Friday, December 14, 2018

New Bar Alternatives for Bike Packing and Touring

A New Alternative MTB Bar
Darren McKay, the proprietor of Dream Cycle in Vancouver, BC, suggested we create a handlebar similar to the riser bars on mountain bikes of the 1980's. He thought it would be a great option for bikepacking and touring bikes. The Dream bar has a 25° backsweep, which is not only a very natural grip, but also keeps bar bags away from your hands. The 780mm width is more than enough to maintain control control in most type of riding. The 50mm of rise is a touch more than the average trail bike riser. The Dream Bar is in stock now!

CONDOR 2: The Sequel:
The Condor Handlebar, which we launched last year to quite a few puzzling looks and chuckles, has really found its share of fans. A few cyclists are finding it is their solution for back pain, more comfort, less hand numbness.  Many are using it to create a more upright ride position on bikes which don't have a long enough steerer to raise the stem. It is a beautiful design by folks at our distributor in Japan. Tokyo San Esu.

The Condor 2 is the result what we've learned from feedback from Condor customers, including bike shop owners. It is a simpler looking bar, but it actually allows for more useful hand positions than the original. The bend is still compact, but fits slightly larger hands. The drops are 1cm wider on each size, so the 44cm is 50cm at the end of the drops (center to center).
And the big deal is the still the rise, which stays almost the same. The Condor 2 should be available in mid-January
Original Condor

The Condor TWO!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Cape to Kapp: Pedaling Under the Suez Canal Requires More Patience & Perseverance Than Legs

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. 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.  She has just finished the epic African leg of her journey and is now in Israel. This post is about her experience getting permission to cross the Suez Canal Tunnel on her touring bike.

I think I've made a bit of history?!!!! I have cycled through the Suez Canal Tunnel on my Soma Saga!!!!!!!! No one is allowed to do this! I've only heard of a small group of Egyptians who's done it legally. They had the support of an Egyptian ministry. Two other solo foreign male cyclists did it as well but they both got arrested afterwards as they did not have permission. Could I at least be the first solo female cyclist to do this?
A process
It was quite a process getting the green light. I came riding before noon. Armed army personnel greeted me at the first checkpoint. "Hi! I'd like to cycle through the tunnel."
"No. It is not allowed."
I then confidently handed over an eloquently formulated letter by The United Nations Environment Programme's 'Share the Road' Programme in support of my low carbon emission mission. 
There was some quick discussion between the two which I could only make out "It's the UN.". They picked up the phone to call a superior. The person at the other end of the line picked up another phone. So did the commander above him again. I don't know how far up in the system it went, but down here they started looking at me positively hoping that I'd be allowed. They were really impressed with how far I've come on my bike and supported what I was doing.
Making friends at the army checkpoint

I don't know how long I waited. For a good six hours at least. I was really hopeful. If I didn't stand a chance, then why would they take this long to get back to me? In the end they did reply --- with a 'NO'?!!!  I was so surprised. Why not? 
They cited lack of traffic safety through the tunnel and because the first 30 kilometers after the tunnel has seen activity by militant groups present in the region. Another army officer I spoke to was of the opinion that it was not that dangerous – that the likelihood of anything happening was very slim. "But if it did... One video of a pretty girl in the wrong hands would have devastating effects on Egyptian tourism [it's already suffering due to previous terrorist attacks]." The officer who conveyed it was very sorry. So was I. I asked again. I didn't want to give up. I was told that if I didn't leave, I would not be allowed to pass through the tunnel at all.
Nuns that allowed me to stay overnight at their church.

A New Plan for Tomorrow
I was taken in by Greek Orthodox nuns that night.  Before going to bed I texted one of the guys from the Egyptian group that had cycled through the tunnel. The army had refused them too, BUT THE POLICE had helped them and escorted them through! How does that work? I thought the army had greater authority than the police? I went to sleep with a new plan not knowing how everything would turn out. I'd either be allowed to cycle through or possibly be banned for good from crossing the tunnel, and therefore not able to continue by bike via the Middle East en route to Europe...
I woke up the next morning, feeling as if the whole day was completely open ended. Just had to deal with what came my way in a good way. I went to the police and presented my case. "Yes, of course, but join us for fool* and falafel for breakfast first!". Really? I couldn't believe it! Two hours later I rode up to the same army checkpoint from the day before – followed by the police, I saw the same army officer sitting there. I could tell he was not happy to see me. "Hi! I have found a solution to the safety issue! The police will escort me!'
The local police made it possible. Thank you.

