Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Surly Long Haul Trucker review

In this review I'll take you through the specs of the bike and how exactly it is made for long distance touring, what tours I've used this bike for, how it went about purchasing this bike, modifications and additions I have made to the bike, share what a commuter thinks of the Long Haul Trucker, and finally, whether I would recommend it...

This review can also serve as an insight into what to look for in a touring bike, regardless of which you decide upon. :)

PDF 1.02 MB (pardon all the mediafire flashing ads!)

If you found this review helpful, why not throw a few bob my way? Yeah! Why not!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Get a Bike! (Part 2)

(Another excerpt from Richard Ballantine's "Richards Bicycle Book" Chapter 1 following on from Part 1)


All right, you say. So it takes less time than the subway. But I've got to work for a livign and the subway is easier, takes less out of me. You expect me to get up in the morning and crack off 10 miles? Finish a day of hard work and do another 10? I'd never make it.

Get this. Even a moderate amount of exercise makes life easier. It gives your body tone and bounce which makes daily work and chores a breeze. Simply put, this is because exercise increases your range of possible effort, putting daily activities towards the centre rather than the peak of your abilities. So as you go through your day you are just cruising. It's something like the difference between a 25- and 100- power automobile engine. At 60 mph the 25 horse is working hard but the 100 is just loafing. It is iportant to realise that you can get this increased bounce, verve and good feeling with relatively little time and effort. Bicycling will make your work and day easier, not harder.

Are you familiar with "cleaning out" a motor vehicle? Cars today often operate in stop and go traffic for long periods of time. The engine becomes clogged with carbon and other residue. The car stumbles and staggers, it works harder that it needs to, and gas consumption goes up. The best thing for any such car is to be taken out on a highway and run fast, for at higher speeds the engine cleans itself out. Your body is a machine with exactly similar characteristics, and you will literally become more fagged out and tired just sitting still that if you run around the block a few times.

According to Eugene Sloane in his Complete Book of Bicycling, if you get in some sort of regular exercise you can expect:
  • to live for up to five years longer;
  • think better (more blood to the brain - and if you think this is crazy go out and run around for a while and then think it through again);
  • sleep better, and in general be more relaxed;
  • be stronger and more resistant to injury;
  • reduce the incidence of degenerative vascular diseases responsible for or associated with heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure.
As cardiovascular problems account for over 50% of all deaths in the U.S. of A. each year this last point is worth some elaboration. The basic deal with the cardiovascular system is movement, the flow of blood through your heart, veins, arteries and so forth. The heart normally pumps about 5 quarts per minute, and during exercise up to 30 quarts per minute. If this flow is sluggish and slow, the system clogs up. In arteriosclerosis, for example, the walls of the system become hardened and calcified. This decreases the bore of the arteries and veins, resulting in a diminished capacity to carry blood. The heart must therefore pump harder and higher blood pressure results. High blood pressure is a cause of stroke or rupture of brain blood vessels. Arteriosclerosis happens to everybody, but extent is governed by the rate of flow of the blood. Exercise stimulates the blood flow, and does not permit calcification to recur as rapidly.

Artherosclerosis is a related malady. This is when fatty substances are deposited on the lining of blood vessels. Clots in the blood may be formed as a result, and these can jam up the system at critical points such as the brain or heart, causing stroke or heart attack. Again, exercise by stimulating the blood flow helps prevent fatty deposits.

So, the main benefits of regular exercise are first, that it will help keep your blood circulatory system cleaned out; secondly, the heart muscle, like any other, responds to exercise by becoming larger and more efficient, so that each heartbeat delivers more oxygen to the body; and thirdly, lung-filling capacity is restored or enlarged. In short, you can do more, and recover more quickly from doing it.

Bicycling in particular is a complete exercise. Not only are the legs, the body's largerst accessory blood pumping mechanism, used extensively, but also arm, shoulder, back, adominal, and diaphragmatic muscles. At the same time there is enough flexibility so that muscle groups can be worked individually, and of course pace can be set to suit the rider.

