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What makes a surly LHT good for long distance?

Old 02-12-09, 06:32 PM
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marcusedvalson
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What makes a surly LHT good for long distance?

I have been reading around, trying to decide on what bike to buy for long distance riding. I saw that a lot of people swear by the surly Long Haul Trucker as being ridiculously comfortable. My question is, what makes it so comfortable for long distance riding. I imagine it has to do with the frame geometry, but what specifically about the geometry makes it comfy?
I see that the LHT is on Bikes Direct right now, but I am not totally digging the components it has on it.
https://www.bikesdirect.com/products/surly/longhaul.htm
I like the components on the Windsor Knight a bit better.
https://bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/knight9.htm

Would a bike like the windsor knight make a good long distance bike? My main goal is to get the biggest bang for my buck. I want to try to spend under a 1000 for a complete bike so I can ride my first century, and get experience with the gears...then buy a Trek or better after I have a couple centuries under my belt.

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Old 02-12-09, 06:56 PM
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The Surly LHT might be good for touring, but strikes me as a bit heavy for long distance cycling.
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Old 02-12-09, 07:05 PM
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1) Are you a big guy?

2) If you have the bars at about the same level as the saddle, that really helps with the comfort.
As does the long wheelbase, and larger/lower pressure tires.

3) don't worry about the parts, except the saddle.

4) the two bikes are completely different. The Windsor is a racy bike, and it prob has a fairly stiff ride. The LHT is a touring bike, with a pretty nice ride.
In between the two is the Sport category. The Surly Pacer is a good example.

5) At a grand, the Surly Cross Check Complete would be something to look at. In general, I'd look for steel frames and relaxed geometry. You should hit a few bike shops and test ride some bikes. See what you actually like when you're riding it.
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Old 02-12-09, 07:06 PM
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In the show your century bike post there were a lot of Surly LHTs. I am a big guy though, so I dont think a couple pounds extra on the bike are gonna make that much of a difference when it comes to distance riding. What sort of geometry should I look for in a long distance bike?
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Old 02-12-09, 07:09 PM
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Thanks for the info late! Wow, that was perhaps more helpful than the hour of reading I just did around the internet.
The riding I want to do is definitely long distance. Start with the century, work up to Furnace Creek, that sort of deal. I am 6 foot 3 and weight 220 (Gonna drop weight though). Why shouldnt I worry about the components? Wouldnt it be better to get the higher quality ultegra components?
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Old 02-12-09, 07:10 PM
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Oh, I also got the Brooks B17 saddle, and am loving it. It isnt even fully broken in, but it is the most comfortable thing I have ever perched my chubby butt on.
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Old 02-12-09, 08:12 PM
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It's difficult to get a new long-distance bike for around the $1000 mark.

The LHT is a good deal for what it is (I've personally recommended and sold many) and makes a decent heavy duty tourer for the budget conscious. But it is heavy and tubing is thick, giving a less than responsive ride unloaded. It really is a "trucker" -- OK for the odd century, but I personally wouldn't want to do ride one on longer randonnees and events like Furnace Creek.

Depending on your budget, you would do well to look for a "sport tourer" that has clearance for larger tyres, mudguards (fenders) and braze-ons for same and rack. Also consider gearing. You want some low ratios for long, hilly rides.

More tips here.
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Old 02-12-09, 08:36 PM
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Randochap, would you recommend the above mentioned Surly Cross Check for an event such as Furnace Creek? I am obviously not going to go ride furnace creek tomorrow, but since that is the type of ride I am interested in, I figure I might as well get used to the gear needed for such a ride. If 1000 is too modest a number for a good long distance bike, what would you suggest? What would be the best price vs performance bike I could buy? What would you ride in an event like furnace creek?
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Old 02-12-09, 09:07 PM
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You don't need to worry about components because most of them are quite good. The LHT, for example, is loaded with plain but rugged parts.

The two things you would want to worry about is the saddle, which you've taken care of, and wheels. Some wheels just won't take the kind of punishment you are going to deal out.

If you buy a Surly through a bike shop, they usually can get you a package deal on the parts if you were to just buy a frame. I'm thinking of the Surly Pacer. One of the wholesalers has a great package deal program that kicks in
if you buy a frame.

