Posts Tagged ‘Soma Saga’

Possibilities

August 10, 2022

Possibly rain.

Partly to mostly cloudy. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible.The Weather Underground forecast for The Duck! City

The gods are pulling my chain again.

Actually, they may be peeing on it.

We just got more than a half inch of possibility in about 15 minutes and Your Humble Narrator beat the deluge home by the chromoplastic skin of his mudguards.

I hadn’t intended to go for a ride. The original idea was to drive to Dick Missile’s Galaxy O’ Grub for a couple hundy worth of disco vittles.

But about halfway there I realized I was short one wallet (mine). So I pulled a U and in a cloud of blasphemy motored home, where I swapped the Subie for a Soma.

Some explanation is in order. I like to buy my groceries early, when most people are working, schooling, or riding their own damn’ bikes. This has the effect of broadening product availability, widening aisles, and shortening lines at checkout.

By forgetting my wallet I had squandered my chronological advantage over the Little People, so I thought I might as well go for a ride instead. Which I did. And it was very pleasant, thanks for asking.

About an hour in I noticed the clouds bunching up and darkening. As I looped around High Desert en route to El Rancho Pendejo things looked positively moist down by Four Hills.

“No worries,” I thought. “It never rains before noon, when it rains at all. Plenty of time.”

Uh huh. I felt the first few drops just off Tramway at Manitoba, and on Glenwood Hills Drive they were bucketing down in quantity. I had fenders on — all the Somas have fenders — but I had to mind my manners in the corners as I slalomed home at a quarter ’til noon, just in time for lunch, if I had any food.

“If only we had some ham we could have ham and eggs, if we only had some eggs.” You said a mouthful, brother.

Blockade

February 12, 2022

The road isn’t exactly closed. More like not there at all.

Right-wing antivaxxer Canadian trucker nutjobs? Nope. Just another road that goes nowhere by design.

This one butts up against Sandia Pueblo land, between Balloon Fiesta Parkway and Roy Avenue, which becomes Tramway Road NE just past Interstate 25.

It would be convenient to be able to press on to Roy via San Mateo. But you know how the white man is. Give him a bike path and the next thing you know he’s grabbed the whole damn’ country.

So I roll up to the Pan American Freeway and hang an illegal left turn, riding about a quarter-mile to Roy/Tramway on the west shoulder, against traffic.

Frankly, I don’t relish doing this. It gives ammo to the haters (“Look at that douche on the bicycle riding against traffic!”). And it gives me a small jolt of The Fear, because Pan American just south of Roy/Tramway is half frontage road, half interstate on-ramp, and I don’t care to become a hood ornament on an accelerating F-350 whose driver can barely see over the hood when he’s sober.

But there’s a nice wide shoulder — full of debris from previous mishaps, natch — and anyway, it’s the cost of doing velo-business in that neighborhood. So there you have it.

The payoff is the gradual, mostly uninterrupted, half-hour climb up Tramway to the stop sign at The County Line Grill & Smokehouse. There’s just one stoplight, at the casino just east of I-25, so you can just pick a gear and roll it.

Wave at the buffalo herd as you pass. Just don’t try to roller-skate through it. Because you can’t.

Cheap dates

October 6, 2021

If you had seen this sky yesterday, your first thought would not have been, “Bet it’s gonna rain tomorrow.”

I was lazing in the bed this morning, contemplating the day ahead.

“Maybe I’ll ride the Jones down south, check out the trails below Menaul,” I mused. “Or I could take the New Albion Privateer out east past Tijeras. Haven’t ridden the Voodoo Nakisi in a while — I wonder how crowded it’ll be around Elena Gallegos.”

Then, I stretched, got up, and headed for the reading room, where I heard the pitter-patter of … raindrops on the skylight?

Raindrops? Who ordered the raindrops?

Well. Shit. What a delightful gift. Maybe the skeeters will all catch pneumonia, or drown. Sonsabitches made an amuse-bouche of my ankles last evening as I chatted with a neighbor. Go bite a Republican, you disease-spreading bloodsuckers. Wouldn’t you be happier dining on your own kind?

No, not you, neighbor. The skeeters.

In other news, friend and colleague Nick Legan blazed through town on Monday. He was motoring down from Colorado to oversee a video shoot for Shimano, and hollered at me from the road, so we had him over to the rancheroo for some medium-heavy refreshments before he had to get down to business supervising the artistes.

Afterward Nick asked for a tour of the garage, where he complimented me on The Fleet, observing cannily that clearly I favored the “affordable bike.” Which is true.

