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Soma Doublecross Build

Every so often you make the decision to purchase a bike for fun. Not out of necessity, not to replace an outdated model, but just because you love the idea of having some new eye candy to roll on.

Buying the Soma Doublecross frame was one of those purchases. It wasn’t like we needed anymore bikes. I have a Raleigh RX 1.0, a Surly Cross Check, a vintage Raleigh fixie conversion, a vintage Peugot fixie conversion, Keri’s Fuji touring bike, and Keri’s Trek Lexa SLX. All fantastic options for going out and riding about town.

The purchase of the Doublecross frame couldn’t be helped. It was love at first site and with a bank full of tax refund, there weren’t any excuses not to buy. Once it was settled, I gave a call to the wonderful folks over at Merry Sales. They are one of few Soma distributors and work closely with the folks at Rivendell to import some quality bike goods. I placed an order for a 48cm Soma Doublecross frame, matching fork, purple IRD headset, a Suzue touring wheelset, and a Nitto front rack. The order was placed and there was no turning back.

The next step was ordering some items from QBP. A new triple crank from Shimano, a matching Hallowtech bb, Jagwire cables in white silver, a Sram 9spd chain, and a new Shimano XT 9sp rear derailleur. The rest of the parts were transferred over from the Surly Crosscheck.

It took a few weeks for the build to be completed. Tools to complete all the tasks were the biggest hurdle, so each week a tool would be purchased that was necessary to get the job done. The purchases would probably seem a little unnecessary to the casual cyclist, but since we plan on opening a shop and all…it’s going to end up being a write off anyway!

If there was one task that was the most difficult or I guess rather annoying…it would be setting up the rear brake. Soma went about placing not only a built in hanger for canti brakes on the frame, but also a braze on for if you wanted to use V brakes. The only thing is that with the noodle design of the Paul Mini Motos, you can’t really get a nice clean line coming off the noodle to the cable housing. There was lots of experimentation to be had with housing length. It seemed like the more streamlined/shorter it was made, the more difficult it was to set up the brake properly. In the end it was decided to leave the housing on the long side and just deal with it. Maybe someday when the schedule allows that issue will be tackled, but for the time being the bike works and so do the brakes, so that’s all a girl can really ask for.

This build was officially the first that was completed without the help of anyone else. Usually I grab a more mechanically inclined friend to assist, but I decided it was about time to suck it up and do it on my own. I knew how to install everything, I knew how to lube, grease, and tighten everything to spec. In most cases when it came to assembling a bike it was the lack of tools that really made me lazy. I’d take the bike into a shop or ask a friend if I could come hang out to work on my bike and they usually did all the work for me. Not this time. I’m proud to say this is the first of MANY bikes that will be built by me. My goal is just to improve upon my mechanical skills and hopefully pick up some tips along the way to make things a little speedier and easier along the way.

For all the bike nerds, I’ll list all the parts below.

The official build list is as follows:
Frame: Soma Doublecross 48cmFork: Soma painted to match
Wheels: Suzue Touring /Cyclocross
Skewers: Salsa Flipoff purple
Tires: Resist Nomad
Crank: Shimano Tiagra
BB: Shimano Tiagra Hallowtech II
Front Der: Shimano 105 triple
Rear Der: Shimano XT 9spd
Chain: Sram 9spd
Seatpost: Ritchey Classic (cut down to fit in the frame)
Seat clamp: Salsa Liplock purple
Saddle: Brooks Flyer
Stem: Dimension +- 17 degrees (give or take) 90 or 100mm 26.0
Handlebars: Nitto Noodles 41cm/42cm depending on source
Headset: IRD/Tange-Sekai purple
Brake Levers: Tektro short reach
Brakes: Paul Mini Motos
Cables: Jagwire
Shifters: Shimano 9spd bar ends mounted on Paul thumbies
Handlebar tape: Velo Orange leather
Pedals: Crank Brothers Candy C
Bottle cages: Velo Orange Moderniste

Last night the bike was tested around our parking garage and it was such a smooth ride. I don’t like comparing two different cycling companies, as they both have their strong suites…it’s just that the Soma was a great improvement from riding the Surly. The frame tubing is higher quality, the welds are smooth as butter, the paint is gorgeous, and using vertical dropouts instead of horizontal made for much easier assembly. The vertical drops will also be appreciated should a rear flat ever occur. The frame felt zippier and a little more responsive than the CC.

