Salsa Fargo New Bike Day!

Let’s start the blog with some honesty. The last 6 months have been an absolute BLUR.

I accepted the position of Store Manager for Wheel and Sprocket at the end of September and it’s been like riding on a train with no conductor, barrelling down the tracks at full steam ahead. It’s been many weeks of putting in overtime, not having enough staffing for the volume of customers coming into the store, and frankly I barely have enough energy to make myself dinner when I get home most nights- let alone create content for pleasure.

Believe me, if I could get paid doing this full-time and not have to deal with lines of customers out the door impatiently waiting to be told the bike they want is out of stock, well I’d chose doing this all day long!

Within the absolute insanity that has been the bike industry, there have been a few awesome additions to my bike life. This is where the Salsa Fargo comes in! I had not been in the market for a touring bike. In all honesty I need a mountain bike much more badly than I needed to buy the Fargo, but she just called to me. The bike had come in for one of our store customers and he ultimately found a screaming deal on a tricked out Ti version of the bike on eBay.

Out of curiosity I decided to throw a leg over the bike and take it for a short spin around the shop. It was the perfect fit! I knew I wanted it right then and there. The thing I like most about the bike is that it blends the elements of two bikes (Surly Krampus and Soma Doublecross) I already own into one beautiful piece of machinery. It has the 29″ wheels with the ability to run plus sized tires, it has all the mounts you could ever need for bike packing, it has lightweight triple butted frame tubing, it has a lightweight carbon fork, the wheels are tubeless ready, and the cockpit is super comfortable!

Not to mention Salsa wisely spec’d the bike with mechanical TRP disc brakes which allow for much greater adjustment and field serviceability. Oh and did I mention it’s set up with 1x Apex with a super wide rear gearing? The bike hits all the sweet spots with a really nice mesh of great value for the price, design and component wise. The sparkly deep red colorway also reminded me of why I loved the OG Krampus so much. You just can’t beat a beautiful paint job and fun graphics.

Naked Fargo with no bags to cover her paint scheme.

I’ve had goals to do more off road bike packing. The Tour de Chequamegon and a few other routes that have cropped up care of bikepacking.com have piqued my interest. I could have easily ridden the Krampus for such endeavors, but it’s honestly just kind of a heavy and slow bike when it comes down to loading it up with gear.

The Krampus can get rowdy on trails and is fun on flowy stuff, but it does not climb well even with the updated gearing and I have come to really loathe the ever present horizontal dropout design that Surly insisted on using (we get it, you want everyone to ride single speed).

The Krampus also lacked some of the updated gear zits that most modern frames now sport, regardless of whether or not people plan on using their bikes for loading up. I know the modern iteration of the bike has them, but Salsa has been a brand of bike I’ve not owned up to this point and wanted to take advantage of the fact that I now worked at a stocking dealer.

Getting dressed up for the road.

A few changes I’ve made to the bike mostly had to do with aesthetics. I converted the tires to tubeless and used some fun Muc Off anodized red tubeless valves that matched the paint color of the bike. The jury is still out on the included Terravail Sparwood tires. I’m sure they kick ass off road, but I’ve been using this bike for commuting and I could see myself putting on something from Rene Herse or Panaracer with a more supple design and smooth tread. I’ll likely just ride these until I wear them out though as I don’t want to throw a whole bunch of money at a perfectly functional bike.

The other updates were some of the bike bling that I pulled off the Krampus including the Easton carbon seat post, Salsa lip lock seat binder, and the Wolftooth headset spacers. I still get annoyed that the orange from the Salsa binder is so much more bright and vibrant than the spacers from Wolftooth. Matching anodized parts can be a pain in the ass sometimes if they aren’t coming from the same company or batch even.

I really like the flared handlebars that are on the bike. In years past I’ve not liked some of the options that have come stock on bikes like the Surly Crosscheck or similar “cross” or “gravel” bikes. The Salsa Woodchippers seem to fit just right. The 44cm width on the size small bike feel great in the hoods, tops, and drop position. I did drop the stem down and may do so a little more as I’ve gotten a bit more used to a more aero position on my road/gravel bike while riding the trainer this Winter. I’m finding that I enjoy engaging my hamstrings and glute muscles to put out more power than sitting more upright and having quad dominant pedaling.

I’ve been riding the bike with flat pedals, which is also new for me as I really enjoy the feeling of being clipped in with the exception of mountain biking. I’ve been pairing the pedals to some new 5.10 shoes I picked up. I’ve had a pair before, but the new ones fit a little better and feel a bit more comfortable.

Ultimately I may toss my Crank Brothers Candy pedals on or invest in the Mallet pedals from them as they have a larger, more off road friendly platform. I have yet to stray from Crank Brothers pedals as they’ve just been my go to for so long and it’s difficult to want to go to anything else when I have three sets of their pedals and multiple cleats for said pedals.

The command center.

I’ve transferred all of my bike packing bags and cages over to the Fargo and have even picked up an additional feed back from Revelate Designs (not pictured) as well as their Mag Tank (not pictured) as I’d like to leave my Topeak top tube bag for my Topstone. I can just barely fit the Blackburn Elite handlebar bag on the front without interfering with my hands on the bars. I may just use a more basic dry bag that has loops for running the straps through that’s a little more compact as the one that comes with their mounting system is cavernous. Great for hauling a lot of sh*t, but annoying when you ride small bikes and need narrower bars! To be fair, this wasn’t an issue when I was running Jones bars on the Krampus as the bars give you so much space that you can fit just about anything on there as long as there is tire clearance.