One thing, if you get a complete bike, you should consider swapping wheels.
It's something I habitually do. You can trade the stock wheels in at the time sale and get credit towards something that suits you better. The dealer will also be strongly motivated at that point to close the deal.

You can ask others, but a traditional wheel with 32 spokes has the kind of reliability a big guy is looking for. Mavic CXP33 rims survived me, they can survive about anything.

Most of the sort of bikes you'd want run $1-2K. But this time of year you just might find a deal on a leftover model.

Things to look for... you don't want the rear tire to be real close to the seat tube. A touring bike chainstay will typically be about 45. My Gunnar Sport is 43.5. The Salsa Casseroll has a chainstay length of 42.5

Much shorter than that and the wheel's gonna be under your butt going thump thump thump all day.
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Old 02-12-09, 10:00 PM
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i ride brevets on a surly pacer, and i think it's a good balance between the LHT & a race bike, for the money. (although i'd buy it through an LBS, for later service/support)

but if you're going to be doing more competitive rides, like furnace creek, i don't think surly has much to offer you - unless you really want to challenge yourself!

point being, unless you plan on getting a new bike later, i'd shoot for a stiffer frame that doesn't weigh 2kg or more. it's not so much about weight, but the stiffness that comes along with the lighter frames (at least that's my theory).

are the rides you plan on doing supported? if so, you don't need to worry about baggage and such, which means a regular road bike (like a used bianchi or something) with no braze-ons would be fine.
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Old 02-12-09, 11:13 PM
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Originally Posted by marcusedvalson View Post
Randochap, would you recommend the above mentioned Surly Cross Check for an event such as Furnace Creek? I am obviously not going to go ride furnace creek tomorrow, but since that is the type of ride I am interested in, I figure I might as well get used to the gear needed for such a ride. If 1000 is too modest a number for a good long distance bike, what would you suggest? What would be the best price vs performance bike I could buy? What would you ride in an event like furnace creek?
I can't add much else to what late and mattm have said. Particularly mattm's first hand experience on the Pacer -- a good bike for the money, but probably not ideal for fast, racing events.

I think $2,000 is closer to the entry price for a competitive bike up to events like Furnace Creek.

I'd ride my my Ti Marinoni Sportivo "Randonnee" in its lightweight state (referred to "pleasure" mode on my site), if I were contemplating such an event. Now, that's an expensive bike, but there's a steel version to be had around the $2,000 mark.
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Old 02-13-09, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
The Surly LHT might be good for touring, but strikes me as a bit heavy for long distance cycling.
How heavy is too heavy? My LHT weighs 26lbs with a mix of Dura-Ace and Ultegra, but with 32c tires and a Brooks saddle. I'm swapping the 32c tires for 28c Conti 4 Seasons, which will cut more than 400gr alone (450 down to 250 per tire plus savings from smaller tubes). Swapping the Brooks for a lighter saddle would also cut a chunk of weight. I could also lose close to a pound by going from the ultegra/open pro wheels to something racier. Maybe even change the fork to a carbon fork if you don't need the front rack capability...

I imagine I could get it down to 24lbs, if not lower. Not that I would do any of that other than the tires though, but it shows what one could do.

Chris
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Old 02-13-09, 11:46 AM
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Bicycles are not good predictors of long distance riding comfort. Bicycle-fit is!
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Old 02-13-09, 11:54 AM
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You should go to a Cannondale dealer and test ride the Synapse 5. It is perfect for what you are doing, short and long term. It's set up with Shimano 105 group, and sells for $1200. The Synapse 7 is the next step lower and sell for below $1000, but the Synapse 5 is a better value.
https://www.cannondale.com/bikes/09/c...5C_9RAS5T.html

That Surly LHT is a boat anchor, designed for touring with a load. Carbon or aluminium is a better choice IMHO.
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Old 02-13-09, 12:54 PM
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If it's still a decision factor, the LHT hasn't been available from Bikes Direct for quite some time, it's just sitting on their website.

