Monday, October 17, 2022

Meet the Adventure-Ready Soma Jawbone

Over the years, we at Soma have been truly amazed at how the modern bicycle has allowed all types of folks to travel the across continents and be immersed and mesmerized by the great outdoors even as much of humanity is often living in more and more in urban and suburban sprawl. Whether you enjoy the camaraderie of a weekend bikecamping trip or are hooked on doing week-long solo adventures, we salute you. And your passion encourages us to build better tools for the experience.

While our popular Wolverine monster cross frame and our Juice and Riff hardtails are super-capable for the majority of cyclotourists and bikepackers, we recognize there are many of you - after being out a different trips on different terrain and riding different bikes - find themselves wanting more of one thing and maybe less of another. 

Basic idea: A drop bar bikepacking/touring bike that fits true mountain bike width tires (up to 29 x 2.25" and 27.5 x 2.6" with decent mud clearance -- depending on frame size and drivetrain choice). 

Why would I try this over using a Wolverine, a gravel or CX bike for bikepacking?
- More stability while loaded thanks to a longer wheelbase and slightly stiffer design
- Tackle more rugged conditions with fatter tires 
- More three pack mounts

Why would I try this over a Juice or Riff or other hardtail frame for bikepacking?
- You don't think you need a suspension fork and you want to run drop bars
- Slightly lighter in weight
- More room in the front triangle for gear
- More responsive handling on asphalt 
- More sizes for better fit
- Geometry has higher stack to make it easier to use the drops on drop bars

Why would I try this over a Saga Touring Frame or similar heavy duty touring frame?
- Not super stiff, so still enjoyable to ride off-road unloaded or to commute on.
(We don't tout the Jawbone as a traditional touring frame, but it can do the job, if you can live without a kickstand.)

While it seems the Jawbone might be simply a mash between the Wolverine and the Juice, the geometry is designed from a clean slate. Stack is higher than either to make it easier to build a bike where the riders can more comfortably run drops high enough so the drops are more practical to use. This also creates a large space in the triangle for frame bags and gear. Please look carefully at the geometry chart when selecting a size, even if you have owned a Wolverine or Saga before.


The Jawbone is offered in two versions. 

The A-Type is for those who feel a simpler design with less moving parts makes for a more reliable, thus better touring bike. It also adopts more current standards like thru-axles, which offer a stiffer connection to the wheel.

The B-Type is for those who like to tinker and appreciates practical bells and whistles. The Broski thru-axles allow to run the bike with derailleurs or geared hubs like Rohloff and if either fails on a trip, it can be run as a single speed. The sliders on the B-Type allow you shorten the chainstay to 435mm for a sportier ride or 455mm for a more stable ride.
The B-Type maintains compatibility with QR wheels standard. We know there are quite a few of you who find QR wheels quite reliable for long distance touring and gravel. It is the technology you know and it is still easy to find and cheap to replace.

Find out more at

Optional fork for A-Type:
Steve Potts Type II-R MTB fork. Unique looks. Note: Unlike the frame having flat mount ,
the fork has an IS mount. This makes it easier to run a 180mm rotor, if that is your choice.

Optional fork for B-Type:
Simple efficient unicrown design. Has three-pack mounts angling rear and front.
Plus dedicated pannier rack mount on inside and outside the leg.

Jawbone B-Type Build (Size 54cm)

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The Soma Gullwing Bar: The Answer to One of the Most Asked Questions on Bike Forums

There are inventions from the 20th century that - when you first look at them - you aren't sure whether they are super cool or a little wacky. The "gullwing" feature on 1950's era Mercedes 300SL is one of those inventions. Of course some of these 300SL's go for over a million dollars to collectors and then there is the Delorean and the new Tesla, so maybe cool has won out.

The Soma Gullwing Bar is definitely going to get second glances like those vintage Mercedes, because of its unusual look and questionable purpose. It is essentially a flat bar designed to allow you to run drop bar STI levers. 

Bike forums are full of threads asking how to run road "brifters" on flat, riser, moustache and pursuit bars and full of threads where valiant cyclists have tried, but the results were usually between "less than ideal" and "more than a little entertaining". So we kind of knew what we were getting into releasing this in the States.
This bar was actually designed by our Japanese distributor and they asked us whether we would like to sell it here. (They also designed our 1st gen Condor Bar)

It does address the bar diameter needed to install a brifter and adds a bend so the lever doesn't bottom out against the bar. And it looks kind of sleek if you forget that the levers are oriented not the usual way, especially on current STI's.

The bar has a 30mm rise and comfortable 25ÂȘ back sweep. Harder to see in photos is the 7° drop at the grips which suits a semi-aggressive ride position and puts your wrists in a better angle to operate the levers. 

The brake lever hoods can be used as a secondary place to rest your hands and to get more aero. Hood position feels similar to a 38cm road bar, which is fine, since this is not meant to be the primary hand position. It's more of a position to get a little aero.

Grip section is 22.2mm OD, so you can either run MTB grips or bar tape.

Straight section near the clamp is 110mm wide, which gives some room for accessories or possibly aero bars.

