Trails and tribulations

The Paseo del Norte path, from just east of Rio Grande Boulevard.

Fine cycling weather around here lately, if you don’t mind hot and humid.

Yes, I said “humid.” For New Mexico, anyway. We’ve had a couple real frog-stranglers lately, the sort where you throw the doors and windows open to let the cool fresh air in, and then close them again a few minutes later because it’s coming down sideways and the furniture is getting power-washed.

Anyway, the idea in August is ride early to avoid heat stroke and/or hypothermia and (possibly) electrocution. That’s quite a list of things you don’t need. Throw in random gunfire and drunken drivers or some combination thereof and you can have yourself an honest-to-Dog life-changing experience on the ol’ two-wheeler.

The path alongside Jerry Cline Park, which leads to the Paseo de las Montañas trail.

The pix are from Sunday’s ride to the bosque and back via an oddly efficient hodgepodge of high-speed highway, rural roads, bike paths and multilane avenues. It being a weekend, I saw nearly as much dumbassery on the bike paths as on the mean streets, but that’s on me. I knew better, but I rode the bike paths anyway.

Yesterday was much nicer. All the dipshits were in their cars or cubes and I had a marvelous time herding a Soma Saga with a bike overnight’s worth of weight around and about. And up, too, because there’s a lot of that around here. I was a full three minutes slower than usual climbing Tramway with that weight. Three minutes! I could’ve been late for something! Happily, my schedule is a blank slate.

Today I finished renovating the Voodoo Nakisi. New Velocity Cliffhanger/LX wheelset from Rivendell, nine-speed cassette, chain, and chainrings (two of three); a brake swap (off with the old Cane Creek SCX-5’s, on with the even older Paul’s Neo-Retro and Touring cantis, outfitted with new Kool-Stop pads); and finally, a new front derailleur cable. Soon, the new front derailleur, but not right this moment.

From time to time I like to remind myself what a rotten mechanic I am by performing some simple chore slowly and badly, which helps me justify hauling another, more difficult project to the shop so the pros can handle it.

But I survived the test ride, which weakens my argument. The Comptroller of the Household is small but fierce.

The long-neglected Voodoo Nakisi, my go-to trails bike,
finally gets a little love.

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26 Responses to “Trails and tribulations”

  1. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Is that a Soma fork with a disc brake caliper mount on it?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Nossir. The Nakisi came ready for a variety of configurations. You could build it as a singlespeed, a triple, or a double; use cantis, discs or both; and you had your choice of flat bar or drops.

      I originally built mine as a monster-crosser with 45mm tires because a ’cross bike was what I was riding most often back then.

      But Soma did have (and may still have) a frame with disc tabs and canti posts. I can’t recall which one it was.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        Thanks Patrick. The decal on the fork looked similar to Soma’s logo, so I thought perhaps a little frankenbike action was going on in the Mad Dog’s garage.

  2. JD Dallager Says:

    Gotta admit, PO’G et al, I don’t know squat about Soma or Voodoo. BUT, if Voodoo could offer all those options you describe for owner configuration/flexibility pleasure, I thought “they must be out of business by now”.

    You know, no proprietary parts, multiple “standards”, etc. that are so common now to protect today’s business and ensure future business?

    So I Googled them and they’re going strong. Nice to see a truly customer-oriented outfit doing well in an industry that “invents” a new niche sector every other year. Good on ’em!!!! 🙂

    By the way, I’m thinking hybrid bikes (electric and gas) have a future we should consider … or NOT! Solar-powered? Wind-powered? Methane-powered (the cattle industry could get some sort of government support surely)? 🙂

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The Voodoo and Soma Fabrications/Merry Sales folks are good people, JD. I’ve had three Voodoos over the years and still have two of ’em; Herself has a Soma Double Cross, and I have one of those and two Soma Sagas, one disc, one canti.

      The Nakisi looks weird, with its short head tube, flat top tube and flagpole stem. but that’s the way they wanted it. The idea, said Voodoo’s John Benson, was “a traditional look with lots of standover clearance. It does look goofy, but man, it is great riding that setup.”

