LHT 26″ Wheeled Build PT1…

28 05 2011

Rustproofed and ready to be built...

I bought my sage green Surly Long Haul Trucker frame back in the day when the only option was 700c wheels [for frames 56cm +] and complete bikes were just a dream. I was really pleased to see Surly introduce a 26″ wheeled trucker in the larger sizes recently. The 26″ wheel size allows you to use parts that are ubiquitous due to the proliferation of the mountain bike and to fit massive rubber plus fenders into the frame for a strong wheel that rolls like it’s on a cloud. If you are headed off paved roads or to a destination where roads are more an idea than a reality 26″ wheels/wide rubber make sense.

I’ve been curious how different a 26″ LHT would be compared to my 700c frame. A side by side comparison was on my mind for a while, but it took a little while to make it happen. Well I’m stoked to say I’ve got a 58cm black LHT frame in my work stand finally.  My plan is to try out a few different builds on this frame over the summer and compare them back to back with my 700c Trucker.

Some ideas I have:

  • trying 38mm and 50mm 26″ rubber
  • trying drop bars and Jones Loop H-bar
  • trying 650B wheels & 42mm Grand Bois Hertre tires
  • trying a porteur rack up front to see how the bike handles
  • possibly setting it up in lightweight mode with 650B tires as a rando rig

New Surly LHT dropouts...

One thing I really like about Surly is that they don’t trying and upgrade their frames needlessly each year like most companies just for the sake of giving you something new to buy. They come up with a solid design, test it thoroughly and then stick with it. The LHT has seen only a couple changes over the years. The rear dropouts are different from my LHT. The rack/fender mounts are supported much better in the new dropouts which is a plus if you carry very heavy loads on rough terrain.
The rough looking finish on the dropouts in the image above is due to rust proofing I didn’t clean off – not a problem with the powder coat.

Nice tall head tube...

The other difference I noticed is that the new LHT’s head tube is ~9″ tall vs. 6.5″ on my older LHT to accomodate the lower front wheel.

The blue LHT...

One thing I’ll be doing differently this time around is to document and post about each stage of the build so that someone who has never built a bike from a frame can see what’s involved. For this post let’s talk about sizing a frame and frame prep.
How to size a frame?
I’m no expert at this and I occasionally goof up, but my system works most of the time!
  • if you have a similar bike you like measure it
  • if not go to a LBS and find a similar bike that fits well and measure it or grab the specs from the net
  • if that’s not working for you ask your LBS to suggest a size
  • use the top tube length as the primary criteria
  • then check the stand over to make sure you aren’t going to have any issues straddling the bike [I have zero stand over on my LHT and it’s no problem]
  • get a second independent opinion [hopefully it agrees with your initial sizing result]
  • if you are not confident in the answer you get take your time and keep looking into it
For a bike like the LHT most people can ride two sizes comfortably. I like my 58cm LHT, but I can easily fit on a 56cm frame, but a 54cm frame is too small.

56cm LHT w/ 26" wheels - Photo: Hiawatha Cyclery...

Frame Prep:
  • inspect for any damage
  • clean threads [BB, braze ons]
  • face BB shell [for external bearing cranks]
  • face head tube and fork crown
  • rustproof inside of frame
I’ll be honest I’ve tried going nuts on the frame prep and not doing anything at all. I haven’t noticed much if any difference in outcome. I’ve read the same thing online from a lot of other folks so it’s not something I stress about. I had both my old trucker and the new frame rustproofed by the Fairfield Bicycle Shop. The cost was low and it seems like a reasonable precaution for a bike used in a wet climate. If you are not sure if you should get your new frame fully prepared by a bike shop find out how much it will cost and compare that to the cost of the frame.
You can always go back to your LBS for some frame prep help if as you build the bike you notice some issues with stuff like excessive powder coat on the threads. However, you do need to deal with rustproofing while the frame is bare so once you start the build it’s too late to reconsider without having to strip the frame again.
While you are at it look the frame over very closely for any obvious problems with the paint, welds and alignment. Most frames are shipped well packaged, but I’ve had 3 arrive with some form of damage. If you have to return a frame for replacement ideally you want to figure that out before you waste time/$$ preparing the frame and installing the headset.



15 responses

28 05 2011
Wannes VdA

Hi Vik,

Another frame/bike? Really? It seems to me every time I change clothes, you’ve bought a new bike! 😉
Enough joking, congrats with the new frame! Exactly what I’ve bought in august last year for our first bike-holiday (which was also our honeymoon btw…). They were out of black in size 60, so I had to take a blue one.

