Soma Doublecross Build Longterm Review

A year ago I had an idea for a fun winter project, build my own bike up from parts. I’ve had some experience wrenching on my own bikes over the past few years, but never built a bike from the ground up. I was looking for a bike that I could use as a commuter, light tourer, and something I could use for century rides.

I had a Surly Crosscheck in my stable, so it may not have made sense to buy another steel framed cross bike. The Doublecross is a bit of a different slightly different breed. The frame itself is about a pound lighter, the geometry is slightly more slack, the quality of the powder coat was noticeably better, and the frame also had more included braze ons. To be fair Surly has since improved upon their powder coat and newer models also come with more braze ons, but I owned an older model and had been lusting over Soma’s frames for a long time.

I pulled the trigger on the frame. This was before Soma offered any complete bikes, but I’m glad I went with a custom build as it allowed me to a) learn new bike skills and b) allowed me to spec the bike the way I wanted it.

Over the winter months I started buying up parts for the bike. I knew I wanted to reuse some of the existing parts that came off of my Cross Check and also source some reliable, classy bits for it as well. If you’d like to see how the build started, click HERE.

My final build list is as follows:
Frameset- 48cm Some Double Cross (I’m 5′ 5″ and it fits nicely with a 90mm stem)
Wheels- Suzue RXC Touring Wheelset (Incredibly smooth bearings and true out of the box)
Skewers- Salsa Flip Off Purple
Tires- Resist Nomad 35c (Supple, fast rolling tires- not a lot of flat protection though)
Crank- Shimano Tiagra Triple
BB- Shimano Tiagra
Pedals- Crank Brothers Candy 2 Orange
Front Der.- Shimano 105 Triple
Rear Der.- Shimano XT 9 spd.
Shifters- Shimano Bar End Shifters 9spd
Chain- Sram 9spd
Cassette- Shimano 9spd
Shifter Mounts- Paul Thumbies
Headset- Tange Sekei Purple 1 1/8″ (Very nice looking and smooth bearings)
Handlebar- Nitto Noodle 41cm (Much more comfortable than the Randonneur bars)
Handlebar Tape- Velo Orange Leather
Bar End Plug- Fyxation Locking
Stem- No Name Silvery Goodness
Brakes- Tektro CR720
Brake Lever- Tektro Short Reach
Cables- Jagwire
Seatpost- Ritchey Classic
Seat Clamp- Salsa Lip Lock Purple
Saddle- Velo Orange
Front Rack- Nitto M18
Front Light Mount- Paul Threaded Braze On Mount
Fender- PDW Origami (I swap these from bike to bike as I hate full coverage fenders)

I’m extremely happy with the build. The only real changes I made from the original build was the saddle and the brakes. I wanted to re-use the Paul Mini Motos I had on the Cross Check, but the way some of the cable routing was on the bike…I just couldn’t quite get them set up as they way I liked. They are currently living in my parts bin awaiting a future project or I may opt to sell them off.

The original saddle I had on the bike was a Brooks Flyer. The saddle had been good to me over the years, but it’s heavy as hell and has started not being as comfortable. I adjusted the tension on it somewhat just to see if that would help and it hasn’t, so it’s going to be used at wall art in my home office or at the shop when it opens. I received the saddle as a gift, so I don’t want to sell it off.

The new Velo Orange saddle is incredibly comfortable right out of the box. The only thing I’ve done to it was put a little proof hide on it to protect it from the elements. It’s a big improvement from the Flyer. The textured top and laminate they use to help the saddle hold its shape make a big difference. Also, you can’t beat the price! The saddles aren’t made of English leather, it’s Australian, but the quality matches Brooks for a fraction of the cost. I would definitely buy the saddle again and recommend it to anyone who is leather saddle curious.
The handlebar tape I have on the bike is leather as well. Kind of fancy, I know, but I really wanted to build a beautiful bike. There’s nothing like having a matching saddle and bar tape. The bar tape is actually Velo Orange branded as well. It’s the same color as the saddle and is super comfy. Much like a saddle, it does take a little time to break in, but proof hide helps. Once the tape has been broken in, it feels like an old baseball mitt. It just feels right on the hands. I’ve been working on learning to ride without gloves over the past couple of years and have enjoyed it so much better with this bar tape. It’s not super padded, but for me that’s a good thing because too much padding actually pinches and doesn’t feel good on my hands.

The Paul thumbies have made me really happy. I used to nail my knees on the bar end shifters when I had them on my Cross Check. They’d also get scuffed up and were just not in a great spot. Having the shifters mounted on the top of the bar makes for a cleaner look. I also don’t have to worry about real estate on the handlebars as Paul makes a super kick ass light mount that threads into braze ons. The shifters themselves are in friction mode. When mixing and matching road and mountain parts, it just makes things easier. There’s not as much tweaking you have to do on the derailleurs, you can just use the shifters to trim as needed. I also like that I can dump several gears at once without having to index.