The Soma Double Cross, back to its dirty roots.

It’s possible to spend a great deal of money on bicycles, or even a bicycle, or at least look as though you have (cough, cough, bro’ deal, cough). But it’s not necessary. So there’s a lot of old steel in my armory, where modernity has to make do with representation by nine-speed Ultegra STI.

Lately I’ve been riding bikes from Merry Sales — either a Soma Saga (now discontinued) or the New Albion Privateer — and if I had to drastically thin my herd these two would probably make the cut.

For sure the Privateer would. It’s a versatile, affordable, eye-catching beastie and up for just about anything, from cross-town to cross-country.

All told we have five Merry Sales machines in The Fleet — two Soma Sagas, two Soma Double Crosses, and the New Albion Privateer. It all started with me buying a Double Cross for Herself. I was so impressed that I bought another for myself. Over the years it’s been a cyclocross bike, a light-touring bike, and a townie-slash-grocery bike.

It’s been the latter for a while now, and I found I was rarely riding it, in part because I’ve been making fewer and heavier grocery trips during the Plague Years, and in part because I never really warmed up to that configuration (swept-back bar, bolt-upright position, flat pedals).

So the other day I turned it back into a cyclocross bike, kinda-sorta, with eight-speed Shimano bar-end shifters, a vintage XT FC-M730 triple and newer XT/Ultegra derailleurs, PD-M540 SPDs, battered Shimano 600 brake levers and IRD Cafam cantis, 700×42 Soma Cazadero tires, Deda Elementi 215 handlebar, and a Ritchey WCS stem that’s just a hair too long and too low.

I even resurrected a beat-to-shit Selle Italia Flite saddle and some Off the Front handlebar tape for the project. Remember Off the Front? Bruce and Jodie Ruana? Started out cutting up shower curtains in SoCal, then set up a small home factory in Nevada, and finally fled the bike biz altogether for straight jobs so they could live to tell the tale.

Anyway, all of a sudden I’ve been riding the shit out of my Double Cross. And what fun it is, too. I did a three-day credit-card tour on it back in 2012 and had a delightful time. Lately I’m just pooting around town, on and off pavement as the spirit moves.

Your modern Double Cross has taken a distinctly gravelish turn, with disc brakes, more bottom-bracket drop, and more mounts for this and that. Different strokes, as the fella says. I bet it’s just swell, for those of you who demand all them consarned newfangled whizbangs, whatchamacallits, and comosellamas.

Me, I’ll stick to my old-school DC, thanks all the same. But that Soma Pescadero sure looks interesting. …

Rio Cielo

February 3, 2021

There’s a little blue sky island up there to the NNW of Trail 365A.

It’s been warm enough the past couple of days that I haven’t felt compelled to crank up the thermostat the instant I ooze out of bed.

Yesterday I could’ve ridden in knickers and arm warmers. I didn’t, of course, because nobody needs to see my pallid calves on a lovely February morning, not even me. I wore tights and long-sleeves like a white man. A very white man.

The Tramway Time Trial record was never in jeopardy, probably due to the extra weight I was carrying, kit-wise. I took just under a half hour to climb from I-25 to County Line Barbecue. And mind you, I had a tailwind.

Looking back the way I came.

In my defense I’ll note that I was riding 30 pounds of bike (a Soma Saga). But then, I’m pretty much always riding a 30-pound bike, so those hairy, Day-Glo items I call “legs” should not have been surprised.

The previous day I had been aboard a 24.5-pound bike, my old DBR Axis TT mountain bike. Yet somehow I remained unimpressive on the foothills trails. I’d blame the boingy fork and seatpost, or perhaps the 26-inch wheels, but I’m actually starting to regain an appreciation for those bits in my dotage. So it’s operator error once again.

Maybe I can learn some mad skillz from Beta, the new mountain-bike mag’ from Pocket Outdoor Media, the same outfit that owns Bicycle Retailer and a metric shit-ton of other sweat-stained publications.

Then again, “beta” means “a stage of development in which a product is nearly complete but not yet ready for release.” So, maybe not. Still, I wish Nicole Formosa and her crew the best of luck in their new endeavor.

Speaking of mad skillz, we decided to go low-tech on coffee machinery. This morning it was a Thermos pour-over that will require an adjustment to the coffee-water ratio. And with one bloodshot eye aimed erratically toward the future I’ve ordered up a six-cup Chemex and an Aeropress.

