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 🙂

Winter Cycling Gear

Snow has landed in Madison and it looks like it’s here to stay. We wanted to take a couple minutes and chat about what type of gear you should be using for winter commuting or winter cycling in general. Most of these products we’ve featured on the site before, but they are just to give a good base of what types of items you should be investing in to ride safely and comfortably in the cold, snowy weather.

We of course encourage wearing a much wool as you can afford. Investing in a high quality wool mid or base layer can make a huge difference. Wool works well for regulating body temperature meaning it will help keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It wicks away moisture and keeps you from being stinky. A lot of the poly materials out there will often times stay wet or smell awful after a day of riding in the cold.

Wool socks and hats are quite nice as they keep the toes much warmer than cotton and they won’t stink after working up a sweat. I can’t tell how many hats I’ve had to eventually retire because of the dreaded sweaty hair smell. No amount of washing seemed help after awhile. Wool hats/balaclavas haven’t fallen into that trap. Ibex is our brand of choice as they their products are made in the USA, but Smartwool and other companies have great options available as well.

Helmets. Honestly you can pretty much ride in whatever helmet you like in the winter since you’ll most likely be wearing a hat, but Bern is unique in that they have special insulated liners that can be snapped in the helmet. We don’t have much experience with Bern yet, but we’ve had many friends express that they really love their helmets and all the accessories they can use with their helmets (Bern also makes audio accessories).

Goggles aren’t the first thing that comes to mind with cycling, but they sure do help when the temperature is so low that your eyeballs about freeze shut! Gusty winds and heavy snow can also make for a really difficult ride. We’ve been known to wear clear safety glasses in a pinch on rides home where the snow was coming down hard. Goggles are better as they are designed to keep good airflow and have anti-fog properties. We use Spy branded goggles as they are easy to find and fairly prices. Kids sized goggles work well for ladies with extra small faces.

Down is another material we really like. Pairing down and wool together will almost always ensure that you’ll stay warm. Brands like Patagonia, Outdoor Research, and Mountain Hardwear all make fantastic down hoodies and zip ups. They don’t call them jackets, but that’s what they essentially are. The hoodies are very lightweight, packable, and fairly breathable. The loft from the down is what keeps you warm as it traps in warm air. The downsides to down are that if it gets wet, you’ll end up cold. The other is that some folks are highly allergic to down.

Look for a down jacket that has a DWR finish that has built in water resistance or plan on wearing a very light shell or top layer to help protect against heavy, wet snowfall. We use our Bontrager vests as a top layer as they keep things dry enough that we don’t worry about soggy rides.

Finding a good insulated boot or shoe is important for keeping your toes warm. Frostbite in the extremities is not a laughing matter. It can come on quick and can be quite painful. Look for shoe or boot that has some sort of water protection. If you don’t opt. for a full boot, you may want to consider using waterproof gaiters. Outdoor Research, 45NRTH, Black Diamond, Mountain Hardwear, and many other companies make great products for wet and cold conditions.

Gloves. Gloves can really make or break a winter bike ride. Too thin and you’ll have painfully cold fingers, too bulky and you’ll have a hard time shifting, poor padding and you’ll get pinching/discomfort. You really need to do some experimenting if you plan on wearing gloves vs. using Pogies or Bar Mitts. Pogies and Bar Mitts are items you install on the handlebars of your bike and protect your hands against the cold.

We tend wear gloves as we have short commutes and like still having some sort of protection on should we need to walk our bikes or do some sort of maintenance. Craft’s lobster gloves are a favorite of ours for really cold weather. For a little more mild weather we also enjoy Pearl Izumi’s thermal long finger gloves or Answer’s long finger gloves. All of them are very comfortable on and off the bike.

Last but not least, we’ll talk a little bit about keeping your legs warm. Legs are more likely to get cold versus your upper body or core. Your legs are way less protected on the bike and take the brunt of wind force. Thermal or lined tights are always a fantastic option. On a warmer day they can be worn alone. They can be paired with bib shorts or bike shorts. They can also be used as an under layer under jeans or waterproof rain pants. Craft, Moving Comfort, Pearl Izumi, and even Target aka Champion makes some kick ass thermal tight options.
Another option would be to get some good merino base layer thermal underwear or even a union suit. Merino is expensive though, so it may be work looking into the thermal tights since they are designed to be used standalone as well as with an over layer. Thermal underwear aren’t really designed to be used by themselves.

A couple of additional notes is making sure you have reliable gear with you on the bike. Good rechargeable lights that won’t fail in extremely cold weather is important since it gets dark early. Light & Motion has stood the test of time for us. An easy to use road pump (remember you are bundled and wearing gloves) is also important. Lezyne’s Micro Floor Pump is super easy to use as it mimics how a full size floor pump works. Studded tires! Duh, pretty common sense when riding in ice and snow. 45NRTH, Schwalbe, Vittoria, Continental, and other brands all make great winter tires. Keeping your lips and exposed face protected is also very important. Riding in the dry, cold weather will take a toll on your skin. Carmex, Bag Balm, Aquaphor, and Badger Balm all do a great job of protecting skin. Fender. They cover your @ss! We like PDW’s Soda Pop & Origami fenders best as they are easy to install and remove.

We hope some of our tips were helpful for you. Riding in the ice and snow can be intimidating at first, but you’ll find with a little experience and experimentation that it can be just as or even more enjoyable than riding in warm weather!

If you have any tips or tricks to share or want more info on how to safely ride in the winter, please drop us a line on our contact page!

 

Cap City Trail Recon

Madison often boasts that its bike paths are cleaner than the streets after a large snow storm. That’s usually the case when referring to the Southwest Commuter path, Madison’s most used bicycle path that runs through the isthmus (downtown).