Spring can really arrive any day now. The Doublecross is itching to get out on some road rides and rail trails. A full write up on the long distance ride quality will be added once we get some miles racked up. I’m still looking for a name for my new found love. The Surly was always lovingly known as Foxy Brown. Give us a shout on Facebook if you have any suggestions!

Yurbuds Focus Preview

In all honesty, ear buds and headphones are pretty far down on the list of items I would consider using on the bike. Riding in the city is a little too sketchy to not be able to hear the surrounding traffic, cyclists, and pedestrians. That being said, Yurbuds were a product that intrigued me. I’ve never had a good experience with ear buds while doing anything fitness related. They either fall out, short out due to sweat exposure, or the sound quality is terrible. (I can be a little snobby when it comes to that, having lived a past life as a live sound engineer.)

Yurbuds claims that with their Ambient Noise Awareness (a feature promoted by the actual design of the product), users are able to get the best of both worlds…motivating music pumping while also being able to hear the outside world. They also claim that with their TWISTLOCK technology, ear buds will never fall out. Additional features they list include water and sweat resistance, exceptional sound quality, and a flex soft material that promotes in ear comfort.

Behind the ear Yurbuds Focus.
Behind the ear Yurbuds Focus.

The specific model I purchased was the Yurbuds Focus behind the ear. I had a gift card to Target and opted to use it on purchasing these. The Focus series are aimed to be women’s specific.They were created by a female designer to fit smaller ears. Yurbuds actually includes two different sizes of the silicone covers should you have larger ear holes.

Yearbuds makes a standard ear bud style of this model, but I liked having the added comfort of knowing they wouldn’t fall out of my ears no matter what activity I was going to do. This was assumed, I haven’t yet put them to the test, hence the preview.

So far I can say just wearing them around the house has been enjoyable. The material of the buds and the behind the ear pieces are a soft silicone and don’t cause any ear pain or annoyance. Another feature I like is their angled plug. It fits into smartphones with cases as well as other personal devices that have covers on them.

Angled headphone plug.
Angled headphone plug.

The material connecting the cable and the plug is also flexible silicone, reducing stress on the cable and less likely to shorten out if it gets yanked.

So far the Yurbuds Focus behind the ears series seems like a good choice for the fitness minded individual. There are many different models that Yurbuds carry that integrate a microphone, volume controls, and other music control devices. They also carry a line of smartphone holders and iPad cases for the athlete.

I’ll be testing these things out over the next month or so and will give a full review once I’ve used and abused them! They have the potential of making a really great stocking stuffer or holiday gift for the gym rat in your life.

What’s In Your Seat Bag Pt. 2

seatbagpt2

It’s about time we rolled out another What’s In Your Seat Bag?

Most of these items wouldn’t fit in a standard under saddle bag, but they would be stellar additions to a pannier, rack top bag, or a saddle trunk. These items come with us on any ride outside of comfortable walking distance or if we’re going to be out in the boonies.

Starting from the upper left hand side and going across we start with the Go Girl. For ladies, this little gadget will improve your life exponentially! The Go Girl allows you to stand up and use the bathroom. No squatting necessary and not oops moments that require clean up. We especially love the Go Girl while wearing bibs. Not many bib short makers allow for you to drop trou easily. The Go Girl is made out of a soft silicone material and comes in a handy carrying case. Usually all you need is a little squirt of water to rinse it off before rolling it up and you’re good to go!
Bonus: Take this gadget camping, to festivals, travel trips, and anywhere where the bathroom situation may be sketchy.

Next is the Bontrager windshell vest. We LOVE our hi-vis vests as they add a light-weight, breathable layer that lets us stick out safely in traffic. This particular vest packs down very small and can be placed in a jersey pocket easily. Our vests have been worn in all temperature ranges and have never let us down. The vest isn’t water proof, but is very water resistant and dries quickly. They also come in handy for fall riding through the woods or on rail trails. Staying bright is important if you live in a state where hunting is a popular sport!