The bike rides really smooth and is extremely comfortable on long rides. The bike is a little on the heavy side. Mostly because the wheel set is a very sturdy 32hole build with a 24mm wide rim. The wider rims are nice for putting fatty tires on. I’d like to experiment with the new Soma Cazadero tires on it at some point, but I will probably wait for the weather to turn before swapping tires out.

I also have all alloy parts and absolutely no carbon on the bike. I do see the potential in the frame for being a good, comfortable cross racer. Throw a carbon fork, bars, seat post, and carbon railed saddle on the bike and it would ride like the wind. Currently I own an aluminum Raleigh cross bike, but it’s not the most comfortable thing to ride on weather beaten roads. Steel may not be the lightest material in the world, but it sure is a lot more forgiving!

Soma has done a fantastic job on their overall bike line up and the Double Cross is no exception. I get tons of compliments on the bike and the color of the frame. The pearly blue is extremely classy looking and the powder coat has held up incredibly well. The logos and the frame badge are also gorgeous. Color me in love with the bike and the Double Cross frame. I should note that the newest color of the bike is more of a gunmetal-ish grey, but still very beautiful.

If anyone reading this is debating between the Surly Cross Check and the Soma Double Cross, I would highly recommend considering the Soma. It does has a taller head tube on it which means it’s not as aggressive, but for the price I think it’s just a slightly nicer frame. That’s not to say I’m not down with Surly. I love them as well and would buy a dirt tourer or one of their many cool fat bikes,  but I just love the Double Cross more if doing a straight comparison. One other major plus, for me, is the fact that Soma uses vertical drop outs and not horizontal drop outs. I know why Surly uses horizontal dropouts and it makes for a more versatile frame, but they can be a pain in the ass when changing a rear flat. I also used to have issues with the wheel pulling to one side no matter how tight the rear skewer was on the Cross Check. I haven’t dealt with that what so ever on the Double Cross.

To wrap things up,  I plan on owning my Soma Double Cross for years to come. The bike is an absolute pleasure to ride and is a true stunner. Keeping a steel bike in your stable is always a good idea, especially a cyclocross bike as they are incredibly versatile and can allow you to ride places your skinny tired road bike wouldn’t. So, if you don’t already own one…I highly recommend looking into a good steel steed 🙂

30 Days of Biking

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It’s April 1st! Rather than focusing on a silly holiday, we’d like to share that today is the first day of 30 Days of Biking.

30 Days of Biking is a worldwide movement to encourage people to challenge themselves to ride a bike at least once a day for 30 days. For seasoned riders, they may take it as a challenge to commute to work for 30 days straight or complete a long distance road or MTB ride (probably not for Mid-westerners as most trails are muddy and closed- SAD FACE).

30 Days of Biking and Banjo Brothers are offering up some cool limited edition swag. They are also trying to get as many pledges as possible to try and get more kids on bikes. For every 30 pledges, the 30 Days of Biking crew is providing a bicycle to a child.

There’s still some time to sign up and ride, so please visit their website:  http://30daysofbiking.com/pledge and join the movement!

Almanzo 100 Photo Dump

Keri and I finally arrived home from Minnesota. It was quite the weekend and we’re glad to be home. Since the hotels booked up pretty quickly in Spring Valley, where the Almanzo race series is held, we decided to stay in Rochester.

Unfortunately, Keri’s car decided to have some issues the day before we were supposed to leave, but I was able to get the Saris company vehicle and off we went! The drive to Rochester vs. to the Twin Cities is much more beautiful. It’s always amazing crossing over the Mississippi in La Crosse, and seeing a vast expanse of rolling farmland and trees.

Once we arrived in Rochester, we dropped our stuff in the hotel and grabbed some coffee. The Midwestern outside sales rep for Saris was meeting us there and we later got dinner. At dinner we went over our game plan for the next day. We had to be in Spring Valley and setup by 6AM because that’s when the Royal 162 riders were leaving.

The Almanzo actually has 3 bike races. The Alexander (which used to be the Nellie) is 385 miles over 3 days. The Royal which is 162 miles in one day (I suppose you could take 2 days if needed) and the Almanzo 100, which is the most popular, 100 mile option.

Setup by 6AM meant having to getup by 4:30 so we could get ready, pack up, and drive down. Setup was fairly quick and there were a handful of other sponsor tents in the expo area. Things didn’t really pick up until about 7/7:30 when the Almanzo lineup was about to take place. For having 1,000+ riders, we only had a handful of people who actually came to chat with us. Most of them were from Madison and were glad to see us there.

