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Conquered My Personal “Hill of Death” with the Surly LHT

August 21, 2009

Penny got her new touring bike today, a Surly Long Haul Trucker. It’s very similar to mine, with slightly different components. I bought the complete unit ordered from Surly, whereas she got hers from a bike shop that bought the frame and added miscellaneous components from their own stock.

As a trial run on her new bike, we started out from our typical Kingsview Industrial Park starting location, but rather than head straight toward the Little Miami Trail, I suggested we head toward the Hill of Death and see if she needed any bike adjustments before we got miles away from the vehicle. We made a quick adjustment to her seat and it made a huge difference in her stroke and stability…. no more rocking side to side, but quiet on the saddle instead.

As we approached the base of the hill, I told Penny I wanted to give the hill a shot since I’d never tried it on the Surly LHT before. The hill climbs approx 125ft in a 1/4 mile. I forget exactly what grade that is, but it has kicked my butt for the past 14 months. I knew the LHT had low gearing for touring, but I had no idea just how capable it was. More out of curiosity, I put it in the lowest gear and pretended I was a hamster on a wheel. With my legs churning and making slow progress, the crest of the hill kept getting closer and closer. When I reached about 3/4 of the way up the hill, a place where I normally see purple spots and feel ready to slip into a coma, my breathing rate had increased, but mentally I’d crossed a boundary…. one where I knew this time the hill was mine!! I quickened my pace, which caused me to double time my breathing… so I relaxed again and slowed my pace, knowing the surest way to the top was a steady and maintainable pace. As I reached the top, the Rocky theme began playing in my head and I lifted both hands off the bars and shook them in success! After today, I’d never consider this the Hill of Death.

I was surprised that I was able to do this without warming up first, but the high cadence rate did a good job of cranking my cardio without toasting my legs.  I can see trying to do this in a higher gear in the future!

We rode back toward the vehicle, then toward the Little Miami Trail, basking in our hill summit!  Penny was pleasantly surprised by the stability and handling of the LHT.  The steel frame and larger tires provides good bump mitigation, making the ride more comfortable… keeping the fatigue down.

When we reached Morrow, I did a bit more tweaking on her bike, then on the way back home, we laid the hammer down a bit.  It was the first time that I’d really stood on it in the large chain ring.  Keeping the acceleration gradual, Penny was keeping pace nicely until I started muscling it more.  She said to take off because she wanted to see how it felt out of the draft, so I went to almost the highest gear and stood on it.  The acceleration is slower than our Cannondale Road Bikes, but the LHT is still quite capable.  I wish I had a computer setup on this bike, because my speed was in the high 20’s, but not sure how close to 30mph I was.

The Surly LHT could easily become my favorite bike.  It has the smoothness for long rides, but also is heavy enough that strong exertions make for a good workout.  With the way it handles even the steepest of hills, it will handle rolling hills nicely even with a touring load, and could open up some of the more scenic less travel roads in our area for some exploration!

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