The Bike That Needs Built

Caution: Bike nerd content ahead

I’ve had a very specific bike build on my mind for the last 7 years or so. A jack of all trades, master of none, classic back roads cruiser monster cross tourer kid pulling bikepacker fine-tuned clunker. A couple times I’ve come close to putting it together, only to waver at the last minute towards shinier objects or not being fully convinced that the available options would check every box. It has been fine-tuned here or there as experience has dictated and its time has come. Versatility and classic lines are the name of the game. The list of my frame demands include….

1) A steel frame w/ a level top tube and curved fork, both made with reputable tubing
2) Disc brakes and an easy single speed option
3) Tire clearance for no less than 700x42c tires, and no more than 29×2.25.
4) Down Tube shifter bosses and all standard rack/fender mounts
5) Sizing available to accommodate both flat bar or drop bar build
6) Economical. In this case that means frame and fork < $700

The runners up….

Elephant National Forrest Explorer

This one fits the idea, but has no down tube shifting, no single speed option, skips over the size I need, and comes in about $600 over budget. I do like the 3rd water bottle mount though.

Surly Straggler

Oh so close! It actually meets all the criteria, though I’ve heard mixed reviews about how their steel rides and it tends toward the heavier side. I’m not too crazy about the rear dropout design either, and the head tube is a bit short for my liking. I’m picky.

Velo Orange Hunter Pass Disc

A very strong contender. I love the internal routing for the rear brake cable. Unfortunately, the frame falls short for me in tire clearance and single speed options.

Soma Double Cross Disc

My first real gravel bike was a Soma Double Cross and it served me well for many miles. It meets all of my nit picky demands….except the single speed option.

The Winner

The Soma Wolverine

Look upon her in all her orange beauty! Every requirement met. I am me, however. To be absolutely perfect, it would need a third bottle mount and the rear brake cable routing moved from the top tube to inside or under the down tube. I can live with these things, and if it really kills me, can have both issues fixed and still be on budget.

Tange Prestige tubes, sliding rear dropouts, extended head tube….the list goes on. I’ve almost bought this frameset about 4 times over the years, but always given in to the siren song of carbon, titanium, and go fast bits. Now it is inbound to my location as I type.

And so the build begins. I’ll go over the parts I’ve picked out and my reasoning behind them in the next episode. If you thought this post was bike nerded out, you’d better grease up your chamios and hold fast. I’ll try to keep this next one under 15,000 words…

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