Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Everglades - alligators, bikes, and boats

So there I was...
Every trip seems to come to fruition while randomly talking in the kitchen or sitting around killing time. At least the most memorable ones. That is a good description on how this trip came to exist. It was a really simple and fluid transition from "that would be cool" to "how can this be more......awesome?" Those trips where you look on satellite images to find a route or set unrealistic goals and hope all goes as planned.
So there I was sitting in the kitchen with my friend, Joey, talking about trips that could be done over the holidays. Usually I would be skiing this time of year, but did not have that option this year. In the process of thinking about things to do, the Everglades came up. Not having been down there and being on my bucket list of places to go, it was settled. A visit to the Everglades would be in a couple of months. At some point in the conversation, or another conversation, the discussion turned from a simple kayaking trip to self supported round trip of the everglades. Remember, how can this be more...awesome? Well there it is. The trip was no longer a simple trip to the north end of the everglades to kayak for a few days. This just turned into something a little bit harder and abnormal.
Lets me be honest, I have not done a ton of sea kayaking. Sometimes it is not about having a ton of experience. Most of the time it falls on being able to make decisions, navigate, plan, and in general be able to suffer. Not having an in-depth background in sea kayaking did not worry me, I have had plenty of experience on the water rafting and paddling on rivers, the logistical nightmare was more worrying.
You might be wondering how this was going to be a self supported round trip of the everglades? Typically you would pay a shuttle to get from one end of the everglades to the other. I decided to take this out and bike the 130 miles instead.
Planning for this trip was pretty easy. Downloaded the topo and marine maps for the area and began to pinpoint a general path. The hard part? In the Everglades you can only get permits for campsites 24 hours before you take off. So the planned route is basically a dream route with a couple fall back plans for the inevitable full campsite. A basic rundown on the planned trip goes something like this:
Day 1: Drive to Everglades city - drop boat and gear. Drive to Flamingo Bay Visitor Center
Day 2: Leave car at Flamingo, get camping permits, begin bike to Everglades City.
Day 3: Begin paddle from Everglades City to camp 1
Day4: Camp 1 to camp 2
Day 5: Camp 2 to camp 3
Day 6: Camp 3 to camp 4
Day 7: Camp 4 to Flamingo Bay Visitor Center, drive to Everglades City, and then home
Simple right?! Nothing too complex. Yes, this was a logistical nightmare. Simple in design but complicated in execution. The biking portion was long but would not be too hard due to the nearly 0 feet of elevation gain. Paddling was planned as somewhere around 75 miles. Being a solo trip, there is nothing to do each day besides getting from point A to point B.
Let the adventures begin!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Get out there and do something. Anything!

Fall is officially here and it is time to get outside.

It would be easy to say that most of us that enjoy being outside love every season. Each for something a little different. Winter for the skiing. Spring for the kayaking and biking. Summer for the climbing, surfing, tubing, or sweating. Fall for everything. Fall is perhaps the best season and seems to last the longest. You have a decent amount of sunlight and great temperatures. Depending on where you live, the possibility of biking in the morning and skiing in the afternoon is plausible. It does not last forever and soon the winter sun will be here. So, for now you must get out there and do something. Anything. 

We take every feasible day off to get into the woods and ride bikes, kayak, backpack, or whatever your vise may be. As soon as you realize the nice weather is here, it is slowly disappearing. The days get shorter and the temperatures get colder. Although the thoughts of winter are in the back of your mind, enjoying the weekend outside is first and foremost. Sunday afternoon, while heading back to the car, you are slapped by the realization that you have to go to work tomorrow morning. Waking up to an amazing fall day wearing a sweatshirt and flip-flops riding to work on a cool morning. Blue skies with the sun shining west, the cool breeze easing your morning espresso jitters, and thinking about what to do on the coming weekend. Maybe you will not be doing something epic like an ultralight backpacking trip or some epic overnighter biking the impossible. But you should do something no matter what; walk the dog to the river, run the local trails, or work in the yard. Sometimes you just need to sit back, relax, and watch a campfire burn. 

 It is all a cycle that is hard to break once started. These small weekend adventures change it up and allow you to break free, even if only for two days. Although there should always be something big on the horizon. That one trip that a friend put in your head or an epic adventure you have always wanted to go and accomplish. Something that will get you out of your comfort zone and make you realize what the day to day life really means to you. Big, epic adventures are on the horizon. So keep an eye out. 

As a little wisdom after all the Interbike and new product pushing:

There is a continuous push to buy the latest part, limited edition kit, new category of bike, or the relentless push for that new standard. Do not be fooled by all of the shiny new objects. Get out there and ride your bike. As someone always said "if it aint broke, dont fix it."

Ride more. Care less.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Soma Wolverine - Final thoughts

Lets go a little deeper and round up the information on the Soma Wolverine.
Boston for size.
I built this bike up with the purpose of a do it all road/touring bike. The list of parts for this bike will be at the bottom. Have had the chance to get a few decent rides on this bike. With rain and straight up getting bored of the local dirt trails I have been riding for almost 7 years(damn I have been here that long?), this weekend I got to spend some time riding around. The riding was awesome and I can officially say I love this bike.

Dirt search.

When you read that this frame can fit 700x45 tires and fenders, one would think that it would be a tight fit. That is not really the case. Found a set of WTB NineLine 2.0 tires at work that were unclaimed. Decided I would try and put them on this bike but thought they would rub the frame to some extent. Wrong, there is plenty of room. 29x2.0 tires only made this bike a bit more fun to ride. Road biking has always made me a little bored. Some attention problems and staring at a road makes my mind go crazy. So hitting some trails and connector paths is a relief from the pavement. The skinny tires, by skinny I mean 35c tires, got switched out for the 2" tires and may only go back on every now and then. Within the whole of the bicycle industry I think we can all agree that bigger tires are better. All categories are running bigger tires; BMX, road, cyclocross, mountain bikes, tandems, recumbent, and even fat bikes. Soma, you have done a great job with this frame. The versatility to do whatever you want on this goes above and beyond. There are so many ways this could get built up and it all comes down to the users needs.