Last edited by zowie; 02-13-09 at 01:04 PM.
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Old 02-13-09, 01:05 PM
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I don't know what the Salsa Casseroll is going for these days but it once could be had for about US$1500. I just built one up from the frame for my wife with mainly Ultegra-level components for about US$2200.
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Old 02-13-09, 01:14 PM
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Wow, I guess it is true, sample 100 people, get 100 opinions. It has become readily apparent to me after reading all this that I really have a lot lot more to learn. Firstly, where would be a good place to learn about bike geometry, rigidity and what makes a good race bike, climbing bike, long distance bike, etc?
Second, I think my hopes of being able to buy a bike that will take me through training, my first century and all the way to furnace creek is a pipe dream. That said, what is a good bike to really cut my teeth on? One that I can ride all the way up to a double century? What should I look for? I saw the synapse 5 suggested above...would people agree with that?
Thanks so much for all the help, btw. Really, this is way better than reading long winded articles.
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Old 02-13-09, 01:37 PM
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I have an LHT, and it is rather heavy. Not really a factor unless you struggle with hills. That said, I am looking for something a bit lighter for my Randonneuring bicycle. If only Shadowfax (my 1970 Raleigh Professional) had a couple braze-ons for water bottles and a rack...

Aluminum is not being considered. I've tried a couple aluminum framed bicycles (including a very high end one with a carbon fork), and the bar chatter exceeds my tolerance threshold when I ride on chip seal. I think fatter tires would help, but the baseline comfort level was lacking, IMO.
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Old 02-14-09, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by marcusedvalson View Post
Wow, I guess it is true, sample 100 people, get 100 opinions. It has become readily apparent to me after reading all this that I really have a lot lot more to learn. Firstly, where would be a good place to learn about bike geometry, rigidity and what makes a good race bike, climbing bike, long distance bike, etc?
Second, I think my hopes of being able to buy a bike that will take me through training, my first century and all the way to furnace creek is a pipe dream. That said, what is a good bike to really cut my teeth on? One that I can ride all the way up to a double century? What should I look for? I saw the synapse 5 suggested above...would people agree with that?
Thanks so much for all the help, btw. Really, this is way better than reading long winded articles.

For another 100 opinions, you might go to the Google:Ultramarathon Cycling group, or to the www.ultracycling.com website. Their style of cycling is more along the lines of the Furnace 508 than the Bicycle Forums:Long Distance forum, which tends to be more randonneuring oriented. Long rides, but not races. Though there's a fair amount of cross over: UMCA's who do rando events as training rides, or rando's who occasionally do 24-hour races and such.

I know three or four randonneurs who ride LHT's and like them a lot. But I think I'd find them too heavy. I ride a Rivendell Rambouillet or a Gunnar Sport -- both of them are the "Sport Touring" geometry/build that others have recommended. Much like the Surly Pacer or Salsa Casserroll. But if I were aiming for Furnace 508, I suspect I'd be riding on a different bike and getting used to riding at a much faster pace with very little "stuff" on my bike, since supported events have different needs than unsupported events like randonneuring.
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Old 02-14-09, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by marcusedvalson View Post
I have been reading around, trying to decide on what bike to buy for long distance riding. I saw that a lot of people swear by the surly Long Haul Trucker as being ridiculously comfortable. My question is, what makes it so comfortable for long distance riding. I imagine it has to do with the frame geometry, but what specifically about the geometry makes it comfy?
In my experience, tires far outweigh any other factor when comfort is the issue. The stiffest oversized aluminum frame will be more comfortable than the most shock-absorbing carbon frame, if the former is fitted with big, supple puffballs and the latter with 20 mm clinchers at 140 psi. Frameset "comfort", for me, has a lot more to to with steering geometry (Is this bike going to need constant, fatiguing attention in order to keep a straight line?) than materials, etc.

Having said that, Surly uses fairly heavy gauge tubing -- important for TIG/MIG welded frames -- and does not absorb shock the way a lighter gauge frame does. If comfort AND skinny high pressure tires is important to you, the Surly may not be the best bet. But if you're fine with using 28+ mm tires, then I would put frame material as a comfort issue out of your mind.

