Tuesday, February 2, 2016

2016 Grand Randonneur

The Soma 650b, low trail, randonneuring frame gets a fresh paint job for 2016. Our friend Dean Santos, who always wanted to get one, volunteered to build up the sample frame for our photos.

Soma Grand Randonneur 55, White
Soma Grand Randonneur low-trail fork
IRD Roller Drive Sample
Soma Sutro Quill Stem
Nitto Grand Randonneur 45cm (Used)
Bar Tape
Cardiff Brown Leather
Brake Levers
Dia Compe Grand Compe 202 Non-Aero
Dura Ace 7700 9 speed
IRD Cafam II
Front Derailleur
Dura Ace 7700 9 speed
Rear Derailleur
Dura Ace 7700 9 speed
Test Pedals
IRD Defiant Wide-Compact 170mm
46-30t 94BCD
Shimano HG95 11-25
KMC 9 Speed
Seat Post
Soma Wazikashi
Brooks Team Professional Brown
Suzue Sealed Bearing Hub on Araya TX510
Panaracer Col d'Lavie 650bx38

The Story Behind the Build

By Dean Santos – I’ve wanted to build a Grand Randonneur, ever since I heard the project discussed when I used to work at Merry Sales. I don’t know if it’s the lure of the 650b tires or the low-trail geometry, or even the mystique of riding thin tubes and experiencing planing. There’s just something about this bike that made me want one… really bad. 

The Pondering
While in college, I rode a commuter bike I got from a trade. I had it built up the way Grant Petersen would have: Fat Wald basket up front, leather saddle, a Cardiff saddle bag, fenders, wide 32mm tires, and a Nitto Albatross bar for a nice upright riding position. It was my go to bike for commuting, urban exploration, Bike Party, and general tomfoolery. I often packed the front basket to the brim. On longer rides, I start feeling the fatigue of trying to keep the front end straight under load. I find that after a certain point, the effort needed to keep the front in control goes up as you load more weight. This made me dig more into Jan Heine’s findings on low-trail geometry and its benefits regarding front load handling.


The Opportunity

One fateful day, I dropped by the Soma headquarters to pick up some parts and saw the sample white Grand Randonneur laying on the floor. The glossy white with red panels elicited the same kind of excitement reserved for bacon-wrapped hot dogs after a bar crawl in the Mission. It was my size and the stars aligned. I wanted to build it.

The Build
I immediately began thinking about the parts I had in my parts bin. I wanted to go full retro with non-aero brake levers, etc. In my bin, I had a Nitto Grand Randonneur bar that I used on a Schwinn touring bike I rebuilt, a Soma Champ Elysees rack, leather bar tape, and even a randonneur bag from Zugster. And of course I had to use the Dura Ace 7700 parts I had found in the trash behind a bike shop. The build sheet took longer to finalize than I care to admit.  
One of parts I wanted to try out was the IRD Defiant crank with a unique 46-30t gearing, but that choice became a headache when matching it up with the Dura-Ace short cage rear derailleur. The maximum chain wrap capacity of the Dura Ace derailleur is 29T. With a 46/30 crankset, the biggest cog I can use to make the derailleur work was a 11-25t cassette. Even with a 30t chain wrap, I have to be mindful not to use the 30t/11t combination. The decision to keep the Dura Ace derailleur was based purely on its bling bling factor. 
The whole build took about eight hours to complete. I did not cut any corners and I meticulously adjusted and set every aspect of this build.

I’ve been riding this bike as a commuter for the past two months and I’m really happy with the way it rides. On my 10 mile one-way commute, I like how mild-mannered the geometry handles. It’s not as snappy as my other carbon bikes, but the ride quality of the Grand Randonneur is on another level in comparison. It reminded me of why I love steel and why there’s a place for it in my stable. I get more compliments on this bike than my Santa Cruz Stigmata CC.

 Thank you to Passion Trail Bikes (Belmont's premier mountain bike shop)  for letting me borrow a stand and helping me cut and rethread the fork steerer a little shorter.

Cranks, saddle, rack, and front fender installed.
The rear fender is not done yet. This is about four hours worth of assembly.
I like to take my time for proper builds and not cut any corners.
The leather tape I had lying about looked a little dried out.
I revitalized it with some Sno-Seal and finished it off with
a mixture of paraffin wax and beeswax (heated) to waterproof
the leather tape. The wax also gave the tape a darker
color which matched closer to my Brooks saddle.

Chainring spacers were used to space out the fender
The fenders look ugly with having a gap between the wheel
and the fender. I had to drill holes on the fenders to install
it like this.
Water proofing the bar tape.

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