Friday, July 11, 2008

LHT vs. Sherpa

I rec'd this excellent question from Stewart in Holland and figured the answer would be of interest to other readers so I'm posting it here.

"Basically i am living in Holland, and have the opportunity to buy either a Thorn Sherpa or an LHT - looking for advice on the Sherpa was actually how i stumbled on your blog, but liked the photos and decided to stay a while!! :-) Anyway, i have never even seen either of these 2 bikes 'in the flesh', never mind had the chance to ride them, so when i recalled you had both i thought you'd be the man to go to for thoughts...I want a bike that is fun to ride on for evenings and weekend rides, but that can also handle the rigours of touring (love the look of the Big D, but size-wise it cant happen in Holland!). I'm from Scotland originally, so i ask could both these bikes stand the rigours of a couple of weeks loaded touring back home on sometimes crappy roads? So the bike should be something i can take out and ride even when not touring, but be up to the job when loaded... So what i wanted to ask was what differentiates the Thorn and the LHT - why did you end up with both? to your thinking, do they serve different purposes? Also, if I was to buy a complete LHT bike from the USA, do you know who the best online people are? I assume you know Canadian better, but maybe you know some US ones too? Would you recommend complete - the components look pretty good and the euro v the dollar makes a US complete bike pretty attractive!! Even if changes need to be made, it would still be MUCH cheaper buying from the US... So, appreciate any thoughts and thanks for an earlier reply you made on urban bike clothing - yet to purchase, but now i know how! :-) And again, an entertaining series of blogs you got there... Stewart"

Hi Stewart,

The basic difference between a LHT [I'm assuming you'll be riding a 700c LHT, 56cm frame or larger] and a Thorn Sherpa is the LHT is derived from a road bike and the Sherpa from a mountain bike. You'll notice the LHT has a low BB and a high flat top tube. The Sherpa has a compact frame and sloping top tube which gives you a lot of stand over clearance. Both bikes have room for wide tires, but the Sherpa can take the wider tires & fenders. Both bikes can take all the needed touring parts like racks & fenders. The finish and details on the Sherpa are a bit nicer and it uses better tubing.

Regardless of the differences noted above both bikes can do a lot of the same types of touring without trouble. If I was going to do a lot of high speed paved road touring I'd lean towards the LHT and if I was going more dirt/offroad or 3rd world touring I'd lean towards the Sherpa. In between you can set up the Sherpa to be a paved road touring bike and you can certainly take the LHT on poor/dirt/gravel roads with some wider rubber.

Why did I buy both a LHT & a Sherpa? Well basically I wanted to setup the Sherpa as my expedition touirng bike for offroad/dirt/gravel tours and tours to 3rd world countries where 26" wheels/tires were more readily available.

Why did I sell the Sherpa and keep the LHT? I really fell in love with my Big Dummy and came to realize I would be riding it whenever possible. Since it has 26" wheels and is built for rough/dirt/offroad riding that pretty much is the same use I had planned for the Sherpa. So I sold the Sherpa. I love how my LHT fits me and how it rides - this is totally just a personal thing so your experience may vary. My LHT can handle some rough roads, but I'm keeping it setup as a fast-ish road touring bike which my Big Dummy is not. The LHT & Big Dummy are a good combo and cover all my bike touring needs.

So what do I recommend for you? Well frankly your needs can be easily met by either bike. If you like one better already or you can get a better deal on the LHT go for it. They quite different in how they ride and I am biased towards the LHT as I totally love it so that would be my choice. If you could test ride both I'd say do that and see for yourself which you like. Since you can't test ride them I guess my advice is to think about which you'd rather have a road bike or a mountain bike? The other way to look at it is how much riding will you be doing on pavement and how much on rough/gravel/dirt roads?

Sorry I can't be more definitive, but they really are both excellent choices and can do much of the same riding so it comes down more to what you prefer than one being the right choice and the other the wrong choice. As an example on my 2006 Baja Tour my partner rode a Sherpa and I rode my 700c LHT. We were both happy and had no issues riding together.

BTW - if you'd be getting a smaller LHT with 26" wheels then the difference between the bikes is really getting tiny - at that point just buy on cost, colour or flip a coin!


Anonymous said...

Arguably the bike closest to the LHT in the Thorn line is Club Tour, not Sherpa. Club Tour has 700c wheels. The top tube is sloping, so I guess it could be called a 'compact' frame compared to the LHT. Club Tour has long chain stays, bosses for three bottle cages and front lowriders etc. etc. Thorn advertises Club Tour as suitable for audax riding in addition to touring.


Anonymous said...

Stewart, you do not say why you can not ride a big dummy in NL? You say something about size. Is the big dummy longer than a tandem? Or the dutch family bicycles (I can not spell Bakfeits). Maybe if you are looking for unique and very useful (you can help with human powered moves of friends) get the big dummy.


STEWART said...

Thanks Vik for the comments - really useful when you have to make decisions without trying the bikes out!

I think i would end up with 26" wheels - i'm not the tallest of chaps...actually i only looked at Thorn cause they had a good rep and were based in Europe...but when i found out i could also get Surly here via distributors i realised i could widen my scope a little...

On the Big Dummy, it looks like a lot of fun but a few things put me off, some of which Vik has raised:

1. In Holland, unless you live in a house out of the cities, space is really at a premium - very few flats have cellars and often the staircases are tiny and narrow, no elevators. Therefore the size of a BD makes storage really difficult...

2. if you cant keep a bike in storage, you should say goodbye to it! :-) here, most people ride around really beat up old bikes so they wont be attractive to thieves. So if you cant store a BD inside and you will lose it if it's outside...

3. the most important i think: Holland is a pretty flat's fun for a bit of weekend cycling etc, but for the real hills, landscape and adventure you have to go elsewhere in europe, eg Italy, Norway, Scotland etc. Nowadays, this is done by flight since the trains are so bad - and BD isnt gonna make that trip from what Vik says and the dimensions ive's a great idea if you have the landscape in close proximity, but if you expect to travel to tour, seems that a 'normal' bike will be a lot less pain...

But i'm committed to a big Dummy at some point - they just look like too much fun!!!