Lastly how comfortable it is depends on how high your stem is already and how close the bars are. The levers would normally be mounted at a flat angle, so for your fingers to activate the shift paddles it is best if your forearms are at nearly parallel angle to the levers (zero to 20 degrees). Any higher an angle and some of you may experience tension in arms or fingers over time. Get the set-up right and you should get more braking leverage than you get from braking from the hoods on your drop bar.

If you are moving away from your drops primarily to sit more upright, you may still want to add a stem with rise. (The Gullwing has a 30mm rise, but that isn't a ton) 

BUT if your goal is to add steering control and stability to your gravel bike that you sometimes ride singletrack with, the Gull Wing could be the perfect choice, if you don't want to buy new flat bar shifters.

Designed in Japan by Tokyo San Esu.

• Width: 620mm
• Center: 31.8mm OD
• Material: 6061-T6 Aluminum
• Rise: 30mm (with 7° down slope at grips)
• Backsweep: 25°
• Grip OD: 22.2mm
• Lever mounting area OD: 23.8mm
• Weight: 290g

*** Not feasible to use with Campagnolo Ergo levers, L-Twoo, or other models where one of the shifters is on the inboard side of the lever.

New Alt Bars: Soma Clarence II and Hwy 17


With long-distance gravel events and bikepacking continuing to gain popularity, Soma has decided to add functionality and comfort to two of their most popular handlebars, the Highway One and the Clarence.

These bars will be sold with custom-designed extensions under the names Highway 17 and Clarence II.

The extensions can be angled up/down just like other bar ends or extensions, BUT also allows the customer freely rotate the horns to fine-tune their set up to suit individual needs. Soma will look into adding horns of different shapes to the lineup after gathering customer feedback.  



Clarence II and Cletus Combo Bar:

The Clarence is has a 34° backsweep for a natural feeling grip angle, but its forward bend  keeps the bar from shrinking the cockpit, if you are coming from a common riser bars. However those bends also makes it hard to mount lights and GPS units.
The Cletus extensions, designed especially for the Clarence, allows space for accessories or to use the area as a hand rest. Additionally if you flip the extensions left to right and rotate the horns, you can use them as forward facing grips when the cyclist wants to reduce wind resistance or stretch their back on those long rides. The Cletus extensions have oversized clamps to make them easier to negotiate around the curves during installation. And you slip two-piece shims under the clamps when you ready to lock them in.

Specs: 6061 T-6 aluminum, 31.8mm center, 670mm wide, Weight with extensions: 600g

Price: $119.99 (reflects supply chain issues)


Hwy 17 with Road Extensions:
The Hwy One bar is our compact bend road bar with 130mm drop and 75mm reach. It has a single groove for cables. The Hwy 17’s extensions (like the Cletus) have oversized clamps to make it easier to negotiate around the curves during installation. And you slip two-piece shims under the clamps when you ready to lock them in. Depending on what hand position the cyclist prefers they can rotate the horns to form a loop or have them point almost straight out – whatever position is more aero or produces less muscle tension and still lets you feel in control of the bicycle.


Specs: 6061 T-6 aluminum, 31.8mm center, 38 to 46cm wide, Weight with extensions: 610g

Price: $149.99 (reflects supply chain issues)

Sorry. The extensions are not being sold as a separate component.

We will consider that possibility later. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The Smoothie HP: New "High Protein" Endurance Road Frame

Our Smoothie road performance frame model is as old as the Soma brand itself. It started out with a classic looking level top tube design and a curved unicrown fork. The tubes were a combination of Reynolds 631 and 4130 butted chromoly . It was an affordably-priced, solid road frame aimed at commuters as much as at seasoned road cyclists.

First generation Smoothie. 2001

Later iterations included a semi-compact geometry, lugged steel and carbon fork options and of course upgrading to a lighter Tange Prestige heat-treated chromoly. But the intent of the frame has never changed. Its designers never sought to make it the "most agile"or "most innovative" or promised podium finishes at your local crit. The Smoothie was just meant to be a competent and versatile road bike with smooth-riding steel tubeset. 

Reaching Higher
Initially we were just going to put disc mounts on the Smoothie and call it a day, but the project soon came to focus is on utilizing some of Tange's more premium Prestige Japan tubes and adding more modern road bike touches. It morphed into a High Performance version of the original Smoothie (i.e. a "High Protein" Smoothie). 
The Smoothie HP uses the thinnest walled tubes of any frame in our line up, but in oversized 34.9mm and 38.1mm diameters (depending on the frame size). Those tubes and the oversized tapered chainstays (32x18mm oval) promise to increase pedaling stiffness and responsiveness. Lastly an ovalized top tube was specced to add back in vertical compliance that might be lost with the use of the fatter down tubes, but since the tube becomes wider horizontally when ovalized, it also adds a bit of torsional stiffness.

Though optimized for 700c x 26-28mm wide tires,
both fork and frame will accept some 35mm tires.
Yes, that is a hole in the crown for mounting a rim brake.
Why? Because there are always a couple of you out of a hundred
who will ask whether your brand new disc brake frame will fit rim brakes.
Never fails. Frame and fork should fit 57mm reach road calipers. 

