We debated the pros and cons of various makes and models for hours (days....weeks....). We toyed with the idea of buying cheap bikes and seeing how far we could get, but that was probably after one too many glasses of wine! We soon came to the conclusion that it was important to have absolute faith in the bikes we were riding and that it would be able to answer all the questions we threw at it. There was one name that kept cropping up when we traweled through cycling forums, read articles and books and spoke to people in person...the Surly Long Haul Trucker and that's exactly what we ended up buying!
Here's the official blurb from Surly's website (click here for link):
“A touring bike’s job is to go the distance and then some while carrying you and your gear, all in relative comfort. The Long Haul Trucker was designed in all aspects to do exactly that. Its low bottom bracket and long chainstays provide comfort and stability. We gave it ample tire clearance for larger tires (larger tires soak up a lot of road static) with room for fenders too. The frame’s tubing is thicker-walled and larger-diameter than standard road and sport-touring frames, and this pre-tunes it for the weight of cargo. And it’s got all the braze-ons, from rack mounts to water bottle cage bosses to spare spoke holders. Like all our frames, it’s made of CroMoly steel. We like steel for a lot of reasons, foremost among them the ride quality a well-designed steel frame delivers. It doesn’t hurt that steel is relatively inexpensive, or that it is more easily repaired than aluminum, carbon fiber or titanium. You’ll probably never need to have the frame repaired, but if you do you’re more likely to find someone who can weld steel than someone who can weld ti or aluminum. Repair carbon fiber? Good luck with that.”
We purchased our bikes in the UK from www.ukbikestore.co.uk which was one of the few places in UK where we could find a 'complete' bike at the price we wanted to pay for it! We were happy to stick with most of the components that it came with, but have upgraded the saddle, tyres and pedals. I've named my bike Clara (in memory of the character from Pigeon Street, Ashley has yet to name his bike!)
The set up listed below is pretty much as it will be when we depart on March 1st 2013:
Fork: 100% CroMoly, lugged and brazed. 1-1/8" threadless steer tube uncut.
Headset: Ritchey Logic Comp 1-1/8" threadless, w/ 40mm spacers.
Stem: Kalloy 1-1/8" threadless. Forged. 25.4mm clamp.
Handlebars: PMT Aluminum.
Brakes: Tektro Oryx cantilever #992.
Shift Levers: Shimano Bar-end SL-BS77 9-speed.
Front Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra FD-4403 triple.
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT RD-M761 SGS long cage.
Crankset: Andel Forged arms, Silver. Aluminum rings, 110mm BCD, 48-36-26t.
Bottom Bracket: Shimano UN53. 68X110mm.
Seatpost: Kalloy SP-342 27.2 x 300mm.
Seatpost Clamp: Surly Stainless.
Saddle: Brooks B17 STD.
Cassette: Shimano Deore CS-HG53. 9-speed. 11-13-15-17-20-23-26-30-34t.
Chain: SRAM PC971 9-speed.
Hubs: Shimano XT HU-M770. 36h.
Spokes: DT Swiss 14g stainless.
Rims: Alex Adventurer 36h. Black w/ eyelets.
Tyres: Schwalbe Marathon Plus.
Pedals: DMR V8 9/16inch.
Mudguards: SKS wide ATB.
Rear rack: Tubus Logo.
Front rack: Tubus Tara Lowrider.
Rear panniers: Ortlieb Back Roller Classic.
Front panniers: Ortlieb Front Roller Classic.
Handlebar bag: Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Classic.
Pigeon Street, BBC