Review: Surly Disc Trucker
Surly needs little introduction. They are self-confessed bike nerds who ‘make serious steel bikes for people who don't take themselves too seriously’, and are synonymous with adventure. Their bikes are distinct, to-the-point, functional and wonderfully made - you can spot them a mile off, and for all the right reasons. The Disc Trucker is a fairly new bike in their line-up; an updated version of the well-received ‘Long Haul Trucker’ - and it definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously. Surly pitch the Disc Trucker as a ‘purebred drop bar touring bike suitable for travelling anywhere in the world on mostly paved roads’, and with gravel bikes on the rise, it's the sort of steed that is more than happy to handle some very rough terrain.
All Surly bike frames are made from their own 4130 Natch Chromoly Steel, giving you a nice balance of ‘design flexibility, ride quality, cost effectiveness, durability, repairability and environmental sensitivity’. With the intended purpose of the Disc Trucker being to ride long distances, using steel as a material to make the frame adds to the comfort factor - a factor you need to consider if you're doing any kind of touring. With a long wheelbase and high stack height, the geometry will leave anyone who rides it comfortable and in control, on any surface. Despite bikepacking taking the bicycle market by storm - allowing you to use even carbon race bikes for touring - Surly offer a plethora of mounts on the frame and fork, giving you heaps of options for luggage, fenders, water bottles and more. There's even routing on the fork for a dynamo, a must if you're planning a real long self-supported haul.
I've had the chance to test the Disc Trucker through a variety of terrains and distance, really putting it to the test. A 300km bikepacking mission deep into the Nevis range - with a fair chunk consisting of more mountain bike-esque trails - a 200km flat blast along the Central Otago Rail Trail, and plenty of hours on the local river tracks and mountain bike trails around Wanaka. The Disc Trucker was also treated to a wonderful pedal up the Molesworth Road, in Marlborough - check the article in this magazine to see the sort of terrain it took in its stride.
It's always refreshing to jump on a bike and instantly feel comfortable and at home, something that can be hard to find with many of the modern bikes on offer these days. I adjusted the stack height, set the saddle to my usual height and changed nothing else. With all those kilometress in the legs, I had zero drama and no discomfort.
TRP cable brakes help keep your speed in check, quickly. With an appreciation for being way out of reach, deep in the hills, I'd much rather have a cable operated brake over a hydraulic one - I'll take a potential performance drop for the comfort of probably being able to fix it, should I need to.
Getting up to speed is also no drama, as Surly have opted for a 3 x 9 gearing set up - like they do with most of their bikes - courtesy of Shimano Alivio. Despite most brands steering towards a 1x drivetrain, Surly's dedication to “the good old days'' of a 3x9 is testament to their ability to not follow trends and, with 27 gears on offer, no matter what load you are carrying, you should be able to crawl up the steepest of tracks. The chainset is 48x36x26t, so you'll appreciate the lowest gear when you're tired and fully loaded, but if you find yourself in need of getting to the pub before it closes, the top gear will have you clipping along at speeds of 40kmh and above without spinning out. An 11-34t cassette is broad enough to keep any level of cyclist entertained.
Although I’ve not had a puncture on the Disc Trucker, I’ve taken the wheels off for travelling and appreciate the whole not-losing-your axle thing: they’ve made one side threaded, one side open so that when you undo the wheels, the 12mm axle can stay in - a feature you'll appreciate should you need to fix a flat on the roadside. The added stiffness you get from a through axle, over a quick release, is something most people may not notice initially, but when your bike is loaded and you need to stop, you'll appreciate all the help you can get. The wheels are courtesy of Novatec hubs, which are laced to Alex rims, complete with Surly’s ExtraTerrestrial 700x41 tyres - a perfect tyre for road and a little gravel fun. With the ability to have 26x2.1 tyres, it could really become a comfortable mountain shredder. 700x47 is the biggest you can go, which is heaps, but a nice slick set of tyres would make the roughest roads feel like you’re riding on the freshest tarmac all day. For our bikepacking mission, I put on 29x2.0 tyres and, although it felt a little too close at times, they fit and we rolled through mountains and rivers comfortably, with no hassle at all.
The finishing kit on the Disc Trucker is well suited to the bike's intended purpose: long hauling on or off road. It comes with super wide, flared Truckstop bars, giving you plenty of comfort and control. A WTB Volt is the sort of saddle you can feel at home on, straight away. I put in plenty of hours with zero discomfort, no matter what the road and trails threw at us.
To conclude, if you're looking for a comfortable, do it all, drop bar bike, that can take you and all your personal belongings comfortably around the world, buy a Surly Disc Trucker - you won't be disappointed.
Distributed by Worralls
Reviewed by Joe Cox