Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cape to Kapp: Notes from a Very Tired Cyclist

Teresie Hommersand grew up near Stavanger, a city known as the oil capital of Norway. She remembers eating supper every evening off plates with the logo of the national oil and gas company on them. Somehow she became the "green sheep" of the family. She has lived in Uganda, Oregon, and Australia. She currently resides in South Africa.  Learn more about her 13,700 km ride going from South Africa to Norway and her charity crowdfunding campaign on her Facebook page and Instagram.
(This is her third journal entry for us)

Powering through Zambia is rough. It's one hill after the other. Extremely hot. Often windy and always blowing from the front. I was doing 100km each day on my Soma Saga weighing in about 45kg with all my gear. Although physically challenging, it was the kids that got to me...

Typically, I would be coming up a hill, super tired and out of breath. Then the Mzungu (white person) alarm would go off. A kid would spot me and start screaming this word, "my favourite", over and over again from the top of his or her lungs - letting everyone in the whole village know who had just arrived. Kids would then come running from all sides, some sounding like they were having a fit when they saw me, joining the --by this point-- horde of kids screaming on repeat: 'HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU?' It doesn't matter if you say "Hi", wave or ignore them. They keep going, each one wanting your attention. Runnning after you, sometimes holding on to your bike. While this is all happening, you also have to mind the traffic. Trucks weighing tons shoot past you, expecting you to get off the road, threatening to flatten you if you do not. Under these circumstances, I found it very difficult to take my hand off the handlebar and wave and give someone a heartfelt smile. I felt like an object. An amusement. A circus animal. For the first time since I started cycling, I felt lonely.

"again have I been reminded of the importance of connecting with people in order to be happy"

Notes from a not so tired cyclist:
When you are as exhausted as above, everything looks different. In the moment, you don't have enough energy to remind yourself that this attention is not coming from a bad place. They are kids. They are curious. They see you as something positive. Funny how you end up cursing them and even wanting to shout 'shut the fuck up!'. Sometimes I did. Silently. I've heard of other cyclists' various methods for how to deal with this. My favourite is perhaps one guy that pretended to be retarded. I laughed until I cried when he demonstrated it for me, visualizing how the kids got a fright and ran in all possible directions to get away. It might not be politically correct, but if you are desperate...?
I don't want to give Zambia a bad rep. I am positive that if you take the time to get to know the people and not just power through, you will have amazing experiences! For me Zambia is one of two countries in Africa that I am choosing not to spend much time in, in an attempt to find the right balance between enjoying what is along the way and making decent distance on the saddle. I learned quite a lot about myself from this whole experience, and again have I been reminded of the importance of connecting with people in order to be happy. This time, it was learned the hard way;-)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Cape to Kapp: My Savior on the Salt Flats

Teresie Hommersand grew up near Stavanger, a city known as the oil capital of Norway. She remembers eating supper every evening off plates with the logo of the national oil and gas company on them. Somehow she became the "green sheep" of the family. She has lived in Uganda, Oregon, and Australia. She currently resides in South Africa. We did not sponsor her the Soma Saga DC she is riding, but will be donating to the charities she is trying to bring awareness to. Learn more about her 13,700 km ride going from South Africa to Norway and her charity crowdfunding campaign on her Facebook page and Instagram.

I am so sad!! I don't have any pictures or videos of Morekisi, my saviour from the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana - one of the world's largest salt pans [salt flats].

On day one of crossing the pans on my Soma Saga, I broke rule #1: Always carry enough water!! I thought I was in the clear. By my estimation, I would have enough from the last village to the first veterinary gate on the pan. Pierre 'The Pan Rat' and I had agreed that he would drop water for me there. However, when I got to the edge of the pans I had two mouthfuls of water left and no certainty with regards to how far it was to my next 'watering hole'. It was five in the afternoon. The sun would set in an hour. There were dozens of tracks leading onto the pan in all directions. Do I choose the one that seems to be the most travelled? I could be just 30 minutes away from water. But if I'm not, I might get stuck out on the pan with no water overnight. I assumed the likelihood of the next day encountering one of the about five vehicles that daily cross the pans is greater at the edge than out on the pans. If I didn't meet anyone, I could always cycle and push the 43 kg bicycle back across the sandy tracks to the village - although not very tempting. I decided to stay put. My life wasn't immediately threatened– it was just gonna be a very uncomfortable night and possibly following day, with no water and little food. My pasta doesn't cook in dry air.
Just as I was considering what the most strategic place for my tent would be with regards to attracting possible 'four wheeled' travellers passing by, I saw movement on the horizon. Is that a person? ..... ? ..... it looks like it..... ! 
"Hello!!!" I shouted, waved my arms above my head and rang my bicycle bell for the first time on the trip. 