Hoo Ha! The name is silly, but we wouldn’t recommend anything else. Our big bottles of Hoo Ha come with us on all our long group rides. Men and women enjoy this chamois cream as it uses all natural ingredients, has a really nice aroma, and has a nice cooling sensation. Reflect Sports, the makers of Hoo Ha are a woman owned company and they make all their products in the USA! Check them out at our link to the right on our page. They sell large bottles of the chamois cream or handy mini packs for tossing into a seat pack or jersey pocket.

While out on the open road or trail, there’s nothing more comforting than knowing you have a good pump. Getting a flat on a ride is never fun, but Lezyne’s Micro Floor Drive is the next best thing to having your full size pump with you. The Micro Floor Drive allows you to inflate both presta and shrader valves, boasts a pressure guage, and is fully rebuild-able. Your forearms will thank you the next time you get a flat with this pump!

T9 Boeshield has found many uses in our house, but it’s also a fantastic chain lube. You know that person on your ride who always seems to have the squeaky bike? Do them a favor and bring a little of this or some Phil’s Lube with you next time. T9 has been used this in a pinch on creaky pedals, bottom brackets, and other moving parts.

First Aid Kits. They come in so handy and they are so worth their weight! We’ve used everything from the shown Johnson & Johnson basic kit to Adventure Medical’s more comprehensive kits. Even the D.I.Y bandages with wet wipes have helped clean some scrapes. Crashes happen a lot more than we’d like to admit. A first aid kit really helped us out last weekend when Cassandra wrecked her arm and needed to clean out the dirt & debris. Bandages and alcohol pads are great, but throw in some travel size ibuprofen, antihistamine, and anti-diarrhea meds to cover all your bases.

All of these items are fantastic to have in your arsenal whether you’re a casual rider, roadie, or hardcore commuter. We’ll continue this post series where we integrate some lifestyle products and even some bike camping S240 (sub 24 hour trip) gear. It’s easy to escape city life with just a few essential items!

Light & Motion Urban 180/Vis 180 Micro Review

Each day gets a little shorter and a little darker here in Wisconsin. Luckily I have an arsenal of lights to choose from. Being a 6 bike family means there’s lots of gear floating around Spoke Haven headquarters.

We have Knog Frogs, Princeton Tec’s Push & EOS lights, PDW’s Radbot & Spaceship, a slew of Planet Bike’s offerings, old Blackburn lights, Nite Rider’s Lumina Micro set (recently given to a friend who desperately needed good commuter lights), and the Cygolite Metro 360.

Out of all the offerings I still find myself sticking to the Light & Motion Urban/Vis Micro combination. I can’t speak much for the Nite Rider set as I literally had it in hands for two days, but I’ll eventually get to do a more in depth test of that set. My co-workers have some Nite Rider sets and seem to love them. They are folks who ride year round, so I assume they work well in cold weather. I hope to find out if that’s the case!

Here's the combo in a nice ruby shade.
Here’s the combo in a nice ruby shade.

Back to Light & Motion. I LOVE their Urban front light. The 180 is an older model that has since been upgraded to a 200 lumen model and they go up from there. The number corresponds with the amount of lumens the light is rated. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light.

I used the Urban 180 to commute through all of the elements. Rain, sleet, hail, snow, freezing cold, blazing summer sun, and muggy weather. It never failed. The construction of the light is bombproof. I’ve dropped it on the ground, flipped my bike over on top of it to complete repairs, have left it on my bike while on my car rack, and the thing is still going strong!

The Urban 200. Note the integrated mount. Twist to the side and remove or install it on your bars.
The Urban 200. Note the integrated mount. Twist to the side and remove or install it on your bars.

The light has survived everything I’ve given it and has a few small battle scars to prove it. The main light body is made out of an airtight metal body. The attachment piece is integrated into it and consists of a heavy duty rubber strap for attaching it around the handlebars. It fits a wide range of bars and I have rocked it on my 26.0 Salsa Poco’s as well as my 31.8 Salsa Road 2 bars.

My favorite part about the light is that it’s USB rechargeable. I personally hate batteries. If I could recharge my house remotes (electric fireplaces and fan lights have remotes now) from a USB port, I totally would. Yes, I use rechargeable batteries around the house, but give me a micro USB and I’m stoked.

