(the bike, not me*)
I’ve had a few questions about my Soma Grand Randonneur since @somafab tweeted a picture of it. If you aren’t familiar, it is a randonneuse frame designed for riding brevets and a product of cooperation between Soma Fabrications in San Francisco and Mike Kone of Rene Herse/Boulder Bikes in, well, Boulder, Colorado. My frame, one of the first, arrived on October 14, so I’ve been riding it not even three weeks yet. The picture above was from the first ride and taken, appropriately enough, in front of a race track.
the fork crown race seat non-event
Apparently the the crown race seat diameter was too wide on the first batch of forks. Bike Forums has started to become a very caustic place, and a thread started with detractors ready to pounce on it.
Too wide is not a problem, just machine them down. If they were too small, that would be a problem. We all know by now that fission (splitting) is easier than fusion (adding).
My advice, if you have the tools or want to use the fork with and older headset, buy from Soma. If not, buy it from Boulder Bikes who has fixed them already (as I did)… or wait for Soma’s second batch. Doom predictions on Bike Forums notwithstanding. Some people are just haters.
The installed fenders are Berthoud 50mm also bought from Boulder Bike. They fit perfectly without any modification at all. Out of the box, with just a single leather washer at the mount points gives a perfect round fender line.
On the other hand, that will give you an excessively safe 20 mm of tire clearance even with Grand Bois Hetre tires (I have the Extra Legers). And yes, the wheel comes off without deflating the tire. I like a tighter fender fit than that, so I will be adding 8mm wine cork spacers soon. Because the GR sports vertical dropouts, even less clearance than that is possible without having to deflate the tire. [Insert appropriate fender clearance and safety issues disclaimer here.]
The point is, the fenders went on without any bending of the fender or struts. Of course, holes had to be drilled for the seat stay bridge (rear) and another for the rack-to-fender mount (front).
I can’t really speak to this. I used a Nitto Campee rack rescued from another bike. I bent it to fit that bike, and then tried to bend it to fit the GR. Eventually it worked but the GR fork was designed with this rack in mind. It should have taken only splaying the struts wide enough to mount on the fork. That didn’t happen, and that’s my fault. Regardless, I’m happy with the final result.
Mike Kone helped me understand what happened there and after a few email exchanges, it became clear that one of trademarks is precise measurements.
design & construction
It’s a beautiful bike, with clean welds, and light tubing (my 61cm weighed in at 25.5 lbs with rack, fenders, and wheels). The color, which I expected to be an aesthetic problem for me, immediately grew on me. It’s unique, classic and even a bit sophisticated looking. Pump pegs, bosses for a third bottle cage, integrated rear brake stop are all nice features that add to the fit and finish. Decals are under the clearcoat.
The ride is more reminiscent of my 80’s Trek 560ex than my touring bike, yet it is at least as comfortable to ride. That is, as far as I remember… my other bikes have been collecting dust since the GR arrived. (Ah, new love!)
It’s my first 650b bike, so I am loath to make too many comparisons. I’m just having fun on it. Fun riding up the volcano, fun riding my favorite fast flat, fun getting my coffee in the morning. It’s even fun to look at while I drink my coffee.
One caveat. If you’re sniffing around Grand Randonneur as a touring bike, I’d encourage you to look elsewhere. The GR frame and fork are purpose built for randoneurring. The frame is light and sporty and I can imagine it being too lithe to handle a heavily load. Further, the rider is farther back towards the rear axle than on an intended touring bike. Even though there are rear rack mounting bosses, heel strike on the panniers would likely be a problem. I have not tried mounting a rack and panniers, nor intend to. Maybe that’s the chainstay length or maybe the seat tube angle. I’m no geometry expert.
Having said that, I’ve rode two long tours on a cyclocross bike and as a Warm Showers host, I’ve seen a several strange choices for touring bikes come through.
If you are a randonneur, this could be your purpose-built bike. But for a cyclotourist, not so much.
- I just became a member of RUSA and haven’t completed a brevet yet. After I do that, I’ll call myself a randonneur. In any event, it’s doubtful I’ll ever use the term “grand randonneur”.
Update: I just posted this ride report where I touch on how it rides. [tldr AWESOME!]