New Horse

If you google Soma, you get women’s underwear first and bikes second.

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Of course, the juxtaposition of these two competing Soma brands could be my personal google analytics kicking in, but something tells me the algorithm should know where my priorities are. Like any beautiful woman, the intimate curves and intelligent design of a Soma frame deserves all the respect and admiration I can muster. Soma hooked me up with the Double Cross Disc for the summer, and I built it up over the past week, a bit at a time. The Double Cross Disc is Soma’s steel cyclocross race bike, but the tall head tube, huge tire clearances, rack braze-ons, and (relatively) long wheelbase make it just as happy as a touring bike, endurance bike, or commuter.

That’s good: I need this bike to be all of these.

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There’s a zen in home bike builds that makes me wish I could build up a new frame every month. I used Laughing Dog’s headset press and bottom bracket wrench to get the middling parts installed, and then built up the rest in the comfort of my living room. I might lose my deposit over the chainring marks on the carpet, if a steam cleaner can’t lift them, but I’m sure there’s a few paint drops on the floor of the Sistine Chapel.

The Build List

This bike is mostly a frame swap, but I took the opportunity to upgrade a few bits in the process.

  • Frame: Soma Double Cross Disc, 58cm
  • Fork: Salsa Vaya Classico Cromoly, 45mm Rake
  • Crankset: SRAM Apex
  • Chainring: Race Face 38T
  • Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT Long-Cage
  • Cassette: Shimano XT 11-36T
  • Chain: Shimano XT 10-speed
  • Pedals: Shimano Hybrid Flat/Clipless
  • Hubs: Shimano XT (135mm rear)
  • Rims: Mavic 719 (36H rear, 32H front)
  • Tires: Variable
  • Stem: Salsa Guide Stem
  • Seatpost: Easton EA70
  • Seat: WTB Pure-V
  • Handlebars: Salsa Cowbell 2, 42cm
  • Shifter: Dura-Ace Bar End 9-speed
  • Brakes: Avid BB7 Road Disc, Jagwire Compressionless Housing
  • Levers: Cane Creek
  • Racks: Racktime Top-it front, Axiom Streamliner rear.

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I added an additional front brake lever to avoid hitting pedestrians during “rush hour” on UMass’ campus.

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Soma uses different varieties of the Tange Prestige tubing, depending on placement. This variation in the characteristics of the chainstays, top tube, downtube, seat tube, and seat stays provides stiffness where it’s needed and flexibility where it isn’t. In other words, this bike was tailored for trips when your pavement transitions to dirt halfway through. Yes, it’s noticeable; compared to the super-tight geometry and thick tubing of my old Raleigh, this bike is butter.

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WTB Pure-V is still my saddle of choice for everything. I may be love-blind, though, as I haven’t used anything else since I was 16.

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The Cane Creek 40 headset stumped all three of the master mechanics at Laughing Dog for about five minutes. That’s a half-century or more of experience. The culprit is an additional ring underneath the bottom bearing, flush with the crown race. Why? Who knows. Put enough proprietary parts in something, and suckers (like me) are bound to pay more!

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The stickers make it feel like “my” bike, and I know i’m a minority in finding the aesthetic pleasing. My original Raleigh got stickered up as a theft deterrent after it was stolen and, miraculously, recovered. I don’t think this bike is quite theft-deterring yet, but I’ll beat it to a scratched, dinged-up mess over a few trips.

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SRAM Apex makes more sense to me than Shimano Sora. Less proprietary parts is a plus; the bolt on the non-drive side uses a standard hex wrench instead of the proprietary end cap on a Shimano crankset. There’s also much less excess material, and the standard English BB is easily serviceable. Having standard measurements on everything means I’ll have many more options to play around with for years to come.

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I took my inaugural ride around Amherst last week, and spent last night ripping around Deerfield on my friend Tim’s sustainable tree farm. Miles of dirt roads and a herding dog to keep me in line — it just felt right. It’s a beautiful bike that fits me like a glove, and I can’t wait to start laying down the miles.

Keep Riding,

Max

4 thoughts on “New Horse

    1. Ha, no problem. I work at a shop and run this site, so I paid an industry partner price. It’s a perk for devoting a good part of your life to cycling, I guess, but I’m very grateful.

      I like to think it’s a club. It’s still a small enough brand that Soma riders are obliged to chat with one another.

  1. Small world. UMASS, Class of ’83. I too have built up a Soma DoubleCross as my commuter, a good 38+/- mile round trip.

    While I built the bike up a year ago, I really only started to dial it all in in the last month or so as I’ve gotten back into a more regular commuting routine.

    When I started the build, I bought a cheap disc wheel set on line and paid the price, as I think I broke 3 spokes in the first 700 miles or so. They were the FSA 460(?). They’re low spoke count wheels, and not meant for 200+ lbs riders on crappy pavement.

    I ditched them and invested in some nicer 32 spoke wheels off EBay. Surprisingly enough, they are lighter than the first, low spoke, wheels.

    I like the steel DoubleCross frame. I came from a more “snappy” race frame geometry and set up. The change in ride has been akin to going from a light two-seater sports car with tight suspension to a performance coupe, with a more comfortable interior – it’s kinda nice…. Maybe it’s not as aggressive, but it brings pleasure in other ways.

    That said, I have been working on the performance side of things. I just ordered some 700×32 Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires to compliment the wheels. I’m not sure I’ll use the word “snappy” to describe the ride, but at full pressure, I should be able to get going pretty quickly and the ride should be “energetically” plush. We’ll see….

    How’s the Happy Valley? I haven’t been there in years, those were good times.

    Go Minutemen! Go DoubleCross!

    Regards,
    TD

    1. Hey TD! Glad to be responsible for some nostalgia. The happy valley is still as happy as ever, with more bikes!

      I went from bad wheels to good wheels too, and I agree the difference is enormous. Have a local shop true them for you; correct tension means a helluva lot more than material strength.

      That’s a great commute distance. I’m jealous.

      Cheers,
      Max

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