Dairy Roubaix and the TI Shuffle

For the second year running, we drove to Wyalusing State Park to ride the Dairy Roubaix. It’s a beautiful course, in and of itself. And, since it falls one week before Trans Iowa, it serves as a useful final shakedown for gear, baggage, and nutrition.

Also, it’s hilly and predominantly gravel.  I rode the 54 mile course. The 107 mile course ups the gnar by a factor of 10 while doubling the distance. Not something I felt I should be doing one week before Trans Iowa. Next year, perhaps.

All of these photos were taken by Nathan Vergin, who also rode with me all day, even though he was riding geared and could have certainly ridden away from me on several occasions. I thank him for that.


The gravel was smooth and compact. And dry.10257275_10204004986869994_459709170043557069_o

There’s just the barest hint of green, in all of that brown and gray.883332_10204004987150001_6335121226445123344_o

Beard, volant.10014041_10204004987470009_7401330715788948627_o

More gravel, more hills. 1965583_10204004988110025_1245310269055167310_o

I rode the Devil in its final TI setup. 39x19t drivetrain with a Revelate Tangle, a Mountain Feedbag, and the Camelbak Mule. None of the baggage was filled to capacity, though I might add either a small underseat bag or a second Feedbag at Trans Iowa. It depends on how much clothing I need to take. The front rack and one of the bottle cages will also be removed beforehand, and lighting added.1973874_10204004988710040_7814699107348244991_o

Open farmland, after riding in the valleys for a while.1978496_10204004988910045_7544383153333387483_o

The man himself. Riding makes him smile, most of the time.10259267_10204004989590062_2944242580615531533_o

The only dampness on the entire course, after we’d gleefully dropped another group and were riding alone.1396922_10204004990110075_5277912109096349748_o

There was some pavement, and some of it was fast. Not pictured: the swoopy paved descent on which I hit 44.5mph.1522646_10204004990630088_6775520296941849154_o

For every valley, there is a creek. 1507480_10204004991910120_68655010839621130_o

At the finish, there’s some cyclocross. This year, they added sand. Gun it, or run it–there’s no middle ground. (For the record, I cleared it, then dabbed in the grass so that I didn’t get tangled in the course tape).

Stats: 54.5 miles, 14.6mph average moving speed, 3,025 feet of climbing.

Getting Rigged for Touring

If you’ve been paying attention at all around here–all three of you–you’ve noticed that I’ve started touring more in recent years: a handful of S240s as well as a couple of double-overnight trips. But this year, we’re stepping things up with more S240s, more weekend trips, and at least one week-long hilly, mostly-gravel tour.

I’ve been making due with the Devil as a sometime touring rig, usually with a Soma porteur rack and a couple of different varieties of baggage, including a huge ILE porteur bag and a Carradice Low-Saddle Longflap.


These setups have worked well enough for short trips on pavement–and only just well enough. The Devil just doesn’t handle very well with much of a load, whether over the front or rear wheel. It also has limited tire clearance for the larger tires I prefer when riding mixed surfaces. I can just barely fit 40mm Clement MSOs with fenders. This sort of clearance isn’t a big deal when riding on pavement–though it’s still a little less than I would like. But on gravel it falls somewhere between annoying and potentially unsafe, depending on the condition of the roads and what gets stuck between the tire and fender.

And, I’d really much prefer to leave the Devil in single-speed mode. It’s really how it performs best.

What to do…

As such, I’m trying to decide how to build a true touring rig with ample tire clearance. These are the options I’m considering, along with what I consider to be the pros and cons of each. The basic division lies between using a frame-set I already own but that requires a new set of wheels or a new frame-set that uses a set of wheels I already own. Either way, I’m going to have to sell off some existing stock to finance the missing parts (either wheels or a frame, but little else since the bins have most of what I need).

Surly Troll

  • PRO: Already own the frame-set, plenty of tire clearance, thousands of braze-ons, designed for load carrying and stability.
  • CON: Requires wheels I don’t own, fender lines are less than attractive, more of a mountain bike than a all-road tourer, the usual too-short Surly head tube, not the same wheel/tire/tube size as my touring companions, requires disc brakes to use 650b wheels.

