Winter Powered by Krampus

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Snow Krampus

It’s been awhile and we realize that. Much apologies to anyone who has followed the blog. With lack of a good working computer and living with just a tablet and smartphone, blogging hasn’t been the easiest thing to accomplish. Never fear, there’s much to cover and be discussed now that the Spoke Haven’s tech  is now up and running again.

There are some new bikes in the lineup as of late 2016 and early 2017 and I can’t wait to share them all with you!

The first bike to join the stable was a Surly Krampus. The Krampus has been around for a few years. It’s what is classified as a mid-fat bike or plus sized bike. It has a 3″ wide tire spec’d on it. Surly has updated the Krampus for the 2017 model year with their knot boost spacing, the ability to add an internally routed dropper post, and a few other bells and whistles. Check Surly’s website for current spec’s.

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Stock Surly

I went for what is now referred to as a legacy Krampus. The bass boat green color cannot be beat. It’s probably one of my favorite Surly colors of all time. The bike just sparkles in the sunlight. So much so that I named my small sized Krampus Swampy Sparkles.
Before I delve into the overview, I want give a little history on Surly as a brand.
Surly has brought fat and plus sized riding to the mainstream.  When the Surly Pugsley landed on the market, it was not soon after that we saw a plethora of fat bike offerings from bike companies big and small. Each one trying to capture this new wave of people who wanted to extend their riding seasons and be able to ride in places never thought possible. OmniTerra is the term Surly uses to describe their category of fat and plus sized bikes.

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Headtube Glitter

Now, Surly admits to not being the first company to use the fat tire or plus sized platform. That being said, they have been able to push the cycling industry forward with creating bikes that are accessible and relatively affordable. Being a part of the Quality Bike Parts (QBP) family definitely makes sourcing a bit easier and a little more affordable.

I have personally ridden damn near every iteration of a Surly fat or plus bike they have ever made. Notice I said I have ridden, not owned. I don’t have a money tree growing outside of my front door! The exception being the new 27.5+ Karate Monkey. I admit that if I ride that bike, I may want to ride that over my Krampus. Maybe not though. Although the Prince purple version of that bike tempts me every time I see it. *drool*

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Photo from Surly’s Website- Karate Monkey

The Krampus is more nimble feeling than a traditional 4-5″ tired fat bike. It holds its own on groomed snow as well as on icy bike paths. With the name like Krampus, it’s surprisingly not marketed much as a snow bike. Rather, Surly deems it as a trail bike. Something you can do a great deal of exploring on, but it excels on dirt and loose rocky, rooty goodness.

That’s not to say the Krampus can’t be a fantastic off-road touring rig or a bike to use for snow riding. It just excels more at being a trail ripper that inspires confident riding. For those of you who are looking for a dedicated dirt tourer from Surly, check out the ECR. The ECR is on the same 29+, three inch tire platform- just different geometry and more mounts on the bike for attaching gear.

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Photo from Surly’s website- ECR

Out of the box the Krampus had some great things going for it. Shimano SLX and Deore components, a 1x drive train, mechanical BB7 brakes, beautiful paint, and a no-nonsense cockpit. I am usually one for taking a bike and pulling most stock parts off of it. I didn’t do much of that this time around. I didn’t feel the need to, as the bike was extremely functional and well performing.

I did swap out the stock chain ring for a wide-narrow option from Race Face. I also added some fun orange anodized headset spacers from Wolftooth components. I chopped about an inch and a half of handlebar off each side and slid on some Ergon grips. My friend’s over at Green River Cyclery in Auburn, WA hooked me up with the sickest decals ever. Some fun purple bar ends I had laying around, a set of Giant platform pedals and I was ready to go!

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A little bit of bling.

As an intermediate level mountain biker, the Krampus got me out of some riding situations I would that would have previously been either too sketchy or a death march on my fat bike. The width of the tires and the extremely low pressure they are able to run makes up for not having suspension on the front fork. They also provide amazing grip on even the greasiest of trails.

I have been also able to climb up some pretty technical, rocky ascents with the Krampus without hesitation. It has been a boost of confidence and allowed me to feel more comfortable riding more technical terrain as I develop my riding skills.