Not so simple to get here in Belgium (Europe), but I’m very glad I went to the trouble. It’s wonderful to build up the frame instead of buying a whole bike.
I really like the large tires, I currently have Schwalbe Marathons (50-559). A lot of comfort on our damaged streets (crisis everywhere…), but still a good speed. With some high quality tires, like the grand bois, I think it ‘ll ride fantastic.

I also read on the Velo Orange blog that with the right canti brake you can run 650B wheels on 26″ frames without problems, so that should be exciting to test!

I have been trying to get a VO porteur rack to add to my bike, but it’s rather difficult to find where I live. Could you tell me when you are planning to test this as I’m really interested in your findings!

I’m still searching for ‘the’ handlebar for my bike, but I haven’t found it yet. I’m at a point where I’m considering a drop bar. That means investing in other shifters etc, as I’ve mounted mtb-parts for the moment.

Have fun with the build and of course, with the ride!



28 05 2011

I may be mistaken but I’m pretty sure the head tube is longer because the fork crown is lower due to the smaller wheels. The top of your headset is probably going to be in the exact same place.

28 05 2011
Janice in GA

I always find your posts interesting and informative. I look forward to following your progress on the new LHT!

28 05 2011

@W VdA – well the only way to answer people’s questions about LHT’s is to try the options out and see what I think. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it…=-)

28 05 2011

It will be interesting to read about your comparison between the two. My LHT is a 52cm, so it has 26″ wheels. It took me awhile to get used to a 26″ wheeled road bike after riding 700c bikes for so many years. But now I can’t imagine riding anything bigger on my LHT (not that I can anyway, they don’t make a 52cm with 700c wheels).

28 05 2011

ever seen a LHT with straight bars rather than down turned handle bars?
Most people I see riding rarely use the lower parts, thus decreasing control.
Just an idea,

28 05 2011

A few commemts:
I began with an XL black big dummy… which i rebuilt…Which I will take to my grave…
I then decided a 64 LHT was an answer … To another need… Ticket so to speak. I have 3 black … Black is the greatest color.

You are right that Surly figured iit out early on and then did not F with the formula… Too much.

29 05 2011

@Alan – sure some folks ride their LHT with flat bars or swept back bars. As long as you size the TT correctly it’s no problem.

29 05 2011

@AC – when I mounted up some rubber and wheels the TT is approximately the same level as my 700c LHT the longer headtube accommodates the smaller wheel.

30 05 2011

Have you decided on your 650B brake solution? Seems like there are three options:
1) V’s or Cantis with wide adjustment. The problem I see here is that you likely end up topped out on the adjustment, which makes further adjustment rather difficult.
2) Paul Racer V-Brakes. $250 for a pair. Ouch. But they offer ample adjustment range. I wonder about fender clearance.
3) Sinz Brake Adapter Kit. Cheap, good adjustment, but not much online feedback.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing how you go about this.

RE: frame prep: Ovalized head tubes suck. Get your head tube faced. Beyond that, I wouldn’t spend much time on prepping. LHT have thickish tubes, so it would likely take a very long time for rust to be a real problem. That said, I plan on year-round commuting my LHT, so I went ahead with the rust proofing, but I doubt it’s really necessary.

1 06 2011
Pirate Velo

I have been riding 60cm fixies for a while. I am 6’2” and 200#. I just bought a LHT and struggeled with what size to get. I ended up getting a 58cm and glad I did. The 60cm would have been too big.

15 07 2011


When you get the 26″-wheeled Surly all done and some miles on it, could you please write a review of how it compares to the Thorn Sherpa you had (and sold)? I’m considering buying a Sherpa, and carefully read your response to a reader query asking how it compared to your 700C LHT. Would love to see how the two 26-inchers compared head to head….

Can’t wait to see the final results of this latest build.

16 07 2011

@Dannueaux – sure thing. If you live in North America I think the LHT is a no brainer. The Sherpa can’t do anything the LHT can and now that you can get the LHT in 26″ wheel sizes the only significant difference is gone. I will do a more detailled review once I have ridden the LHT a bunch.

16 05 2012

Hi there,

I notice you have both 58 and 56 size LHT bikes! I too could probably fit either size. Which size do you prefer? Can you run a 100/90mm stem on the 58, or do you need a shorter stem. Thanks!

I can test-ride a 56 before buying, but not a 58. Pretty confident I could fit on one though…

16 05 2012

Both my LHTs are 58cm frames.

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