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.




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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.

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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.

The Ride

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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.

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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″.

Handling

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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.

Gearing 

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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.

Breaking

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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.

Conclusion

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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.

Update

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.

  1. Ken
    Feb 25, 2015

    Thanks for a good comprehensive review.

    What bike would you recommend for travels in Europe such as London to Paris – an “old faithful” like my wife has or something a little more zippy?

    Your blog is very cool! When do we get more of Alex’s tasty recipes?

    Reply
    • Look Mum No Car
      Feb 26, 2015

      I would definitely go with 700c “road” wheels! Tyres depends on if it’s all on sealed roads or mixed terrain. I recon you would be best getting a Cyclocross bike like the Surly Cross Check or if you want disc breaks the Salsa Vaya. These bikes still give a relaxed riding position, have all the mounting points for racks and fenders, but are much quicker then the old “mountain” bike in the garage. Yeah you can tour on anything and people do, but a well fitted bike that matches what your riding will make the whole experience much more enjoyable. More from Cuppleditch Kitchen soon

      Reply
  2. Tom
    Mar 08, 2015

    A reply from our Air BNB place in Verona.

    Great review Andy. Very clear. Here’s to another 1000miles!

    Reply
    • Look Mum No Car
      Mar 08, 2015

      Nice1 thanks Tom. How is Verona? Air BNB def got some interesting and very different places to stay. Think I will use it more in the future.

      Reply
  3. kane
    Apr 04, 2015

    Hi!

    Great review, exactly what I was looking for!

    Me and my partner are planning to travel to india from the UK in about a year and a half after quiting our jobs. When I visited my local surly dealer to ask about surly LHT, 26, they mentioned the troll as a viable alternative. I am not an off-road rider, so I am skeptical, especially since any build we use is likely to be just a standard triple, but maybe after getting out of Europe via turkey/dubai/oman/india, it might be a lot easier to have some bigger tyres, plus since we will be wild camping a lot, it seems that a troll may be a good idea.

    Any recommendations for rim and tyre size considering the options available?

    Reply
    • Look Mum No Car
      Apr 06, 2015

      Awesome stuff. The next year will fly by and you will soon be having an adventure of a life time!

      If you are sticking to roads, even the ass end of nowhere type stuff the LHT will be sweet as. Alex actually had the long term review of hers ready to post on here when we next get good WiFi so keep an eye out.

      As for rims that was a bit tricky. Most companies have shifted to disc only for there 26″ers and the ‘nicer’ or more pricy they are the more lightweight they are. So I gave up on the £50 a rim Mavics and instead went for the much cheaper £18 a rim Rigida Sputnik. They are basically a touring 26, nice and fat breaking surface so won’t wear out in any hurry and come on loads of spoke count options. I went with 36 and they have been ace.

      Tyre wise I would 100% recommend getting Schwalbe Marathons! They have a few options but again for road you can’t go wrong with their ‘Plus’ version, more on this on the LHT review.

      Hope this helps and let us know if you have any more questions and how you get on.

      Reply
    • Look Mum No Car
      Apr 06, 2015

      In terms of size I would say if your stocking to road 1.5″ would be fine. As most people carry to much stuff it will add a bit more support, but if you pack light go with 1.35. That is what Alex has been using and they are great in all but the worst conditions.

      Reply