A word about weight control. Bicycling or other exercise will help yoru body's tone and figure. But for the weight loss eat less food. A brisk ride does not enitle you to apple pie and ice cream. Regular cycling burns off about 300 calories per hour and hill climbing or racing about 600 per hour. Your body uses up about 150 calories per hour anyhow, and so in the case of regular cycling this means a burn off of an extra 150 calories per hour. At 3600 calories per pound, it would take 24 hours of riding to lose this amount. It's much simple to just eat less. Curiously enough, cycling may help you do this. Regular exercise can change the metabolic balance of the body and restore natural automatic appetite control so that you eat no more that you actually need.


Our country is literally drowning in pollutants and many of them come from transportation machinery. In the cities the internal combustion engine is a prime offender, contributing not only up to 85% of all air pollution, but of an especially noxious quality. The effluents from gasoline engines hang in the air and chemically interact with other substances and sunlight to form even deadlier poisons. Living in a major city is the same thing as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

All city transportation contributes to pollution. Subways run on electricity generated in plants fired by fossil fuels or deadly atomic reactors. But as anyone who has been lucky enough to live through a taxicab strike or vehicle ban knows, cars and buses are the real problem. I shall never forget a winter about 3 or 4 years ago when a friend and I came driving into New York City late at night after a vacation in Canada. To my amazement, the air was perfectly clear. The lights of the city shone like jewels and each building was clear and distinct. From the west bank of the Hudson river I could for the first (and perhaps only) time in my life see Manhattan and the Bronx in perfect detail from beginning to end, and even beyond to Brooklyn and her bridges. As we crossed teh George Washington Bridge the air was clean and fresh, and the city, usually an object of horror and revulsion, was astoundingly beautiful and iridescent. The explanation was simple: enough snow had fallen to effectively eliminate vehicle traffic for a couple of days. No vehicles, no crap in the air. A better world.

Arguments against motorized transport are usually dismissed as idealistic and impractical on the grounds that the time-saving characteristics of such vehicles is essential. The fact is that even pedestrians are easily able to drone past motor traffic, and of course bicycles can do even better. A savign in physical effort is realised, but few of us are healthy enough to (a) need this, or (b) dismiss inhaling the poisons (equivalent to two packs of cigarettes a day) which necessarily accompany the internal combustion engine.

Walking, roller skating, or riding a bicycle is an efficient use of energy and reduces wastage. Utilising a 300 horsepower, 5000 pound behemoth to move a single 150 pound person a few miles is like using an atomic bomb to kill a canary. The U.S. of A. is unique in its ability to consume and waste. In fact, we utilize something like 60% of the world's resources for the benefit of about 7% of her poplulation. For example, we import fish meal from South American countries where people are starving, to feed to our beef herds, and then wonder why people down there don't like us. Using a bicycle is a starting antidote to the horrors of U.S. of A. consumerism.

Which brings us to the most positive series of reasons for trying to use bicycles at every opportunity. Basically, this is that it will enhance your life, bringing to it an increase in quality of experience which will find its reflection in everything you do.

Well! you have to expect that I would believe bicycling is a good idea, but how do I get off expressing the notion that bicycling is philosophically and morally sound? Because it is something that you do, not something that is done to you. Need I chronicle the oft-cited concept of increasing alienation in American life? The mechanisation of work and daily activities, the hardships our industrialised society places in the way of loving and fulfilling relationships and family life, the tremendous difficulties individuals experience trying to influence political and economic decisions which affect them and others?

Of course there will always be people who say they like things they way they are. They find the subway really interesting, or insist on driving a chrome bomb and rattling everybody's windows. But the fact is that subways are crowded, dirty, impersonal, and noisy, and nearly all cars are ego-structured worthless tin crap junk (with bikes the more you pay the less you get).

The most important effect of mechanical contraptions is that they defeat consciousness. Consciousness, self-awareness, and development are the prerequisites for a life worth living. Now look at what happens to you on a bicycle. It's immediate and direct. You pedal. You make decisions. You experience the tang of the air and the surge of power as you bite into the road. You're vitalised. As you hum along you fully and gloriously experience the day, the sunshine, the clouds, the breezes. You're alive! You are going someplace, and it is you who is doing it. Awareness increases, and each day becomes a little more important to you. With increased awareness you see and notice more, and this further reinforces awareness.