Eventually riders rolled up to the start on Main St. The event’s organizer, Chris Skogen, got up and said some words. It was pretty emotional because the dude has worked his butt off the past few years to make the Almanzo a successful event. To see 1,000 people show up to your hometown to do a gravel bike race is really something.

Eventually all the riders rolled out. There was a wide range of riders and different bike setups. It’s always fun for a bike nerd to attend such an event!

The rest of the day was filled with frisbee tossing, mingling with company reps, eating food, getting sunburned, riding bikes, drinking beer, and trying to escape the heat. Uneventful, but still a good time. We had all hoped that more locals and supporters of the riders would hangout and talk to us, but that wasn’t the case. Some of the Spring Valley folks didn’t seem to take too kindly to having a bunch of strange cycling folks in their city. I’m sure as the event evolves and changes, people will start to support it more and see what it does for the local economy. It really made us appreciate what we have here in Wisconsin. Not all towns are cycling friendly, but we’re pretty spoiled by the amount of cycling enthusiasts outside of our big cities.

Riders started returning around 3pm. It was a hot day and the route supposedly had 2 river crossings. One was somewhat unintentional as a bridge was out, but it was too late to change the route. A lot of folks looked like they had taken quite the beating and ended up in the shade with a cold Coke in hand. Once 4pm rolled around, we decided to call it a day. We had to drive back to Rochester and our outside rep had to head back to Wisconsin to setup some shop visits.

The drive back to Rochester was pretty as we took County Hwy. 1 or County Rd. 1. Nice rolling hills and gravel roads EVERYWHERE! Keri and I decided we definitely want to do the ride next year. We had both signed up to do it this year, but lack of time for training and other commitments sort of got in the way. The challenge seems great though and we love doing new events.

Once we got back in Rochester, we found a crappy pizza place that was grossly overpriced for what we got, but we were so tired we didn’t care. We got back to our hotel at about 6:30pm and I ended up falling asleep at 7. We were totally beat by waking up early and being out in the hot sun all day.

Overall we both had a lot of fun, even though there wasn’t much happening as far as the “race expo” goes. We definitely have some ideas on how sponsors can get better exposure and involvement next year and we look forward to making the trip again! Check out some of our photos below 🙂

Gravel Crushin’

The Almanzo 100 (aka super crazy, famous gravel race in Minnesota) is a mere 20 days away. Neither me or Keri have had the time to truly put in a good amount of miles in the saddle. In all honesty, we’ll be glad if we finish half of it, but have made a pact to ride until it stops being fun. Whether that’s 40 miles or the whole 100, we shall see.

If we’re taking vacation days and spending money on a hotel room, we need to make sure both of us have fun doing whatever it is we are doing, otherwise the trip isn’t worth while. Fortunately neither of us are really wanting to participate in the race because of it’s “epic-ness”, but rather because it involves riding in a scenic setting with a bunch of other bike lovers. We’ll also be there along with the Midwestern Saris/CycleOps rep to promote the company. Saris graciously donated a heap of product for those who podium in various divisions of the race.

Today we decided to go ride one of our local rail trails to get in some gravel like riding in before the event. Most of our local trails are crushed limestone, but Glacial Drumlin has a section that deviates from the regular trail and has more loose chunky gravel. Having a few variations makes for more interesting riding. I personally haven’t ridden on the country roads of Southern Minnesota, but I’m guessing it’s not all nicely groomed and packed down dirt.

Another reason for the ride was to test our personal setups for the event. Keri is riding her steel Fuji touring bike with a rack and one pannier. I’ll be riding my Raleigh RX 1.0 with a Banjo Brothers Waterpoof Saddle Trunk, Jaand Frame Pack, and a Banjo Brothers Top Tube bag.

Each of our packing lists will include the following:
-2 waterbottles (may bring a third for good measure)
-1 camelbak
-1 pump
-tire levers
-tube
-patch kit
-chain tool
-park hex tool wrenches
-FixIt sticks (w/flat head)
-cycling computer
-iPhone
-pocket knife
-rechargeable headlight
-taillight
-back up small headlight (battery op)
-rain jacket
-hi vis packable vest
-arm warmers
-tube of NUUN hydration tablets & probably some Skratch labs mix
-a few packs Clif Bloks w/caffeine in various flavors
-Kind Bars for snacking
-Almond butter packets for snacking
-Road ID bracelet
-Joule GPS cycling computer (as back up, doesn’t give turn by turn directions, but has a little bit of a breadcrumbs feature in case we take a wrong turn- traditional GPS is not allowed, maps and cuesheets only!)
-cue clip
-aaa batteries & 2032 batteries
-small first aid kit w/ibuprofen & antacids
-Hoo Ha ride glide (best chamois cream EVER)
-Go Girl (so we can pee standing up with bibs on…a really awesome invention)
-tissue
-trowel (we’ll be in the woods)
-sunscreen
-lip balm
-sunglasses
-helmet
-cycling clothes & shoes

The list is long and short at the same time. The Almonzo is an unsupported race, so there are no aid stations with food or water on the route. As far as we know there are only 2 possible locations for stopping for food and to refill water. Hopefully it’s not blazing hot or cold and rainy. We’ll have to call for back up if we need to bail from the route.

