Saturday, January 4, 2014

Surly Disc Trucker - Fully Operational

The Surly is in complete working order now. It took forever to get the wheels but they're finally on the bike. They look and feel like they can roll through whatever lies ahead of them and spin up really nicely on hills, although that'll change when the bike's loaded. The rims are Mavic A719 units which I chose for their box-section design and dual eyelets. I know deep-V profile wheels tend to be stiffer and stronger but kids in tight jeans and fixie bikes have ruined them for me. The shallower box-section look actually wins me over in a sexy-nerdy way, like cute girls that wear eyeglasses. Hopefully the fixie kids don't catch on to the look.

The rims are paired to their hubs by way of 36 DT Swiss double-butted spokes front and back. They were laced up and assembled by Richard of Richard's Cyclery of Garden Grove California in case you're local and want something similar. Call me hopeful, but I have a feeling these wheels will hold up just fine for a long time.

I chose a Shimano XT hub for the rear and it's as smooth as can be. The front hub is a Shutter Precision PD-8 dynamo hub from Taiwan. This hub isn't as smooth as the Shimano unit at the back wheel but it's not supposed to be. I admit it's a bit notchy, kind of like when a hub is overtightened but it's worth the trade-off of having 6 volts of power on tap. Sometimes when the bike is coasting at the right speed there's a hint of a vibration from the handlebars but it's barely noticeable and it hasn't bothered me yet. As far as friction and drag go I don't think it'll make a noticeable difference even on long, steep climbs. A small amount of drag is worth the trade-off of never needing batteries for infinite visibility, day or night.

I also appreciate the sleeker look of the PD-8 over the Shimano Alfine hubs which kind of resemble tuna cans. I haven't decided on a front light yet so the hub's power output hasn't been tested yet. The only issue I can report so far was that hard braking causes the entire front axle to shift against the dropouts. This is most likely an issue related only to the front skewer not having enough surface area to clamp the dropouts. Since the hub didn't include a front skewer I was using a Shimano skewer with an aluminum acorn nut. I switched to another skewer with a larger steel acorn. This should provide a more secure clamping area against the dropout.

Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the build were installing the Nitto front and rear cargo racks. I've long drooled over pictures of Nitto's beautiful components. They take great pride in creating the best alloy bicycle products on the market. Be advised that "best" doesn't mean "lightest". A Nitto product is neither heavy nor light, it's exactly as heavy as it needs to be to last forever. The welds on the front and rear racks are immaculate and nickel plated for a pretty glow. The time and care put into designing and building each rack is striking. If you want something special, something that doesn't look like it was mass produced by simpleton clock-punchers, this is it. I initially only planned on using Nitto racks but I also caved in and got their gorgeous two-bolt Nitto S83 seatpost as a perch for my Selle San Marco Regale saddle (a personal favorite).

One of my favorite features with the Campee rack is that it mounts perfectly with the included nut assembly shown below. Nitto also includes rubberized clamps for bikes without mounting brackets. The Disc Trucker has the mounts so I didn't need to use the clamps, but it's a nice touch.

The front rack is the M1 model designed by some guy at Rivendell Bicycle Works who's coincidentally called Mark. The rack is small but should be great for holding food, a small camera, a phone, a small dog, or a carton of Virginia Slims (another personal favorite). For my application it will also be a great place to mount a dynamo powered headlight.

Putting this bike together has changed the way I feel about bicycles. I own several bikes, but this is the first bike I've pieced together entirely with parts that I spec'ed out after researching every option. For most cyclists the appeal of having the most efficient, wind-tunnel tested bike is so tempting that they end up with a $10,000 Cervelo and a beer gut accentuated by their lycra kit. Race bikes are fast, I have one and when you're in shape it makes you feel amazing when you sprint or attack a steep incline like a maniac. There's a place for carbon fiber race bikes, but there's also a place for a bike that you can ride from here to Canada. For me, the possibilities that this bike opens up for adventure riding are incredibly appealing. 

Next time this bike comes up it should have a nice dynamo-powered light mounted to the front rack. It will also be a fair bit more dirty. 


  1. Gorgeous bicycle! I just got a 2013 green 54cm 26" Disc Trucker. I love those racks you installed. I located the "Marks" front rack at Rivendell, but I can't seem to locate the specific rear Campee rack you have. Can you offer a pointer? Do both racks simply mount to the Disc Trucker or do you need to do special modifications?

    1. Hi Steve, thank you, and congratulations on your new Disc Trucker! The rear rack is also available at Rivendell although they call it the "big back rack" the link to my exact model is below. The pictures at Rivendell for the rear racks are slightly different than the actual racks. This might be the reason for your confusion.

      Be advised there are 2 sizes for the rear rack, the one that I installed is the largest. You may need to use the medium size for a 54 cm frame (my frame is 56 cm). The installation for both racks doesn't require any mods to the bike since the bike frame has all the necessary mounts already. The rear rack is nearly a perfect fit, you'll just need to bend the legs outward slightly to fit the rear dropouts.

      The front rack will require a bolt to attach the hardware to the fork crown. The M1 front rack is designed for bikes with rim brakes and the rack attaches to the brake caliper bolt. Since we have disc brakes we don't have a bolt at the fork crown. Any stainless steel bolt should work as long as it's long enough (I think the size is M4?). I used a shorter length bolt and only went through one side of the fork crown, I don't recommend that and I'll probably install a longer bolt in the not-too-distant future. For the front rack you'll also need to order longer 12 inch struts to strengthen the whole setup. The rack comes with 10 inch struts that won't reach far enough. If you notice, my front rack is cantilevered and should be attached at the forward-most eyelets for better strength. I'm planning on installing the longer 12 inch struts in addition to the existing ones for added durability.

      Be sure to watch the installation videos in the product descriptions of each rack at Rivendell's site. (my rack) (medium sized rack for smaller frames) (longer struts for front rack)

      I hope this helps you out. Please let me know if you need anything else or call the guys at Rivendell. When you're all done send me a picture! I'd love to see what you come up with!