Photos are of a prototype. Production frames will not have so many bosses on the seatstay.

Horizontally ovalized top tube helps with lateral stiffness
and vertical compliance, but the HP is meant to have a snappier, stiffer feel
than the rim-brake Smoothie.

We wanted the high stack of an endurance road frame, but with a shorter wheelbase than our Fog Cutter and most current endurance road frames. Except for sloping top tube, we wanted a "tried and true" road geometry, so seasoned riders don't have to adapt to something novel. We avoided slackening the headtube and raking out the fork to restore "racing bike" trail numbers, which some performance brands have been doing. This we hope results in confident handling on fast descents and a responsiveness that many cyclists will enjoy.

Modern Yet Old School:
Modern touches include flat mount disc compatibility, thru-axles, ED rust-proofing coating, and a 44mm headtube. 
Traditional and utilitarian touches include a BSA threaded BB shell, fender eyelets, external cable routing for less hassle during maintenance time, and down tube shifter bosses. These are not necessarily the features that win you style points on club rides, but nods to practicality and backwards compatibility have always been part of Soma's DNA.

Who Do We Think This Frame Is For?
• Cyclists who want the responsiveness of a classic road race bike, but with the stack of an endurance road bike.
• Stronger riders and former racers who like to mash hard and who might find bikes like the old Smoothie not stiff enough for their style of riding
• Cyclists that might find lightweight carbon bikes sometimes sketchy-feeling on fast descents. The HP may feel a little more planted while still communicating desirable road feel.
• Fans of steel road bikes

Since we are talking about a frame and not a complete bike, we don't want say too much about what kind of bike the Smoothie HP is.  Your choice of bar, stem and spacers determines how relaxed or racey the ride position will be. Your wheel choice will determine whether it is quick out of the gates or something that keeps its momentum on those long steady rides. As with any Soma it will be as unique as its owner.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Cape to Kapp: My New Definition of "Beauty"


Teresie Hommersand's recently wrapped her "Cape to Kapp" adventure, finishing her ride at the North Cape in Norway. Four years in the saddle, across 25,000 kilometers, through 26 countries. Distance and time are just two of the measures of a journey. Maybe the most memorable parts of any journey are the people you meet along the way and Teresie has made so many friends and have had to rely on the kindness of many many strangers to help her through it.
If you are feeling kind yourself, give a little something to her Stoves That Rock fundraiser that gets efficient, eco-friendly outdoor stoves to families in rural Kenya. Fundraiser ends 7/11/22.
We did not sponsor the Soma Saga frame for her ride, but have been making a donation for each post she writes for us. (All photos copyright Teresie Homersand. Photos on the internet are not automatically public domain)

Too often we are afraid of other people. Not long ago I crossed the finish line at the North Cape in Norway, after having cycled there from the most southern tip of Africa - on my trusty Soma Saga bicycle. Now and en route, I regularly get questions about if I've had any bad experiences on my journey - particularly with people. My ride home took me 4 years and 7 months. Who wouldn't have some negative encounters with people during such a long period of time? HOWEVER, if you consider the way I have traveled, how exposed I have been, how vulnerable, and how many thousands of people I've met, from different countries, different cultures and different religions, the few negative experiences I've had is NOTHING compared to all the POSITIVE ones!

The few negative experiences I've had is NOTHING compared to all the POSITIVE ones!

Before Covid-19 forced me to face my fear of camping alone in nature, I was a bit of a wimp when it comes to it. I wasn't comfortable sleeping alone in nature, even though I knew that in pretty much all cases it is completely fine. But when I heard a sound, and I didn't know what it was, I became alert and often my imagination ran wild with thoughts of someone wanting to do me harm. Needless to say, I didn't sleep very well, and I therefore sought people! So, in the late afternoons, after a day of cycling, and before it got dark, I found a house, knocked on the door and asked if I can put my tent outside in their garden or compound. EVERYBODY has been saying yes! Irrespective of country, culture and religion. Very often they would invite me to join them for dinner, and every time we would sit up until late, talking, learning about each other and the world, connecting, and having the most amazing time ❤️🙏

Menna and her sister and me cycling together in Cairo, Egypt.
She and her amazing family invited me to stay with them for a whole week.
She's also big info promoting cycling for women in Egypt as it's not common,
even discouraged some places.

As in Egypt. I randomly stayed with a family in a tiny village on the banks of the Nile during Ramadan. When I arrived they were about to break the fast and they inviting me to join them. We had the most amazing meal. Eating delicious local and homemade food from a huge tray placed on the floor in the living room. We all gathered around it, eating together with our hands after washing them. Of course. We spent the whole evening laughing and smiling, being curious and interested in each other. Trying to understand what we were saying, me with my limited Arabic, them with their English dictionary. So nice! It was a party! That night I'm pretty sure I slept in one of the sisters' beds. They wouldn't hear of me putting up my tent. 