New calls where made. I got an interrogation. 'Where have you been since you left here yesterday?'. It wasn't enough to say "in town". 'Where in town?" I had to provide names of the places. Show it on my map. I was pleased with myself when I could present a selfie of me and the nuns;-) 'How much money do you have?'. Pictures of every single page in my passport were taken. 'Where did you study? What did you study? Where are your parents? Write down all the countries you have cycled through, including the dates of entry and exit here'. 'Why are you doing this?'. 'Because of climate change. Because I care about the people and other species that are and will be affected by it'... I passed the test. 'Ms. Teresie. I am happy to see you again'.
Uncertainty and confusion
Back to the waiting game. We went through all my stuff. I showed him everything I'm carrying. I think he was quite impressed with my set-up. He certainly took a fancy to my knife! Haha. All this time, I did not know, if I'd be allowed to cycle through the tunnel. I wasn't sure if I dared to hope anymore. 
"Yalla. Hæ!" I was suddenly told to get on my bike in the direction of the tunnel. I didn't dare to clarify could I really go? I just moved. We came to a second checkpoint. New faces. Another presentation of my passport and UN letter. What did all of this mean? No one told me anything! Was told to come inside and sit down. 'It's the first time we have someone doing this. And it's a woman'. 
My heart jumped. Could it be? I got all emotional. 'Shukran! Thank you!'. It was a solemn moment. I believe I was even shaking a little as I got back on my bike and set the course for THE TUNNEL. It was unreal. Still couldn't fully believe it. I said to myself I wouldn't until I actually cycled into its depth. But now I was hopeful! And now I saw the opening of the tunnel approaching me! 
'STOP!!!!!!!!'. 'No, no, no, we have permission'. 'No, it's not allowed to cycle through'. Three armed army soldiers in uniform blocked the entrance. The police in the police vehicle shouted something to them in Arabic. And then they turned around! 
'What are you doing?' I said incredulously. They drove off, leaving me stranded right there, five metres from the entrance! 'What is happening?'. Was I not allowed in the end, after all this?! Would I get arrested? After much confusion and more waiting while curious cars and trucks passed this blocked lone long distance cyclists in front of the tunnel, a police vehicle from the other side of the tunnel came through. This was the one that was going to escort me. And my three new armed friends had been filled in meanwhile - she is good to go.
The Ride Under the Suez Canal
I am forever grateful to EVERYONE involved in making this possible! I can't believe my luck. They could all just have said no. What an experience! It was with a whirlwind of emotions as I cycled through it. Disbelief. Gratitude. Defiant joy. "Hell yeah!!!!!'" Tears. Fear of getting a puncture down there. That I wouldn't be able to breathe because of all the exhaust. That I wouldn't be able to cycle up the incline at the end. Typical;-) When I saw the light in the end of the tunnel, I started waiving to oncoming cars. I had the biggest smile. I heartedly laughed to the shocked and smiling army officer that greeted me as I came out of the tunnel on the other side. 'Hi! :-D'.

[Editor's notes: * "Fool" or 
 fūl, is a dish of cooked fava beans served with vegetable oilcumin, and optionally with chopped parsleygarliconionlemon juice, chili pepper and other vegetable, herb and spice ingredients.
The Suez Canal in Egypt is an artificial waterway that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. "
The canal offers watercraft a shorter journey between the North Atlantic and northern Indian Oceans via the Mediterranean and Red Seas by avoiding the South Atlantic and southern Indian Oceans, reducing the journey by approximately 7,000 kilometres (4,300 mi).(Wikipeda)" There is some incredible history involving the canal and surrounding areas.]

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Bringing Back the Mini Velo and the rim-brake Buena Vista

The original Soma Mini Velo complete bike.
It was a challenge back then to find a rear rack to fit it.
But it is 2018, so can you imagine
how big a frame bag could fit on this?