Velo Orange Campeur

  • PRO: Good looking, ample tire clearances, mid-trail design for front loads, plenty of braze-ons, takes wheels I already own.
  • CON: Uses a 1-inch threaded stem, has silly little cartoons on the top tube.

Velo Orange Camargue

  • PRO: Good looking, huge tire clearances, mid-trail design for front loads, plenty of braze-ons, semi-horizontal dropouts for a variety of hub types,  uses wheels that I already own.
  • CON: Not yet available for sale.

Velo Orange Polyvalent

  • PRO: Good looking, ample tire clearances, low-trail design for bigger front loads, plenty of braze-ons, short semi-horizontal dropouts, 650b wheels.
  • CON: Uses a 1-inch threaded stem, requires wheels that I don’t own, not the same wheel/tire/tube size as my touring companions.

Soma Saga

  • PRO: Decent looking, ample tire clearances, plenty of braze-ons, uses wheels I already own, tall head tube with extension.
  • CON: My wife and one of my touring companions each ride one, sizing is a little off for me, optimized for a rear load more than a front load.

Which one would you choose and why? Something I’m missing (keeping in mind that I don’t want a Long Haul Trucker, or anything that requires me to use disc brakes)?



With Trans Iowa V10 merely two weeks away (my gut twists just a little, even typing that), it was high time for one last long, hard ride before beginning my taper. It was also time to put the single-speed gearing on the Devil to the test, so that I could see if it needed to be even lower than I’d already made it. And it was time to see if I could spend all day in the saddle, riding over hill and dale (mostly hill).

We left at 5am, and rode the Badger State Trail to the Wisconsin-Illinois Border, continued on the Jane Addams Trail to Freeport, Illinois, where we stopped for lunch (Amigo’s) and extra supplies (Freeport Bicycle Company). Then, we leapt in to the paved and gravel hills of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin with both feet, taking a route that led us roughly northeast to Brodhead, Albany, Brooklyn, Oregon, and back to Madison.

Over the course of the day, we experienced a 40-degree temperature range, got rained on twice, saw pink lightning, waited out a thunderstorm with two hailstorms in Clarno, WI, hiked through snowed-in trail, flew before a 15-20mph tailwind going north, got chased by a huge German shepherd, and climbed any number of steep hills, both paved and graveled.

Stats: 149.9 miles at 14.7mph (moving average) running 39×18 with 4omm tires on the Devil.

2014-04-12 06.10.28

For Dairy Roubaix and Trans Iowa, I’ll use a hydration pack, Revelate Tangle, and smaller seat bag instead of water bottles and the Revelate Pika. And I’ll lose the front rack and perhaps the fenders (weather permitting).2014-04-12 07.14.41

Not all of the snow is gone. This drift was more than a foot deep in places.2014-04-12 07.15.03

We tried to ride it, but it was too soft. So, hike-a-bike. 2014-04-12 09.13.45

By the time we reached Clarno, it was raining hard.2014-04-12 09.14.40

We decided to take shelter under the capacious overhang at the Clarno Lumber Company. After looking at the radar, we realized we’d be there for a while. It took almost 45 minutes for the two massive thunder-hail storms to pass through.2014-04-12 09.15.54

Despite the rain, the trail stayed firm. But that white stuff? Yeah, hail.
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More hail.2014-04-12 09.44.11

Even though the sun came out and it started to warm up, the hail stuck around for a while. You can see why: some of it was rather large.2014-04-12 09.47.11

The trail stayed firm, but it wasn’t exactly dry.2014-04-12 10.25.44

Truss bridge. Closed to motor vehicles, perfect for bicycles.  And some bonus pave on the other side.
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After lunch and a visit to the Freeport Bicycle Company, we started working our way north and east. First on pavement…
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…and then on some fine, fine Illinois gravel.2014-04-12 12.55.50

Some of us established a more intimate relationship with the landscape than others.2014-04-12 13.07.52

But we all climbed the hills. And more hills.2014-04-12 15.05.22

At Brodhead, we picked up the Sugar River Trail, and found this little covered bridge.2014-04-12 15.53.25

And then took to the hills once again. After hours of hot and sunny weather, the clouds and rain started to return.2014-04-12 15.53.27

Which made for good photography.2014-04-12 16.27.31

Llamas or alpacas? Both?
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We made one last stop in Oregon before the final run for home, during which we got more thunder, lightening, and rain.2014-04-12 20.53.35

I arrived home to a double bourbon and an excellent home cooked meal.2014-04-13 12.53.18

And then on Sunday, we went for a 25-mile recovery spin, stopped for coffee, and got rained on again. A damn fine weekend.