The next morning I couldn't find my cycle clothing. When I asked it turned out they had taken them and washed them! Then they asked me if I'd like tea before I got back on the bike. I said that that would be very nice. 'Shukran'. I sat and waited for a long time, the cup of tea was taking it's time. I was starting to wonder why. Then when they came, they came with a huge tray of breakfast for me!! They were fasting, yet they gave me food!!!! Accepting and being fine with me not fasting, fine with us not sharing the same religion. Still genuinely caring for me.

More so, in Kenya, a guy that was walking next to the road one day when I was thinking it was time to find a place to stay, invited me to stay with him and his family when I asked where I could put my tent. I followed him through bushes and over a few small hills, on a dirt path. More like a trail. Then we got to what turned out to be a tiny Maasai village. His wife Florence didn't know I was coming until she saw me but welcomed me with open arms and the biggest smile, literally from the first second! 

In the evening we sat around the indoor fire, drinking the best milk tea, eating beans, their curious cousins that came asking me if I like drinking cow blood, my thoughts on communism vs capitalism! We had such a good time that I couldn't say no to their invitation of staying one more day to join the village celebrating two youths passing their exams! Goats were slaughtered, chapatis were made, huuuuge pots were being pulled out to cater for everyone that came. It was a grand celebration! Everyone so beautifully dressed up in their traditional clothing. Me in the only t-shirt and loose pants I had. 

The granny Rose and I had a special connection. She didn't speak a single word of English, me a few words of Swahili, yet we were communicating at a different level! She asked me if I didn't have anything else to wear? No... She leaned over to another granny and then they said 'Come with us'. They dressed me up as a Maasai! My secret dream! Wow! When we returned to the party, everybody turned their heads, saying how beautiful I was! Haha! Speeches, dancing, FOOD! I was so warmly welcomed and included by everybody. At one point I fell asleep in one of the ladies' lap. I registered that someone put a blanket over me. Caring for me. What a day! 

Jeremiah and Florence and me dressed in traditional Maasai wear

In the evening we were all changing back to our everyday clothing, me returning the beautiful necklaces and bracelets. Without a thought I said I felt empty, that something was missing around my neck. Florence went into the neighboring room. She came back with a necklace. 'This is for you'. For me, this was the ultimate symbol of inclusion!!! I cried when we said our goodbyes. We all did. Everybody saying that they wish that I will one day come back. The grandmother. Rose. I don't know who cried the most, me or her. I walked away, pushing my bike, with tears in my eyes.

This is not even the tip of the iceberg of stories I can tell about the people I've met. I feel like I'm stating the obvious, that I shouldn't have to say this, but we're all the same. We have the same needs, the same wants. We all just want to be happy and included, loved. But we so often forget this when constantly being exposed to the news which solely focuses on the sensational and negative and are often taking things out of context and not telling the whole story. Often in society there's also negative perceptions about certain groups of people that feeds into this discourse, creating distance and misunderstandings between us. In the end, it only hurts us, prevents us from profound and beautiful meetings.

Beauty can be defined in several ways, but what I've come to know as THE definition is this; the love between strangers

Beauty can be defined in several ways, but what I've come to know as THE definition is this; the love between strangers. Countless times I've rocked up at someone's home. We don't speak the same language. I look different. Maybe I'm dirty and a little bit stinky after riding on a gravel road the whole day. Yet people take me in. My first winter in Turkey I didn't sleep outside a single night. When I asked to put my tent outside of people's homes they said it's way too cold to sleep outside, and invited me in, preparing a warm bed for me, shower and food! I don't know what this is, this care, this kindness, generosity, warmth and actually love between strangers. Strangers who at a first glance seem very different. But I genuinely cannot think of anything else in this world that is more beautiful than exactly this. I cycled because of our climate and wanting to reduce my carbon footprint, but not only did the said love enrich the experience, my life, to a previously unimaginable level - it also made this journey possible. Without "strangers" love, my heart would not have been full and I would not have been able to cycle 25,000 kilometers. I'm forever grateful and humbled.

Family in Turkey who let me sleep in their home.

 Friends I made in Haifa, Israel, at the annual event
'The Holiday of Holidays'. It's a celebration of the holidays
of the three main religions in the Haifa; Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Hanukkah, Christmas and Eid al-Adha to be exact.
The event is intended to encourage the values of coexistence
and mutual respect of all religions in the city
and celebrate the cultural and religious diversity

A fantastic family in South Africa who took me under their roof
during a very cold winter night in the southern hemisphere

A boy offered me plums when I got to the top of a mountain in Tanzania. 
Such a welcome sight after a tiring climb.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The Path Less Pedaled Channel Reviews our Grand Randonneur Disc Frame


Russ Roca's Path Less Pedaled channel embraces the non-competitive side of bicycle riding...especially touring and gravel riding.
We sent him a 49cm partially built bike with gearing he is partial to on his rides in Missoula. We weren't able to get him a set of wheels, but Russ was nice enough to swap in DT Swiss set off of his personal Crust rig. With the wider 50mm tires Russ used, the trail number was about 41mm. Trail can be low as 34mm depending on the tire and frame size you get. For comparison, the average trail on a performance road bike is 55-60mm. 

