Surly Disc Trucker Review: The Only Touring Bike You'll Ever Need

Surly Disc Trucker Review: One Touring Bike to Explore the World

Categories: Backpacks, Bike Reviews
Surly Disc Trucker Review
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The new and revamped Surly Disc Trucker gets improved geometry and user-friendly components but keeps the same-old ride feel that we love so much.

The Surly Trucker bikes have a long tradition and a strong reputation in the cycle touring circles. The rim-brake Long Haul Trucker has been around since 2004, whereas the Disc Trucker was introduced in 2012. No wonder these are the favorite touring bikes of so many full-time world travelers.

The Surly Disc Trucker has seen some big improvements and significant changes. Despite that, this is still the good-old touring bike that emphasizes comfort, practicality, and extreme value for money.

If you’re planning to cycle the world or explore your area more on two wheels, you should keep reading to find out what the new Disc Trucker is all about.


Surly Disc Trucker: Key Updates

So what exactly changed and what stayed the same on the Surly Disc Trucker? There are some features that we welcome and others that don’t fully align with our views.

Full overview of the brand

  • 20-30mm taller frames and 30mm taller handlebars.
  • 8mm taller standover height in 42–56cm frame sizes.
  • STI shifters instead of bar-end shifters.
  • Shimano Alivio/Sora 3×9 drivetrain instead of Shimano XT 3×10.
  • TRP Spyre brakes instead of Avid BB7.
  • 32-spoke wheels instead of 36 spokes.
  • 11-34T cassette instead of the old 11-36T.
  • 10mm shorter chainstays and 5mm extra tire clearance.
  • Additional fork mounting points.
  • $200 more expensive.


Just looking at this lengthy list of changes, you might suspect that Surly Disc Trucker is less impressive and more expensive. But that’s not really the entire picture. The bike is now more comfortable, more user-friendly, and offers better versatility than ever before.

Related: Best Adventure Bikes

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Surly Disc Trucker Full Review & Impressions

The 2021 model of Surly Disc Trucker is the first real update this bike has received in eight years. Therefore, we are pretty excited to analyze it, compare it to the old version, and find out whether Disc Trucker is still one of the best touring bicycles in the world.

Spoiler Alert: It’s still very good, though not quite the same.


Steel Frame and Upright Geometry

At first glance, Disc Trucker’s frameset looks pretty much the same. Both the frame and the fork are made of 4130 cromoly steel. However, the color is different—Surly dubs it Pea Lime Soup, but the standard black is still available as well.

The frame has a different geometry when it comes to the stack measurements. The stack is now 20-30mm taller in all frame sizes. That will put you in a more upright riding position without having to use a silly number of spacers. Plus, the handlebar has a 30mm rise, which pretty much gives you a birdseye view of the road ahead.

Surly Disc Trucker touring bicycle

The downside is that the standover height is now 8mm taller in the 42–56cm frame sizes, despite Surly’s efforts to slam the top tube.

Surly also introduced 10mm shorter chainstays to improve maneuverability. However, now there’s less space to fit really wide panniers. You also get 5mm extra tire clearance, so you can run 26″ x 2.1″ or 700c x 47mm tires.

We like these changes as a whole, as the bike now feels more comfortable and more nimble on the road. That’s especially noticeable when navigating tight turns at low speeds fully loaded.


Touring-Ready Shimano Drivetrain

Old-school riders might frown upon this change, but Surly got rid of bar-end shifters and went for an STI setup for the 2021 Disc Trucker. This is a much more user-friendly option, meaning that even touring beginners can enjoy the bike, so the change is understandable.

Surly Disc Trucker travel bike

However, now you also get a mix of Shimano Alivio and Sora 3×9 parts instead of the old Shimano XT 3×10 groupset. Disc Trucker gets a 48-36-26T crankset and an 11-34T cassette, which gives you a low of 19.92 gear inches with a 26 x 2.1″ tire and 21.30 gear inches with a 700c x 45mm tire, which is excellent for climbing.

In terms of groupset quality, Shimano XT has a better reputation and sits higher in the hierarchy compared to Alivio and Sora. However, these are dependable groups as well, so most riders will not see a big difference in shifting smoothness and precision.