Overall I have really enjoyed the bike and it’s provided me some really fun riding over the summer and this winter alike.

Now, it’s not all butterflies and unicorns with the Krampus. The bike is quite beastly. There are a couple of local climbs I have either had to walk up or stop and take a rest on because the bike can take quite a bit of huffing to get it up some steeps.

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Getting Ready for Quarry Ridge! Photo by: Brenda Limpert

I do sometimes wish it came stock with hydraulic disc brakes in some situations, but I like mechanical brakes in a touring or bike packing situation where they are more field serviceable. It’s kind of a wash, but it may depend on what you plan on doing with the bike. I hope to use it more for off road touring and bike packing in 2017, as I have added a full suspension 27.5/650b bike to my stable. More on that in another post!

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Liv Pique 2 Sneak Peak! Photo: Vital MTB

Having the ability for a dropper post with internal routing would be nice, but that also adds weight. Same with adding a front suspension fork. All items being addressed on the current iteration of the Krampus. I personally don’t see adding a suspension fork to the bike anytime soon. There are quite a few folks out there in the blog world that have experimented with front suspension with some mixed reviews.

So far I haven’t had any real issues with the bike, other thank experimenting with chain length when I first built it. I ended up shoving the rear wheel as forward in the dropouts as possible and shortened the chain accordingly. I do sometimes get chain rub on the rear tire when in the largest rear cog on climbs, but it’s not enough to really make me pull the crank or cassette off to put in a spacer to address the issue.

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Snow Day!

Overall I am happy with the bike and look forward to having it being something I can beat on and not feel all that guilty about. There is nothing insanely expensive on it spec wise and everything is pretty dependable component wise. I look forward to experimenting with some different setups on it for bike packing. I see a Jones H bar in Swampy Sparkle’s future. A Jones bar and possible the Krampus/ECR fork with braze-ons to make gear hauling easier.  krampuspaint

If you are interested in checking out the Surly Krampus or any of Surly’s other bikes you can check out their Intergalactic Dealer Locator on their website. Almost all bike shops utilize QBP for ordering though, so you can pretty much source one from any shop in your area. I’ll be sure to post an update on the Krampus should it get a makeover, but for the time being it will be my outdoor winter bike, ready for the snow and slush!krampusseminole

Full disclosure: I was not paid by Surly to write a review for them. The bike was purchased via a shop discount through Fitchburg Cycles in Fitchburg, WI. All accessories added to the bike were also purchased by me and not paid for by any of the companies mentioned in the write up.

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Adult Summer Camp for Bike Nerds

When I applied for the Quality Bike Parts (QBP) Women’s Mechanic Scholarship, I honestly thought I had a snowball’s chance in hell at getting selected. There are literally thousands of amazing women in the cycling industry doing incredible work. Months after I hit the apply button on Q’s site, I received a phone call from my co-worker Matt telling me QBP had called the shop asking about me. “Holy shit!” I yelled into the phone. Attending United Bicycle Institute (UBI) had been a dream of mine since gaining a serious interest in cycling. It’s one of the most well known bicycle mechanic training facilities in the country, if not the world. I had dreams of hopping on a plane and learning how to wrench on bikes in the sleepy mountain town of Ashland, OR. I can tell you dreams do come true kids, because shortly after the call from my co- worker came a congratulatory e-mail. I was one of the 16 finalists that were chosen out of hundreds of applicants to be a part of the first all women class to attend UBI’s Professional Shop Repair and Operation course.

The 16 ladies chosen for the scholarship.
The 16 ladies chosen for the scholarship.

It was all happening. The first thing I did was scope out flights to Ashland. Being such a quaint town I would have to travel to Ashland via the Rogue Valley International Airport (hah, if you have been to this airport you know there is nothing international about it) in Medford. I booked my flight and there was no turning back.

I alerted the upper management team at Erik’s (my employer) the next day and had crossed my fingers that they would be cool with me taking off for two weeks during our transition out of winter into our spring/summer floor set. Luckily Erik’s (Bike, Ski, and Board) were super supportive and said they would do everything they could to make sure I could be a part of this amazing opportunity.