Check out the video to see what he thinks of the GR as a road bike and gravel bike.

The Grand Randonneur Disc is one of our most unique frame offerings. Its tubing is skinnier than our other 700c frames. It is designed for 650b tires, not 700c. It requires a quill stem, which is consider antiquated by some. But it is also designed for more wet weather capable disc brakes and modern thru-axle hubs. 

Even with the updates, it still aims to replicate the classic randonneur bicycle with its low trail geometry(higher fork offset) designed to carry a front rack bag or bar bag efficiently and comfortably on randonnĂ©es -- timed, but not competitive, long distance, self-supported road ride events. While these events have unique rules and restrictions, these days you can ride just about ANY road-capable bike you choose. It doesn't have to be steel or look vintage. Your gear doesn't have to be carried in the front. The bike you choose can have rim brakes or disc brakes.

So does that mean the classic rando bike is obsolete?
Hardly. We think it is an awesome day-ride set up where you carry snacks, small lunch, rainshell and other gear in a front bag which gives easy access without dismounting your bike. And with the Grand Randonneur's low trail geometry, this set-up works exceptionally well. That is not to say normal road bikes cannot carry a front load safely and efficiently with practice, but on the Grand Randonneur steering with a front load is less jerky and more pleasant.

Some highlights of the review:
- Found the 1" headtube/quill stem set added some comfortable flex over common 1-1/8" headtube/threadless stem set ups
- Low trail handling not as noticeable as on other low trail bikes he's owned/tested.
- Low trail handling was noticeable on climbs where the steering wandered less than higher trail bikes.
- "The perfect road bike (not racing bike) for most people"

Disclaimer: Soma sent the bike at no charge to The Path Less Pedaled. The Path Less Pedaled does not take payment for reviews. Soma does offer a store discount to "Team Supple" Patreon supporters of the Path Less Pedaled channel.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Cape to Kapp: Prejudices Everywhere (Kindness Too)

Teresie Hommersand's recently wrapped here Cape to Kapp, finishing her ride at the North Cape in Norway. Four years in the saddle, across 25,000 kilometers, through 26 countries. Distance and time are just two of the measures of a journey. Maybe the most memorable parts of any journey are the people you meet along the way and Teresie has made so many friends and have had to rely on the kindness of many many strangers to help her through it. So much welcoming and blessing. Yet she has also observed how often people have negative opinions of people in neighboring countries and cultures. (All photos copyright Teresie Homersand)

On this extended journey, I've gained experiences and developed perspectives that I'm sure I otherwise could not get. That's how unique traveling by bike is.

One of the recurring experiences is I've am often been warned by the locals in the country I am in about the country I am about to go to. 
"Oooooo, you have to be so careful. The people there are not good."
"Something bad can easily happen."
"Sudan!? Ai, ai ai!"
"Turkey? Oh my. You know what happened to this tourist when she was hitchhiking alone through Turkey? She was raped and killed!'

The last person I met before crossing the border to Albania, a Greek man who offered me water, told me nothing new: 'They'll steal all your stuff!'. 

"Crazy lady!!! There are a lot of seriously dangerous things in Afrique!"

As I've reached further and further north, the warnings and comments have been less about my safety, and more about that the people in the neighbouring country being not that nice. Not that friendly. 
"Good luck knocking on someone's door in Austria!"
"I doubt you'll find much warmth in Germany."

Needless to say, I have been welcomed and found warmth EVERYWHERE. 
In every country, in every culture, in every religion. 
By 90 year old Austrian grandmother's (treating me to their family wine and perfected apfelstrudel). 
By Muslim families (who during Ramadan gave me food although they were fasting and without me asking or fishing for it in any way). 
By Maasais in Kenya (that invited me to join them and the village in celebrating a boy and girl's graduation and circumcision). 
By Beduins in Egypt (sitting together, sharing a meal on a large straw mat under the stars in the desert). 
By families in Albania (where the kids were teaching me Albanian and the adults insisting on me sleeping inside instead of camping outside). 
By Ethiopian mothers (handing me freshly baked bread to take with me on the journey forward). 
By Sudanese men (thanking me for coming to Sudan to see want it's actually like). 
By a Bosnian hotel owner (offering me a hotel room without me insinuating anything, saying it's not nice to camp outside in the cold and rain). I've been met with care and love everywhere. How sad we think something different is the case.

Why do we think we are nice, but "other people" are not?

Prejudice means 'a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience'. How often do we act based on this? Not that long ago when I was posting about my journey in a sailing group on Facebook as part of trying to find a lift with a sailboat over to Sweden someone commented 'Crazy lady!!! There are a lot of seriously dangerous things in Afrique!' This way of thinking and speaking is so common. It's engrained. I'm also guilty of this. Discriminating and creating distance between people. Hurting ourselves and others in doing so. LIMITING ourselves and others.

If anything, this journey has been the biggest reminder and final confirmation of what your neighbour is actually like!

Needless to say, I have been welcomed and found warmth EVERYWHERE. In every country, in every culture, in every religion.