      Soma/Merry Sales always has some interesting stuff going on. Like Rivendell and Velo-Orange it’s a good place to go hunting unfashionable bits, like a handlebar with a 26.0mm clamp area or a seven-speed freewheel.

  3. khal spencer Says:

    I’ve always liked working on bicycles. Compared to motorcycles, cars, or mass spectrometers, they are relatively straightforward beasts. The only thing that still scares me is building wheels, because I never did it from scratch.

    • larryatcycleitalia Says:

      Same here except for the wheels. I owe that to Ric Hjertberg who convinced me that wheels really do want to be round and true, it’s just up to you to help them. Ric and “The Bicycle Wheel” by Jobst Brandt did the trick.
      Don’t be scared – after a couple decades of building all of my own (and the wife’s + a few others) mine get built, tensioned, stress-relieved and trued and I seem to rarely ever have to touch them again.
      Was gonna try frame-building but I know too many experts in that field who I feared offending, so I never got around to it.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        I still have a Wheelsmith T-shirt and cap from when I visited their Bay Area HQ Back in the Day® to do a writeup for that Boulder-based journal of competitive cycling whose name eludes me. The Hjertbergs were some wheel-buildin’ mamma-jammas.

        • larryatcycleitalia Says:

          Ric is one of the unsung heroes of the bike biz in the USA. A really great guy..and you know I use terms like that rarely!!!

      • khal spencer Says:

        I’ll probably bite the spoke wrench and give it a try!

        • larryatcycleitalia Says:

          One thing to keep-in-mind: You can ALWAYS take the thing apart and start over unless you’ve somehow bent something beyond the point-of-no-return, so check your work before moving to the next step and have fun.
          Cold winter days in Iowa were perfect for me to spend building wheels.

        • B Lester Says:

          A while back, a good friend and mechanical engineer brought his truing stand and dishing tool to my backyard. He patiently walked me though very painstaking step- one quarter turn at a time. He made it feel easy, and I didn’t have to take anything apart to re-do it I ended up with a set of great 26″ MTB wheels that are true to this day.

          Fun but not something I’d do every day. At least I can say that I’ve done it once.

          Mebbe in a few years when I’m retired……

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’m completely incompetent when it comes to mechanical chores. An utter washout in shop class. It’s all too binary for me to wrap my mind around (there’s a right way and a wrong way). I always liked classes heavy on essay questions, which let me deploy the dazzling bullshit, my only real skill.

      • SAO' Says:

        If there’s a right way and a wrong way, somehow I’m always presented with a third option when I’m fixing something. That, plus, there’s always some given that they covered on the day in shop class when I was at the dentist, something everyone else knows so they leave it out of the manual.

      • larryatcycleitalia Says:

        I was just the opposite: the “industrial arts” classes were my favorites. Metal shop, auto shop, wood shop (not so great at that) welding and even some home economics were all great. Those, along with typing were probably the most useful hours I spent in high-school and junior college.

      • khal spencer Says:

        I’m pretty comfortable with mechanical chores. I guess its one of the few positive things that came out of my childhood relationship with my stepdad: he was a machinist in a Chevy plant and I got used to watching him come home and putter around in his little home machine shop or, he would bring home little things he machined at work in his spare time. So in college I did my own motorcycle and car wrenching (except when things got beyond home toolset skills). Especially after the time I took the motorcycle apart and lugged my Honda 450 engine to a local shop and it came back home worse for the effort. Did the timing chain and cams myself after that. The effort was worth it, as being an amateur wrench got me my first job as a tech geek at the U of Hawaii when they wanted someone who could, in addition to doing geology, build a chemistry lab and wrench on mass spectrometers for a living.

        I don’t think we teach enough of this stuff. There are jobs going begging out there.

  4. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Soma shows a disc/canti Double Cross and Saga in their retired frame section on their website. If my Saga had disc mounts, I probably would have kept it instead of buying a Double Cross Disc frame and fork.

  5. Dale E. Brigham Says:

    After having had a couple of Surlys and some other non-fancy frames built up to complete bikes, I finally got a Soma Pescadero. I wanted a true all-rounder pavement/gravel beast, and it fills the bill.