As the days were winding down to my departure I had begun to get very anxious and excited. I wondered what the other women would be like, if my flights would be bearable, how to pack for two weeks with cycling clothes, how or if I should get my bike to Oregon, if I was deserving of this opportunity, and worried about ten million other things that made it difficult to sleep at night.

Nothing helps calm you down more than scheduling a taxi, shipping out your bike, and packing your bags a week in advance of your departure. I tried to dummy proof everything as much as I possibly could. The only real lingering doubt was leaving my partner, my bed, and my dog behind. We have never spent more than a week a part. How was I to survive for two weeks in a house full of strangers? I am glad to say, pretty damn easily.

Upon my arrival to Ashland I was greeted by Beth. She is the owner/operator of the Cycle Hostel. It’s a quaint bungalow that you could pluck out of any Pacific Northwest town. We stepped onto the covered porch and she led me to the room I would be sharing with five other ladies. Five! I can barely keep my stuff organized with one person and a dog at home. Five roommates seemed a little crazy. That being said, I shortly got to meet two of my roommates. The first was Ainsley from Portland, Maine. When I introduced myself she instantly was able to identify specific details about the Midwest. She had lived in the Twin Cities and participated in Babes In Bikeland and some other popular events. It was nice to have someone to bond with within the first five minutes of arriving.

After our chat Beth introduced me to Theresa, another roommate hailing from Kansas City, Missouri. One of the first of many women to tell me she owned her own shop. Something I really enjoyed as one of my life’s goals is to be a business owner. Shortly after I was introduced to Michaela from Philly and Nicole who owns Veloville USA. Again, instant bonds were made with these two amazing women.

The tour of the hostel was short and sweet. There was the room I was staying in (on the top bunk of a bunk bed, hell yeah!), the common room, a second room with a twin and a full bed, a small bathroom, the kitchen, another room with bunk beds for four ladies, the laundry area, the second bathroom, then the back bungalow area where a few more ladies were housed. Living quarters seemed pretty tight. Twelve ladies in the main house with eight bikes…you do the math!

Although the living situation wasn’t the most ideal, I continued to feel better about it as each new face entered the hostel. Each woman as unique and outgoing as the next. “These are my people.” I thought to myself. There was an instant connection with each of these women because we were all here for the same reason and we all have a deep, fiery passion for bikes.

As the day turned into night there were discussions about where we were from, what bikes we owned, what our history in the industry was, what type of beer we like (bike love and beer love are pretty synonymous), what type of pets we had, SRAM or Shimano, rigid or full sus(pension), how anodized bike parts are the best bling ever, what product lines sell best in our shops, and everything in between. Night one set the stage for what was about to be the most incredible two week experience of my life.

Each morning we would rise to the brisk Ashland air. It was common to have a slight drizzle the night before causing a bit of fog and low clouds. As the sun rose, skies would clear and many of us would walk or bike to the local Ashland Co-op for breakfast. Ashland and Madison have a lot in common. When I walked into the Co-op I felt as though I was on Willy St. With a yuppie/hippie eclectic vibe with the occasional friendly transient hanging out in the café area.

We’d each grab our respective coffee orders and roll out to class. UBI is tucked away in an unassuming business park about a 10 minute walk from the cycle hostel or a 5 minute ride for those on two wheels. The blue and grey building fit in amongst the various nondescript businesses. You had to look hard to see their wrench logo on the street number sign. Their address is 401 Williamson Way, another reminder of home as the aforementioned Willy Street is a local hippie haven.

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Fran enjoying the morning sun.

Walking into UBI for the first time was exciting. There were bikes in storage stands and benches filled with tools lining the outer perimeter of a large, open room. In the middle was a giant U shaped desk space with an instructor bench in the middle. Each of our names had been arranged on place cards along with our work binders and a copy of the coveted Sutherland’s manual.

Formal introductions were made by the staff of UBI, as well as the owners Ron and Denise. Rich, Nate, Matt, and Jake would be our instructors. Lynda was the gatekeeper of UBI and also one of the sweetest women on the planet (thanks again for all the wonderful baked goods).

