Sally the Surly

I’m currently touring around the perimeter of the United States on this wonderful bike with full specs and story below. I’m raising money for 1% for the Planet so organizations can continue the good work of helping our environment. Consider donating and find more at the link here or hit the ‘1% for the Planet’ tab at the top of the page:

After I made the decision to tour around the perimeter of America at the end of August 2019, the next step was to find a bike that would take me there. I originally thought about adding racks to my carbon Specialized Diverge, but I figured I should get something more durable for an 8-month, 10,000 mile journey. Carbon is great, but it’s also fragile and I realized it was too much of a risk to ride something that could crack with the wrong fall. So after a lot of research, I decided that I wanted a Surly. They are tried and true steel framed bikes that are made for going the distance. Their Long Haul Trucker is specifically made for touring and it is one of the most popular touring bikes out there. With a longer wheelbase and lower bottom bracket height, it keeps your center of gravity low while allowing more space to pedal with panniers. 

I was sitting on my couch in San Francisco one Sunday afternoon when I decided it was time for my daily Craigslist bike search. I came across a smoking deal on a beautiful 56cm Long Haul Trucker with a Brooks saddle that was posted about an hour prior. I quickly texted the owner and set arrangements to see the bike that afternoon at the local bike shop. After meeting the owner Crystal, I gave it a quick ride around the block and instantly realized how different this bike was than anything else I had ever ridden. After one pedal stroke, you can tell how well this bike is built. While it is still responsive, it also feels like you’re riding a tank and nothing can get in your way. It just packs a punch with every turn of the wheels. After I didn’t find anything wrong on the test ride, I gave it to the mechanics at  Box Dog Bikes for a once over to make sure I didn’t miss anything. The bike did have a small dent in the top tube, but it doesn’t affect the strength or performance of the bike since it is made of steel. I purchased the bike after I told the owner that I was going to ride the bike around the perimeter of the United States. It felt weird to claim something that big with so much more work still to be done, but I knew that is what I wanted to do with it. Here’s how she looked when I bought her.

With the bike acquired, it was time to outfit it for touring. After a week of independent research on what I wanted, I dropped the bike of at Box Dog Bikes and added fenders, racks, new tires, and a new derailleur. After those were done, I made a late decision to add a dynamo front wheel which generates electricity that can be used to charged USB devices and/or power lights. I originally chose a Sinewave Reactor as my USB charging device, which is the company’s top cap model. After some troubleshooting, the Reactor I bought wasn’t working. Sinewave graciously offered to replace or exchange it for one of their other products and I took the opportunity to upgrade to the Beacon, which is a headlight that has a USB port in the back of it. The Beacon has a three year warranty as compared to the Reactor’s one year warranty, and I had read mixed reviews about the reliability of the Reactor. The Beacon is one of the brightest headlights on the market and it is powered by the dynamo, which means I never have to charge it. If you attended one of my Business of Bike Touring events, you may have heard me say that the dynamo setup is not totally necessary since you can pretty much find electricity every few days to charge a battery bank or whatever you need. However, I would like to add a caveat that it is probably not necessary unless a pandemic sweeps across the entire world. While my tour is currently paused due to COVID-19, if I was to continue in these times, I would have resorted to being completely self-supported and the ability to charge things would have been absolutely necessary. 

With that, the bike was complete, save a few personalized touches like my ‘Ban Cars’ sticker on my front fender and some other memorabilia I’ve added on the road. At the time of this writing, Sally has taken me 3,589 miles across the United States from San Francisco to Merryville, Louisiana. Mechanically, I have broken a rear drive-side spoke at mile 1,750, and have had five flats, one on the front and four on the rear. Presenting Sally the Surly:

Frame: 2013 Surly Long Haul Trucker
Saddle: Brooks B17
Shifters: Shimano bar end
Front Derailleur: Shimano Sora
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore
Racks: Surly front and rear
Fenders: SKS Fenders
Front Wheel: Shimano LX Dynamo hub laced to a Velocity Dyad rim (36 hole)
Rear Wheel: Stock (36 hole)
Front Light: Sinewave Beacon
Rear Light: NiteRider Sabre 80 rechargeable
Pedals: Shimano SPD/platform combo
Tires: Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour 700c x 40mm
Rear Panniers: Ortlieb BikePacker Plus
Front Panniers: Ortlieb Sport Roller Classics
Handlebar Bag: Topo Designs Bike Bag
Bell: Nutcase Thumbdinger
Ukulele: Kala Waterman with custom mount

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