Each time you insert you into a situation, each time you experience, you fight against alienation and impersonality, you build conciousness and identity. You try to understand things in the ways that are important to you. And these qualities carry over into everything you do.

An increased value on one's own life is the first step in social conscience and politics. Because to you life is dear and important and fun, you are much more easily able to understand why this is also true for a Vietnamese, a black, or a Tobago islander. Believe it. The salvation of the world is the development of personality and identity for everybody in it. Much work, many lifetimes. But a good start for you is Get a bicycle!

(That was the second of two extracts from Richard's Bicycle Book 1975 edition.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Get A Bike! (Part 1)

In this post I'm putting in an extract from Richard's Bicycle Book by Richard Ballantine "1975 Revised Edition" which I picked up from the book swap at a Coolangatta hostel late last month.

I sat reading this chapter on the beach front at Coolie early on a Sunday morning while a steady stream of cyclists rode past on the wide shared path.

I was thinking all it takes to get people exercising in the warm sunshine is a comparitively small bit of concrete that goes from A to B.

Not free vouchers, not offers of free beer, not tax concessions... just a bit of concrete.

You don't even need to advertise anything. Just lay the concrete - build it, and they will come.

Given the benefits of an active, cycling community (for recreation, fitness, utility, transport, commuting, spending time with your friends and family) that have been documented over and over again, you'd think this would just be such a standard way to spend tax payers money in Australia.

But it isn't. So many roads, too many to count, linking residential areas to shops and workplaces don't come with accompanying bike paths (or footpaths) or even bike lanes or shoulders.

In these many, many places of Australia, to walk or ride from A to B is to be an outlaw, an outsider, strange, fearless, stupid, crazy, and most of all to be an obstacle on the road for a motorist.

How did the humble bicycle (or pedestrian) become an outcast? You're potentially saving your fellow citizens a bit of congestion, a bit of pollution, a bit of health costs, but instead you are relegated to the category of "nuisance", "pest", and an amusing hypocritical label by your motorists as a "danger to drivers and pedestrians".

Anyway, as an avid cyclist its hard to not get all fanatical and ranty about how good cycling is (which, incidently, gives you another label something like 'raving mad')... reading this chapter of this book felt good that the big picture that you're part of simply by riding a bike, is real... that you're not just high on bicycle-induced endorphins... because someone has written it all down concisely and published it in a book written before you were born. (Conveniently ignoring all the books written by the insane).

The extract is Book 1 Chapter 1 and the chapter is titled "Get a Bike!"

(extract follows)

There is a bicycle boom throughout the world. Here it is like the 1849 California gold rush. In 1971 sales were 8.9 million, double the number sold in 1960; in 1972 the figure hit 13.9 million; and in 1973 it jumped to 15.8 million. The total number of bikes in use in the United States is nearing 100 million! In the Netherlands 75 percent of teh population own bicycles. In Japen the government is energetically promoting bicycles, with 30 million in use. No figures are available, but newsfilms from China show clearly that it is literally a country on bicycle wheels.

The typical pre-World War II American bike was sturdy but cumbersome. Equipped with a single pedal operated coaster brake and one low, slow gear, these "balloon tire bombers" hit the scales at 60 to 75 pounds [27 - 34 kilograms]. Used primarily by youngsters not old enough to drive, they were workhorse machiens tough enough to withstand jolting rides over curbs and through fields, frequent nights out in the rain, and a general high level of abuse. Fond nostalgia permeates memories of these bikes, but for the most part only people who had no other alternative used them.

