Back in Black

This is a photo of my LHT shortly after the build was completed in June of 2008. With the honey Brooks saddle, matching mud flap, North Road bars, and shellacked cork grips, the overall look was sort of Dutch city bike meets American tourist.

Here’s the same bike in September of 2011 2010 (Oops, sorry. And no, I’m not a time traveler… LOL). It’s gone through a metamorphosis over the past two-plus years, taking on a more serious urban assault vibe both in looks and functionality. One notable addition that really expanded the capabilities of this bike is the Pass & Stow porteur rack with dual headlight mounts.

Civia recently sent us some handlebars to try out (more here, and more later). These are the 50 degree Aldrich flat bars. I love these bars to death, but they triggered a series of other changes to the bike, starting with clamp-on mountain grips and Paul Thumbie shifters.

The lower bars called for a narrower saddle, hence the Selle Anatomica. You’re probably already noticing a shift in the color scheme.

This is only tangentially related, but I swapped the triple for a 1×9 drivetrain (read about it here). I also added a Paul Chain Keeper and replaced a damaged Pletscher center stand (that’s a story for another day). I ordered both in black to carry on the matchy-matchy theme.

And finally, because I couldn’t have one honey colored accessory while everything else was transitioning to black, I picked up some black leather dye for the Brooks mud flap. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but it turned out perfectly.

None of this was planned in any real sense. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, my bike had undergone a fairly dramatic transformation. I must say, I’m quite happy with the results.

24 Responses to “Back in Black”

  • Geoff says:

    Cool metamorphosis for your LHT, Alan. Both looks are great, and I honestly can’t say which one I’d prefer. The changes certainly make it look more, “Let’s get there…on time!”, than, say, “Oh, Michael, did you see those hummingbirds over there? So beautiful.”

    From a purely comfort perspective, I would probably have stayed with the first buildup…but that’s just me and my sensitive lower back. I need the more upright sitting cockpit and less reach to the bars.

    Speaking of bars, you mentioned that you love those 50 degree Aldrich flat bars. Do you prefer them over the North Road bars, and if so, could you elaborate? Is it the angle that the bars give to the grips? The longer reach to them? The lower stance? Thanks, ahead of time!

  • Ryan says:

    One of the aspects of a good frame that I really enjoy is the ability to make changes to fit the rider, it can be very rewarding to outfit the bike for specific functions or even to make it a do-it-all. It can get expensive, but what isn’t.

    I would like to learn more about the differences the bars make too. I have a Trek 7.5 fx that is pretty stock except for the addition of barends to the flat bar, it’s a less than ideal bar setup that I am planning on changing soon. My wrists cannot take much more of it. Looking at Albatross, North Road, these new Civia bars and others has me confused about which to buy to make the bike more commuter/back/wrist friendly. I guess I have to start saving more money and try them all out.

  • Grateful says:

    WOW! Boss bike, Dude. :- )

    You make Utility bikes look cooler-n road race bikes – and most recumbents.

    I’ve wondered just how much (& how many) your blog has positively influenced folks toward practical utility and transportational cycling. I know that it’s definitely had an influence on my thinking. Thanks.

    Grateful G.

  • Jutta says:

    In September 2011? ;-)

    I don’t know much about the technical parts, but your bike looks realy good now. I like to comute to work, but here in the foothills of the Alps (Bavaria, Southern Germany) I prefer the MTB or the Roadbike.

    I’m reading your blog with great interest and like it very much. Thanks!

  • Ronnie says:

    “Here’s the same bike in September of 2011″ – wow! A bike from the future!

    :)

  • Barton says:

    2011? I knew Surly LHT’s were awesome, but time travel too??

  • tdp says:

    “Here’s the same bike in September of 2011.”

    So is this a future plan of yours or did you also add a time warp button on it turning it into the ultimate time machine commuter LHT? You never know what colour Surly will roll out with next year for the LHT and might want to change your “matchy-matchy theme” again! ;-)

  • tdp says:

    I really like this btw, and am scheming how I might build something similar with the “Blacktacular” LHT frameset – a proper gentleman’s bike… but first, “how to sneak yet another bike past the wife!”

  • LarryZa says:

    Nice bike, and great pictures from the future (Sept 2011).

  • Alan says:

    @Geoff

    “Speaking of bars, you mentioned that you love those 50 degree Aldrich flat bars. Do you prefer them over the North Road bars, and if so, could you elaborate? Is it the angle that the bars give to the grips? The longer reach to them? The lower stance? Thanks, ahead of time!”

    The Aldrich bars change the character of the bike. The fact that they’re flat places the grips 1-2 cm below the saddle, which places more of the rider’s weight on the bars. This is good or bad depending upon a person’s riding style and personal preference. Since moving back to uprights, I’ve been riding bikes with fairly upright ergonomics. I had nearly forgotten what it feels like to get a little of the weight off the saddle and forward onto the bars. While it can cause issues for some people, I found it to be a bit of a relief.

