Cyclists frequently say the number of bikes you need is "n + 1," where n is the number of bikes you already own. Although between my Trek 360 and Cannondale Bad Boy I'm pretty well equipped, a few months ago I decided to buy a bike I had my eye on for a long time—the Surly Long Haul Trucker.
If you're not familiar with the name, the Long Haul Trucker is Surly's long distance touring bike. Surly has a good reputation among cyclists, and the Long Haul Trucker is especially well regarded as a good value. The components, such as the Shimano XT rear derailleur and hubs, are chosen for durability and reliability without sending the price too high. As you can expect from any proper touring bike, the frame has braze-on attachment points for front and rear racks, fenders, bottle cages and anything else you can imagine bolting to your bike. It even includes holders on the chainstay for two spare spokes, something I haven't seen done on many other bikes.
I looked at a few other touring bikes before I bought the Long Haul Trucker. The Trek 520, Kona Sutra, Jamis Aurora and Cannondale Touring 2 are all reasonable alternatives at around the same price. I don't have anything bad to say about those bikes, but between cost, quality of components and reputation the Long Haul Trucker seemed like the obvious choice for me. One difference is that some of the other brands include racks and fenders, while the Long Haul Trucker is sold pretty much bare of any accessories.
I've had the Long Haul Trucker for about two months now, long enough to get to know it well. Without a doubt the bike is one of the most useful I've owned. I've ridden it on the road, through gravel trails, and a little bit of mud and snow. Throughout all of this it's held up great. The tires work well on the road, but are large enough to get around on trails and rough terrain. The bike is stable with front and rear panniers attached, even when riding with heavy uneven loads.
I've taken it on one long trip so far, a 200 mile round trip in upstate NY over the course of a weekend. Even after a 12 hour day of riding, the Long Haul Trucker was still comfortable (at least as much as any bike can be). The more relaxed riding position is easy on the wrists and back, and the steel frame is good at soaking up bumps and vibrations. I've been on similar trips with both my Trek road bike and Cannondale hybrid. At the end of the day, the difference in comfort was noticeable.
The Long Haul Trucker isn't a fast bike. It's heavy, noticeably more so than my Trek 360. It puts you in a more relaxed position than a racing bike. For this reason I'm glad I still have the Trek for quick rides downtown, when I want to go fast. Otherwise the Long Haul Trucker has been a perfect fit. You may want to look at alternatives if you want a bike that's built more for speed than long distance touring, or if you want more modern components such as disc brakes or STI shifters. If not, I have no problems recommending the Long Haul Trucker. It's a great bike.