Each of us went around introducing ourselves and giving some background of our history in the bike industry, as well as where our shops were located. No two women had a similar story. We hailed from cities large and small. Some shops have been in business since the bike boom of the late 70’s and early 80’s, while some were just a mere three months old! Most of us worked in for-profit shops, while some managed non-profits. It was fascinating to hear how we’ve all come from such different places and yet had so much in common.

A typical day in the classroom included a combination of lectures, demonstrations, and hands on work time. We aimed to cover at least a chapter’s worth or more of information a day. UBI focuses a lot on the type of repairs and components the average shop would see on a regular basis. We covered a myriad of topics including, but not limited to wheel building, hub adjustments, installation and removal of headsets, adjusting derailleurs, replacing chains, installing new cables and housing, installing cranks, bottom bracket adjustments, brake adjustments, disc brake bleeding, and front suspension service.

I felt like I was absolutely in my element. I have worked on dozens of bikes, but I know tips and tricks that would make me a better, more efficient mechanic. I also learned better ways to explain how components worked for when I teach my clinics.

One of my favorite aspects of the hands on learning portion of the program was that we had a new bench partner every day. This allowed each of us to get a chance to know one another, as well as learn from one another. There were areas that I excelled in or had experience with and sometimes my bench partner had never even touched that particular component. Other times I was doing my very first service of a part and was able to get feedback and tips from my bench partner. It was all very empowering to see women helping women learn a new skill set.

By day five many of us had fallen into a regular routine. We did our breakfast thing, went to class, would run to many fabulous places like Ruby’s (they have the most amazing falafel ever) for lunch, head back to class, either stay for late night (a two hour extended period on Tues. and Thurs. for finishing work or working on our own bikes), then grabbing dinner/drinks along with some studying. I can’t tell you how many hours some of us spent at local watering holes, Growler Guys and Caldera. We kept the microbrews flowing while we quizzed one another on what BCD meant or what the differences were in bearing types.

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Ruby’s is the jam and Gil’s has a great beer selection.

On day six of our time in Ashland, Alix and Katie from QBP had flown in to spend some time with us. UBI and QBP wanted to treat us to an extra special day of vineyard tours, local food, and some outdoor fun. Half of us opted to hike to Upper Table Rock and the other half decided on a road ride from Upper Table Rock to Folin Cellars (a local vineyard). I had gifted my lovely road bike to Ainsley for the day, as I had been itching for a good hike. It was rad to see the stoked look on her face as my Bianchi was the first carbon bike she had ever ridden. She comes from a non-profit bike shop that specializes in restoring vintage road bikes. I figured it may be nice for her to get a taste of what bikes in 2016 ride like (ha!).

The hike up to Upper Table Rock was fun and just a bit sweaty. Southern Oregon weather is deceiving. One minute you are outside in rain so cold you can see your breathe, then as the clouds part you start stripping off your rain gear and wishing you hadn’t had so many layers on.

Alix and Katie joined us for the hike, which gave us a chance to tell them about the experience as well as our personal stories. I really enjoyed getting to know them both and without them we wouldn’t have been so lucky to have this opportunity, so a big old shout out and lots of love to them both for convincing QBP to make this all happen.

After we hit the summit of Upper Table Rock and took in the gorgeous views, we descended upon turkey hens running from a pack of toms. Trina and I took it upon ourselves to see if we could talk to the toms doing our best turkey impersonations. It had worked. We turkey called and got a gaggle of responses. Trina hails from Indiana and is co-owner of a shop with rich history from the bike boom era. She also works as an ambassador for Liv/Giant and is a fellow beer lover. We decided our Midwestern roots gave us the means to call turkeys and also was the key to our great love for the outdoors. Another bond was formed and I look forward to heading to Indiana for a visit later this summer.

After a good ten minutes of turkey calling we decided to head back to the shuttle bus to drink some of Oregon’s delicious wine. I was not disappointed. We arrived at Folin Cellars to a wonderful spread put together by Ron’s mother. This is also where we met our instructor Matt’s wife Deanna. Deanna is this amazing life force of a woman. Beautiful and gregarious, with a great pallet. She gave us a rundown of all the vineyard’s wines and gave us tips on what to pair it with. Oregonian wines go down just a little too easy.

