Velo Orange Polyvalent

Yesterday, I was asked about my Soma Grand Randonneur Build and whether or not I liked how it rode. Since I referenced this build, I guess I should post about it.

Here are the build details:

  • Velo Orange Polyvalent frameset with Velo Orange fenders and Randonneur rack
  • 26″ Velocity Cliffhanger rims laced to a Hope rear and SP front dyno hub with 26″ x 2.3″ Rene Herse Rat Trap Pass tires
  • Rene Herse Randonneur handlebars with Nitto stem and Berthoud decaleur, bags, and saddle
  • Rene Herse crankset and IRD square taper JIS bottom bracket, which, while beautiful, turned out to be the worst fucking pain in the ass I’ve dealt with since that piece of shit Velo Orange crankset on the Grand Randonneur.
  • Drivetrain is Shimano 105 R7000 because it just fucking works. Least problematic thing about this bike. Gearing is 11 speed 11-32 x 46/30

So, let’s talk about Jan’s Rene Herse crankset and the fucking fits it gave me. First, the drive side pedal threads were all wrong. As in it was impossible to get a pedal onto the crankset at all. Looks like a step may have been missed as the ridges on the thread were very deep, effectively reducing the diameter of the pedal bore. This had to be chased with the proper tap, and frankly for as much as I spent on this crank, that’s totally unacceptable. Secondly, and far worse, in my opinion, is the tendency of this crankset and|or bottom bracket combo to back off the crank bolt. On five consecutive rides, within 5 miles the crank bolts would loosen so much that I would be forced to return. Each time I would re-install to specification (because I can fucking read) and each time they would back off again. The solution was to replace the beautiful but worthless Rene Herse bolts with bog-standard SRAM crank bolts, put some blue loctite on them, and let them sit over the winter.

That aside, this is a wonderfully riding, albeit not overly spirited bicycle. Total weight as pictured above (sans water bottles) is around 29 lbs, definitely not a lightweight, although you don’t really notice the weight so much, even on hills.

Fucking Aperol, man.

I spent about half of November, 2018 in Las Vegas. I have family there, and I was presenting at re:Invent, so I made it a family trip, and then stayed over for the conference.

Anyway, this is just setting the scene. While staying at the Park MGM, I really had the first champagne cocktail I have ever enjoyed: a Garibaldi, at the Primrose. It was lovely. Later, I would have my first Aperol spritz at The Barrymore, a truly kickass place you should eat at.

Now, I’m just fucking ruined.

As a side note, I heard someone say: “The difference between Prosecco and Champagne is Prosecco tastes good.”

2018 Cornhusker State Games

The Idea

It started out as a simple enough idea: ride two stage games cycling events back to back on the same bike and same tires. I registered for the gravel event on Saturday, and the road tour on Sunday. This should be a test of my fitness as the year progressed. Then work|life became unbalanced, the day arrived, and I flunked the test.

The Bike

This is my Salsa Colossal build. It happens to be the later version with more tire clearance up front, which is why I thought it would be the right compromise for road and gravel. OK, I have a Surly Midnight Special that would have been aces for this event, but I put some time and money into building this ride and wanted to try it out.

It was a bad choice, but more about that later.

It’s actually a great bike, Salsa improved the tire clearance in the later model, so it will take most 32mm tires. Overall, the build is Ultegra 6800 with a few odd changes: Absolute Black oval 34T inner chainring and the newer Ultegra r8000 front derailleur. The cockpit is a mixture of Thomson and carbon, and it is generally a nice riding bike. To keep it road’ish, I used Look Keo Blade road pedals and Giro road shoes. The tires were Vittoria XN 31mm file-tread cyclocross tires that measured about 33mm wide when mounted on HED Belgium+ wheels. Upon seeing the bike, my friend Josh (who turned out to be the overall winner) commented that I was just adding additional difficulty, and for the first time he has ever known I would be on narrower tires than he was. 🤔

The Day

It rained a lot on Friday night before the event, so I was worried that the trail used for the first part of the event would be soft. The trail turned out to be in great shape, it was the sandy gravel roads leading south from Roca, NE that became my undoing. South 38th Street generally rises in elevation towards Princeton, NE and usually is an easy ride. Usually, it hasn’t rained and become all spongy, which for a 240lb rider on 31mm tires means I am carving 1″ deep ruts all the way towards Cortland, NE. This turned into a really frustrating and energy-sapping technical ride to the first checkpoint, and in hindsight, sapped my energy so badly that the return trip quickly turned into a nightmare of cramping and exhaustion.

The Finish

I managed to finish, with a shitty time of over five hours. I gritted it out because I knew my ass was cooked for the road tour and it came down to whether or not I was going to quit one event or two.

The Lesson

The bike wasn’t the right bike for the road conditions, mostly because the tires were too narrow for wet spongy gravel. On a positive note, despite the exhaustion, I never had to walk it up a hill. The Absolute Black oval ring did improve my climbing endurance. Everything else was a total failure.

Consistent Bike Fit

bike fit diagram copy

With so many bikes, I have a problem keeping them all fitting the same. #firstworldproblems, eh? This will also serve as a reference for the bikes I’m currently building 😉

Salsa Colossal (130mm stem)

  1. Saddle to BB: 76 cm
  2. Saddle to Bars: 56 cm
  3. Saddle to Ground: 101 cm
  4. Bars to Ground: 95 cm

Soma ES (120 mm stem)

  1. Saddle to BB: 76 cm
  2. Saddle to Bars: 57 cm
  3. Saddle to Ground: 100.5 cm
  4. Bars to Ground: 95 cm

Soma DC Ergo Trainer (120mm stem)

  1. Saddle to BB: 76 cm
  2. Saddle to Bars: 55.5 cm
  3. Saddle to Ground: 101 cm
  4. Bars to Ground: 94 cm

Soma Grand Randonneur (130mm stem)

  1. Saddle to BB: 76 cm
  2. Saddle to Bars: 56.5 cm
  3. Saddle to Ground: 101 cm
  4. Bars to Ground: 97 cm

It’s amazing what you can do with stems, isn’t it? The Colossal has a 130mm 0 deg. stem, the ES a 120mm -10 deg stem, and the DC has a 120mm 0 deg. stem, and all bikes, except the Grand Randonneur, hover within 1 cm of saddle to bar drop (which is low because I’m old and fat).

Salsa Colossal: then & now


In the four years I have owned my 2013 MY Salsa Colossal, everything except for the frame and fork has been changed/updated. Oh, the seat collar and the brake calipers are still stock 😉

My original intent was a one-bike quiver, sadly it didn’t fulfill that. If I had any meaningful criticism of the original Colossal, it would be the wheels/tire clearance. The original Sun Attack wheels were exceptionally mediocre, and my optimism that I could stuff a 32mm tire in there was misplaced due to the tight Enve fork.  Both of these criticisms were corrected in the 2nd Generation of the Salsa Colossal. Like many bikes, and in particular the Colossal, a nice pair of modern tubeless road disc wheels, such as the Velocity Aileron wheels I have upgraded to, really bring the bike alive. For a rider of my weight (102 kg/230 lbs), tubeless is an attractive option to pinch flats on a bike that can only take a 28mm tire.

That said, it has long been a bike I love to ride, and I think that shows in my commitment to evolving this bike as I discover more.

The latest iteration benefits from Salsa’s excellent Cowbell 2 handlebars, Thompson stem, SRAM Rival 22 groupset, Wickwerks chain rings, Speedplay Pave pedals, a Brooks C13 saddle, and a Specialized CG-R carbon seat post.