BOOM! Shop Hoodie!!

Posted on Mar 9, 2016 | Comments Off on BOOM! Shop Hoodie!!

Last October, we had a visitor from Maine who came wanting to rent a sweet Bridgestone RB-2 for several days. Happy to oblige, I asked what brought him to Seattle. “I’m here doing a bit of research for a book I’m writing” he replied. I nodded, “right on, riding bikes helps me ‘peel back the layers of the onion’ too. You’ve picked a fine destination.” He was looking forward to exploring the San Juans and taking in the sweet vistas while diving into some family history. We set him up, and sent him on his way… A couple of days later he shows up while we’re opening up for the day, with a couple of coffees for us and a huge smile. It’s clear he’s having a good time. He’s chatty in a burly upper-east coast way, telling stories in a physical manner. He’s a pleasant older gentleman with a robust vocabulary, a fairly deep knowledge of cycling, and a seemingly pure love for life.

Just hanging out in front of the shop, sipping coffee, he’s with the rental RB-2, and he’s talking us up. He’s lived a life full of hardships and explains that he grew up with 6 brothers, 4 of them now dead from drugs. Growing up, the brothers would play a game called “Stun”, or “nuts, backwards”. He explained the rules of the game- 1 point for hitting a brother in the nuts. 3 points for dropping him to his knees. 5 points for making him cry. To illustrate his point, he chucks the rental helmet against the brick wall, “BOOM, CAN OF SOUP. 5  POINTS”

We’re proud to offer you our first Back Alley Bike Repair Shop Hoodie. Featuring the comfy, midweight full-zip, Gildan hooded sweatshirt, custom screened by a polo homie. Jake the Snake cooked up a sweet image that celebrates the funky times of Boom, Souplife. We’re sporting a brown sleeveless version around the shop, but we’re stoked to offer this version to you with sleeves, in Black. It’s slightly warm. It’s perfect. Boom! Soup. $40 + $4.95 s/h.







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Portland Design Works (PDW) Full Metal Fender Road

Posted on Feb 16, 2016 | Comments Off on Portland Design Works (PDW) Full Metal Fender Road

Love ’em or hate ’em, fenders help make the wheels go round during Pacific Northwest winters. I’ve been using the PDW Full Metal Fenders on one bike or another over the last 3 winters. Initially, I was using them on a tight-clearance road bike that did not have front or rear eyelets for mounting fenders. They worked perfectly, as advertised. Which means that with a lil bit of initial fidgeting, these wrapped elegantly around 23c tires and protected toes and drivetrain alike.

Typical with all fenders, there is the occasional “ticking” of road debris that can get picked up by tires. PDW’s thoughtful mounting hardware helps create as much clearance as your frame will allow as the slim Full Metal Fender profile occupies a mere 1mm. Or about the thickness of a credit card. These fenders include 2 sets of eyeleted washers that work with front and rear hub skewers.

Below, you can see my current “winter commuter/training wheels” set up on my fixed gear. I’ve actually squeezed 25mm tires under these 30mm wide fenders. I went a bit further into customization and drilled out the eyeleted washer to accept 9mm and 10mm solid axles. Without a rear brake or drilled out seat stay bridge, I went with a small rubberized P-clamp and then drilled out the fender. Clearance is adequate yet I would not attempt to permanently mount a rear light to this fender with these tires.

Since these were introduced 3+ years ago, PDW has added a wider 45mm version as well as a black version (if you ask nicely) sold only through your local bike shop. At $120 a pop, these will allow you solace while you grind through those winter base miles, or get caught out beyond a sunbreak.


Clever mounting hardware.

Effective design- slight fluted aluminum construction, incorporated (and replaceable) mudflap, relatively light-weight, and gun metal anodized good looks.



Not well suited for loose gravel (though The City 45mm fender would cover that territory).

Typical of most fenders, slight modifications/customization is usually in order (but that’s why LBS, right??!) to get optimal fit.