It is true that the Surly and similar welded frames are a bit heavier than some others. But unless you are comparing them with a lightweight racing frame made of exotic materials, the difference amounts to a couple of pounds at most. This, IMO, is lost in the noise, especially considering how big you are. At 6'1" and 200 pounds myself, long experience has shown me the folly of worrying about grams when I could go on a diet and lose the equivalent of a bike-and-a-half!

Regardless, what makes the LHT a relaxing bike to ride, IMO, is the steering geometry, which is relaxed and designed to allow the rider to ignore his bike. This becomes especially valuable at the end of a long day: the "spirited" bicycle that was enjoyable early on becomes a real PITA when the rider is tired and not in the mood to reign in an unruly bike.

You will find two broad schools of thought regarding steering geometry. The first, and much more common, holds that a relaxed head angle (71-72 degrees) with moderate fork rake (45 mm or so) -- as represented by the LHT -- makes for a stable and predictable bike. I agree with this, as long as any luggage is carried on the back of the bike, or carried low on the front of the bike, preferably in the vicinity of the front axle. Front loads tend to make a bicycle with this kind of geometry unpleasant, and very wide tires can also make the bike feel odd.

The other school of thought demands a moderately steep head angle (73-74 degrees) and a whole boatload of fork rake (60-80 mm). This results in a minimum of wheel flop*, but also a moderately unstable bike, if narrow tires are used. Wider tires turn this bike into very pleasant machine to ride, and a loaded handlebar bag improves it even further. If you are dedicated to wide tires and handlebar bags, then this geometry is the only answer. Most folks, though, are enamored of neither, and are therefor better served by the shallow head angle/moderate rake school, I think.

Finally, it's worth analyzing what you intend to do with the bike. Nearly all century riders use a racing bike. Many/most will use a racing-style body position as well, which makes sense as typical elite/pro races will exceed 100 miles. As the distances get longer, you begin to see more relaxed/touring bicycles, but it again depends upon the entrant's goal. If you are looking for fast times and high finishes, the racing bike still makes sense. If you are looking to smell the roses and simply finish within any time limits, then maybe a more relaxed bike is the order of the day.



*Wheel flop is the tendency of the front wheel to, well, flop to the side when turned. As a riding characteristic is can be experienced by riding down a hill with no hands. At very low speed the bike is essentially unrideable because the wheel will flop off in one direction or another. As speed increases, the wheel begins to track straighter, and eventually the bike becomes stable. This condition is not as noticeable with hands on the bars, but still exists and still contributes to the sense of stability, or lack thereof -- felt by the rider. Believers in the steep head angle/lots of rake school hold that wheel flop is a necessary evil and should be minimized as much as possible.

HTH!

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Old 02-14-09, 12:16 PM
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But to avoid the long-winded article version...

Originally Posted by marcusedvalson View Post
Firstly, where would be a good place to learn about bike geometry, rigidity and what makes a good race bike, climbing bike, long distance bike, etc?
Bike geometry is immensely complex, incompletely understood, and filled with personalities. There's no easy place to learn about it and no real consensus, either. In simplest possible terms:

1) A steep head angle usually means quicker/less stable handling.

2) Less fork rake usually means the same, at least until you start adding baggage to various locations.

3) Seat angle hardly affects handling. Its primary function is to get you in the right place in regard to the pedals. Unless you are a freak, the standard 72-74 degrees will accomplish that.

4) Longer chainstays tend to slow handling slightly, improve directional stability slightly, and improve comfort slightly. They also flex more, which is claimed to slightly hurt climbing ability. Perhaps their most important attribute is in allowing wider tires.

Rigidity is another contested topic. For a long time it was thought that frame flex wasted energy. There is a competing school of thought which holds that frame flex cannot be wasted energy because in order for that to be the case the frame would have to warm up, which doesn't happen. So the belief is that frame flex is stored energy which is then returned to the drivetrain near the end of each flex cycle. That school also holds that moderately flexible frames are easier on the legs than a stiffer frame. I personally don't think it's matters all that much. Pro races have been won on super stiff and super flexible bikes.

