Friday, June 08, 2012

Surly Troll thoughts

Prior to a recent tour I decided to upset the apple cart and order a Surly Troll frame to replace my longstanding primary grunt rig, a Surly LHT.  The LHT, bought perhaps 6 years ago, has served mostly every purpose imaginable for me: commuter, gravel-grinder, hauler, coffee stroller, and long-distance rig. As recently as this past Christmas I asked for an received a couple pieces of kit to better dress up the LHT, including Ortlieb backrollers and a Tubus Logo. Things were good.

Sometime this Spring, I made two different observations which led to the Troll decision. First, the LHT was starting to show its age. There is some rust forming along the seatstay bridge, not a frame killer but more a source of fade, like an older car which starts to need random servicing. Also, given my bike collection, I have some repetition; I could do what I do on the LHT with another, more-spirited bike like my even older Crosscheck.  I decided to change.

What has facilitated the swap is the 26"-sized wheel. My LHT is 26", as is the Troll, so changing over wheels was no problem. The crankset and brake set were in good shape, and transitioning to a mtbike frame also gives me another chance at a Jones Loop Bar, one that didn't agree with me that well on the LHT. the only specific kit I needed for the  Troll was a new headset and new BB to deal with wider chainstay placement for potentially *wide* rubber on the Troll. I'm running my old 1.75" Conti TravelContacts, but this bike screams for some 2.15" or wider rubber.

For the tour, my set-up was as follows:

  • 16" Troll frame with a predominant Shimano Deore LX drivetrain and V-brakes
  • two random wheels, both sporting Shimano hubs and very used Conti TravelContacts
  • Jones Loop bar with Paul's Thumbies and Garmin 60cx that getsh the job done
  • VO seatpost and Brooks B-17 saddle
  • Orblieb Backrollers on a Tubus Logo. Tent, Thermalite, sandals and rainjacket attached to that
  • no fenders. I had the rear one mounted with some brake clearance issues. I bought an $8 "mudguard" or something that didn't do much. A touring bike needs fenders.
So, thoughts:
Pros:
  • much more nimble frame that LHT. Feels lighter, livlier and more fun than ponderous LHT.
  • very stable at speed. I hit speeds in excess of 40mph with touring gear a couple times b/c I was so confident. That isn't to say that the LHT isn't rock solid as well, but descents were *fun* on this rig.
  • carried weight well enough. With a primarily rear load I did get some front end waggle, which if I didn't try to induce, never caused any issue. Next time I will try to put a little weight on the front via a rack or under-the-bar roll like the bikepackers are doing.
  • for me a proper size, which keeps my frame rather small but stiff for dragging the weight.
  • a Hell of a rig on mixed terrain. *SO* in its element on the chunky stuff. It immediately makes me want to find some more.
  • while the lack of compartments keeps me busy staying organized, the Ortliebs did a great job keeping things secure and dry. We had heavy rain one night and I suffered no concern about my gear.
  • MtFeedBags provided extra storage up front. I used the left one for food and sunglasses, the right for camera. Good system, and the Jones bar has the extra handholds to make it happen.
  • potential for big rubber. Have I already said that?
Cons:
  • still undecided about the Jones bar. When I was climbing or graveling- basically mtbike applications- I enjoyed their positions and options. When I was plowing across wide expanses of road sections my hands got tired. Basically I found myself not using my abs (what abs?) and leaning too heavily on them. Still undecided.
  • the front end waggle wasn't a prob, but I never experienced than on the LHT. It's the difference between a touring and mtbike rig, I presume.
  • had to ride older 1.75 Contis. Didn't have the $$ for new fat Schwalbes.
In the end I'm very satisfied with my decision. I don't think the Troll is quite the road grinder that the LHT is, but the Troll also opens up newer avenues of mixed-terrain, fire roads, trails and such. With road rubber it did 90% of the necessary tasks that the LHT road machine does, and brings a much livelier feel. Other than making decisions about bars/cockpits and such, the Troll is an upgrade to my stable, and I already look forward to find other applications for its skillset. 








7 comments:

DerrickP said...

What's the plan for the LHT frame? Want to sell it :)

Tex69 said...

@DerrickP, in fact I already took pics to post but couldn't find the right cable, so I need to take some new ones. 52c snot green. Def for sale.

Doug said...

This is how Derrick ended up with my previous Cross Check frame. He's a serious bargain hunter.

Thanks for the write-up. I'm not sure how it will happen or what year, but I want one. I've been wanting to try a Rohloff speed hub for four or five years and I think the Troll is the frame I want to try it on.

Tex69 said...

@Doug to be honest, I think it would be a *perfect* Rohloff rig.

DerrickP said...

Ha! I've been waiting for you to sell yours!

DerrickP said...

Awesome. Shoot me an email to jayremenshneider@gmail.com with photos and whatnot. Thanks!

Ben said...

Ironically, my LHT frame is likely due for replacement due to some rust building there, and a more concerning area in the top tube towards the front. I had an accident where the bars impacted the frame and dented the underside of the top tube about three years ago. Bike has ridden fine, but now there's some serious rust bubbling up from under, which makes me cringe.

I've always noted that I probably should have gotten a 60 instead of a 58, so I figure my Christmas present to myself will be a new frame. I'm just saddened to lose the cool blue color.

I dig your notes on the Troll. I'd like to get a second bike sooner than later, but me being how I am I insist that just about everything I own serve multiple purposes. I've had my eyes on the Troll for awile, but only recently came in contact with an Ogre. Going to be a hard choice!

Email to mysurly69@yahoo.com