Since getting my Surly Troll build up by my friends at Bike U Like shortly before embarking on our current tour of New Zealand I didn’t leave myself much time to test it. Top tip for tourers; get your bike build early and go on a couple of fully loaded shakedown rides first. However, since leaving Auckland I have now put well over 1000 miles of fully loaded mixed terain touring on it and thought I would share my initial thoughts.
26″ v 29″ v 700c
There were a number of factors influencing my choose in wheel size, but one of the biggest for me was the fact Alex already has a 26″ LHT and I wanted us to both have the same to reduce the number of spares we would need to take.
I have previously ridden a 700c road bike (Surly Pacer) across the USA. From this experience I knew I wanted fatter tiers for the New Zealand trails and more mounting points for racks, bottles etc, you can’t get much more then on the troll (5x bottle cage, 3x anything cage, fenders and any type of racks!) Plus it’s rock solid out the saddle with none of the flex of the Pacer when loaded.
My last main reason for the Troll over say the LHT was I want to use it as my mountain bike after this tour.
So far all the above are working out well. We have had no wheel issues and everything has remained true.
However, despite some frankly awesome days of off road riding most of the miles have come on the road and small wheels with fat (1.75″) tiers are not the quickest. But then that wasn’t my biggest concern in the first place.
Being a mountain bike at heart and very over build for touring the Troll is extremely stable when loaded, even off road. I have not worried about the frame being pushed past its limits at any point, where as the panniers bouncing around are a different matter.
The steel Troll matched with my wide Jeff Jones Loop-H bars and an uncut steerer tube and Vegan friendly Brooks C17 saddle give me a nice comfortable upright riding position to take in the view with.
Loaded and on the road the ride is a bit predictable and pedestrian, not a bad thing in a tourer, but when i show it some dirt i have to restrain myself from going full gas.
At 6’2″ I am glad I went for the smaller 20″ frame over the 22″.
The only issue I have had is with running front panniers for the first time. Due to my choice of front rack (Surly Nice) and a rushed job fitting it i, it puts the bags out in front rather the centred over the axle. The result of which is very heavy steering, which is emphasised in steep and sharp turns espesially off road.
The Jones bars do a great job at controlling the bike even with the front bag issue and allow for multiple hand positions. This is great on a long day ride and even better on an extended tour. The out front grip gives you a very simulate body position to that of riding in traditional road drops.
Despite having the option for any type of gearing from traditional touring triple, mountain double, bling bling internally geared Rohloff hub or the simplicity of singlespeed, I opted for a 1×9. As I already had the cranks and 42t chainring it made sense to use them. It also keeps things simple and wouldn’t result in a front derailor mechanical like in the US. I also worked out that using an 11t-34t on the back would give me a very similare low gear to that on my old Surly Pacer road bike. This has worked great on the roads, but with all the off roading we have been doing I would prefer a few easier gears considering the load I am carrying.
At the end of this tour I’m planning on switching the 42t chainring from a 32t and keeping it as a specific mtb.
Peddles (SPD v Flats)
Despite preferring to ride SPD normally when touring I opt for flare platforms. The reason being is that they allow me to cycle in my hiking shoes and as we are in no rush the performance loss is negligible. For this build I opted for a pair of the new 2014 DMR V12 Mag’s as my old pair have been on Alex LHT for a few years now and haven’t even needed a service despite daily use over many thousands of miles.
The Troll can take any type of break you fancy, but after first trying cantilevers I opted for some old school Avid V’s instead. The main reason was I am more familiar with them and despite the fact I would love some hydrologic discs (and will be putting some on when u convert it to a full blooded mountain bike) for long distance touring in remote areas I’ll stick to the simple stuff.
Stopping power has been fine in most situations, but in the one day of wet and mud off road I was wishing for discs.
For me the Troll is best on any type of terrain that you wouldn’t want to take a road bike. Yes you could get a CX bike and ride all these trails no problem, but loaded with front and rear racks I would rather my bike was over build then just on the limit.
Plus I like the fact I can strip it back down when we get home and set it up in any number of off road configurations.
If you don’t have a partner with a 26″ touring bike already you might like to go for Surly’s 29er version the Ogre or Salsa’s Fargo. Both of which are becoming popular with New Zealanders due to matching the terrain well.
Head over to our ‘Lossing My 10 Front Teeth & Other Cosmetic Changes‘ post to see how I changed up my Troll setup for touring Thailand.