Soma Fabrications Grand Randonneur v. 2 Build Review

Beautiful, isn’t it? 

But what a pain in the ass. The reason constructeurs built all of their own components was out of necessity, not vanity. I think I have enough spares to build a whole other bike. 

To spare you my agony, here’s what worked:

  • Wheels: Velocity Synergy, laced to a Campagnolo Veloce rear and an SP dyno hub. 
  • Soma GR green label 650Bx42mm tires – these are light, supple, and sweet. So far, they’ve been durable enough. I almost exclusively ride on gravel. 
  • Drivetrain: IRD Elite 11-34 Campagnolo cassette, KMC X10SL chain, Record 10sp ultra shifters, Record long cage rear derailleur, Shimano CX70 front derailleur, and a Shimano CX50 crankset with 46/34 rings. This Shimagnolo setup is fucking toight!
  • Paul neo retro cantis
  • Velo Orange Hammered 50mm fenders. Go find some 52mm Zeppelins instead. 
  • Nitto Dynamic stem and 46cm Soma 26mm Hiway One bars. 
  • Nitto Campee front rack, you want this…
  • Swift Industries Hinterland Ozette small rando bag. For a 58cm frame, get the large. 
  • SON hanging Edelux II headlight, Spanninga fender-mounted tailight. 
  • Thomson Elite seatpost and Brooks C17 Cambium Carved saddle. 
  • Giles Berthoud V-90 decaleur. 
  • Miche roller bearing headset. 

Things that didn’t work so well:

  • The roller headsets are stiff, and still shimmy. I’d prolly just get a Chris King or a Campagnolo next time. 
  • Velo Orange Rando crank – don’t waste your time on this piece of shit, it ruined my Land Run 100 event by failing two miles from the start. The pedal threads pulled out of the left side crank arm. Total garbage.
  • Velo Orange Quick Release skewers – more garbage from our friends in MD. My rear skewer fell apart after about 150 miles, and nearly left me stranded. I was only able to make it home because the frame has vertical dropouts, and I stayed seated for 16 miles. 
  • KMC X10 SL chain – lovely, but the cutout side plates love to collect mud and shit. Only for dry gravel and pavement. 
  • Velo Orange Pass Hunter rack – it doesnt fit the frame (this one was my fault, and is no way related to the substandard quality of VO components). 
  • Velo Orange 1″ stem mounted decaleur – couldn’t make it work with my canti hanger, my stem, or my brakes. 
  • Generally, the whole brakes-hanger-decaleur-rack-fender  thing is an interdependency fucking nightmare that will make you weep. 

I wanted to make a beautiful bike that rode well for miles and miles. I seem to have done that, but the bill included about 50% parts overages due to fit and failure issues. 

If I were to do it over again, my solution to the whole brake-rack-hanger-fender fuckup would be to go with Tektro cantis and a canti boss mounted VO Pass Hunter rack with integrated decaleur. It would have saved me about $500 and weeks of delay and aggravation. 

But, I just had to have those Paul brakes…

2015 Corporate Cycling Challenge

I love the Corporate Cycling Challenge, it’s the Disney Marathon of Omaha cycling events. It’s a hilarious not-a-race, that scores of erstwhile heros feel needs to happen. Meanwhile, others just ride bikes.


I was quite skeptical this morning, there was a lot of Fred present. Over 5000 riders participated this year.


I rode the 42 mile route with my pal Val, this was the longest distance she had ever tried. The mass start is always a riot. Don’t clip in too early, that was my advice to Val. Once we clear the Riverfront, it opens up. The first climb when the group turns up Highway 75 towards Fort Calhoun is enough to stack the pack up.


Overall, it’s not a tremendous amount of climbing, however some of them are a little bit steep, especially if your miles come mostly on bike paths. I have to admit, that on some climbs, I trolled a few fragile male egos. It always backfired, because I would have to wait for Val, but it was still fun.


Not for climbing is not something I want on my bike, just sayin.


This was a section of the old Lincoln Highway. The riders loved the cobbles. They didn’t do so well with railroad crossings, there was a large group pileup 5 miles from the finish, when it appears that a group stacked up heading into a railroad crossing.

Total distance: 41 miles, 1565 ft of climbing.


Tire Test: Panaracer Gravelking 32

I am inclined to think that Panaracer is making the best bike tires on the market today. So much for objectivity, eh.

Let me back this up with an important fact: in the last two years, I have ridden over 25 different pairs of tires. I am a tire fetishist. Well, I mean that figuratively.

I am always searching for THE TIRE. Generally, my favorite do everything tire is the Panaracer Pasela PT. It’s a great compromise between puncture resistance and rolling resistance. On a wide rim, they’ll even fill out to the listed width. If I have one complaint about the Pasela, it has a tendency to plow in soft surfaces. The Gravel King, with it’s squared tread section looked like it might be the Holy Grail: good ride, light weight, and a cross-section that reduces plowing in soft surfaces.