Bonus non-political content

August 1, 2020

The first blue-skies shot of August.

Six months.

That’s how long it’d been since I last visited a bike shop. Until yesterday, when I popped round to Two Wheel Drive to return the Surly Disc Trucker I reviewed for Adventure Cyclist magazine.

Happily, the lads have not been wasting away, praying for a visitation by a stove-up senior citizen on a fixed income with the spending power of a junior partner in a corner lemonade stand.

They have product to sell — including a freshly scored size run of the 2021 Kona Unit X — and shortly after I lurched in, so did a couple of actual customers, while another pair queued up outside (house rules).

Manager Zach took a minute to pitch me on the joys of the Kona Electric Ute, even offering to turn me loose on the floor model. But I passed, figuring his time was more profitably spent with the paying clientele. Zach owns an E-Ute, and says it makes a fine car replacement, suitable for fetching groceries and transporting rug monkeys.

Our cars are both paid for, and we don’t use them much; we’re even getting a discount from our insurance company for letting them rot in the garage. Still, I think it would be interesting to have a go at a one-car life.

The biggest hurdle for me is (wait for it) the advancified futuristical Jetsonian technology. Sitting here at the desk I can see eight battery-powered devices without swiveling my head. I don’t really want any more.

Tell you what I do find interesting: The Soma Pescadero. Which of course is completely sold out.

Until a new run arrives sometime in November or December, I’m compelled to contemplate a cousin, the New Albion Privateer, the only other rim-brake frame available from the Merry Sales folks.

Merry’s Stan Pun says the Privateer “is like a [Soma] Double Cross with a lower BB height, longer chainstays and heavier tubes.” At a glance it seems to slot in neatly between the Pescadero and Saga. As the owner of one Double Cross and two Sagas, I’m intrigued.

And of course what we really need around here is another bicycle. N+1, baby, N+1.

Seeking higher ground

May 21, 2020

Looking southward from a parking lot.

I headed for the hills yesterday.

Unlike our brethren and sisthren in Michigan I was not dodging floodwaters (our man Herb reports that he is high and dry). I just wanted to get out of the house and sit in the shade awhile, chatting amiably with the voices in my head.

La Cueva Picnic Site is a good spot for this sort of thing. It’s close to El Rancho Pendejo, and easily reached by bike, if you don’t mind that final mile. It rises about 367 vertical feet on beat-to-hell chipseal, so it’s not as challenging as the private road leading to our old place outside Weirdcliffe, which was a hair longer, a bit steeper (430-odd vertical feet), and unpaved.

One of the CCC-built stone structures at La Cueva.

But a fella wants a nice low gear if he’s to enjoy the grind, so I was aboard the canti’-equipped Soma Saga, stripped of racks and fenders. When it’s just a bicycle instead of an RV it slims down nicely, all the way to 27.8 pounds. And with a low end of 20.5 gear inches even a stove-up auld fella can do the deed.

Once you’re up there you have a fine view of the Greater Duke City Metropolitan Area. And when you get tired of that you can inspect some Civilian Conservation Corps projects from the Thirties.

Remember those fabulous Thirties? They’re making something of a comeback, only without the public works/resource protection bits.

Maybe it was that the gov’ has relaxed restrictions somewhat, or that the Memorial Day weekend was approaching, but there was almost nobody up there, which I consider ideal. There’s nothing wrong with other people that a certain degree of distance can’t resolve.

That leetle green stripe down there is the Rio.

Socially and vertically distancing

May 17, 2020

Herself burning up the road to the Sandia Peak Tramway
on her trusty Soma Double Cross.

Here we see Herself motoring up Tramway Road as some stove-up auld fella pauses to take a snap with his obsolete iPhone SE.

The auld fella, who was aboard a Soma Saga, may have been feeling the effects of a couple days’ worth of yardwork. But he’ll probably blame the ankle. Or Obama. Or the fake news.

The sunflowery side of the street

September 26, 2019

OK, so Graham Watson I am not, but then this wasn’t the Tour, and I wasn’t getting paid, so there.

Politics be damned for the moment. It’s time to avert our gaze, if only to give the bloodshot eyes a chance to heal.

I’ve been riding the Soma Sagas lately, being fresh out of review bikes. I needed to bed in the TRP Spyres on the disc-brake model, and I just plain like riding its canti’ cousin for no particular reason atall atall.

Today I loaded that Saga with a basic bike-overnight package and went around and about, climbing hills, just because I could.

The old-school Soma Saga catches its breath up at La Cueva.