The Mini Velo project we embarked on almost 8 years ago was not a smashing success in terms of sales. The majority of American bike enthusiasts just didn't see the logic or inspiration for a bike with smaller wheels.

Is America ready now? We don't know. Based on our embrace for huge cell phones, large pick up trucks, and fat bikes, probably not. BUT we do know that even after retiring it, our original post about it still continued to get a significant number of visits. And we will get a desperate e-mail every blue moon from someone telling us we need to bring it back.

So we have decided to produce a few framesets -- not complete bikes as before -- and will be marketing it under our sister brand -  New Albion Cycles. So you crazy kids can build it up with drop bars, pursuit bars or townie/riser bars.

No photos for you yet, but it will be matte red and have the same component needs of the Soma Mini Velo ---- cantilever brakes, recumbent type 20" wheels (not BMX), and quill stem. Same Tange tubing. Almost the same geometry.
Probably ready to sell before December.    UPDATE: Check out the New Albion Microbrew now.

What is a Mini Velo?
The Mini Velo for the uninitiated is a small wheel (usually 20") bike with a rigid non-folding frame. It has been a common category of bike in Japan for years now. Mainly they are specced as affordable city cruisers.  Some big brands that have released urban style mini velos in the US include Cannodale and Orbea. Respect is a small company that sells fixed gear mini velos.
But mini velos have only reached critical mass in Japan and Southeast Asia, where they can take a number of forms -- upright urban bikes, fixies, light touring, mini-cargo, and even straight-up road race bikes.

Why would you need a Mini Velo?
Mini velos are super compact which makes a whole lot of sense if you live in a small apartment or one of those cute tiny houses. They are also easier to maneuver onto the subway or elevators if you are a bike commuter.

Why would you want a Mini Velo?
Most of us aren't that hard up on space. And some of us could care less if a co-worker doesn't like us dragging our full sized bike into as elevator with them.

So what else would attract someone into getting one?

1) Quicker acceleration off the line: 20" wheels spin up faster and easier. A semi-racey mini velo will get a jump on a 700c carbon wonder bike every time.
So with a mini velo might have you not minding slowing down at intersections -- you know -- because you don't want to lose your momentum.

2) For the thrills: Short wheelbase and small tires mean most are more responsive than criterium track bike. Perfect for dodging potholes that are always a threat at ruining your day on a 20" wheel bike whether it is a mini-velo, folding bike or BMX. They have a smaller tire patch too.

If you are riding one at speed, you will want to be extra alert and that might make you a better rider.

3) Show off that big ring: With small wheels you need a full size crank to give you the right gearing.
So you can be in 53t big ring all the time, even when your buddies shift down to their 34t a couple of miles ago.

4) All bicycles have their charm and you believe in the n + 1 Rule.

Other News:

We added disc brake compatibility and sliding drop-outs to our mixte frame and we thinks it hella dope. And most of you did, too. But we also started fielding calls asking "Is the rim brake one really gone?" So we are considering bringing the rim brake version back in a limited sizes and quantities.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Cape To Kapp: Sudan Was Flat Out Hot

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. 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.

Unknown challenge ahead
On the 11th of April, I crossed the border to Sudan from Ethiopia on my Soma Saga! So ready for Sudan. So excited!! I had been told it was going to be hot. Very hot. But as I was getting my visa stamped, I had no idea that for the next nine days I would struggle on the bicycle seat in a heat unlike anything I've experienced before. I'm not exaggerating.

Sudanese cycling conditions
Sudan is extremely flat, the roads are long and straight (and at times boring) so I thought I'd easily do 100km in a day on my way to Khartoum. Most likely more. My mistake was to keep on pushing to reach this target, even though the elements were telling me not to. As soon as the sun is up here, it gets hot. Between 11am and 12pm to around 4pm, I'd say it's unbearable on certain days this time of the year.
Most people take it easy during these times.
I was cycling on a bike packed full of stuff.

After about 15 minutes of leaving the filled water bottles on my frame, the water is as hot as tea water. 