First ride this weekend was about 2.5 hours long and who knows how many miles. No Garmins were used. Ever. I stand by that fairly firmly, unless I need direction in the back-country. Took a mixture of road and various park trails, access roads, and gravel paths. Got a little lost and had a great time.

How is the bike? It is stable and smooth. At higher speeds, the stability is great. Not twitchy or a confidence killer. Disc brakes are awesome on all bikes. Less of a hassle, stronger braking, and they work great when wet and muddy. Makes riding with drop bars on rough trail a whole lot easier. Only set back was purchasing the TRP brakes. They are nice, yes. But the pads rattle a whole lot within the brake calipers. Gets a little annoying and makes you feel like something is falling apart. Only downside I have seen is not having through mounts for mid mounts on the fork. Limits the racks that you can put up front, but not a deal breaker at all. 

On the trail, it is almost like riding a mountain bike. Had a few short sections of trail that were used to cut back and head home. Handles well on the rough and does not feel completely out of place riding on trail. 

At the end of the weekend I had been on the bike for ~5 hours. I know that I am officially a weird bike nerd who thoroughly enjoys having ridiculous bikes. It is awesome. Being on a bike should not be painful. If you do not enjoy it, do not do it. I do not like being on a road bike, which is why this is now far from a road bike. That is just me personally. If you get this frame, which I fully encourage, make it your own. Get out there. And ride.

Parts list:
Frame: 54cm Soma Wolverine
Wheels: XT hubs with DT TK450 Rims
Tires (currently): WTB NineLine2.0
Shifty Bits: Sram Apex 10spd
R Derail: Sram Rival
F Derail: Sram Rival 22 with chain keeper
Chain: KMC 10spd
Cassette: Sram PC something something
Crank: Sram Apex
Brakes: TRP Spyre
Headset: Cane Creek 110
Handlebars: Salsa Cowbell 42cm
H-bar tape: ESI!
Stem: need to change
Seatpost: super long cheap-o Kalloy
Saddle: Brooks Team Pro
H2O Cages: King Cage (the best)

Ride more. Care less. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Soma Wolverine - Initial Review

New bike day. The happiest day to any person with a love for two wheels. A day that you reload the tracking number every 15 minutes and look out the window when you hear anything resembling a delivery truck. Gathering things from the parts bin and assembling a somewhat decent bike with as much stuff as you currently own. Sometimes you base a whole bike off of one part that you currently own. Ah, it is always a glorious day.

Got a new bike, the Soma Wolverine, for touring and all over road stuff. With the main focus for getting this bike being the Allegheny Mountain Loop "race" this fall. ~400 miles in, hopefully, 3 days. Almost got the saga disc, but did not really want a dedicated touring bike. The wolverine fit the bill perfectly. This might have been a purchase made entirely because I had a set of disc touring wheels a co-worker of mine made for someone years ago. They never came back for them. But onward and upward. The build up on this is great. Everything is beefy, aka no carbon. Sorry. Carbon is great until you have to rely on not breaking something. Steel. Is. Real. Brought it on a whim and quite excited to get on this bike and ride.

Final build and too clean

After the first  ride around town. It did not feel right. Given that I have not been on a road bike in years, since I sold my last one for more mountain bikes, it did not worry me. Adjusted some things and realized the random stem laying in a box was not gonna work(still need to replace). Feels great. This bike is stable and fun. Great over the rough and smooth on the road.

After work the next day, I just hit the road for a quick ride. Have not enjoyed being on a road bike that much. Ever. The handling on this frame is great; stable, quick, decently lightweight, and fun. Not your typical road bike given that it has a burly steel tubeset. The sliding type of drop outs have kept me from buying frames before. They look weak and excessive. Having them now is nice and awesome. There are many options for wheel types and drivetrain setups. The split dropout is sleek and I definitely want a belt drive on this frame at some point. So, overall this frame is great for someone who does not want a dedicated road bike, or a touring bike, or a cross bike.

Mid mounts

Slick split dropouts

Most reviews you read from various bicycle industry new outlets never talk about the downside or things that could be improved. There will be improvements overtime. Here is my two cents, otherwise the "not so great" but not a deal breaker type of thing.

There are only two things that seem a bit weird and annoying with the frame. One, the brake cable holders on the top tube. They are offset to the side on the top and perfectly located next to your knee, at least for me, and every now and then you hit the cable holder/zip tie with your knee. Why it was put up there, I don't know. The Double cross is on the bottom on the top tube and this on top. Number two. The stand-over height. I have not taken a closer look at this as I do not care very much. Size wise, the 52cm would have been too small for my monkey arms. The 54cm is a great fit but the stand-over height seems tall. It might have something to do with the frame geometry because of the wide tire and fender clearance. This is not at all a big deal, but for those who might be more borderline 52/54 it could be an issue. Just letting that be known. For a true and honest review.

The middle cable holder. Not a deal breaker at all.
Not trying to tear this apart. finding the negative things or problems with something is just how my brain works. I love improvement and my dream job would be to design outdoor gear or bike stuff. I love this frame. It will be a fun bike and I cannot wait to get out on a long tour whether it be road or exploring fire roads out in the mountains. In the long run, there is a small chance I could ride this across the country on a very, very potential Trans America Tour that I might be putting together.

Let the dreaming begin! Ride more. Care less.