November 2010 Long Haul Trucker

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Arkel Panniers

I’ve always heard about the quality of Arkel Panniers. And when I’ve seen them on other bikes, I’ve always been impressed. But nothing is quites as impressive as when you have them on your own bike. They’re not perfect though. I’m still trying to figure out the right way to load and unload them. The right side GT-54, due in part to it’s asymmetrical design, is awkward to handle and mount when loaded. The strap that is designed to release the top attachment, becomes an impediment at times when trying to mount the panniers. They’re still new to me, so these are only first impressions. I’ll have to do some more testing to find the best way to make them work for me.

I must say that the workmanship is superb. I’ve had the Arkel Big Handlebar bag for a while and it’s bombproof. There is a cost in weight. The REI panniers I replaced, probably weighed a quarter of what these do. But, I think they’ll be great to live out of.

Surly Long Haul Trucker

As I’ve put more miles on the LHT it has evolved. I started with nice drop bars, bar end shifters and Tektro Levers. I decided I wanted to try butterfly / trekking bars. I bought the bars and set them up with the least expensive components I could find, bmx brake levers, inexpensive thumb shifters, and then I rode it that way for a few weeks.

As I became accustomed to the ride position, I noticed right away that I had many more hand positions I could use. I also noticed there were a few I wanted to avoid, because they would put pressure on my hand at the point where the Ulnar, Median and Radial Nerves all intersect. So I’ve been trying to train myself to avoid those hand positions automatically. Not so easy to do. This is also a problem on drop bars. However I’ve been riding them for so many years that I avoid those positions that can cause numbness and pain.

The ride position reminded me of a mountain bike, but with a more forward and move upright position while still holding the bars. One of the nicest ways to ride is with my hands on the end of the bars, which allows me to ride almost upright, while cruising along some flat smooth road. I’m really learning to enjoy the ride.

So I upgraded the components, with Paul Component Engineering Canti Levers and Paul Component Engineering Thumbies. I ordered a leather handlebar wrap kit from Walnut Studiolo. The space is a little tight around the stem, with both the cyclecomputer and Garmin Etrex GPS mounted there. But, if I need to add anything more, I still have the second bar that the handle bar bag is mounted on. My latest addition was a StemCaptain thermometer. Didn’t get a picture of that yet. Maybe later.

I also changed out the seat. I started with the Brooks B-17, which was comfortable and easy to live with. I have been riding a B-17 for years on other bikes. What I noticed, on really rough surfaces, I felt a lot of high frequency vibrations coming up through the seat. Then I changed to the Brooks Flyer Special. Road cracks,  manhole covers, grates and small bumps that I might  watch for and avoid on another bike, I roll right over with my Long Haul Trucker.