Constantly drinking, hardly peeing
Semi desert landscapes. Some shrubbery, the occasional tree. Lots of sand. Vast open landscapes. Blue sky. The regular animal carcass next to the road. On this stretch, I frequently flagged down vehicles to refill my water bottles. It's far between the taps and I didn't want to cycle with an additional 10 litres of water, making my bike super heavy. Pretty much all cars and trucks stop! It's easy. I even had one of the dangerously fast busses hit the brakes and give me cool water. Cool is key. After about 15 minutes of leaving the filled water bottles on my frame, the water is as hot as tea water. I'm not kidding. You are constantly drinking, hardly peeing and do certainly not feel refreshed after a sip. I'd be scared to cycle this stretch in this heat if it wasn't for the possibility of getting water from passing traffic. Very scared.

No escaping the sun
Have you ever had to fix a puncture next to the road at midday, in the scorching sun, with no shade, at 47 degrees celsius? (That's 117 degress F)  The heat influences everything. How you feel, what you think and how you deal with the situations you are in. I fixed this puncture, but upon my second one later this day, I just crawled under a tree that provided a tiny bit of shade (far from enough!!) and laid there. I was even so close to the next village. Less than one kilometre away. I could see houses, but I just could not get myself over there. The heat was too much. I had to wait it out. This is the first time on the trip I've actually laid down next to the road. The warm wind made it even worse. Hotter than a hairdryer! The less limbs you expose to it the less uncomfortable. How do you do that?

Fluctuating emotions
On this stretch, I teared up at least once a day. Once out of hopelessness (the road surface was so bad. It would not end). Several times out of gratitude (as when a truck driver handed me a sesame seed snack in the middle of nowhere in the desert!). A few times as I was feeling sorry for myself.

I had days I was only able to do 34km and 41km. It got a little better once I hit the Nile. One day, to my extreme surprise I did 100km! And finally, I reached Khartoum! My goal. The "desert oasis", where The Blue and White Nile meet. My host had suggested that we meet at Ozone. When I got there, I discovered that it was a full on café with cakes and ice cream!!! How fitting! A cyclist in Sudan's wet dream. I freaking made it!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Cape To Kapp: Underdressed At the Circumcision Celebration

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. 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 sixth journal entry for us. She's in Egypt now, but this entry is from January)

This is the beauty of bicycle touring.
The openess. Randomness.
Discovery. Spontaneity.
And love, actually.

So Much Generosity
I was actually a bit sad when I cycled the last 10 kilometers in Tanzania on my Soma Saga, approaching the border to Kenya. I stopped a few times. Turned around and looked behind me. Being all melancholy as I was leaving behind me the heartfelt, warm encounters I've had over the last ten days. Every day. So much love. So much care. So much curiosity. So much generosity.

Another New Country! Kenya!
After the form filling, stamping, mandatory picture at the boarder with me and the bike, I did my first kilometers on Kenyan soil! On this first day, I ended up paying way too much for a soda at a gas station and seeing a huge dead hyena right next to the road, gaping at me, and a dog eating off its bum.
As it drew near sunset I felt a bit uneasy not having found a place to stay for the night. Maybe it was just because I was in a new country. My standard procedure at the end of a day of cycling is to just find some random people, strangers, and ask if I can pitch my tent in their compound. I've gotten quite good at it. 100% success rate! That might tell you more about the hospitality in the countries I'm cycling through rathet than me, necessarily. Or maybe both;-)

Party Invitation
My first night in Kenya I ended up spending with Jeremiah and Florence! I just met Jeremiah on the road and he took me through bushes and over hills to his traditional Masaai home! Forget about concrete and bricks. Cow dung and gras is the ting! Maybe it was the chai, the fire, the maharagwe, the questions whether I liked cow blood, capitalism vs communism, or wanting to join the village's celebration of a boy's circumcision and passing of his exam that made me stay the next day. As I was falling asleep in my tent, I could hear voices from the houses on the opposite hill where food for next day's celebration was being prepared.

New friends... Jeremiah and Florence

The women were still cooking when we all went to join the festivities around noon the next day! I've never seen such big pots, so much food, so many goats being slaughtered. Even though a cyclist is always hungry, I found myself having to say 'no thank you' to some of the food that was offered. I was stuffed! All around me were beautifully dressed women, in their characteristic traditional Masaai wear. I had been admiring their 'look' for days, seeing Masaai women walking next to the road north in Tanzania. Their necklaces, earrings and bracelets, colourful and shiny, made them visible from miles away in the otherwise brown and grey landscape. A beautiful sight.

