Saturday, April 1, 2017

Frame day

I've lately come to the realization that every bike I've test-ridden in the past year was a sort of compromise. I like the frame, but I don't like the groupset. I like the groupset, but the frame is a little wonky for me. So I've been thinking that it would be best to buy a frame I liked and build it up slowly. This would also help me to become less inept at bike repairs. (I think.)  Since yesterday was Cesar Chavez Day in California, I thought it would be great to celebrate by checking out bike frames. (Because every state holiday should be celebrated this way.)

So off to the bike shops I went.

My first stop was at the nearest local Soma dealer, American Cyclery. They're in San Francisco, just forty-five minutes away from me. It was quite an adventure finding parking, but ultimately worth it.

I've been eyeing the Soma Wolverine for quite a while now. Also, because of the split seatstay (Rohloff/Gates compatibility should I ever have a windfall) and the space to handle wider tires and still have fenders.  And that fork! It's just beautiful!
Is beautiful, no? Photo owned by Soma.
I'm simultaneously intrigued and dismayed by the dropouts. Intrigued because they're changeable. Dismayed because they're not part of the frame, and my animal brain is saying, "No, they can't possibly be strong enough."

In the best of all possible worlds, I would be building this up with a Shimano 105 drivetrain. This brings up the possible problem of finding a 135mm rear hub that is compatible with the 105 11-speed cassette. I've read that there are hubs from White Industries or Phil Woods that will probably handle this, but...spendy.

I didn't get to ride a Wolverine, though, because the local Soma dealer didn't have one built up. I did get to ride a Soma Double Cross, which is somewhat like the Wolverine.
Also purty. Photo also owned by Soma. felt good. I've added it to my list of comfortable drop-bar bikes (along with the Surly Straggler and the 2017 Salsa Vaya.) It had a Tiagra groupset; that's close enough to the 105 so I have some idea of how it would perform with my drivetrain of choice. 

The only quibble I have with the Double Cross is the 132.5mm rear hub spacing. I know that that's becoming a standard, and that it's supposed to fit both 130mm and and 135mm hubs equally well, but...well, my animal brain once again balks at this, saying, "That can't be should be one or the other." But what a nice bike to ride. Even the terror of cycling in San Francisco with the distracted drivers and the self-medicated skateboarders didn't detract from the fun of the ride.

I'm definitely going back when they have a Wolverine built up.

That wasn't the end of the day. I should have gone home. I should have said, "Well, those are the frames I can afford, so..." But I didn't. Instead, I went to the local Waterford dealer to look at Gunnar frames. Gunnar is the more affordable (non-lugged) line of bicycles from Waterford Precision Cycles.

This is a Gunnar Sport, the most affordable Gunnar frame ($1250 USD with fork). 
Photo by Waterford. Color by temptation.
I've often said, "I will never want a road bike with an expensive groupset and skinny tires." (Note: in Frivspeak, "skinny tire" means a tire less than 30mm wide.)  Once again, experience showed me that I should never say never. The Sport I rode had 28mm tires and an Ultegra groupset.  Except for a saddle I wasn't that crazy about, it was very comfy. And fast. Very, very fast.

Yes, this frame/fork combination is expensive. I've been told, though, that it's a really decent price for an American-made steel frame. And the ride it gives is very high-quality, even with skinny tires.

Best of all,  the Gunnar line was named after the Waterford shop dog and comes with a dog decal on the seat tube. That's worth something, right?


  1. Orange is the fastest color...just saying

    1. Well, I always have wanted an orange bike. Because of the speed, mostly, but I do like the color.