After World War II returning G.I.'s brought home samples of a new kind of bike with a thinner frame and wheels, dual hand-operated caliper brakes, and 3-speed gears. Dubbed an "English racer" because of its startling better performance, this is actually the "tourist" bike, the common European machine for local use to and from work, shopping, mail delivery, police work, and the like. Light weight (45 pounds [20 kg]) and geared for both flats and hills, the tourist bike is much easier to ride. A hit with the younger set as improved basic transportation, it provided the foundation for bicycling as an adult recreation in the U.S. of A. In the late '50s and early '60s stored devoted mainly to the sale and rental of bicycles developed steadily. Americans began spending more of their increased free time on afternoon rides in the countryside or parks. Bikes appeared in force on university campuses, and hardier souls began using them as all around transportation.

In the 1960s came the 10- and 15-speed racing-touring bikes. If the tourist bike is much better than the balloon tire bomber, the racing bike is incomparably so. Weighing about 22 pounds, they move much faster and more easily that other types of bikes. The first models came from Europe, where bike races are more important than baseball is here, and short supply made them very expensive. But adults have the economic clout to buy what they want, and while in 1965-66 only 20% of the bikes sold were adult machines, they now account for 65% of the marker. High sales volume has lowered prices, so that a serviceable tourist model is about $40, whihc better quality machines up to $90. Ten- and 15-speed models run at about $60 for cheapie, $120 for a good quality bike, and $250 and more for a really high quality machine.

A list of all the vastly expanded applications and uses for light-weight bikes would be dull. But the main advantages are:


With even moderate use a bike will pay for itself. Suppose you use a bike instead of public transportation or a car to get to work and back. Figure public transportation at $1.00 a day. Say it rains once a week and you live in the Northeast with a 8 month bike season. That's 4 days x 4 weeks x 8 months x $1 or $128 which buys a very nice bike. In sunnier climes with an 11 month season ring up $220. On a 20 mile round trip @ .12 a mile a car is into a $2.40 a day, or $300 to $500 a year. Many bikes sold today are guaranteed parts and labor for three years and will last a great deal longer.

Getting to and from work is just one application. Bikes a just dandy for visiting friends, light shopping, nipping down to the movies and the like. You save money every time. Besides easing many of your chores and tasks, bikes are worthwhile in and of themselves, so that a bike easily "pays for itself" in rides taken just for fun and pleasure.


Speed. In heavy traffic you can expect to average 10 mph [16 km/h], and in lighter traffic 15 mph [24 km/h]. I regularly ride two and a half miles [4 km] to midtown Manhattan from my apartment on the lower east side in 15 minutes, usually less. The bus takes at least 30-40 minutes, the subway about 25-35. When I first got into bikes it used to be my delight to race subway-travelling friends from 120th street to Greenwich Village - about 6 to 7 miles - and beat them. There hav been bike versus bus, subway, and/or sports car contests in many cities, and in each case I know about the bike has always won.

One reason a bike is so fast is that it can wiggle through the traffic jams that now typify American cities and towns. Another is the fact that a bike is door-to-door. Use of public transportation involves walking to the local stop, waiting around for the bus or train, possibly a transfer with another wait, and then a walk from the final stop to your destination. Cars have to be parked. On a bike you simply step out the door and take off. No waiting, no parking problems.

The bike's capabilities make it a real freedom machine. Your lunch hour: tired of the same company cafeteria slop or local hash joint? Getting to a new and interesting restaurant a mile or so away is a matter of minutes. Lots of errands to do? A bike can nip from one place to another much faster that you can hoof it, and has a car beat all hollow in traffic and for parking. What might ordinarily take an hour is only 15 minutes on the bike. And if there is a lot to lug around, it is the bike and not you that does the work. Last minute decision to catch a film? Boom! Ten minutes and you're there before the subway even got going. If, like me, you are at all nocturnal, a bike is a tremedous advantage. Subways and buses tend to become elusive or disappear altogether as the wee hours approach. There is also a powerful contrast between a journey on a grubby, dirty, and noisy (to the ponit where your hearing acuity is measurably and permanantly diminished) subway or bus where you run a definite risk of being mugged or raped, and a graceful, rhythmic ride in which you glide through calm and silent streets or through the stillness of a country night under the moon and stars.

Read Get a Bike! Part 2