Last winter, I walked into my local bike shop in Wisconsin and saw a frame hanging from a hook. At first glance, it didn’t look like anything special, but upon further examination realized that it was a steel 29er from Soma, with a geometry that mimics that of a a mountain bike I had felt extraordinarily comfortable on in the past. Visions of the Tour Divide Race kept racing through my mind, and I knew that this was the frame that was going to carry me through the Rocky Mountains.
After the frame came the fork and handlebars- a Whiskey Parts Company no. 9 carbon fork and Whiskey carbon mtb handlebars. The combination of a steel frame with a carbon front end allowed a buttery smooth ride, with the lateral stiffness needed to undergo tight singletrack without losing any energy on long mountain pass climbs.
I did a lot of thinking when it came to the drivetrain. In the end, I decided on going with Shimano SLX. It’s a little heavier than its higher end counterparts, but the shifting has been nothing short of impressive. It comes standard with a clutch mechanism, which helps keep tension on the chain while riding, making dropped chains a non-issue. I use a Raceface cinch crankset with a 32t chainring, with a recently upgraded Shimano XT cassette in conjunction with a 42t wolftooth cog, effectively making the cassette an 11-42- something I look forward to using while climbing for long periods of time with a fully loaded bikepacking setup.
After putting the bike through some substantial abuse, I’m still quite pleased with how well it’s holding up. I’ve done everything from quick and flowy 8 mile singletrack loops, to 120+ mile days in the saddle with terrain ranging from singletrack, to forest service road and pavement all in the same day. Currently, I’m using an Apidura seat bag and handlebar bag, with a custom frame bag designed by the folks over at Oveja Negra Threadworks (check ‘em out the next time you’re in Salida)!
This winter, my Brooks B17 saddle hit its 15,000-mile mark. I’m happy to say that I’ve never used proofride or protected it in any fashion, and yet it remains the most comfortable saddle I’ve had the pleasure of putting my sit bones on. It sits atop a truvativ seatpost, and will remain there most likely, until it physically begins disintegrating.
Although I won’t be able to make it to the Tour Divide Race this year, I’m excited to say that I’ll be at the starting line for the Colorado Trail Race this July. Being a little bit more technical, a few adjustments will need to be made (suspension is sounding awfully nice….)
Join us for a Mountain Bike Adventure, won’t you? I’ll even let you take the Soma out for a spin!