Our Dream Riser Bikepacking Handlebar Gets Some Siblings


The original Dream Riser Bar hit a chord with bike packers and other riders with its comfortable 25° sweep, which not only keeps your controls away from a big handlebar bag, but just feels very natural. It also had an unusual 50mm rise to help get the bars up, which is sometimes better for all day exploration.

The two new versions are significantly different.

• The Dream Lowdown has a 20° backsweep and 25mm rise. The rise is very common. The backsweep still noticeably more natural feeling than the average 9° backsweep riser.

• The Dream High-Rise has a 30° backsweep and an "up there" 70mm rise. A strong contender for turning old mountain bikes with their low stacks into more upright and practical get around town bikes.

A modern 780mm width. Trim if needed.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Cape To Kapp: Reflecting on Sexism on the Road and Her Own Socialized Views on Gender

Teresie Hommersand finished her multi-year trek from South Africa to Norway this month to spectacular joy and feelings she couldn't quite put into words. She wrote this piece for us before that focusing on some of the things that pretty much wiped the perma-smile off her face and made her feel small and alone. Initially you wouldn't think this could not happen to a woman who has already braved solo-biking in long stretches of deserts, among lions and other wild beasts and meeting scores of strangers in several African countries. But journeys like this are never always epic and soul-expanding. When you explore other countries enough, you will always find cultures have things to appreciate as well as things that are not so worth praising.

 Born and raised in Norway, I never gave much thought to me being a woman. I didn't feel like it defined me. Like how did it influenced my decisions, my options. It certainly was not part of my considerations when embarking on this low carbon journey, cycling mostly alone from the southernmost tip of Africa to the northernmost top of Europe. I've considered myself pretty aware of gender equality and inequality, but on this diverse journey I've also learned that I really was not.

The first time I really experienced and understood that your gender affects how people behave towards you was at a police station in Sudan. I was camping there and had a really nice time with the staff. I also had to repair a puncture. I withdrew to the back of the building to get some peace and quiet while doing it. I took the tube out of the tyre, pumped it up, found the hole, marked it, and wanted to get the air out of the tube again so I could patch it. An elderly man, a friend of the police, came out to watch or "help"me. When I pressed the tube against my body to squeeze the air out, as I always do, the man move to help squeeze the air out of the tube but he really ended up pressing against my upper body, touching my breast. And then his hand touch my groin next where my tube was kind of hanging down.

When you're reading this I'm sure it's pretty obvious what's going on here. But in that moment, when it actually happened, I did not. It was so sneaky. Disguised as a friendly or helpful gesture. I just had a very nice conversation with this person. The touch is brief and it's all so confusing with the tube everywhere. Was it an honest mistake? Did he really intend to do it? Did he do it? Are my senses wrong? My shocked brain has trouble processing the situation.  I've been brought up that one should not make false accusations or jump to conclusions. Certainly not when it comes to something as serious as sexual harassment. You better be 200% sure before pointing a finger. I am in a foreign country with a culture I don't have a strong grasp of, so I need to tread carefully.

At other times there's no doubt like when I was cycling on a road  in Egypt in the middle of the afternoon. A guy on a motorcycle came from behind, slowed down to my pace, came up to next to me, and without saying a word grabbed my breast. I was cycling! Like most people, I've read about sexual harassment and rape, empathizing with the people who experience it, but sadly you actually don't understand until you experience it yourself. The initial and complete shock. I'm sure my mouth was gaping out of disbelief. I knew what had just happened, but couldn't believe it. Then I felt violated, deeply and horribly violated. Something I've never felt before. I felt disgusted about myself, even though I'd done nothing wrong. I felt small. Sad. Terribly sad. Misunderstood. That what just happened was so unfair. And there was nothing I could do, nothing I could say. He just zoomed away on his motorcycle, leaving me there. And then it turned into rage. Pure rage. I was furious!!!!!!!! My adrenaline pumping. I'm sure I had smoke coming out of my ears! I'm not kidding. I've never felt like this before.

Not feeling that I could be my natural cheery self, not feeling free; yet at the same time needing that meaningful and genuine human connection to be happy.

When I crossed the border to Jordan on my bicycle, I observed I wasn't myself. It was a new country, normally I would be excited, looking forward to all the new things to explore, but instead I wary. After three months of cycling through Egypt with almost daily unwanted encounters where I would be objectified and sexualized in varying degrees, I had built up defensive walls to protect myself. And I expected some of the gender norms in Egypt to be the same in Jordan. I felt like I couldn't be myself. Because the behavior I was brought up to think of as "warm and friendly" seemed to many others an invitation for sexual advances. This was hard – cycling alone with these high walls. Not feeling that I could be natural cheery self, not feeling free, yet at the same time needing that meaningful and genuine human connection to be happy. The thought of men alone could almost make me vomit. I had it up to here with them. I didn't dare to look them in the eyes on the street. One of my first evenings in Jordan I was walking to the supermarket and happened to come by a mosque just after prayer. Men were flocking out of there and down the large stairs onto the street, and I felt awful, just wanting to get away. Feeling like they were all looking at me, objectifying me, sexualizing me. I felt disgusted by myself, because of their presumed thoughts and judgements of me.