We finished the tasting at Folin and moved onto Del Rio. A beautiful vineyard with the cutest tasting room and shop. They had the most lovely rosé I have ever had in my life. I am still kicking myself for not buying a bottle to pop open on a hot summer day. I guess there’s always online ordering!

After Del Rio we headed back into the Medford/Ashland city limits and stopped at a spot with a wine bar, chocolate shop, and cheese shop. The Wisconsinite in me was overjoyed to try some real Oregon cheese. They even had fresh cheese curds! Wait, is Oregon heaven? I was pretty sure it was at this moment. After picking out a selection of curds, I had joined Anna Maria of Pretty Damned Fast (PDF) fame at the wine bar. We were able to chat and sip a few lovely pours of some various reds from the region. I was excited to hear the wine bar’s co-owner was also from Wisconsin. I sadly didn’t get to meet him, but I was enjoying spending time with Anna Maria and getting to know her and her history in the bike industry.

Anna Maria came to bicycling by way of the fashion industry. Her work with brands like Levi’s and Rapha has brought much needed attention to women in the cycling industry, as well as a need for brands to support women’s cycling culture. She’s been involved with everything from road racing to commuting and is aspiring to be a badass downhill mountain biker, all while traveling the country for work and working shifts at her home shop, King Kog, in Brooklyn.

There’s been a theme of women who don’t JUST work in shops. All of them also either sit on boards of nonprofits, coach cycling, run cycling clubs, manage racing teams, moonlight in other areas of the industry as writers or content aggregators for publications/websites, and much more. It made me realize the amount of hard work each of us put into cycling in our little bubbles and it’s why we were all chosen for this scholarship.

Sunday, day seven, was the only day where we truly had free will to do whatever we wanted. Anna Maria and I both had a severe lack of clean clothes and opted to ride to a local laundry mat. We grabbed some Pho for lunch and checked out some cute local shops. When we arrived back at the hostel, I changed into my cycling kit and joined Kyla for a ride to Medford. We mounted our steeds and rode twenty-two miles of paved bike path. Kyla is a brand new shop owner. She and her husband opened Green River Cyclery and Busted Bike Café roughly three months ago. Right in time for the 2016 riding season to kick off. Kyla is a mother of three, an active ambassador of FemmeVelo, a fellow microbrew lover, and all around kickass lady. We delved into some deep conversations about our lives and our struggles as women. When I was around her I was reminded of hanging out with my best friend from childhood. We have a similar sense of humor and I know that my next west coast adventure won’t be complete without seeing her.

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WAxWI We like pink accessories. There is also a selfie somewhere floating around from this ride but pretty bikes are fun to look at too!

Week two was spent frantically trying to absorb as much information as possible during class and spending the majority of our time after class studying. When you take the professional level mechanic courses through UBI you get a certificate of completion, but you also have to take a test to get a mechanic certification. If you don’t pass the certification test you can only take it again at UBI at a later date because of some strange rules the state of Oregon has with privately held trade schools.

We all furiously took notes and created colorful rainbows of sticky notes in our manuals. There were a few times I had to step away from the studying to give my brain and my body some time to rest. It’s hard enough living with fifteen other people in a bungalow, let alone fifteen people all studying and freaking out about a test that could make or break their time spent at UBI.

Much of my non-study time was spent hanging out with two girls from my room, Amanda and Christine. Amanda lives and works in Rhode Island and was as enthused as I was about talking about bike-packing and how everyone should own a mountain bike. We shared a lot of similarities down to our partners both working for universities, our love for bad television, and our willingness to try new things like drinking Kava at weird, David Lynch-esque tea bars.

Christine lives in Burlington, Vermont. A small city I have always wanted to visit. It’s the home of Burton snowboards and has been known to be a bike haven. She runs a non-profit that is associated with the for-profit shop, Old Spokes Home. Christine is well traveled and has had some amazing bike touring adventures. Her sass and wit were not to be matched by anyone in the house and I loved it. As the girl who was called “sassy Cassie” by my best friend’s parents growing up, I could not help but love her brutal honesty. I’ve made it a point to put Burlington on my list of places to stop on my tour de East Coast.