The Kool Kidz would probably sneer at it, with its rim brakes, nine-speed drivetrain (Deore rear derailleur, Ultegra front, triple crank, and Silver friction bar-cons), and tires with tubes. But it rolls right smart with a load on, and I hardly needed the 24×32.

Though I was down to a walking pace while climbing to La Cueva Picnic Site. That is one short, steep, beat-to-shit piece of road. And I ain’t as young as I used to be, if I ever was.

Speaking of gearing, my man Alex Strickland, honcho at Adventure Cyclist, has had a chance to sample Shimano’s GRX drivetrain. And he suggests its 400-level offering may serve quite a number of our fellow adventurous cyclists, with the possibility of mating a 30-tooth chainring to a 36-tooth cog. He also likes the GRX brake-shift levers, a lot.

Does that mean my beloved nine-speed triple has been planned into obsolescence? Nope. But Alex says that for riders who tour only rarely and can’t have a garage full of bikes outfitted for every eventuality, opportunity, or mood swing, “something sporting 40mm of rubber and a GRX 2x drivetrain offers a path to almost anywhere.”

He went down, down, down

July 31, 2019

It’s all downhill from here.

Nope, I didn’t break the speed limit. I maxed out around 35 mph as I dropped from the top of Tramway to Roy, 4th, Guadalupe Trail, Alameda, and finally, the Paseo del Bosque.

As you know, I am a law-abiding fellow, and rarely in a hurry.

Last trip down I was on the Soma Saga (disc). This time I took the Soma Saga (canti), having finally toed the squeak out of the TRP RevoX brakes.

The TRP RevoX. You need a jillion Allen keys and a 13mm wrench to make this dog hunt. But hunt it does. I never had to Flintstone to a stop.

I’ve tried a bunch of brakes on this bike and hadn’t really liked any of ’em. Paul’s MiniMoto would be the shit, but cabling proved a little crowded with 38mm tires and fenders. And I was fresh out of my go-to stoppers, Paul’s Neo-Retro and Touring cantis, having shifted my last pair to the Voodoo Nakisi.

Happily, I had this set of TRPs idling around the garage, so on they went. A little fiddly for a half-assed mechanic to set up, and on our last outing they brayed like jackasses, but now they work and sound just fine. Still, when time and finance permit I’ll give some more money to my man Paul, just ’cause.

The bosque was nuts for a workday morning. Racer dudes and dudettes, recreational riders, e-bikers, recumbents, joggers, skaters, strollers, equestrians, even one grinning young woman aboard what I think was an ElliptiGO.

I had thought about doing the whole enchilada, continuing down past Rio Bravo and back around, but discretion proved the better part of valor. I hung a U at Interstate 40 and went back the way I came for a grand total of 47.8 miles, which felt about right.

As I rode up Roy toward the Tramway climb I saw a rara avis indeed — a triplet, barreling down toward the roundabout at 4th and Roy. I waved, and the dude in the middle waved back, but he looked like he’d rather have both hands on the bars and I can’t say I blame him. That was one crowded bike and like our “democracy” I imagine it demanded everyone’s attention and participation.

If you’re looking for them “Deep River Blues,” they’re off to the left, behind the cottonwoods, and they’re actually more of a brown.

The fleet passes inspection

April 9, 2019

The Soma Saga, ready for adventure cycling.

And boom! Just like that, after two hours on the Soma Saga rim-brake bike, the Ride Your Own Damn Bike Festival® comes to a close.

The only machine unridden in the fleet is my Steelman time-trial bike, which has surrendered its bar-cons to a Steelman cyclocross bike. I have the parts to get it rolling, but it would take a little doing, and I’d look even more ridiculous than usual. Think old baldheaded fart in cute little sport car. Not a pretty sight.

I’d forgotten how much I like this Saga, which I reviewed in 2011. Like the disc model, it has Silver friction shifters, but the stoppers are cantilevers — in this most recent iteration, TRP’s RevoX cyclocross brakes. It also sports a really stout wheelset from Rivendell, with Deore LX hubs, Velocity Synergy rims (32H front, 36H rear), and Schwalbe Little Big Bens in 700×38.

Every time I pull this beast from its hook I think, “Oh, hell, this thing weighs a ton.” And every time I throw a leg over the top tube, clip in, and roll off, I think, “Damn, this is one comfortable machine.”

If I were riding to Sea Otter at Laguna Seca, this is the bike I’d choose. The only component prone to failure is the nut behind the stem.