Yes! I think he or she heard me! I started walking towards the silhouette that now seemed to have changed direction and was now heading towards me. We were getting closer to each other. Hi!! Hello! Am I happy to see you!! :-D

And there, I had met Morekisi, a 17 year old boy living alone out on his family's cattle post, looking after his parents farm while the rest of his family was living in town. This is not at all uncommon in Botswana. In this dry, salty, and seemingly inhospitable area he was taking care of cattle, goats, chickens, and now me. The first thing we did after we got to his compound, his clay and straw hut, was to walk to the borehole with a large empty bucket each. On way there, he showed me a snake he had killed the day before and hung up in a tree – a warning to other snakes! On the way back we had to take breaks carrying the heavy buckets of water, quietly admiring the setting sun. A huge, glowing red ball in-between the trees. I was so happy.

The water made me a little unwell. If you're not used to the salt levels in the water out here that can happen. It was anyway better than no water! And how could I not have a good time cooking on the bonfire, under the stars, talking with Morekisi and listening to local tunes that came from the solar powered radio in the neighbouring clay hut, all in the middle of nowhere. We really connected, Morekisi and I. We both just laughed and smiled around the fire the whole evening. He taught me Tswana. Metsi = Water. Mathata = Problem. We both agreed we liked dancing 'too much'. Both of us just kept on putting more wood on the fire, not wanting to go to bed.

The next day, he took me back to the edge of the pans, showed me the tracks to the veterinary gate, and we said our goodbyes. There, at the beginning of the salt pans, where the vastness that lays before you fills you with awe, respect and excitement. I'll never see him again, but I really hope he will always know how special our meeting was for me. Although I'm cycling alone, this trip is all about the people I meet. And now I'm all teary.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Cape to Kapp: Cycling from the Southernmost Part of Africa to the Northernmost Part of Europe

Teresie Hommersand grew up near Stavanger, a city known as the oil capital of Norway. She remembers eating supper every evening off plates with the logo of the national oil and gas company on them. Somehow she became the "green sheep" of the family. She has lived in Uganda, Oregon, and Australia. She currently resides in South Africa. We did not sponsor her the Soma Saga DC she is riding, but will be donating to the charities she is trying to bring awareness to.
Learn more about her 13,700 km ride going from South Africa to Norway and her charity crowdfunding campaign on her Facebook page and InstagramWe will be posting some of her experiences here on the blog. She is already in Malawi at the time of this post.

I'm Teresie, a 31 year old Norwegian girl, and I'm cycling solo from South Africa to Norway! From the most southern point on the African continent to the most northern point in Europe!! All on my Soma Saga.
I love people's reactions when they see me. There's no limit to hooting, waving and thumbs up from passing cars and trucks. I've had people clap, blow me kisses, ask for my autograph and even say gravely that I'm going to die. While some propose, others become speechless. But above all, EVERYONE is so interested, excited and enthusiastic! Cycling becomes a dream with all of this support!

Your mode of transport really influences what you experience along the way, who you meet and how you interact. For instance, one late afternoon as the sun was about to set, I found myself on a dirt road in the Klein Karoo in South Africa. A dry farm country with hills and mountains and great distances between farms. I was getting a bit uneasy. I didn't feel like camping out in minus degrees. I had become an expert at being invited in to random people's homes after a whole day of cycling. However, there were no signs of human activity except for the corrugated and rocky road I was on. I raced the setting sun.

After climbing an uphill, I finally saw a farm gate! It looked decent. Well maintained. Let me try! I cycled down this road, looking for houses. Nothing. I was in the middle of nowhere. Then I saw something that looked like really big cows. I cycled a bit closer. They turned out to be buffalos! Luckily there was a fence between us. I cycled on. A house! Hurray! There were absolutely no one there. I started to mentally prepare myself for a cold night. Then I heard voices. It came from the farmworkers' quarters further ahead. Ok! At least I'll have company! As I cycled towards them I became aware of a group of trees. There was something amongst those threes. A building? Is that a road? Are those cars? I suddenly found myself in the farmer's driveway! A green oasis in the otherwise dry and dusty yet stunning landscape. There was even a braai (barbecue) area and a swimming pool! And there was the farmer, wondering who on earth had pulled up infront of his house on a heavily loaded bicycle. When I asked if I could pitch my tent in their garden, he said 'Are you mad? Come in!'.