The tires mounted easily on my standard gravel wheelset, Velocity Aileron rims laced to an SP Dynamo hub front, and a Formula hub rear, and presented themselves as nicely square, and slightly over-wide at 33 mm at 60 psi.

A quick spin on pavement confirmed that they ride nice, and thrum as you would expect from a tread pattern that has more in common with textile design than what you would normally consider tire technology. With that, I decided to use these tires during my run at the State Games of America Cycling – Gravel Grinder event.

So, how did that turn out? Let me just say that in use, they ride quite well. Before a broken saddle forced my riding partner, and myself out of the race, they handled 55 miles of gravel and minimum maintenance road pretty well. However the amount of dirt, dust and gravel that they send skyward is a serious problem for myself, and riders with me. The dirty legs are from a dry day. I was covered in a crust of sunscreen and grit, my bottles were covered in dirt, so badly that I couldn’t drink from them without wiping them on my clothing first, and anyone on my wheel was showered from a rooster tail of road surface.


In total, I put about 100 miles on these tires, both on a wet’ish day, and a dry one. They are some of the messiest tires I have ever used.

Verdict: Fail

Weight Training Program

I need to HTFU in a big way, since I registered for the Open Men’s Single Speed category in the Gravel Race at the 2015 State Games of America, so I’ve added weight training to the mix. 

The Trap Bar Dead Lift is a favorite of strength coaches: it combines most of the benefits of the Squat and Dead Lift, avoids most of the pitfalls and injury tendencies of both, and allows you to lift heavier, more safely. 


The Trap Bar Progrssion I’m using is the T Nation 100 Rep Trap Bar Workout 

Trap-Bar Progression (pick a weight that allows you to complete the work sets)

  • Week 1: 6 x 8 
  • Week 2: 6 x 10 (same as wk 1)
  • Week 3: 7 x 8 (+ 10 lbs)
  • Week 4: 7 x 10 (same as wk 3)
  • Week 5: 8 x 8 (+ 10 lbs)
  • Week 6: 8 x 10 (same as wk 5)
  • Week 7: 9 x 8 (+ 10 lbs)
  • Week 8: 9 x 10 (same as wk 7)
  • Week 9: 10 x 8 (+ 10 lbs)
  • Week 10: 10 x 10: (same as wk 9)

Soma ES Build


No shit, I idealized, and then built this bike around a vintage Campagnolo Chorus Aero seatpost. Sorta like that faucet commercial: “Build a house around this.”

Soma ES Frame, it’s my second Soma. Soma did a great job with this frame: it’s light, smooth, and takes fat rubber for a caliper road bike. I put a blingy Chris King headset on it, so I’d be taken seriously. 

Soma Highway One bars, Soma stem, and Fizik VSX saddle, cause I need the peepee groove. 

Campagnolo Record Ultrashift 10 sp drivetrain, long cage rear, Chorus front mech, Record UT compact crank with Rotor 50/34 rings. KMC X10 chain. It has a chainkeeper on the downtube, because sometimes shit happens on bumpy gravel roads. 

Velo Orange Grand Cru long reach caliper brakeset. I generally think caliper brakes are a joke, but it’s because I’d never used anything like these before. Uh-maze-ing. 

HED Belgium C2 hoops, laced to Hope hubs. They sound like a swarm of angry bees. I wrapped 32mm Panaracer Pasela PT tires around them. These things roll well on pavement, broken pavement, gravel, evrything. There’s room in this frame for even bigger rubber. I’m running a 12-30 cassette, because I’m fat, and it’s hilly in this part of the state. 

I’m very happy with it, it came in at 9.8kg, 10kg was my target. Campy brifters shift like a rifle bolt, there’s almost unlimited front mech trim in them, The completed bike is light’ish (I’m 100kg, so light is relative), it rides nice, shifts well, I love it. 

Campagnolo Record Crank cleanup

I don’t recommend ordering used cranks, especially used cranks that take $300 chainrings. But, if the price is right, (like $189 for Campy Record CT crankset), and you’re planning on replacing the rings anyway, (like with Rotor Q Rings), go for it. 


After new rings, bearings, seals, and cups:

New Rotor Q Rings, ordered from Deutschland, $190 instead of $280 domestic. The Dollar is strong right now. 

Total cost:

  • Used Record CT Ultra Torque Crank $189
  • Rotor Q Rings 50/34 110/113 BCD $189
  • New Campy ceramic CULT bearings $35
  • New UT BB Cups $26

Total: $439 for a Campy Record crank with new rings and BB. I’m happy.