Why Didn’t You Buy That? Soma Grand Randonneur Edition
After being blown away by the story of the first Paris-Brest-Paris in issue no. 50 I hit the Bicycle Quarterly HARD.
(I wholeheartedly recommend you check out the issue as well as the accompanying blog post here: https://janheine.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/retracing-the-first-paris-brest-paris/)
I ordered the entire back catalog and blew through all the issues in a matter of weeks. My thoughts were laser focused on low-trail, handlebar bags, fat tires and dynamo lights. Dreams of conquering far away mountains and gliding over gravel peaks sent me off to sleep every night.
The main production low-trail frame, the Soma Grand Randonneur was something I researched heavily. I looked at dozens of builds, read every review I could find and really tried to get into the bike. I wanted to try low-trail so bad, carrying stuff in a handlebar bag with a cool rack on my speedy fendered fat-tired bike would be awesome.
Once I actually confronted the build I was planning it all fell apart.
First, the threaded fork.
I spent my first few years as an adult riding threaded forks and quill stems exclusively. They’re ok and work fine but obviously lacking in convenience of handlebar swapping, stiffness, length and height options and so forth. Threadless systems are awesome and thread systems suck. This is re-enactment nonsense to see a modern bike take such a huge step back. This is the main thing that kept me away. I wasn’t going to spend several hundred dollars on a frame to deal with quill stems.
Next was the brakes, cantilever brakes are not something I enjoy. There were dozens of posts about the Grand Randonneur and squealing, chittering, juddering brakes.
But there was always a little wiggle keeping me from diving in all the way. I was on board with everything but the brakes. After trying out discs on my mountain bikes and subsequently on my road bikes I had vowed never to go back to rim brakes. This is a problem as there are no low-trail production disc frames. To get into low trail and discs you need to navigate the vagaries of custom builders and their ever lengthening queues. I hedged and went ahead and added myself to the Elephant National Forest Explorer wait list. $1350 for a very excellent frameset, but the timeline was very long. Although I went another direction if I had waited in line it would have taken a little over a year before I got my frame in hand.
These two things combined just killed the bike for me. I decided to shelve the low trail idea and see if it resurfaced later on with more modern design choices. Nothing yet so my money is still in the bank. Maybe I’ll get back on the Elephant list?
Anyway, goddammit Soma why do you always have to put one or two dumb design choices in every bike you make?