Overall, I think we’re both excited to be a part of something fun and unique like the Almanzo. There’s about 1300 folks signed up for the race. I’m guessing about 1100 will actually show up, but maybe less. We’ll most likely start at the back of the pack since we’re not looking for glory and the caboose of a ride/race is always more fun over a long distance 🙂

Check the photos below of our adventures!

Cyclo-cross Nationals- Days 1 & 2

One of the many reasons I love working in the bike industry is that I get paid to hangout at events like Cyclo-cross Nationals. This is Madison’s second year hosting the USA Cycling/UCI event and it’s much colder and snowier than it was last year!

Day 1 included non championship races for men and women as well as my personal favorite, the single speed races. While most of my day included watching over the Cycle Ops sponsored warm up tent, I did have time to escape and shoot some photos.

The men’s 30-39 race was a must see as one of my co-workers was competing. He didn’t quite podium, but still had a good place in the standings.

Day 2 was the masters series. These are the folks who have been racing for a LOOONG time. Well, most of them at least. It’s always inspiring to see someone 60+ get out there and rage. Especially on an icy death trap of a cross course!

Today I spent a little more time visiting some of the other exhibitors. I chatted with the guys over at Trek. They have some swag they are giving away like cycling hats and cowbells, so be sure to stop by and say hi to them! Trek also has a sweet corn-hole game set up (aka beanbag toss). Oh, you can also enter to win a Cross Rip. It’s their entry level cross bike.

Later in the day I wandered over to the Skratch Labs food truck. They are dishing up some tasty, yet healthy meals for everyone. If you get a chance, stop by and try a sample of their hydration mix. It’s made with all natural ingredients and tastes AMAZING! I trained with it all summer long and LOVE the stuff. It also doubles as a great hangover remedy 😉

Shortly after, I stopped by the Knog tent. I can’t remember the gentleman’s name who was working it, but he’s pretty much their only US employee. Knog is based in Australia and has done so well that the company doesn’t need a giant team of reps to travel around, so it’s just one guy and a tent. He gets to travel all over to cool events and showcase the latest Knog gear. If you see him, stop and chat with him. He’s a very friendly dude.

Some other spots I checked out were the Felt tent and the Stan’s No Tubes tent. Felt didn’t have much going on except for a few cross bikes. I was hoping they would have showcased a little more product, but they were probably more focused on supporting their riders. Stan’s had a sweet set up with repair stands, bike parking, a nice product display, some trainers. Pretty legit stuff.

Inside of the main food tent was Twin Six. They have some limited edition swag for sale and some product catalogs showcasing their 2013 line up. I had wondered by there two days in a row, but unfortunately they were a little standoffish so I just ended up walking away. Bummer as I really like their gear. I seem to think that if someone is showing interest in what you have going on, you should drum up conversation. It’s just good business practice, rather than being standoffish or complaining loudly about how you dislike your most recent job performance review. Sorry, but it’s true.

The overall selection of food is pretty decent. There’s the Fine Italian Beef stand (Chicago dogs, Italian dips, etc.) , the Wisconsin food stand (cheese curds, brats, etc.), a (must have) Southwestern/Mexican food stand, a coffee stand (great chai latte), and the Skratch Labs truck. Nearby is also Pasqual’s and the Draft House. All are great options for the hungry spectator!

I have to say that this year’s set up is much better than last year’s for the event as a whole. The flow of everything makes more sense and the expo is more visible. I’ll be sad to see Cross Nationals leave Madison. Hopefully we can bring it back again in a few years.

Check out  photos below of Day 1 & Day 2. I sadly won’t be able to make it out tomorrow, which really sucks because I want to watch the women’s races. I have a lot of in office work to catch up on though, but I’ll be back out on Saturday!

One last thing to note is that the Saris/Cycle Ops shanty is now in the expo. It got dropped off this afternoon and it looks KICK ASS! Go find a photo of it on the Cycle Ops Facebook page. It has a beer pong table and everything!

Enjoy!

-Cass