    I built it pretty much the same as Patrick’s Nakisi (bar-end shifters, triple chainrings, etc.), excepting the Paul’s Racer brakes, a pair of which cost about 50% of the Pescadero frame price. They are well worth it, like all of Paul’s stuff. If you are looking for a non-disc brake all-rounder, this is it. Think updated 80’s sport tourer. Dale in Mid-MO

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’ve had my eye on a Pescadero, but I’m slightly overbiked. Or so some people would say, anyway. One of them lives here. Guess which one? Hint: It’s not me.

      I ride tires of 28mm and up these days, so the Pescadero is right up my alley. The old road racing bike uses 28mm ’cause that’s as big as I can go in a Nineties rear triangle. Everything else is 32mm, 33mm, 35mm, 38mm, 42mm or 50mm.

      I have a new set of Donnelly 700x38mm that I need to get on a bike. But buying a new bike to get ’er done might strike some as extreme. One of them lives here. Guess which one? Hint: It’s not me.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        Is it possible to be “overbiked?” I suppose so if there are some that never get ridden. That doesn’t seem to be the case in the Mad Dog’s garage. I wonder if you can be “overguitared?”

        But, I have owned 3 Soma bikes and was happy with each one, especially the Double Cross Disc that I built up last year. If the Niner frame ever gave up the ghost, I would replace it with a Juice frame.

        • larryatcycleitalia Says:

          I think one can be overbiked – at least we were when it was time to move ’em out of Iowa. Sold the MTB’s, ‘cross/winter bike + the wife’s fixie and track frame and just left the shopping bike but still have 4 (two each) road bikes stored in the USA.
          Two of those we want to leave in SoCal for when we visit, but the other two are too nice to sell (custom, made-to-measure Mondonicos) but not really needed either here at our resort or down in Sicily.
          First-world problems….sigh.

        • Herb from Michigan Says:

          Depends where you are on the spectrum Pat. Are all the bikes essentially road bike derivatives or are they all as different from each other as can be. I claim I’m NOT over biked since there’s a Vision under seat steering recumbent, Joe Breezer Uptown 8 with built in lighting, fenders, internal hub gearing, flat bars, a Marin Pine Ridge set up entirely with Ritchie everything and no suspension of any kind. Air Borne Ti Carpe Diem full Ultegra triple for touring and finally the new(er) kid, the Rivendell Joe Appaloosa with swept back upright bars. About all they have in common is triple cranks on 4 of em . The poor Marin has been shod with slicks and is a “guest” bike. I do believe I will pass on to the Great Bike Lane in the sky without ever having to dick with disc brakes again. Or suffer another carbon frame debacle.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          I think I might have one touring bike too many, and that one is probably the Soma Saga with disc brakes.

          Don’t get me wrong — I like the bike a lot. I rode it four times in the past week. But I already have a Saga with rim brakes, and rim brakes remain my first choice when it comes to stoppers. Dragging my feet a la Fred Flintstone is No. 2, with discs a distant third.

          I’d been considering replacing Saga No. 2’s Avid BB7’s with TRP Spyres. But mebbe what I should do is buy the Pescadero and build it up with components stripped from the superfluous Saga. Hmmmm. …

          • Pat O'Brien Says:

            Replace those single piston BB7 with Spyres, and you will never go back. I will never have a rim brake bike again. Mechanical two piston disc brakes for me, thank you.

  6. khal spencer Says:

    I bought a Long Haul Trucker frameset and built it up to my devious desires. Triple 110/74 chainring crank courtesy of the late Sheldon “Captain Bike” Brown, wheelset from an ancient Trek mountainbike, LX drivetrain and brakes from a decommissioned Trek T-200 tandem, and various other bits picked up, usually, on Nashbar during their clearance sales. Pics below. Its a fun ride.

    • khal spencer Says:

      Oh, and those Serfas Drifter tires would put The Fear into anyone who actually carves corners. Hard rubber compound and easily broke loose. At the first opportunity after a fast downhill ride, those got donated to a local bicycle charity and I put some decent rubber on the bike.

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