The Holy Grail
I was so underdressed. Rose, Jeremiah's grandmother, asked if I didn't have anything else to change into. I tried to explain that I didn't have anything nice to wear as it's not part of 'bicycle touring essentials'. One does not want to carry anything that is not strictly necessary, keeping the weight of the panniers as light as possible. After some discussions with her friend, which I didn't understand a word of, Rose said 'Come with me'. Then the two grannies lent me a dress and necklaces they had made - admitting me into the holy grail of the Masaai. 
I was so happy and felt so included, especially after desperately wanting to take a picture of the ladies next to the road for days, but not being able to without having to pay a stiff price. Many have learned to make money off the interest in their culture. When we returned to the celebrations, everyone was saying 'Wow, you look so nice!'.
The rest of the day, we all sat in the shade, listening to the speeches and singing over the terrible loudspeakers. Topics of dancing and not do drugs. I ended up snoozing with my head on one of the women's lap. I registered someone else put a blanket on me. In the evening when we sat around the fire with the immediate family and I returned the necklaces, I felt that something was missing around my neck. I said I felt empty. Then, completely unexpected, Florence found one of her necklaces in the neighbouring room and just gave it to me! Something to remember her by. As if needed, but so much appreciated! Rose had already given me one of her bracelets that I treasured dearly. It's the act, not the items that are so special to me. What they represent. They asked me if I didn't want to stay another day.

In the morning, after having been served one cup of chai after the other, we said our goodbyes. It was hard to hold the tears back. I couldn't. Who knew that me, Florence, Rose, even Jeremiah, would be all teary eyed, not wanting to say goodbye just 36 hours earlier? I left with so many good wishes!! I doubt I will ever see them again. I will however always, always remember them and feel so incredibly lucky and grateful for having met them. So much that I can't see what I'm typing anymore. This is the beauty of bicycle touring. The openess. Randomness. Discovery. Spontaneity. And love, actually.


Cape to Kapp: Rough roads and Lion Tracks in Tanzania

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. 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 fifth journal entry for us)

The route I end up taking across the continent on my Soma Saga is a result of the rough plan I made before I started cycling and information I gott along the way, often from random people I meet. Tanzania was meant to be one of two countries in Africa were I would just cycle through. There were no places that I wanted to explore that I had not been before. The plan was to take the shortest route to Nairobi. That would have been along one of the country's most heavily trafficked roads. There are no lack of fatal accidents here. Friends of mine have come across cyclists on this stretch that have been unlucky. I got word of another route, a route a bit further west. Apparently, the traffic was significantly less here and the scenery was stunning. BUT most of this stretch was not paved. After having done the first kilometer on this dirt road one late afternoon, I seriously wondered what in the world I had embarked on. Was it too late to turn around? That night, there was heavy thunder and lightning.

Adjustments and New Challenges
The following day can be summarised in the following words; gravel, sand, rocks, washboard, and bump after bump. My bike and panniers have never been shaken or rattled as much and on a couple of occasions, involuntary words and sounds escaped my mouth in pure frustration and anger. Yes, it is possible to get angry at a road. There was nothing to do but adjust my mindset! No way I was gonna be able to do 100km in a day. Maximum 50. After accepting that the next 400km were going to take me twice as much time and require double the amount of work (at least), I felt better. Besides, that evening I got other things to think about when my random host for the night told me that up ahead was a stretch with lions. How much fun! What is a bumpy road in light of this? That night, I was served ugali (East Africa's "potato" - a stiff maize flour dough) and buffalo meat! The buffalo was killed with a spear, I was told! A few days later when I camped in the compound of a park ranger that was part of an anti-poaching squad, I learned that that buffalo was most likely illegally hunted. Everyone, regardless of nationality, must have a permit to kill game in Tanzania. It is very interesting given that traditionally, many ethnic groups in Tanzania have made a living by hunting game, and some still depend on doing it today to make things go around. That evening I was also served a cup of cow milk-- as fresh as it gets-- straight from the cow. It warmed my hands when I wrapped them around the plastic cup.

