Sunday, June 15, 2014

A 650B/26 incher Long Haul Trucker

The LHT with 650B wheels.
 I recently decided to do a little bicycle consolidation; I found there were some bikes I didn't ride a lot. After giving it some thought I decided to sell my Surly Pacer and the 700C Long Haul Trucker, (LHT). I stripped off most of the equipment and wheels and sold them basically as frames. In their place I purchased a 26 inch LHT. My thinking was based on reading conversions of the 26 inch trucker to 650B. I was also interested in trying out some really fat 26 inch tires as well, so it seemed like a good fit.

It was surprisingly hard to find a 26 LHT in my size. I initially thought of replacing my 60CM-700C frame, but decided I would be better off going a little smaller. I went with a 58 and I'm glad I did; I probably could have gotten away with a 56, but I prefer larger frames. The way the geometry of the 26 inch version is set, you find there's really a lot of head tube on these bikes compared to their larger wheeled cousins. A 60CM, 26 inch Trucker really looks rather gangly.

Anyway, I finally ordered a "Smoggy Silver" 58 from Universal Cycles, getting a pretty good deal, really good when you consider I only had to pay $2.99 for shipping! I wasn't thrilled with ordering the silver-grey finish, but there really wasn't anything else around in a 58! I have since come to like it, the color kind of grows on you.

I quickly assembled the bike, really no surprises. Surly's are usually pretty clean frames that go together nicely. Really no prep needed at all. I finally got to the point where I installed the brakes and adjusted them for the 650B's. With the Tektro CR720's pushed to the upper limit of their adjustment, I found the rear wheels just made good contact. But the front brakes fell too short, I had to either raise the brakes or lower the wheels by a couple of millimeters! I ended up doing both! By carefully filing away a little material from the top of the Tektro's adjustment slots, I gained a little more upper reach. I then placed the wheel just a tad lower in the dropout. This I accomplished by sticking a slice of rubber hose into the top of the dropout, giving me a consistent spot for the front wheel to be positioned. The picture below illustrated the position of the brake shows in the modified slot.

Brake position for 650B's.
 For comparison, below is a shot of the brakes set up for a 26 inch (559) wheel. This picture also shows the massive size of the Schwalbe Big Ben. This tire is fun to ride on, but it's wide cross section poses a few problems: You can't install an inflated tire on the front! The fork prevents the brakes from opening up far enough. I also had some trouble with the brakes' pads rubbing on the sidewalls, you must be very careful with your brake setup.
Brake position for 26 inch.
As I said, These tires are fun, I took them to the Auburn Overlook trail system and had good traction on everything but the steepest sections of gravelled trail. On pavement they were pretty nice too.

All set up for gravel grinding!
I find the ride on the 650B Panaracer Col de la Vie tires to be very pleasant. I usually run between 60-70 psi in them and find the ride comfortable and not at all sluggish. For some reason, I like climbing with these wheels. I feel like I have good power, and the LHT frame seems very responsive!! That's probably because of the frame's stiffness, but the fatter tires and geometry of the frame seem to allow that stiffness to be an asset, with no discomfort. I don't know, maybe it "planes"!

Initial build with the 650's.

Latest incarnation, with silver stem and trim and the Ducas front rack installed.
So all in all, this has been a fun experiment. The one negative is that it isn't just a quick wheel change to switch from 650's to the 26er's. You have to carefully adjust the brakes too. I haven't used the 26er's much lately, but I hope to later this year. I took the 650 bike to San Diego and rode the Mt. Laguna loop. It was a very nice ride, here's my favorite view point on that route:
What it's all about...