Light & Motion provides you with a charging cable that can be used from your computer’s USB port or if you have one of those iPhone charging cube plugs that works as well. I also just so happened to have an old phone charger that worked with micro USB, so I use that a lot too.

The settings on the light are pretty standard. There are 3 dim options for seeing while riding (including full blast steady) as well as a blinking option if you just want to be seen. The light also has a tiny rear LED that lets you know how much juice you have left. An orange light means you’re still pretty good, but red means a recharge is needed. Green is what shows when you have fully charged the light.

Full disclosure, I got this light from a friend who was given two of them from a Light & Motion rep. He didn’t need two and knew I was a hardcore commuter, so he gifted it to me. I’m sure glad he did because I’ve used this light for almost two years now and it’s still kicking. I’d gladly pay the $80 retail for the Urban 200 today and I don’t say that about a lot of products!

The Vis 180 Micro just so happened to fall into my hands thanks to Facebook. I’ve won some pretty kick ass stuff because of Facebook contests. A jersey, a stainless steel shot glass, and the Vis 180 Micro!

Small & Mighty Vis 180 Micro
Small & Mighty Vis 180 Micro

So, I haven’t had as much time to spend with the Vis 180 Micro, but I have tested it since (I believe) spring of this year. I really like the light because it’s bright as hell, is easy to mount, and SURPRISE…it’s USB rechargeable. The mounting system is similar to the Urban series in that it’s consistent  it consists of a durable rubber piece. You can also remove the rubber and use it say on a seat bag. My one major disappointment (really it’s not that major) is that it’s not compatible with the light bracket I have mounted on my rear rack on the Surly.

Note the mounting. It can be placed at angles or press right up against the attachment piece.
Note the mounting. It can be placed at angles or press right up against the attachment piece.

My previous go to light before the Vis 180 Micro was the PDW Radbot. I still really love that light and will often still mount it up because it has a built in reflector for if my lights ever fail. The only issue is that it’s not USB rechargeable, but that may change. PDW has pulled out some new stuff at Interbike. My wish may come true!

Back to the Vis, it has multiple blinky settings like most other rear lights and a bright steady. The way That I have it set up currently is actually on my seat tube instead of my seat post. I sometimes carry a seat bag and sometimes don’t on my Surly (which the light set currently resides on), so I put it down on the seat tube and it lights everything up nicely. The entire rear of my bike and rear tire get lit up in a pleasant red glow.

I’m pretty sure if I had to, I’d buy the Vis 180 Micro. The jury is still out on it as I haven’t tested it in snow yet. My hopes are that the battery and casing will hold up with winter commuting. One thing my Radbot failed at was staying bright when I was riding in the cold to and from work. The batteries would drain quickly and cause the light to dim. Once I got inside and things warmed up again it would work just fine. I really hope the Vis 180 Micro doesn’t do that though. I need a reliable rear light as I now commute on a very busy road on my way home and it’s getting dark before my workday is over at 5pm.

Overall I think both lights do a great job and I would highly recommend the Urban series to anyone looking for a high quality, bright, and reliable bike light. The lights are a bit on the pricey side, but you have to remember Light & Motion makes their products in the USA! They are also going to last probably 3x if not longer than most battery powered lights.

I hate to say it, but I’ve gone through so many other battery powered lights in my lifetime that I’m done with most of them. Replacing that same $25 light over and over just doesn’t make sense! I won’t name names, but it’s a local company who I know making strides to improve their product line and offering USB models.

Currently the Light & Motion set will call my Surly home. I was using them on my Raleigh for commuting, but I recently obtained another set of rechargeable lights from another manufacturer that I’ll be reviewing. A couple months of commuting in this weather should be a pretty good test for them. Basically any light set I test from here on out will be getting compared to Light & Motion, so they have some BIG shoes to fill!

To learn more about Light & Motion, please visit their website or check out your local bike shop to demo some units!

BTW before I forget…both front and rear lights are easy to turn on and off with full finger gloves on. They are easy to remove when parking and you can buy the a combo set of the Urban 200 with the Vis 180 Micro for $10 cheaper than purchasing separate 🙂

**I wanted to shoot a video of the lights with all their settings and whatnot, but I frankly didn’t have the time. It is something I’d like to do in the future for light reviews though and I actually filmed the new light set I’ll be testing just to give an idea of the brightness and functionality.