With that said, I'm sure not all of these men had these thoughts and judgements. Same for men in Egypt. It's very important for me to say that I also had an absolutely incredible time in Egypt. Something I would never wanna change for the world, and both fantastic men and women are a big part of making me feel this way. In every country there's a minority that sexually harass, but I do believe that in some countries this minority is larger than in others. 

Copyright Teresie Hommersand

I also had an interesting experience when joining Egyptian friends for a holiday area called the North Coast. It's almost like a free haven with almost completely different social and gender norms than elsewhere in the country. After seeing covered up women for the last six months and being covered up myself, here I was surprised to see women hanging out with guys on the streets, wearing close to nothing. I genuinely was! Even though I've grown up with western norms, now I was the one silently judging these women. It was a very interesting experience and in a way I feel like I got an insight into how one can judge, objectify and sexualize women to the point where we think of them as less than equals and that there's an opportunity or open invitation for sex. I'm not excusing them, far from it, but I think I can understand, if this is what you're socialized into believing.

Copyright Teresie Hommersand

Crossing the border to Israel and again being in a country with largely similar gender roles to what I'm used to, I could relax and be myself again. What a relief! But I noticed I've changed. Standing at the counter at a cafĂ©, ordering pizza for friends, a guy next to me started talking to me. After all the sexual attention and advances I've encountered in Egypt, I now can recognize if someone was coming on to me. This guy was definitely 'too friendly'. At one point he put his hand on my shoulder in a concealed friendly gesture. I instantly reacted to it! I felt super uncomfortable, thinking this is not ok. Before, I would not have reacted like this. I would most likely not have given it any thought. And if anyone's advancement did make me feel uncomfortable I would never say stop, but rather try to get away without being confrontational. Maybe smile and laugh and say I'd have to go to the toilet, but not come back. That is what I have been socialized to accept and to do as a girl. 

At one point, the female character allows the male character to drive her sports car. Seeing him behind the wheel, I caught myself thinking he looks so much better behind the steering wheel than her. 

While in Israel I also ended up staying with two absolutely amazing guys. One evening we watched an absolutely brilliant and super important French movie on Netflix called 'I Am Not an Easy Man'. It's all about gender roles, and in the movie stereotypical gender roles are cleverly reversed. It left me and my new friends questioning our identify. So much can be said about it, but one of my main take- aways is how it broadened my understanding of the degree to what we are all heavily socialized to think and act according to our socially constructed gender. A tiny example: At one point, the female character allows the male character to drive her sports car. Seeing him behind the wheel, I caught myself thinking he looks so much better behind the steering wheel than her. What?!!! Even I, a woman, am thinking this about fellow women.

Lastly and before this becomes too long, all the objectifying and sexual advancements in Egypt have also made me realize that this issue is a lot more common in 'Western' countries or Norway than I previously was aware of. It's just not so obvious at a first glance. This winter for instance I ended up dancing on a table with a small group of people, and suddenly one of the guys slapped my bum in front of everyone standing there. Obviously he thought it was ok, otherwise he wouldn't have done it so everyone could see. And it was definitely a sexual move that was covered up as supposed to be funny. Would he have done it to a guy? And not long ago I stopped at a house asking for water and ended up being invited to stay there for the night by the guy living there. We had such a nice evening and conversation. But then as we were going to sleep he kept on inviting me to sleep in the same room as him instead of on the couch, saying it in a jokingly way. He also took initiative for a hug and held me way longer than I wanted to and felt comfortable with, saying how nice it is to hug again in these Covid-19 days. But actually he was overstepping what's ok to do towards another person. I'd say it's a type of violation. What I'm left with, is that if we are interested in someone, treat them with equal respect and don't make advances and touch them unless they've made it 200% sure that it's something they'd like. If you are not sure, please ask.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Cape to Kapp: Crossing Off "Crossing the Arctic Circle" Off the Bucket List

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 the most southern part of South Africa to the northernmost part of Norway (Capetown, South Africa to Kapp, Norway) and her charity crowdfunding campaign on her Facebook page and Instagram.  She is currently nearing the end of her journey - in Norway above the Arctic Circle. She has been riding a Soma Saga for the entire adventure.

One of my (many) definite highlights to date on my way from the southern tip of Africa to the northern tip of Norway on my Soma Saga, is riding across the Arctic Circle in winter. 

I was so looking forward to it. It's the Arctic Circle after all! The anticipation. Excitement. The unknown. Crossing it cycling across Saltfjellet... The Salt Mountain. 

The actual distance between the two boom barriers at both ends of the upper section of the mountain is only about 40 kilometers. But it's not about the length ;-) It's about what you experience. Why boom barriers? Saltfjellet is notorious for bad weather in winter and the road is often closed or one has to drive in a convoy. 