My final days in Ashland were met with a mixed bag of emotions. I was anxious about passing the test, as well as getting my bike boxed up and shipped home. Packing was going to be a nightmare due to the copious amounts of swag, we received. (No complaints about free shit, but it does make it hard to travel!). I was sad to have to leave all of these new found friends. I had never felt so connected to a group of strangers in my life. We were all about to go our separate ways and I have no idea when I will see any of them again.

I cried tears of joy and sadness. I was going to have my own bed again. I was going to see my partner and my dog. I was going to miss my new friends. I was going to miss the mountains and quaint, beautiful Ashland. I was going to miss Jake, Rich, Nathan, Matt, Ron, Denise, and Lynn from UBI. I quoted Ron Burgundy saying I was in a glass case of emotions, because I truly was!

On our last day we took our tests and we hopefully all aced it. Our results will be sent via snail mail, a real nail bitter. As the day turned into night and then to morning again, we each departed for our destinations. I took a shuttle with six ladies that eventually turned into a plane ride with four, which then meant hanging out with three ladies after Stephanie grabbed her shuttle home, Trina hopped on her flight, then it was me and Ainsley left saying our goodbyes. It was hard not to make a scene in the airport as we hugged and wished each other the best of luck. I felt like I was leaving a best friend of many years and we only spent two weeks together.

I want to thank all of the beautiful, wonderful ladies of the QBP Women’s Bike Mechanic Scholarship. I didn’t get to share all of your stories via this platform, but know that each and every one of your stories has stuck with me and they will forever. I send you all so much love and support! Here’s to you Sue, Magdalena, Cali, RaeLynn, Tina, Stephanie (crushin!), Kyla, Michaela, Nicole, Anna Maria, Christine, Amanda, Theresa, Trina, Amanda, as well as Alix and Katie. I will never forget my time with you all and I am incredibly grateful to have had this experience.

Surly Now Offers $150 Off Any New Surly Bike

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Surly posted a blog this morning that includes a $150 coupon for any in stock complete Surly bike, valid at any US Surly dealer.

As a popular bike touring and all around utilitarian bike brand, Surly gets inundated with sponsorship requests from folks looking to tour the world by bike. With this in mind, Surly decided to run a promotion for “Superfans” of the brand that would help get them rolling on a new Surly of their choice.

We think it’s an awesome idea. There are many “mainstream” brands that run seasonal sales on their bikes, but you rarely see that from more niche bike brands. We’re super stoked that Surly decided to run this promotion. We’re obviously huge fans of the brand and love their take on how bikes and bike related accessories/clothing should be designed.

So, print of that damn coupon and go get yourself a cool new bike 😉

p.s. Surly also just released their new 650b version of the Straggler. Yay for no toe overlap!

Surly Intergalactic Product Tester!

First of all, sorry for the bit of radio silence on the blog the past couple of weeks. We’ve been taking some much needed away to spend with our neglected friends and families. Planning all of these really cool bike rides, workshops, and such tends to be exhausting and a gal can burn herself out if she’s not careful!

Ok, now back to our scheduled programming! I’ve been selected to be a part of an awesome new pilot program Surly (as in the bikes, not the delicious beer) has put together to get some feedback on their current product line up. The people testing the products are all women folk, as Surly would like to potentially expand their softwoods to include more lady friendly items. There were around 750 applicants total and those crazy bastards chose ME! I must have had one hell of an application or I was touched by bike angels or something. All I can say is I’m incredibly honored to be a part of it all and a big shout out Christina a.k.a Jules (per the Surly blog) for making all of my dreams come true.

The way the program has been set up is that we get sent one item out of a series of items that we noted we were most interested in. Surly then picks the item they want you to test based off of your size (body style) and location.

I was beyond thrilled when I received my envelope at my work mailbox. I couldn’t wait to go home to tear it open and see what was inside! Not only did they hook me up with the Surly Striped Raglan Shirt, but they included some pretty kick ass stickers, as well as instructions as to what I was to do with said items.