As I was shown to my own room, I was informed that all the farmers in the area was also about to arrive for their monthly catch-up! Not only did I get to meet everyone in the whole area, but had I knocked on the door of any other farmer that evening, no one would have been home! I was so welcomed, so included and so full of the heartiest 'afrikaaner delights' that evening.
The Cape of Africa: Start of the journey

The next morning, as I was fastening my panniers to my bicycle, Wessel (the farmer) asked me 'Don't you wanna go for a private game drive on the farm?' I was already in cycling mode and had to take five minutes to reboot before saying YES! How often do I have this opportunity? We spent the whole day out together, in the best outdoor classroom, getting up close with and learning about the Impalas, Sable Antelopes, Rooi Hartebeests, Oryx, Ostriches, Elands, Water Buffalos and many more. Wessel knew all about the areas flora and fauna. It's geology. How the drought is affecting the area and the farmers. He and his son Izak even challenged me to a round of bokdrol. A poo spitting competition! Apparently, dry Impala dung is the poo of choice for this game. We only had Kudu poo. I lost.
I was made to feel so at home by the whole family that when they invited me to stay a third day, I almost did. For two months I cycled through South Africa. I only camped twice, and that was my own choice. The rest of the time I was invited into the homes of everyone I asked if I could pitch my tent in their garden. I am sure that a lot of this happened just because I rocked up on a bicycle❤️
Follow the journey on Instagram: teresiehommersand and Facebook: Cape to Kapp

When I asked if I could pitch my tent in their garden,
he said 'Are you mad? Come in!'.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Inspiration for Bringing Back the Stanyan Lugged Road Frame

The "ispirazione" first and foremost was when the L'Eroica organizers saw fit to bring their Italian event to Pasa Robles, California. The L'Eroica not only brings the "vintage bike feels" to us, but it is a great way for the cycling community to experience how it was to ride and compete on bicycles before there was 30 speed drive trains and carbon fiber and GPS. Some of the rules in this event is you can't use clipless pedals or aero brake levers. Most folks ride genuine vintage road racing bikes that are pre-1987.

For this round of Stanyans we went with a threaded 1"steerer fork, not just because "that's what vintage road bike used" but it just looks better with lugged frames. Lugs limit how angled your top tube can be, so if we used a 1-1/8 threadless set up most of us would need to run a tall headset spacer stack. The original Stanyan we launched in 2008 was threadless.

We ditched the polished lugs for color schemes that fit right into the scene of vintage jerseys and dusty roads. The main thing that's not period correct is the 130mm rear hub spacing, since it is hard to find quality freewheels these days. You can run an 11-speed cassette, if you want.

The Stanyan '18 is available now. ...More than enough time for you to source those old parts and build your perfect "heroic bike" for next year's event.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Soma Double Cross Gets More Awesome

We aren't the brand that tweaks our designs and colors every year just because we are afraid of losing people's attention or market share (which we've never had anyway), but this year the Double Cross gets its first design change since adding to disc brake compatibility.
The Double Cross is our original do-all frame. It's capable for light touring, cyclo-cross, commuting, gravel and even some trail riding.

What are the changes?
1) We are using a lighter, stiffer Breezer style webbed dropout. The curved chainstay fits more types of calipers. The old design at certain sizes made it hard to get to the hardware of certain calipers. (Not all disc brakes are designed for placement on the chainstay.).

2) We also increased tire clearance slightly. The old Double Crosses always had more than enough clearance for cyclo-cross tires and most hybrid/commuter tires, but with new interest in gravel events we decided to make the DC more friendly to 700 x 40 gravel tires. You can squeeze in a 700 x 45 Panaracer Fire Cross if you don't use one of those Shimano long-arm front derailleurs. If you must use one of those long arm FD's, you will be limited to a tire like our 700x42 Shikoro tires (see photo below). Fortunately there are alternatives out there and even Shimano is redesigning.

3) We also tweaked the geometry on the middle to smaller sizes --- mainly shortening the top tubes slightly. This tweak allowed us to remove a size.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Photo Contest Winners

A big thanks to those who submitted your beautiful images to our "Help Us Decorate our Office" Photo Contest. Below are the two runner-ups and winner.

WINNER: Matthew Browne – "My Soma Wolverine taking in the view from Lake Mountain in the Yarra Ranges, a National Park near Melbourne, Australia. This photo was taken about half way through a loop that starts in a river valley, takes in a beautiful gravel climb to an alpine hut, a bit of a hike along a ridge, some single track through the snow gums and down to the mountain ash, and a ripping pavement descent back to the start."

RUNNER UP: Dean Santos –  Dean with his Grand Randonneur in the Montgomery Street BART station underneath San Francisco's financial district. We were seeking photos with some local scenery. This one was our top pick for that.

