In a perfect world, I would have several bicycles in my stable; each with a specific purpose. Unfortunately, I do not have the luxury of unlimited space or funds so I try to keep my bikes to one or two versatile machines. For the record, If I was planning a tour of either the West Coast or the East Coast of the United States, my bike build of choice would be a Surly ECR with Rohloff 14 Speedhub, S&S connectors, Son28 dynohub with an E-werk converter, B&M Luxos B headlight and B&M tailight, Surly nice racks front and rear, Ortlieb panniers front, rear and bar bag, and Jeff Jones handlebars. This would be my dream bike for touring built-up areas of the continental US where quality bicycle shops abound and shipping is not a problem. That being said… I would definitely not attempt a long distance survival oriented bike tour with this same machine for many reasons.
- 29+ Wheels and Fat Tires are hard to locate outside the US
- Disc Brakes are equally difficult to find in remote locations.
- Rohloff Speedhubs can not be serviced on the trail.
If we scratch these three items off our list of touring criteria, it narrows the field of quality frames which are currently available.
Let’s add a few additional must-have items to the mix.
- The ability to run high volume rubber (2.35 to 2.5 – Fat Frank/Big Apple, Hookworms)
- Lots of bosses for water bottle cages, racks & fenders
- Derailleur hanger, disc caliper mounting slots plus cantilever/V brake pivots
- A relaxed semi-upright riding position
- Mountain bike geometry
- Clearance for triple mountain chainrings
- 4130 CroMoly Steel
- 26″ wheels for availability worldwide
- S&S connectors for breaking down bike during shipping
This narrows the field even more. In fact, I believe it only leaves one contender standing, the Surly Troll.
With the exception of the S&S connectors, which can be retrofitted, this bike checks all the boxes for a fully loaded long distance on/off road touring bike which is user serviceable on the trail.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Surly just released their 2015 frame lineup and there is a new Troll offering with standard S&S connectors dubbed the “World Troller”. This was the final check box for the ultimate touring frame. Kudos to Surly for always taking the next logical step in the evolution of the bicycle.
Surly World Troller Frame
For those more adventurous, there is another path.