Meet Chris! Chris is one of our mechanics and has a knack for building total oddball bikes, and we love it. One of Chris' special talents is finding old and/or niche parts and somehow managing to make it all work, and actually make sense as well, in a weird sort of way.
Today we're looking at Chris' Surly Disc Trucker. This bike is a fairly recent build and is one of his best yet. It mixes versatility and practicality with a bit of high end tech, some esoteric weirdness and a sprinkling of retro goodness. What's not to like?
The Disc Trucker is Surly's drop-bar touring bike - the successor to their popular Long Haul Trucker. With fairly relaxed geometry and a high stack, it's the perfect bike for all-day comfort and has enough mount bosses to fit as many bags, bottles and racks as you can throw at it.
Let's talk about one of the most obvious parts of the build first - the handlebars. Chris decided to use Surly's Corner Bar, presumably because it meant he was able to use a bunch of mountain bike components that he had, and we'll go into those shortly. The Corner Bar is Surly's drop bar for mountain bikes. The unique shape of it, and the diameter of the bar itself means that you can fit mountain bike brake and shift levers on a drop-bar setup.
Typically swapping a mountain bike to drop bar involves buying expensive new shifters and possibly even brake calipers and derailleurs. The Corner Bar gives riders the option to swap to a drop bar setup relatively easily and cheaply, and gives a decent top and drop position. Though it doesn't feel exactly like a drop bar, the extra width also gives a little extra stability over a typical drop bar.
Hanging off that Corner Bar is something we don't often get to see - a Shimano XT Di2 shifter. Shimano have been producing XT and XTR 11 speed Di2 drivetrains for a number of years now and it never massively caught on outside of the pro field. It's certainly not cheap, but it's also not prohibitively expensive, however it is quite a complex system for a mountain bike, where drivetrains tend to take more of a hammering than say a road bike and likely puts people off.
Regardless of these pitfalls, Shimano's Di2 systems are well regarded as the pinnacle of shift quality. With lightning fast shifting every time and extremely repeatable and reliable performance, not to mention shifter ergonomics that feel much like a mechanical shifter, XT Di2 is something of a joy to use. For these reasons, many of us mechanics lust over XT Di2 but for some reason it rarely makes its way onto our bikes. We've got our fingers crossed for a 12 speed Di2 groupset in the not too distant future - that could be a more realistic prospect these days.
Driving things forward is one of my personal favourite parts of the build - a set of old square taper Raceface Turbine cranks. Machined here in Canada, these old Turbine cranks are beautiful to look up, seem to hold up pretty damn well and are surprisingly plentiful, meaning those of us that like retro parts can find nice cranks relatively easily. Handily they also have a pretty common bolt circle diameter, so it's easy to find a decent chainring, like this nice purple Stridsland example we have here.
The Beauty of the Surly Corner Bar is that you can run a drop-ish position and use mountain bike components, like some time-tested Shimano 2-piston XT/XTR brakes. Here Chris is running a set of XT brakes front and rear with one XT and one XTR lever. Perhaps he crashed and broke a brake lever and only could find an XTR replacement. Perhaps he just had this in the parts bin and thought it was a worthy upgrade. Either way, these brakes are a reliable, powerful and ergonomic way of providing great braking power to a bike like this.
Chris' Disc trucker is rolling on a set of custom built wheels, rocking a set of Dt Swiss hubs licensed by Praxis, laced to a set of Easton Arc 25 rims and wrapped in a set of Panaracer Gravel King tires. A super sturdy wheelset then, DT Swiss hubs are known for their reliability and serviceability. The Easton rims with a plenty wide 25mm internal width will give the Panaracer tires a nice profile for good support and predictability. Gravel King tires are always a solid choice, with low rolling resistance but a good tread pattern for grip when things get a little looser, they're hard to beat, giving bikes like this a truly 'go anywhere' ability.
Finishing off the build are some of Chris' other favourite components, including a legendary Chris King NoThreadset. With some of the best quality bearings in the industry and built to last a lifetime, many people consider these the best headsets in the world, they're about as indestructible as they come. Connecting the handlebars to the fork steerer is a Thompson stem. Not as popular now as they once were, Thomson make some beautiful bike parts still. CNC machined and with a glossy black anodizing, they give any bike a classy understated look that is truly timeless.