I am planning to build a touring bike with a Surly LHT frame. I'm looking for some advice on selecting a drive train.

My requirements are:

  1. Reliability - I am planning on doing weeks or months long tours.
  2. Ease of repair if necessary in remote locations, including in the developing world.
  3. Ability to get parts in the future, I am building it to last 10+ years.

On my current bike I have a Shimano 7-speed drive train. I am quite happy with that. I tour around the UK over all terrain without problems. But 7 and 8 speeds are becoming less common now. I don't fancy going above 10-speed, it doesn't provide any advantage but make it less reliable.

Should I go for 8 or 9-speed? If so what drive train group set is good? Any recommendation will be appreciated.

  • 1
    Look at what the LHT complete bike / trek 520 / similar are spec'd with -- they're quite reasonable in that regard (bar end shifters, high quality hubs, a high quality rear derailleur). The 26" wheel option might be a good idea if you're going remote.
    – Batman
    Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 18:39
  • 1
    Welcome to Bicycles @Thanushan. You don't mention price or weight restrictions. The most reliable, expensive, and heaviest option is a Rohloff IGH.
    – andy256
    Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 19:36
  • BTW, what do you mean by in all train?
    – andy256
    Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 19:39
  • 1
    @andy256 "train" should probably be "terrain". Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 20:07
  • 2
    Used bikes with 7x3 drive trains will be available for scavenging for 30 years, at least. Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 23:15

4 Answers 4


Final remark: if you do want a straight forward answer..

Then go Shimano 9 speed (LX/XT..), odds are that this is the best shot you have at beeing able to service on the road, get parts in third world regions and be able to get parts for the next 10 years..

That, and Shimano 9 speed is not overly-sensitive to be abused with "McGyver" repairs..:)

  • Thanks for the answer. I am thinking of going for Shimano 8 or 9 speed.
    – Thanushan
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 20:45

As other posters already mentioned: Rohloff seems the way to go...Super reliable and sturdy, but: hard to service for yourself "on the road".

On the other hand: if you have a Shimano (most common) 9 or 10 speed Deore XT drivetrain, it will also be hard to find (and thus service) spares in the middle of Africa..:)

If cost is no subject: forget the Surly (albeit a nice platform), and go for a rim-brake Pinion bike. Why?: Super reliable, more then enough spread in gears, it enables you to switch wheels (obviously not possible with Rohloff without losing your gears..) and the rim brakes don't make it a pain in the A@% when your wheel is broken and you want to use an alternative..

Maybe not the straight forward answer you were looking for, but if "the Ultimate touring bike" is required this might be the ticket!

  • Thanks for the answer. I have come across Pinion bike, couldn't get enough verdicts from expedition touring.
    – Thanushan
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 20:41

I've looked at several maintenance logs published by long distance tourers and drivetrain failures are exceedingly rare. Carrying replacement chain(s) and cassette should be more than enough. Worst case scenario would be to change your drivetrain and shifters to the local standard. More likely, you'll limp to the nearest larger town and wait for spares. Even more likely, your drivetrain will age gracefully.


For Ultimate durability I would go with downtube or bar-end shifters that can be switched to friction mode if things go horribly wrong... that being said after more than 30 years of cycling, I have never had a shifter fail. Chains have broken, cassette bodies have stopped racheting, cassette clusters have worn, etc. but I have never had a shifter give up the ghost.

If you are interested.. there are a couple rear hub models that support tool-less cassette body removal and servicing. If I was on my way around the world I would be looking to get the right hubset before I looked to get the perfect shifter.

  • I'm keen on using bar-end shifters (indexing/friction), but mount them to be used as thump shifters. Because I'll have straight or butterfly handle bar.
    – Thanushan
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 23:39

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