    As far as the bend, it’s a perfect angle for my wrists. I quite enjoy Albatross and North Road bars, but there is one drawback – because the grip area is essentially parallel to the path of the bike, your hands tend to slide forward on the grips when leaning forward, braking, or riding down a steep incline. On bars with a shallower sweep like the Aldrich, your hands are braced in place by the bars and don’t slide forward like they do on bars with more dramatic sweep. Of course, this isn’t an issue if a bike is set-up for a completely upright seating position and none of the rider’s weight is carried on the handlebars.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Ryan

    “Looking at Albatross, North Road, these new Civia bars and others has me confused about which to buy to make the bike more commuter/back/wrist friendly. I guess I have to start saving more money and try them all out.”

    Yeah, it’s tough to know without actually trying them out. Any of these bars will be an improvement over your current set-up. The Albatross bars are popular for the type of conversion you’re describing. Those or the North Roads will provide the most dramatic change, and if you’re having back issues, they’ll do the most to mitigate for that issue.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    “WOW! Boss bike, Dude. :- )

    You make Utility bikes look cooler-n road race bikes – and most recumbents.”

    Hey, thanks!!

  • Alan says:

    “2011? I knew Surly LHT’s were awesome, but time travel too??”

    Oops, sorry, I haven’t figured out the time travel thing yet… :-)

  • taiwoon says:

    Alan, thanks for all the stories… Another beautiful article and photos! makes me want a LHT!

  • tdp says:

    Thanks Alan! Now I’ve got a lot of explaining to do when my Blacktacular LHT comes in from QBP!

  • Phillip says:

    Some of your readers may want try generic BMX riser bars for a little more aggressive posture on an upright bike. Every LBS seems to stock these. They come in 1,2 and 3 inch rise.And best of all they’re usually about twenty bucks a pop so if you don’t like them you’re not out much. They arn’t overly wide either, which some people may prefer on a townie. I ran them on one of my fixies for a while until my daughter pirated them for her bike.

  • Graham says:

    So more of your weight is on your hands, but do you get pressure on the wrists with the new position? This clydesdale simply can’t use mtn bike bars (even with bar ends) for my 20 mile round trip commute without killing my wrists. Right now I’m cycling with North Road bars which alleviate all wrist strain, but I wouldn’t mind stretching out in the saddle and being a bit more aggressive. Do you think these might be worth a look or just stick to the north road bars?

  • Pete says:

    It’s amazing how well-thought-out your bikes look even after “unplanned” updates.
    My thoroughly- planned and obsessed-over builds never look this good!

  • Alan says:

    That’s awfully nice, Pete; thanks much!

  • Mowestusa says:

    I really enjoyed your explanation of the transformation. I have to wonder, how do you stay comfortable on an upright bike when you move the bar below your saddle, and transition more of your weight onto your wrists? I noticed you changed the saddle is that all it took to keep pressure off man parts and does this set up keep from having your hands go numb on a long ride? I’ve avoided road bikes because of these concerns.

    I love riding all of my bikes, but I’ve changed all of them to fit my 6’2″ with 200+ pound body. I have an old Schwinn Twin with added 7 speed cog in back, thumb shifter, and handle bars that are like the old Stingray bars with a 12″-16″ rise. This enables me to sit almost bolt upright on a wide (not soft enough) saddle. It isn’t fast, but it is comfortable. I have a 17 year old Trek 830 that has received an adjustable extra large stem with it cranked back and almost as high as it can go. The bar has a 2″ rise as well with extra long bar ends. I’ve put a wider saddle on this too. I’ve changed the tires to more street friendly. This bike enabled me to ride 285 miles in a week long tour this summer with my hind end getting sore only after I had 60 miles in for the day. Two days ago, I finally got my dream bike a used Vision R-40 with under seat steering. I took that out yesterday and loved having no pressure or weight in all the right places.

    What are the best ways to prevent too much pressure or weight on different body parts and keeping your hands from going numb?

    Thanks for a great blog!

  • Alan says:

    @Mowestusa

    I don’t believe there is one right answer for everyone. It certainly sounds like you’re doing well in finding the fit that works for you. My suggestion? Keep doing what you’re doing because it sounds as if it’s working great! :-)

    Regards,
    Alan

    PS – Coincidentally, just this morning I published an article on this exact subject.

  • Justin says:

    I think the black looks better on this bike than the honey. However, I prefer Bon Scott over Brian Johnson.

  • Brian says:

    Beautiful photographs. I really like the appearance of the fender in your black mud flap photo. Who makes the fenders that you put on the bike? It appears that your original fenders were color keyed to the bike and your new fenders are white or silver.

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