We can’t really say that for the Capitol City Trail. For those not familiar with Madison’s route set up, the Capitol City Trail is a route that extends past the major SW Commuter Path and heads out to the South Eastern burbs and then back into Madison near the Alliant Energy Center. (You can then continue back into downtown or ride the lake loop through Monona.)

It’s not maintained as regularly as our beloved SW path, but is still a nice ride. Today I decided to take a journey on it to not only get a lunch ride in, but to also report on the conditions. Starting from the Verona frontage road the trail was hard packed snow and ice. Not terrible, but not amazing either.

Riding downhill was a little sketchy in some spots, but overall it was decent conditions. Hardpack is a lot of fun to cruise on with knobby or studded tires. The overall view was very beautiful. The path is surrounded by trees on either side, so it doesn’t melt as fast as some of the other  trails. The trees looked untouched and there is still significant snow on the ground around the trail.

capcity

I did happen to come across some ruts, skate ski tracks, loads of animal poo (seems folks think they don’t need to pick it up in the winter?), and even a frozen possum that seemed to have passed somehow on the path. (poor thing)

The new studded tire (I only use one on the front right now) performed amazingly on the hard pack. It cruises a lot faster and smoother than on dry road, that’s for sure! In areas that had deeper snow or a bit of slush, having a loaded back end helped greatly. I have a fairly heavy saddle, a rear rack, and a half loaded pannier when I ride. I treat snow commuting much like snow driving. Keep weight in the rear, take it slow around corners, keep eyes on the trail to pick the best line of riding, and if I start to fish tail or slide…just power through it and DON’T PANIC or hit the brakes!

stud

I rode about a 3 mile stretch of the trail before I had to take to the streets to hit my destination. From the point of where I started to ride the trail, all of the offshoots had been plowed or cleared to some capacity, but for some reason the junction I needed to ride up wasn’t. I had to hop off and do a minor amount of trudging before I could get back on the bike. I’m glad I had my Bogs on! (They make for great winter riding boots btw. Future review?)

roadblock

A minor annoyance in an overall pleasant ride. It seemed like the maintenance crew just kind of decided to call it good enough.

I’m considering checking out the trail conditions in a few days after the weather warms up. Forecasts are calling for up to 40 degree weather, so there may be some slushy conditions ahead for daily path riders.

On my way back to work I decided to ride on McKee, which was not as pleasant as the ride on the trail. I didn’t have much time to enjoy the scenery, but it’s a straight shot to the work place. There was a huge headwind and my studded tire made the bike ride like a slow moving tank. Cars were also not feeling very  generous when I was trying to avoid chunky snow debris in the road.

If you’re looking to hone your winter riding skills with a serene environment, I would highly suggest checking out the Cap City Trail in the next couple of days before the snow starts to turn into muck!

Side note: Today I decided to wear regular poly/cotton socks, Bogs, regular stretchy skinny jeans, a short sleeve Road Holland jersey, the new Surly long sleeved jersey, my Patagonia down jacket, Ibex balaclava, Pearl Izumi long finger gloves, and my helmet. In the morning when it was 19 out, my thighs were the only part of me that was cold.

During lunch and on the ride home I was pretty warm up top so I unzipped the top two layers and wore the balaclava as a neck gator. I probably could have dropped the down jacket, but I wasn’t in the mood to stop and take it off.

I’m happy to report the PDW fenders kick ass and I have no issues with interference like I do with full length fenders. I also removed my usual Crank Brothers Candy pedals and installed the VP Vice flat pedals. They have an awesome, wide platform with tons of grip. There will be full reviews as the season progresses.

Also, a BIG shout out to all the new followers. We’re happy to have the support. Please e-mail us with suggestions, comments, etc. We want to continue to improve upon the site 🙂

-Cassandra

 

PDW Origami Fenders

origamifenders

Fenders. Love them or hate them, they are necessary when the rainy/snowy season approaches. We’ve tried a few different versions of fenders over the years. The Planet Bike Hardcore fenders, PDW’s Soda Pop fenders (which we would totally purchase again, but wanted to try something different), and D.I.Y fenders made with random items.

This time around the PDW Oragami fenders are getting the call. These fenders seemed most ideal because of their small overall size on the bike. They are also recyclable and you can get replacement parts directly from PDW should you break or lose anything.The latter tends to be quite important as most of our full coverage fenders have suffered ill fates. Toe overlap and crashing out seems to be a common theme in their demise.

The actual assembly of the Origami fenders is quite genius. You punch each fender out of the hang card, bend it a little at the score marks, attach the hardware (all it takes is a small Philips head screwdriver and a 4mm Allen key- the Allen key is included). Viola! You have fenders! (Oh yeah, they snap in place)

Step 1
Step 1
Step 2
Step 2
Viola! Fenders
Viola! Fenders

Portland Design Works also has really great videos on their website showing how to assemble all of their products.
http://vimeo.com/15140615 <–Rear Fender
http://vimeo.com/15110663 <–Front Fender

There’s no photo of them on the bike, yet. We’d like to test them out a bit for a full review with photos. Mounting on the bike was super easy though and the hardware is crazy easy to set up.

It should be noted that the fenders are not sold as a set. They are sold separately with the front retailing for $20 and the rear for $25. I’d say the simplicity of installation alone is worth the money. We’ll see how they hold up after a few months use. One of the best things about them is they work on road, hybrid, or mountain bikes. If you want one set of fenders for each bike, this is the route to go. They seem like they’d be easy to transfer from bike to bike.

Ride On!