Posts Tagged ‘Soma Saga’

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.

Albatross!

July 3, 2018

The Soma Double Cross in townie configuration.

Lots of bikey stuff going on around here lately. It makes a welcome distraction from the news, which as per usual is mostly bad. And likewise from the weather, which is mostly hot.

Since my Voodoo Wazoo has become a kinda-sorta 700c mountain bike, I decided to turn the Soma Double Cross into a townie for short hops hither and thither, or even long ones.

The Double Cross had been rigged as a light touring bike, with XT triple crank and eight-speed XT rear derailleur, drop bar, bar-end shifters, and aero levers (augmented with top-mounted brake levers) to operate the Paul’s Neo-Retro and Touring cantis. Now it sports an Albatross bar and Dia-Compe SS-6 brake levers from Rivendell, and of course the bar-cons stuck around for the ride.

Albatross!

At 27.2 pounds it’s nearly 5 pounds lighter than either of my Soma Saga touring bikes, so it makes for a sporty little errand boy.

The Bianchi Orso 105, up against The Wall of Science.

Meanwhile, the next bike in the Adventure Cyclist review pipeline is a Bianchi Orso with 11-speed 105 STI, hydraulic stoppers and thru-axles. Quite the technological advance from eight-speed XT with bar-cons, rim brakes and quick-releases, or so the industry would have you believe. Engineers gotta engineer, marketers gotta market. Still, I wonder when we’re going to run out of 50/34 cranks and 11-32 cassettes so a brother can get a touring drivetrain up in this bitch.

All this wrenching and riding and whatnot makes a feller hungry, so last night I whipped up a mess of chicken tacos in salsa verde with a side of Mexican rice. Anybody who thinks I make a shambles as a mechanic should see what I did to the kitchen. It was worth it, though. And now we have leftovers. Huzzah, etc.

Bikes and books

April 7, 2018

The Soma Saga, canti’ model, en route to the Embudo Dam trailhead after a leisurely couple hours in the saddle.

Anybody who thinks pseudoephedrine sulfate isn’t a performance-enhancer should gobble a little Claritin-D 12 Hour before the daily bike ride sometime.

I resorted to doping yesterday as mulberry, ash and juniper transformed my mighty two-lane freeway of a snout into a narrow garbage-choked alley, and hijo, madre, what fun it was. I’d still be out there if I hadn’t run out of water and food.

It didn’t hurt that I was riding the Soma Saga. What a La-Z-Boy of a bike that beast is, especially the day after riding trail on the Voodoo Wazoo, with its low end of 38×28; that’s fun, too, but of an entirely different sort.

Si, mijo, ese es un libro real.

If the going gets steep on the Wazoo you just have to suck it up, snowflake. Stand up or get off. On the Saga, with its 24×32 granny, you can sit back and relax. It feels like there’s always another, lower gear.

When the provisions ran out I rolled home and ate a plate of leftover pasta with arugula pesto, some nuts and fruit.

Then I finished reading “The House of Broken Angels,” by Luis Alberto Urrea. He name-dropped Thomas McGuane, Mark Twain and Ray Bradbury in a New York Times Q&A, and acknowledged Jim Harrison and Richard Russo in the book itself, so yeah, goddamn right I was gonna read him, and in actual analog-book form too.

The story reminds me somewhat of “The Milagro Beanfield War,” by John Nichols, in that every Spanish-speaking reader in every border town in Estados Unidos and Mexico alike is going to say of it, as an Alamosa bookseller did to me of “Milagro,” “This book is really about us, you know?”

I got my copy used at Page 1 Books. Go thou forth and do likewise.