When I got to the first boom barrier it was already dusk. This far north, the daylight hours are not plentiful. There was a heated waiting room there. For all the times people get stuck on the mountain. It was super toasty, had a bathroom, tables and chairs. Hmmm. Should I stay here for the night? Or camp out in -15°C degrees in the snow? I was really torn. I had actually decided to stay when I got a thought that life is so short. It's the end of winter, it might be one of the last opportunities to camp out in full on winter conditions, and in the future I will have significantly more days of being warm and comfortable inside four walls than camping out. This is a once-in-a-lifetime journey - and opportunity. And so I put on my reflective jacket and fastened my bicycle lights and got on my bike! 

That is, also after being reunited with my snow shovel, haha. Two nights before I stayed with an amazing couple in the last town before Saltfjellet. In the midst of loading my bike and saying our goodbyes, I forgot my snow shovel. Fortunately, by posting on Facebook, a kind guy heading across the mountain by car got in touch, saying he could bring it with. So there, at the boom barrier, I was personally delivered and reunited with my much needed snow shovel. Absolutely amazing and very funny! Now, I was ready for anything! 

What a ride it was, riding under the stars, in the dark, on the mountain. Barely any traffic, just me and the snow clearing vehicle taking its turns. The dark vastness. Feeling encapsulated. At one point the wind picked up, causing snow to consistently being blown across the road in front of me. It was so beautiful. Seeing it in the spotlight from my bicycle light. Like moving white fluff. And the said snow clearing vehicle. Seeing it appear in the dark in the distance. A small dot of white and yellow blinking lights in the dark. The art it creates in its slipstream. Snow swirling everywhere and in different directions. I was having the best time! Behind my snow goggles and balaclava. 

The Arctic Circle Centre. Closed for 
obvious reasons. When open it has an operating 
Norwegian restaurant, a cinema and a
post office.

The Arctic Circle moved? Whereditgo?

I had planned to camp AT the Arctic Circle-- At the Arctic Circle Centre that was closed for the season. I thought it was the same place, but learned just a few days in advance that it's actually not the case anymore. Anymore? The Arctic Circle apparently moves. 'Its latitude depends on the Earth's axial tilt which fluctuates within a margin of more than 2° over a 41,000-year period, owing to tidal forces resulting from the orbit of the Moon (Berger 1976). Consequently, the Arctic Circle is currently drifting northwards (shrinking) at a speed of about 14,5 metres per year.' according to Wikipedia. So while I was now camping next a monument that used to mark the spot of the Arctic Circle, it was now commemorating it. Although I was a bit disappointed when I first learned about it, once I was there it still felt special. 
Monument that used to mark the Arctic Circle,
til the Arctic Circle moved north.

How the Arctic Circle Marker
looks when not covered with snow.
Photo: aoiaio

Special also because I had to work to get there. The wind picked up even more before I arrived there. Sometimes coming from the side, sometimes head on. And the side road to the centre wasn't cleared for snow as it was closed for the winter. Took quite a few turns of carrying my panniers and pushing my bike sometimes through the snow; other times on top of the snow - and across reindeer tracks. Found a super spot to pitch my tent behind the centre. The snow had not gathered so much here, so I just had to dig for 30 minutes to widen the pit to fit my tent. No danger of being cold. I had to take off layers not to sweat. 

Lost My Phone in the Snow!!!

In winter, I keep it on my body, normally in-between my base layers, using my body heat to avoid the battery from suddenly being empty and my phone dying. When I got to the centre and was going to start carrying all my stuff from the road and over to the building, I suddenly noticed my phone was not in my pants. A horrible feeling ran through me. All the diary entries since Africa that I haven't backed up! I felt so stupid. Pictures and videos too from the last few weeks. Then as I was standing there the huge snow clearing vehicle came behind me, most likely burying my phone with snow or crushing it under its weight. Nooooooo! I stopped it. 'Have you seen my phone laying on the road?'. The guy hadn't and I thought of where it possibly could have slipped out. Remembering that I climbed on top of the snow bank to take a picture of the nearby road sign for the centre, I asked if he'd seen anything there. No, but he could check he said and reversed. Me getting that terrible feeling again. Surely this time he'd definitely crush my phone if it was laying on the road! I saw him stop by the sign. Get out. Walk over to it and get in again. I couldn't make out if he found it. He came back to me again. Opened the door, and handed me my phone. It had slipped out where I suspected it, on top of the snow bank, off the road. He nearly didn't see it. It had fallen vertically into the snow. Just a small part of it was visible, making him say 'This phone wanted to be found'. What a relief! I had began to think I'd be in agony for the rest of my life over loosing these invaluable diary entries. 

Snowplow driver backed up to previous road marker
and found Teresie's phone. Hooray for kind people.

So there I was, after putting up my tent and having dinner, ready to get into my sleeping bag, but not wanting too, standing under the starry sky, looking up at it, taking in all the vastness. Both above me and around me. Feeling so grateful. And to top it all off? A hint of the northern lights! The first of the season. What a special moment, 'at' the Arctic Circle. Just what I had hoped for in the morning. Now I was entering the land of the polar nights, the midnight sun and the northern lights. All on my Soma Saga, from Cape to Kapp.