26″ and 700C Compatibility

Surly Disc Trucker comes with Alex Adventurer 2 rims in 26″ or 700C diameter. The rims are now tubeless ready but feature 32 instead of 36 spokes. That’s a bit of a letdown for heavy riders who like packing even heavier, but it’s definitely not a deal-breaker as these rims are pretty strong.

The 26″ wheels are available with 42–56cm frame sizes whereas the 56–64cm frame sizes ship with 700C wheels. As you can see, you can choose between 26″ and 700C if you go with the 56cm frame.

Surly Disc Trucker wheels and tires

The bike ships with Surly’s ExtraTerrestrial tires (26″ x 46mm or 700C x 41mm), which have received pretty good reviews online for durability and comfort.

Of course, 26″ wheels are the best choice for traveling through remote areas and developing countries, as it’s very easy to service the rims or replace the tires. However, finding high-quality 26″ tires in first-world countries can be a challenge, which is why it’s good that the 700C option is available as well.


Mechanical Disc Brakes and Thru-Axles

Just like the previous model, the Surly Disc Trucker has mechanical disc brakes. However, these have been upgraded, so you’ll now get TRP Spyre C with 160mm rotors instead of Avid BB7. As a result, you’ll get more braking power and more precision than before.

The new Disc Trucker also gets 12mm thru-axles front and back which improves the strength of the wheels and the integrity of the bike. The design includes one open dropout, so you can easily remove the wheel without completely removing the axle, which is a smart solution.


Multiple Cargo-Carrying Options

Thanks to a large number of eyelets on the frame and the fork, Surly Disc Trucker can be packed quite heavy. Even though the chainstays are now 10mm shorter, there’s still more than enough room for full-size rear panniers.

Surly Disc Trucker cargo carrying options

The fork features three-pack mounts and internal routing for a dynamo hub. There are also mounts for two water bottle cages inside the front triangle and one under the downtube for another water bottle or for a fuel canister.

Therefore, Surly Disc Trucker can take front and rear racks, baskets, cargo cages, porteur bags, panniers, etc., and maximize the bike’s cargo-hauling capacity.


Surly Disc Trucker Sizes

It’s good to know that Surly Disc Trucker is still available in 10 frame size, which makes it super-easy to find the perfect fit. Unfortunately, Surly does not give specific frame size suggestions based on rider height for the Disc Trucker.

However, there’s a detailed geometry chart that will help you choose the right size based on the frame measurements. To give you an idea of the geometry, the 56cm frame has a 387.5mm reach and a 613mm stack, with a 71.0° head tube angle.

Additionally, you can check out the company’s general size chart for a rough estimate of your recommended frame size:

  • 38cm–46cm Frame Size: 5’0″ – 5’5″ / 152cm – 165cm
  • 50cm–54cm Frame Size: 5’4″ – 5’8″ / 162cm – 173cm
  • 52cm–56cm Frame Size: 5’7″ – 6’0″ / 170cm – 183cm
  • 54cm–58cm Frame Size: 5’11” – 6’3″ / 180cm –190cm
  • 58cm–62cm Frame Size: 6’2″ – 6’6″ / 188cm – 198cm
  • 60cm–64cm Frame Size: 6’5″ –6’8″ / 196cm –203cm


You Might Also Ask

Check out our answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Surly Disc Trucker.

When it comes to touring bicycles, Surly bikes are considered to be some of the best in the world. Surly makes high-quality bicycles specifically for traveling. They are built around durable steel frames and equipped with reliable components that can be serviced easily anywhere in the world.

Surly’s frames and forks are manufactured in Taiwan and then shipped to the USA for assembly. Taiwan is well-known for having the biggest bicycle manufacturing industry in the world, so most brands outsource their production there to cut down on costs.

Yes, Surly Disc Trucker is a great choice for long-distance touring, that’s what this bike is made for. It’s available with either 26″ or 700C wheels, it has a wide-range gearing setup, high-quality components, and lots of mounts for carrying cargo. Plus, it’s made from steel which is easy to repair anywhere.

Surly Disc Trucker weighs around 27.9 lbs. without pedals, which is not ultra-lightweight but is not heavy either, considering this is a steel touring bicycle. Most riders will pack this bike with heavy bags and panniers anyway, so a few pounds of weight don’t make a big difference.