What makes a good race bike, climbing bike, LD bike? There's a can of worms! You could just about ask "What makes a good bike?". Light, fast, comfortable, reliable, predictable, good looking, affordable... That's what we want from every bike! So you just see how much of each you can find, making trade-offs according to your needs and wants. Head to the local century starting line and you'll see a 14 pound carbon bike with aero bars and a disk wheel lined up next to a perfectly restored 1974 Masi lined up next to a fully loaded British touring bike with fancy lugs and curly stays. Each rider thinks his bike perfect for the event -- and is right.


Originally Posted by marcusedvalson View Post
Second, I think my hopes of being able to buy a bike that will take me through training, my first century and all the way to furnace creek is a pipe dream. That said, what is a good bike to really cut my teeth on? One that I can ride all the way up to a double century? What should I look for? I saw the synapse 5 suggested above...would people agree with that?
I don't think it's a pipe dream at all, if you already know your goals for riding. If you want to go fast, get as good a race bike as you can afford, and invest in a top quality pair of light, aerodynamic spare wheels for event day. You won't be that comfortable in the long events, but you're riding hard anyway. If you just want to finish and enjoy the day/s, find a bike that will fit wide tires and carry a bit of luggage and you'll be fine.

IMO, one of the most important things is to find a bike that speaks to you. You're not going to be making a living at this, so the bike is more than just a tool. If you find one that you can enjoy leaning against a wall and just admiring, you're already ahead of the game.

Guess that still ended up being long-winded, eh?

Last edited by Six jours; 02-14-09 at 12:27 PM.
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Old 02-14-09, 08:09 PM
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I agree with Six Jours. I'm no Lace Armstrong, I just want to finish without my butt hurting and my hands falling asleep.
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Old 02-14-09, 08:47 PM
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Hello all you smart and butt-hardened long distance folks.

Have you looked at the new 2009 Jamis Aurora Elite as a possible mid-level long-distance bike?

It's positioned as a touring bike, but has a (supposedly) lighter weight / higher quality tubeset than bikes like the LHT (Reynolds 631 instead of that CrMo 4130 that Surly uses).

At $1500, it's $400 more than a Surly LHT but seems to be lighter (advertised as 23.5 pounds) and has a somewhat higher mix of stock components (mix of Shimano 105 and Ultegra).

Brifters vs. bar ends (cue religious debate here...)


https://www.jamisbikes.com/usa/thebik...roraelite.html

In past years this bike was built on their cyclocross frame w/a carbon fork but for 09 it has a steel fork with more traditional touring geometry. Could go with big tires + fenders if you need them, or fit smaller tires if you want lighter weight.

Thoughts?
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Old 02-14-09, 09:19 PM
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Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
Hello all you smart and butt-hardened long distance folks.

Have you looked at the new 2009 Jamis Aurora Elite as a possible mid-level long-distance bike?

It's positioned as a touring bike, but has a (supposedly) lighter weight / higher quality tubeset than bikes like the LHT (Reynolds 631 instead of that CrMo 4130 that Surly uses).

At $1500, it's $400 more than a Surly LHT but seems to be lighter (advertised as 23.5 pounds) and has a somewhat higher mix of stock components (mix of Shimano 105 and Ultegra).

Brifters vs. bar ends (cue religious debate here...)


https://www.jamisbikes.com/usa/thebik...roraelite.html

In past years this bike was built on their cyclocross frame w/a carbon fork but for 09 it has a steel fork with more traditional touring geometry. Could go with big tires + fenders if you need them, or fit smaller tires if you want lighter weight.

Thoughts?
That's a very nice bike for the money. The geometry is very close to the Co-Motion Nor'Wester, so seems like it would offer some versatility, more than strictly a loaded tourer. It is half the price of the Co-Mo, but that is because of the way the Co-Motion is tricked out for years and years of riding without failure.

If I were planning a tour I'd look hard at this bike, if I were going to load up and tour all summer I'd go for the Co-Motion. On a century I could see riding the Jamis, on a double century I'd opt for a lighter bike and take it faster.
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Old 02-14-09, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Shifty View Post
The geometry is very close to the Co-Motion Nor'Wester, so seems like it would offer some versatility, more than strictly a loaded tourer.
That's exactly the bike I was thinking of, too.
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