 Breakfast! Chapati and chai. This lady gave me some extra maandazi (similiar to a donut, just not as sweet) for the road.

Lion Country
Over the next couple of days of cycling I tried to find out more about the 'lion situation'. I received so much conflicting information! Some looked appalled when I told them I considered cycling through this area alone while others said hakuna matata! No problem! 
When there is so much uncertainty, how can one make the right choice? Should I get an escort? Or just cycle? Jump on a bus even though I really want to cycle the whole day...? At one stage I cried with the thought of encountering a lion. It's a terrible feeling, being afraid to die. To be eaten by a lion.

When I reached where lion territory presumably started I was still not sure what to do. The plan was to make some final inquires in the last village that bordered this area. I cycled past a few houses. Thought this can't be the village, so I continued. Soon, it was just me and the red coloured dirt road again. Trees on both sides and silence. No people. And there... in the middle of the road I suddenly discovered lion tracks. As if a button had been pushed, my heart started racing. The adrenaline pumped through my body like there was no day tomorrow. All my senses were heightened, alert and ready. I got off the bike. I've been told to NEVER run from a lion. You must look her or him in the eyes, make yourself big (have I not mentioned that I'm quite small?), make loud sounds. Make the lion believe that you are bigger and stronger - even though fear is seaping out of your every pore. I could see that the tracks were not super fresh, but it doesn't matter. You are still terrified. TERRIFIED. I had my back against the bike, scanned the terrain. Every bush, every stump. Every rock. 360 degrees, non-stop, searching for a lion. I had my pepperspray hanging around my neck. My knife easily accessible. The DIY flamethrower in my hands - a tip from another cyclist. Lions are afraid of fire.

Who knows how long I stood like this. I didn't see a living creature. No cars or motorcycles that  I could cycle along with. I could not stand like this forever. 

What should I do? Cycle back to the houses I had passed? Keep on going to the next village?

 I ended up turning around. It was three kilometers of backtracking vs 13km to the next civilization. I felt a huge sense of relief when I spotted the houses again. I felt even better when I found a guy who was willing to come with me through 'the lion stretch'. He escorted me with his machete on his hip, a torch and umbrella on the back of his bike and complained that I cycled too fast. No lions. Only monkeys. Who knows, maybe it would have been fine without an escort? Perhaps I could have saved that expense? At the end of the day, it was actually really nice with some company.  
My escort thru lion country.

Welcome to Tanzania! Crossing the border.


Tanzania turned out very differently than planned. It was here I felt that I really got into the rhythm of bicycle touring, no doubt due to the route I ended up taking. The typical African dirt road. The colours. Thunder. Afternoon showers. The warmth and hospitality I was met with after a day's cycle. The best chai (tea). Chapati. Beans. All the rattling. The dust. The lions. The strive on the rough road. The tears. Perhaps all the hardships made the times were everything was flowing freely, the road was smooth (kind of) and fun to ride, the meetings with people were sincere and rewarding even better?
Nothing beats surfing on top of wet sand in the middle of the road, avoiding the streams of water on both sides right after a rain shower. The air and smells are so fresh! The sky so blue. Yellow butterflies fly infront of my wheel like dolphins swim and jump infront of moving boats. I'm smiling. Am happy. Free. Have a sence of achievement. Soon enough the heat will return and the tsetse flies will start biting again... so just enjoy;-)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Got A New Riff to Show You! ( And the B-Side Name is Retired)

We came up with the B-Side name mainly to help Kirk Pacenti create buzz for 650B as a new mountain bike tire standard. We weren't alone on using puns: Carver Bikes had the Killer B and Haro had the Beasely. But that was over 10 years ago and we feel the name doesn't suit the times anymore. Our main reasons for thinking this?

1) MTB tire makers in their wisdom have chosen to put "27.5" on their sidewalls-- instead of using the original name 650B.

2) On a 45 record, side A had the song you bought the record for. The B-Side usually had a weaker track no one cared about. But now the 27.5" tire size is a huge hit on its own. So it hardly fits the role of the other tire size no one cares about.

We are making some significant changes to the frame this year, so it is as good a time as any to work in a new name.

So we give you the Riff (another music-themed name, a practice we started back in 2001 with the Groove).