My initial reaction to the shirt was, “SOFT!” I kid you not, it was the most soft piece of wool clothing I’ve ever felt in my life. Had I not been standing in my parking garage when I tore open the package, I would have stripped down and put that bad boy on right then and there. Luckily for my neighbors I made it all the way to my condo before tossing my work bag and mail on the floor, then disrobing to put on the shirt. 15690388570_2a0e943a96_k
The shirt was soft and warm and comfortable all at once. I own some base layers from other companies who claim to have fancy itch free wool and they don’t even compare to the Surly stuff. I had none of the claustrophobic itchy wool feeling at all from the Raglan. I can also say that about the Surly long sleeve jersey I’ve had for the past couple of years. I’ve posted about the jersey in the past if you look back on the blog. I’m glad that so far both items seem to have the same level of quality. This is my third season of wearing the long sleeve jersey for winter commuting and it’s held up really well.

I ended up wearing the Raglan for two days straight without washing it. I even slept in the thing and wore it to work after that. No, I’m not trying to be a dirty hippie (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I just wanted to test the wool’s odor repelling properties. It did a fantastic job of keeping the stink away. A big plus for if you are bike commuting to work and sweat a lot or if you need to travel light and don’t have access to laundry facilities.

The longer I wore the shirt, the comfier it became due to it stretching out a little bit. Sometimes when you put on a new wool shirt, it can be a little on the form fitting side. As you wear it the more it breaks in, kind of like a pair of jeans.

I ended up commuting to work a couple of days with the shirt as my base layer. Actually, I just wore the Raglan and my Patagonia down jacket over it and was good in 25 degree weather. It helped wick the sweat away and kept me warm. It’s nice to have a piece like that in your wardrobe. Sometimes I don’t want to wear three to four layers while riding. It’s much more comfortable to just have one or two.

I want to note that I am not being compensated by Surly for any part of this product testing. I’m giving my honest opinion of the product. In fact I will cover my pro’s and con’s of the Raglan below. There are a few changes I would like to see if they decide to make a “women’s specific” version of the shirt as it’s mostly marketed as a men’s or unisex product currently.

Pros:
-Extremely comfortable fabric
-Stitching and garment seem to be durable
-Garment length in the torso (great for being in a road riding position)
-Garment length in the arms (arms are long enough to prevent drafts when commuting)
-Screen printed tag (no annoying tag rubbing your neck)
-Competitively priced (when compared to similar products from companies such as Smartwool, Ibex,   etc. who sell woolen goods)
-Wicks moisture well
-Doesn’t stink after a few wears
-More comfortable as you wear it
-NO ITCH!
-You can wear it off the bike and not look like a roadie or tri dork. Totally passes as regular, non bike clothing.

Cons:
-The cut isn’t the most flattering if you have any extra cushion or are more shapely
-The color isn’t bad, but I’d like to see something like a black and white striped or maybe even a solid color with polka dot pattern (it could be something like little fat bikes or little surly logos instead of polka dots, but you get my drift) Something to make it a little more fashionable 😉
-Not made in the USA like some other wool items, but with that comes a much higher price point
-You can’t dry wool in the dryer, but that’s the nature of wool

Surly, in my opinion, has done a pretty great job with their existing soft goods. I purchased the long sleeve jersey with my own money and would do it again. If they end up coming out with a “ladies” version of the Raglan shirt, I would also spend my own money to buy one. I would also consider giving it as a gift. I can think of a few men in my life who work outdoors and would greatly appreciate having something like the Stripped Raglan.

I would definitely recommend any of their items (with confidence that they will hold up) to a friend or family member. I plan to continue to wear the shirt and look forward to reporting back on how it is holding up. Hopefully, if all goes well I will have one or two more items to test and share my thoughts on, but since the program is in its infancy, we shall see!

Thanks again to all the kick ass folks at Surly for making items that every day cyclists need and like to use. They aren’t here to sell you the lightest and most expensive of anything and aim to just make kick ass gear and I think they’ve succeeded!

**A special thanks for my friend Mary for letting me borrow her Pugsley for the fat bike photo!

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 🙂