Technical Notes

The Devil is just about ready for Trans Iowa, and the rider isn’t too far behind. This ride proved that I could in fact ride TI-like terrain on a single-speed–though it also proved that 39×18 is perhaps still a little tall for such a long, hilly event. While I was able to ride all of the hills on this course–and there were quite a few substantial hills–it also became abundantly clear that I’d have a much better time over the long run with a smaller gear that would allow me to stay in the saddle more often and which I’d be able to keep at a higher cadence for longer when climbing.

At the end of this week, I’ll install a 19t cog for Dairy Roubaix and Trans Iowa, and then return to the 18t cog for the Gravel Metric. And, I’ll set up the mounts for the lighting, GPS, and cyclo-computer so that they play nicely with the Revelate feedbags and my cuesheet holder.



2014-04-11 07.41.08

NBD: VO Polyvalent

Last year, it came to my attention that Pondero wanted to free himself of a Mk1 Velo Orange Polyvalent frameset. I’d been looking for one for a while, so I snapped it up. I started putting it together over the winter, but didn’t get much further than bolting a few things on and mounting the wheels so that it would stand in the corner of the shop without falling over.

A few nights ago, I finished assembling it, almost entirely from parts I already had in the bins. Only the brakes, wheels, and bell are new–and the wheels I’d bought for another project that fell through. Here’s how it turned out.

2014-04-11 07.41.08

Initial Impressions

As this is the first low-trail 650b bicycle that I’ve owned, I was very curious to find out how it rides and whether I would like it. And while I don’t have everything completely dialed in yet, I can say with reasonable confidence–after two days of riding and hauling things–that I like both the geometry and the tire/wheel size a great deal.

Not surprisingly–especially for something that I cobbled together from my parts bins–there are a few things that I’ll likely change in the coming weeks, when I get around to it.

  • Fenders: It’s pretty clear that 26-inch plastic fenders will work, but it’s also clear that they don’t fit all that well. The front fender is severely pinched under the fork crown, and the line of the rear fender is less than optimal. I’ll order a set of Velo Orange 52mm 650b fenders (and a spring thing) the next time I put in an order. Though I do like the black…
  • Gearing: 40×12-32 is fine for running around town, but if I want to take this bike touring, I’ll probably want something a little lower on the low end. I’ll swap the 40t chainring for a 36t Surly stainless steel ring and a matching BBG bashguard.
  • Grips: I love the cork Ergon grips for winter use, but I can’t seem to get them in the right spot on this setup. If changing the bar and grip angles doesn’t fix that, I’ll switch to regular cork grips.
  • Pedals: Black VP-001s are pretty awesome, but silver would look better. Perhaps I’ll swap in the silver VP Vice pedals coming from Ocean Air, when they show up. Or not.
  • Rack: Now that I’ve got the rack situated, I need to grind down the bracket where it mounts at the fork dropouts so that it doesn’t interfere with the quick release. It can be made to not interfere now, but it’s very, very close. A little more clearance by rounding off the bottom of the bracket will make things work better.
  • Tires: The Col de la Vie tires are more than fine, but I’m already pretty sure that I want something even fatter for the sort of riding I’m likely to be doing on this bike. When they wear out, I’ll go with 42mm tires of one sort or another.

But those are just the usual bike-nerd quibbles, nothing more. In the two days that I’ve been riding this bike, I just keep liking it more and more. I can already tell that it’s going to be my go-to urban utility bike. And I kinda already want to buy a Mk3 frameset to build as a tourer/randonneur given how well-mannered and stable it is.

For more, check out the full specification.