Final Verdict: Is Surly Disc Trucker a Good Choice?

If you live for long bicycle tours and devote all your free time to exploring the world on two wheels, Surly Disc Trucker is an excellent choice.

Surly Disc Trucker bicycle touring

This bike has an improved upright geometry that you can maintain for hours, day after day, on week-long or month-long tours. Compared to the previous version, the 2021 Disc Trucker also has more user-friendly components, thru-axles, wider tire clearance, and better cargo-mounting capabilities.

Surly has gone the extra mile to revamp their former winner and make it even better without affecting the ride feel or the bike’s established spirit. Therefore, if you want a dependable touring bicycle that will be happy to accompany you on a trip around the world, Disc Trucker is a foolproof choice.

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Surly Disc Trucker










One thought on “Surly Disc Trucker Review: One Touring Bike to Explore the World

  1. I used a lot of peoples reviews before I bought my Surly Disc Trucker Jan 2022. Unfortunately it has some serious flaws when carrying a load. I have had my bicycle mechanic working with Surly to resolve the issues that I and 2 other guys are having with the Disc Trucker and doing self support tours with the bicycle loaded. No one that I can see from reviews I read, rode the bicycle for touring with it fully loaded with panniers. With out it loaded I agree it is a great riding bicycle. Load it and you are hoping you do not crash because of flex and front end wobbling. The three of us have shift most the weight to the rear as you ride with pannier only on the front you will probably crash.

    Below is my last e-mail to Surly and still waiting on a response

    To Technical/Warranty Group,

    I have a Surly Disc Trucker (frame numbers DI 26-54, M21023003) that I bought back in January 2022, to be used for self-supported trips. My first time doing a self-supported trip, I had front end wheel wobble and frame flexing. I transferred the weight more to the rear of the bike and it helped some. See previous e-mail below.

    After my first trip I contacted Surly and received an e-mail back from the Surly Warranty Department and had my local bike shop RV&E Bicycle shop, Canandaigua, NY ( work with Surly to solve the problem. Below are the e-mail conversation between Surly and me. Anything between the bike shop and Surly, you will have to contact them.

    After all the checks required by Surly, the bicycle shop received a Viscoset by Cane Creek for the head on 18 Feb 2023. It felt like it fixed my wobbling, loaded the same way as explained in previous e-mails, but I only took it around the block as it was winter time and ice.

    I just completed a 14 day self-supported trip on 5 Aug 2023, with a fully loaded back end (35 lbs) and a bag on the handle bars and noticed at speeds of 15 mph and over the bike would wobble, also at speed lower than 15 mph, if I held the handle bar with one hand, or took my hand off while free wheeling down the road on a flat paved surfaces or pedaling with no hand or standing up with my hands and weight on the handle bars to stretch and allow blood to get back into my buttock, the front end would start wobbling. It is not as bad as it was before the Viscoset, but it has not completely gotten rid of the wobble. I cannot put two panniers on the front that weigh more than 20 lbs combined, without the bike wobbling or feeling like it is going to crash with the front end feeling like it twisting sideway with me on it as I start peddling . I weight 190 lbs just in case you are wondering.

    I also met a guy on the Erie Canal trail, Alex that had a large frame Surly Disc trucker and he has the same issues as I described and has been in Contact with Surly also. My friend that I mention in a previous e-mail also has the same issues. All the reviews I read on the Disc Truck, they never talk about it being loaded for self-supported riding. The bicycle rides fine if it does not have a load.
    I have also installed 26” x 2” Schwalbe puncture resistant tire on the bicycle to see if that would help but it has not. The tires that came on the bicycle, I had 4 flats in 2 months because of the trails I ride have small stones (Ash gravel I believe they call it, found on most Rail to Trails) worked their way through the tire and punctured the tubes. I found others I had to dig out that did not make it to the tube.
    I read this on you website and wish I could front load the bike.
    I have also talked to a Mechanic on the trail that was only carrying panniers on the front of his bicycle only. He let me ride it to see what his felt like and there was no twisting or wobbling. I let him ride the Disc Trucker the way I had it loaded and he got off and start looking at it and said he does not see anything that he could point to that would be causing what I already explained, but he said I have a serious problem with it.

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