New Features:
  • IRD Broski sliding dropouts 
  • New sizing and longer geometry
  • 34.9mm seat tube to fit more models of dropper posts
  • Dropper post internal routing on seat tube
  • Paint: Pelham Blue, a classic color for electric guitars
What stays the same?
  • Still is a trail-oriented hardtail frame designed for 120mm (or 100mm) travel forks and 27.5" wheels
  • Fits 27.5" tires up to 2.8" without needing Boost parts 
  • Belt drive option available
  • Tange Prestige heat-treated CrMo steel tubing.
  • Can handle 1-1/8" steerers as well as tapered steerers by using different lower headset assemblies
  • Can take a front derailleur 

The Juice, our 29er hardtail, adopts the same new features and sizing scheme as well; however the Juice goes from SM to XL, while the Riff goes from XS to LG. Paint: Battleship Gray.
Geometry charts included below.

First production to arrive early June 2018.
Models will be added to the website next month

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cape To Kapp: Peculiarities

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. 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 fourth journal entry for us)

When traveling in a country different to one's own, certain things one come across might seem peculiar - to say the least. When cycling, because you meet people you most likely otherwise would not meet and travel on roads you otherwise would not find yourself on, one is likely to discover more things that make one scratch one's head, laugh out loud or get chills down the spine...

For instance, the other day a conversation topic turned to names. What do people call their kids in Malawi? I don't find strange names like Gift, Precious, Memory, Admire and the likes, but what I learned is that there's a new trend in what to name kids - namely after new technologies. 
Now, you have kids running around called Machine, Internet,  or Headset! My absolute favorite is Missed Call!! Although Call Me Back comes pretty close too!

Another thing that may to many seem weird or incomprehensible is the level of superstition that exists in some of these countries. I was reminded of it one late evening, sitting on a cement porch, 40km short of the border between Zambia and Malawi.
That afternoon I 'pulled in' at a Maize depot, asking if I could pitch my tent for the night. It was a first for the guys working there, but they said "Yes. Of course!" The security guard that was going to be there that night showed me where to erect my tent and invited me to join him for dinner. 
"No. Thank you." I said.  

He insisted, saying I should save my pasta and can of baked beans for the next day. Even though I really wanted my delicious carbs and protein (mmmm), there was something about this man that made me feel like I could not say no. So, when the sun had set and everything was covered by the dark, I found myself eating nshima and eggs (with a bit of a crunch) on his cement porch in the flickering candlelight. We talked about everything and anything. He told me I had just missed one of the biggest traditional celebrations in the country– a festival where people from all over– the president included– come to see... The Masked Men's Dance. 

"When they put on their masks," my host told me, "they take on a different persona. They become animals."

But this is not the only time these men wear masks he continued. They are part of a group, a group that recruits members in the rural villages. Boys between the age of 12 and 15. They are being taken away for months at a time, schooled in the rules of the group at a remote graveyard. Why? Because the kids that do not graduate end up six feet under. Here they are  introduced to black magic. Seeing men being cut 'bleed' honey and buzzing bees. Putting fellow aspiring graduates in a bag. Tying it and beating it with a stick until it's red. Opening the bag and seeing their friend jump out without a bruise. Certainly no blood. 

There are rules for which roads people are allowed to use. If they find someone on one of the roads that people are not suppose to be travelling on, they will take them  and make them part of the group - that is if you know you're not suppose to be travelling on this road. But what about if you don't know? Like me? When I'm cycling? My host said that these people are both good and bad. Good in the sense that they won't do anything to you, if you are not aware of being on the 'wrong' road. They will even help you along.

It's a secret group. No one is suppose to know who its members are. They do not address each other by name or refer to each other in a way that means that they know who the others are. And here I am sitting alone with this guy, whose telling me all this, only able to see the white in his eyes and his teeth in the weak light from the candle. Then he leans in,  looks me in the eyes  and says "I am one of them". I suspected it all along. There was something about him. 
'You're not suppose to tell meeee!' I jokingly exclaimed. 
Then he laughed and took it back, leaving a bit of uncertainty with regards to the truth... The next day, as I got back on my Soma Saga, he wished me a safe trip... Needless to say, I never saw him again, or any masked men...