RUNNER UP: Alex Brooking – Double Cross Disc on  3 night 4 day bike packing trip in Mount Hood National Forest

Matthew gets a $500 coupon to the SomaFab Shop. Our runner-up each get $100 coupons to the SomaFab Shop. Congratulations.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Plers Beiks!!!

Soma Valhallen. You've heard the name perhaps, spoken quietly in dimly lit speakeasies and alleyways. Who is this mythical warrior and what's with all the empty hair spray cans? We'll get to that.

The soundtrack for the video is Tape Waves and was used without permission, because it was already downloaded on my phone and it's a cool song. Maybe check out their Bandcamp and order a physical media. Now back to the story.

Eons ago, when I was just a wee lass, I wanted a downhill bike. I worked at a shop in Reno called Bicycle Bananas and we sold a crapton of Iron Horse Sundays because Sam Hill was blowing up the UCI downhill scene. That bike was way out of my budget and I thought I was too cool for full suspension anyway, so I ordered up their top of the line hardtail the Waka Gashira. The thing was a beast, with a 1.5 fork (no tapered steerer tubes in those days). It was my dream bike. I rode it all over Reno and up in Lake Tahoe at the Northstar downhill resort. But after a season I was moving to Seattle and in need of some cash, so I sold the bike and that was that. But I never forgot how fun it was to ride a hardtail with a big ass suspension fork. Before long the company hit a rough patch, Sam Hill signed with Specialized and the Waka Gashira became a forgotten relic of the Pinkbike archives.
Flash forward to 2011, I got a job at IRD (Soma's parent company) and I came with a mission to restore the Hooligan Hardtail to it's rightful place in the pantheon of Gnar-shredders. It took a while to convince them that we needed another mountain bike frame in the line, especially since I was all hot and bothered for those weirdo 650b DH tires Pacenti showed off at NAHBS in Sacramento. For a while it looked like it would be just a pipe dream, but finally Fox introduced some long travel 650b forks and we were back in the game.

The Pacenti tires never did make it to market, but by the time we finished the geometry for our new bike WTB had announced their 2.8" Trailblazer tires and we knew it was only a matter of time before more manufactures got on board. We asked our buds at Panaracer to pretty please make us a 650b plus tire and before long they came out with the Fat B Nimble.

The project got put on hold for a couple years while we developed the Sandworm, which is more of a do anything adventure bike, but in 2015 we revisited the idea and decided to include some new interface standards that would enable our frame to offer more tire clearance and add strength and stiffness to the rear triangle.

We decided for the first time we would use a press fit bb on one of our frames. There are a lot of opinions about why you would or wouldn't want one of these, but our reasoning is pretty simple. A PF30 bb shell will let you run just about any cranks you want. Prefer threaded Hollowtech bearings? No problem, just pop in a euro adapter. Want to run single speed? No worries, there's an EBB option. Want to use a belt drive? Ok, get a Sandworm, but still, it's pretty versatile.

We also decided to hop on the BOOOST thru axle bandwagon. Why you ask, when our other frames already fit chubby tires? Two reasons. Firstly, it allowed us to use conventional hollow chainstays, which saves weigh and saves you money. Secondly, we decided to push the envelope and build in clearance for true 3.5" tires. There aren't too many options in that size yet, but the way things are going I don't think we'll have to wait too long.

So you want to know about the name? Fine. It's kid of dumb, but it's my favorite part. Remember back in the 90s when Cartoon Network was really good? I do. There was this show called Dexter's Laboratory created by Genndy Tartakovsky and Hanna-Barbera. Seth MacFarlane worked on it. It was kind of a Rocky and Bullwinkle for kids with social anxiety. In the grand tradition of self aware cartoon series it included references to all kinds of pop culture that was mostly lost on the sober viewers at that time. One bit they had was called the Justice Friends, a parody of the JLA/Avengers which featured the characters living in a sitcom apartment with classic hi-jinx and slapstick galore. I had really wanted to do a frameset named Odin, like our handlebars, but I guess somebody already thought of that. So I checked to see whether anybody had registered the trademark for the viking god of rock, and it turns out that nobody was using it. And Van Halen is ok, I guess. We should have frames in stock this summer.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Soma In Japan

Soma Fab visited Japan for the first time in 13 years. Of course Soma's parent company has been doing business in Japan for over a hundred years, but we mostly see our Japanese friends when they come to SF on the way to Interbike or visiting their California customers. So it was kind of a big deal to be invited to speak at Tokyo San Esu's open house. We were also invited to tour some historic Japanese factories who make some of our favorite products like Panaracer, Yokozuna, Izumi Chain, Mikashima Pedal, Ostrich Bag, Nitto and Honjo Kokken. We also visited several cool shops around Tokyo.

Stay tuned for more photos from the trip.