @Jonathandavid I use it as my one horse wonder. I have not done multi-day tours on it yet, but fairly loaded commuting. Bike and all come in around 280 pounds for most of my commute; I drop 35 pounds near the halfway point.
It handles great, it does what I want and it goes fast. Long hills can get slow, but the right gearing helps.
I commute and do the daily day care run with it.
I have done group rides with it. My most recent one impressed people on Willier, Lightspeeds and the like, but to continue with them I would have needed to take my racks off. Deal breaker.
On the commute I pass roadies (with effort). When I get passed I usually get comments on my pace.
I regularly get comments on my speed.
All of the above (except the group ride) have a kids seat and two panniers with lunch, snacks, kid stuff, coffee and repair kit. Half the time I have the kid.
I would disagree with anyone who says it is slow and not responsive; my response would be to tune their engines. It is not a CF race bike, but a CF race bike cannot take 200+ pounds of rider and gear.
In my opinion it is also comfortable. I figure I would not rave about it and sing its praises if it was uncomfortable.