If you read the last post you will already know Kate got a Surly Disc Trucker last year and as I said; I got a little jealous. It was also hard work keeping up with her when I was on my Troll which is pretty hefty. So this year I decided to get my own Surly Disc Trucker! I had secretly been buying the parts over the last 9 months and they had all been delivered to my office and mostly kept in my desk drawers; who needs paperwork?
I took my time choosing the parts slowly acquiring them as they came on sale. Deciding on the gearing was the biggest part; I would have preferred 9 speed for reliability but I already had a set or Shimano 105 STI shifters from a groupset deal I had; I had used the rest of the parts on Kate’s Tifosi rebuild and only had the shifters left. They are 10 speed triple shifters with the gear cable exiting the side; I did consider the newer 105 model where the gear cable is hidden but I was told this was not so reliable although it avoids cables getting in the way of a bar bag.
The Shimano 105 shifters are designed to work with road derailleurs and there isn’t a road derailleur that works with a 36 tooth rear cassette. It turns out that the pull ration on the Shimano mountain bike 10 speed rear derailleur is different to the pull ration of their 10 speed road shifters. So to get the 10 speed setup to work I had to fit a Shimano 9 speed rear derailleur; the results are good with reliable shifting and 30 gears! In case your wondering its 11 – 36 teeth on the cassette and 48/36/26 rings on the chainset. The chain I originally fitted was only 114 links and after 400 miles I replaced it with 116 links which improved the shifting on the front chainset; I also fitted a cheap gear cable which I picked up in a local bike shop when I built the bike and this seemed to be constantly stretching so I changed this for a Shimano cable.
For the chainset I opted for Shimano’s XT Trekking set with 48/36/26 rings and 170mm crank length; the model number is FC-T781. If I had gone for a 9 speed build this would have been considerably cheaper with a Shimano LX option or I could have gone for a cheaper 10 speed Deore; it turned out that the chainset was the most expensive part after the frame. I had difficulty buying one in the UK and in the end I had it shipped from Germany. It has a chainguard which is really useful when I want to pop into town or go to work on it.
I decided to go for the XT trekking pedals with an SPD clip on one side; it turns out they are lighter than the dual sided Shimano SPD pedals I normally use; again very useful for going to work with normal shoes or running errands and occasionally wearing sandals in the sunshine. On two of the trips I have been on I have taken some Gore-tex shoes for the rain and although the flat side of the pedal is great in the dry its got no grip in the wet; the tread on the Merrell Gore-tex shoe I use is designed for hiking and isn’t very good with most pedals but its useless with these in the rain, ideally I would like a pair of waterproof shoes with a flat tread for platform pedals but I haven’t come across anything yet. I like a pair of waterproof trainers for rainy days, cold weather and camping in the wet.
The bike has a Tubus Cargo Classic Rack on the rear and a Tubus Tara Lowrider on the front. The 46 cm frame only has the option for 26″ wheels and I fitted SKS Chromoplastics mudguards to the bike. On the rear of the rack is a Cateye light which is permanently fixed; I thought it would have been knocked off by now whilst touring but despite its vulnerable position its remained untouched. Fitting the rear rack and mudguards posed no problems and the frame design is well thought out; there are a couple of small differences between the 46 cm size and some of the larger frames; there is no pump boss below the toptube for mounting a frame pump and there is only clearance for a small 500 mm water bottle on the underneath of the downtube.
Fitting a front rack and mudguard to the Disc Trucker proved problematic as it did with the Surly Troll and Kate’s Surly Disc Trucker. Kate’s Disc Trucker doesn’t have a front rack and I was able to bend the mudguard stay around the Avid BB7 brake and keep the SKS secu-clip in place. With the Tara rack mounted to the Disc Trucker there wasn’t room for it on the calliper side so I had to remove the clip but the bike does have on on the other side.
The Avid BB7 brakes are excellent; I have fitted the road version to this bike as I have road levers and the pull ratio is different to flat bar brake levers; they are very powerful in all conditions, very easy to maintain and set up. I also have them on the Surly Troll and Kate has them on her Surly Disc Trucker. On my mountain bike I have some Avid hydraulic brakes and I must say I prefer the cable version, less force is needed to operate the hydraulic brakes but I find the Avid hydraulic brakes can be problematic and I have had trouble with the pistons sticking. The cable discs for touring work very well; there is plenty of stopping power and recently when I buckled the front wheel I did not have the issue of the rim rubbing on the brakes as I would with conventional rim brakes. I run a 180 mm rotor in the front and a 160 mm rotor in the rear. The only drawback I can find is fitting mudguards is more difficult but it can be easily overcome; and there is no need to bend the mudguard stays as I have if you fit a spacer where the stay attaches to the frame.
I wanted to keep the wheel weight down and I fitted a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Racer tyres which are 26″ x 1.5″ and weigh a low 390 grams. They have some puncture protection but from what I gather most of the weight is saved in the tyre wall. I got them on sale at an amazing £15 each; at the time I wasn’t sure if they were going to be tough enough but after 600 miles most of which has been with full camping gear and quite a few of those miles on unpaved routes I am really happy with them. I want to buy more but the cheapest I can find a pair for now is £60! For a few years I have been using Continental Travel Contact Tyres which is a good strong tyre for on and off road touring, but they do weigh 690 grams each and the profile means they are slow rolling.
The wheels came off an old mountain bike; the rear was rebuilt a couple of years ago using a Mavic XM 317 on a Hope hub; I had new bearings pressed into the hub at the time and the cassette body serviced; the wheel is light weight and so far its withstood a heavy touring load on some rough ground although I do take it easy. Mavic rims don’t have a reputation for touring on and I will be keeping an eye on it. I have considered some touring rims but at this point the reliability of the Mavic is proving just fine. The front wheel is another matter; its probably about 10 years old and although a great mountain bike wheel in its day it is now in need of a rebuild and new bearings. The spokes are bladed and its a lightweight cross country rim; I will be replacing it very soon. When I built the Troll I wanted a go anywhere bike but I found the weight of the thing stops me using it on some trips or just not going at all; it can certainly cope with tough terrain fully loaded but pedalling it on a 50 mile ride is hard work; the wheels are mostly to blame for its weight with the Alfine hub and the Sputnik rims and robust tyres so I am keen to keep the wheel weight low on the disc trucker.
Its the best bike I have built to date; I’ve done 600 miles on it so far and its been great; by keeping the wheel and tyre weight down this has made a difference even when loaded up and so far its worked out well. Its very comfortable and I have got a few rides in which have been over 70 miles long with a reasonable average speed. The 10 speed groupset is working out fine and the short drop bars are really good; a recommendation from Curtis. I should have gone for the Surly Trucker instead of the Troll a few years ago but its taken me some time to evolve from mountain biking to becoming a tourer; I will assume its a case of growing up.