Extra Smoother

Extra Smoother

Things have been pretty quiet around here lately, I’ve realized. But that’s not because I’m just sitting on my ass watching TV and drinking beer (well, not much anyway — and I haven’t had any beer for about 10 days).

Nope, I’ve been riding as much as possible (given that I am recovering from messing up my back a few weeks ago) and messing with bikes in the shop. The first product of all this wrenching has finally seen the light of day and been put through its paces.

Extra Smoother

Extra Smoother

After not riding the Soma ES much last year–mostly because I’d started to tear it apart without knowing how I’d put it back together–I’ve reconfigured it for a wider range of conditions.

Changes include:

  • Cockpit: 46cm Salsa Cowbell 2 bars, Thomson 90mm 10 degree stem, TRP RRL brake levers, and SRAM 10spd barcons (replacing 46cm Nitto Randonneur bars, SRAM Rival brifters, and a 90mm Velo Orange stem). New housing and cables as well.
  • Wheels: Neuvation M28AW wearing 35mm Clement USH tires (replacing Shimano 105/Velo Orange PBP wheels wearing 28mm Panaracer Paselas)
  • Brakes: Paul Racers (replacing Tektro R559 sidepulls) with a Paul Funky Monkey (front) and a Surly cable hanger (rear). New housing and cables as well.
  • Saddle: Selle Anatomic Titanico X (replacing an older Selle Anatomica non-X) with a different, shorter Thomson seatpost (since I don’t need the extra length anyway).

In other words, the frameset, headset, and drivetrain are all that remains the same.

There are two things missing:

  • Fenders: I’ll use the same set of silver Honjo knockoffs (or are they a knockoff of VO fenders…I’m not sure). With the massive clearances provided by the Paul Racers, I can use them with 35mm tires, but it’s a tight fit, so I’ll probably use 32mm Clement MSOs when the fenders are in play. A pair of Sheldon’s fender nuts make mounting and removal a ten-minute affair. And if I’m feeling particularly lazy, I’ll mount them on the other set of M28AW wheels so that I can just swap wheelsets instead of remounting tires.
  • Bar tape: I didn’t wrap the bars to start with, since I was still fiddling with brake lever position, but after about 110 miles of riding in the last week, I think I’ve got that sorted out to my satisfaction. Now the question is whether to use black cloth or brown leather.

The Differences

So how does it ride? Well, first of all, like a completely different bike. Just about everything that I added is lighter (except for the Paul Racers, which are every so slightly heavier) and stiffer than what they replaced–so it feels much more sprightly. The extra rubber, especially when run 10-15 psi below maximum–make for a very smooth ride and tend to inspire confidence no matter the surface.

The cockpit, in particular, feels very very different. Moving from bars with very long ramps, a deepish drop, and no flare to a bar with short ramps, a short drop, and substantial flare means that I now spend less time on the tops and hoods, and more time in the drops (since I can actually reach them comfortably), which themselves are long enough to allow for 3 distinct hand positions.

The shifters are also a huge improvement. No one who’s ridden with me in the past couple of years has escaped having to listen to me bitch about SRAM DoubleTap–while also being treated to volleys of profanity when I accidentally shifted down two cogs instead of up two on a climb. The SRAM barcons, on the other hand, just work. They were dead-easy to set up and they have a positive shifting process that almost makes me want to shift more just to experience the joy of it. And then there are the several advantages of barcons in general: being able to see and feel what gear I’m in, being able to shift multiple cogs in one motion, and being able to shift both at once. All good.

And the brakes? Nothing but superlatives will do. Paul Racers are the best centerpull/sidepull calipers that I’ve ever used and combine perfectly with the TRP levers, which are themselves the best feeling and most comfortable levers I’ve found. But the Racers are also the most difficult of brakes to set up–extremely fiddly and difficult to get tuned just so (perhaps the post-mount version is easier, but I somehow doubt that).

The Purpose

The Soma ES is now a versatile, do just about anything bike. In it’s present configuration, it can handle anything from road rides to gravel rides. With the addition of a small rear rack and a larger saddlebag, it can take on some light touring and warm weather S240s

Now I just have to figure out how to reconfigure the Smoothie so that it can take 32mm tires. 650b anyone?