A small, but fun detail I added to the Fargo was the stem cap. It’s a design by Bryn Merrell with some orange colored poppies. I’ve decided to name the bike Poppy as it seemed appropriate. It goes with the other little orange flourishes on the bike I have added and brings me joy when I look down at it while riding. I love the small details that make a bike feel more personalized. It makes me sad to see so many stock bikes go home with folx that lack personality.

For anyone who has been keeping up with my gear via this blog or on my Instagram, you may have noticed I’m no longer rocking the Giant GPS on my bar anymore. As much as I wanted to like that computer, it just wasn’t functioning well. The app was super glitchy, so uploading was kind of an issue and sometimes the unit just straight up didn’t work as it should. If I tried starting an uploaded GPX route, the computer would often times think that immediately from the starting point was also the stopping point and end the ride. This happened a lot if I had programmed a loop with the same stop and start point. It was time for an upgrade and I’ve never owned a Garmin unit as I had always worked for places where I got demo products to use at no charge. I had used Saris’s Joule GPS for many years prior to getting the demo unit of the Giant Neostrack. I’m almost certain Giant discontinued the product. Likely because it wasn’t great. For the price you can get an entry level Garmin or similar product that has better instructions, function, and apps to work with.

The unit I picked up was a Garmin 530. I had debated about getting the 830 as it has a touch screen and there have been a couple of times I had wished I had purchased that one, but I realize for winter or cold weather situations the touch screen is useless as no one has cracked the perfect design for a glove that can work well with a touch screen. It was also less expensive and I just needed a computer that could sync to my phone and I could upload routes to that I could trust to work.

Bryn Merrel makes stem caps, apparel, artwork, and even mtb fenders with her artwork! Check her out online!

At this point I feel I should list the cons of the bike which honestly the only con is that the gearing is just a tad too low for what I’ve been doing with it. The rear cassette is an 11-42 which is excellent for climbing, but with the 32t chain ring up front it makes it difficult to get speed on the flats or pedal downhill to use gravity to climb rollers. I’m not faulting Salsa for this what so ever. This bike is intended to be an off road touring machine that will need to be geared low to get up tough climbs while loaded down.

I have picked up an Absolute Black chain ring to try. I bought a 34t oval ring which they claim feels like a 36t. I’ve never ridden a bike with an oval ring before other than test riding a customer bike with an old Shimano Biopace on it. It should give me better city gearing for commuting without giving up the wide range for when I get to a hill. I have not installed the new ring yet as I haven’t had time or energy, but will hopefully get to it in the next week or so when the weather starts looking nice.

Anodized red to match the bike.

Overall I’m very happy with the bike and the purchase. I’ve had a couple of folx ask why I went with a Fargo over a Cutthroat and my first response simply there are no Cutthroats to be found anywhere due to the bike shortage. In truth though, it comes down to the fact that I like steel frames. A high quality steel frame with triple butting is light and strong. It’s often able to be repaired and is made for the long haul. I love my Soma frame as it’s light and fun to ride. I enjoy a steel fame paired with a carbon fork. It makes for a really nice ride feel and for a bike that I’m going to be loading up with gear for traveling, it gives me a little more peace of mind. I can always replace the fork down the road with another carbon one or even a steel option, which is also nice.

I also already have the Topstone, which some people may think is redundant to have. I have sold my dedicated road bike though that was full carbon because I was using the Topstone so much. I fell in love with how it eats up road chatter and I can do road or gravel rides on it and it’s still fast even with the lower gearing. It’s a great bike for the area I live in which is shitty pavement and lots of hills going out to the Driftless region. I just wanted to be able to keep the Topstone unloaded for that type of riding and have the Fargo for the loaded touring and overnight camping trips.

I had planned on selling my Double Cross, but realized I’ve really enjoyed the flexibility of having a bike on my trainer to get rides in even if it’s cold and sh*tty outside. I’m going to be swapping the crank back to a road double on that bike and putting a front derailleur on it and keeping it as my trainer bike. Another project I’ve had neither time nor energy to take on, but soon! I’ll be sure to post when I get around to that.

The Krampus is currently in limbo. I need to finish putting new pads and rotors on it as the salt ate away at them pretty good the last couple of years. I also pulled the Jones bar off of the bike in the off chance that I may want to put it on the Fargo down the road. I could see the Fargo being a really kick ass bike with a Jones bar on it. Who knows, I’m always changing my gear up. The Krampus will likely stick around at least for the Summer as I don’t see being able to snag a new MTB anytime soon. I want to get another full suspension bike, but something different than what I’ve had in the past. I hate to admit that I like the Fuel EX from Trek as I have mixed opinions about them as a company. They make some really nice bikes, but there’s a lot they’ve done behind the scenes and socially that I don’t identify with and have a hard time riding basically an advertisement for them.

If anyone has any recommendations for a good Fuel EX alternative, please reach out! I also had been looking at options from Salsa as their carbon full sus bikes look wicked. Then again, it’s probably going to be at least a year before they become available again.

That’s all for now as I have much to do on my day off and not much time. Thanks for continuing to read along and please give a follow to @spokehaven over on Instagram for more up to date content, etc.

Eat well and bike often!

Cassandra

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 🙂

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!