VERDICT– Well thought out solution to full fenders for tight clearance road bikes without provisions for fenders. Now with the 45mm wide The City version, these modern and stylish mudguards invoke confidence while preserving your drivetrain and dignity.

Full Fender Croll



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COMPASS CYCLES Barlow Pass 38mm tire review

Posted on Jan 13, 2015 | Comments Off on COMPASS CYCLES Barlow Pass 38mm tire review


The Barlow Pass 700cx38c folding clincher is the latest tire design from Seattle’s own, Compass Tires. Featuring the Bicycle Quarterly’s famous-by-now mantra of “supple tire casing”, this 38mm ups the ante in the 700c plump tire market. As with all of Compass tires, the Barlow Pass employs Panaracer’s premium race-light casing and a glued on file tread pattern. Available in a “standard” (380g claimed, 390g actual) gum-wall casing or an all-black “extra-light” (327g). This tire is among an expanding range of high performance tires for frames that can accommodate sizes above 35c tires.

I was made aware of the Barlow Pass tire earlier this year, via my friend Jdong La, who has spent a few thousand miles “playing around” with different Compass tires. I was curious. He tossed a pair my way the morning we were leaving for a 3-day tour out to and around Mt Rainier. Previously, I had piled on over 1500mi on a combination of WTB’s Nano 40mm front tire and Surly’s Knard 41mm rear tire. I enjoyed the high volume and cornering confidence of that set-up. As they wore down, I began to enjoy them even more so. While riding mixed terrains and adventurous routes, I was also satisfied compromising just a bit of rolling resistance for the added knobby tread. As it is, I wouldn’t hesitate to put the WTB or the Knard on an appropriate bike.


To say, “I immediately noticed the difference between tires” is an enormous understatement. Mounted to the wide-ish (18.5mm inner) Pacenti SL23’s, the claimed 38mm wide tires measured 37.4. I’m a bit surprised by this and wonder what a measurement would be on a narrower rim (caveat, I am an advocate of wider rims and higher volume tires for all-around performance and awesomeness) but at 130g less than my previous tires, it’s quite an impression. At 43psi, the plumped up gum walls filled in my Surly Cross Check nicely without fenders. The file tread pattern has ample coverage, inspiring a positive and aggressive approach to cornering while maximizing the amount of “supple” casing. Mounting the tires for the first time, I held the tire up to a light and noticed how incredibly thin and pliable it was. They went on easy enough, albeit a bit snug, as I would expect from a high quality/high volume tire. We took off, out the alley, towards the Duwamish Trail, and I knew instantly.

butter slathering goddesses



I hopped on with my lightweight touring set up. It was a sunny and 73-degrees. The sensation these tires gave to me was that of having a tiny, quick moving nymph, dancing in and around my wheel, buttering the pavement that lay before me. Not simply buttering, but slathering with pure abandonment. I couldn’t stop smiling. I took this picture outside the Tukwila Sports Complexion. It was the first time I’d stepped away from the bike and took stock of the buttery goddesses.

Over the course of the next couple of days, we rode another 350k (big time miles!!) of undulating pavement, gravel high passes, and forest B-roads. The Barlow Pass tires not only performed flawlessly, giving amazing feedback between my bike and I, but their performance on gravel blew me away. The tires gave a positive cushioned grip climbing the dry, loose flakey stuff. Over steep and jagged gravel I saw not a single cut. I even noticed that, at 40psi, I wasn’t shooting out small rocks when I’d hit them a bit sideways. The tires do an amazing job of dampening surface chatter.

1200k and nary a sign of wear!

1200k and nary a sign of wear!

I had 1 flat tire (a slow leak caused by picking up a thorn while bushwacking) and rotated the tires at about 1200k. I’ve found the tan sidewalls clean up easily with soap and water. The Barlow Pass is not a great tire for skidding around town on. Nor does it hold a technical line in greasy mud or root sections. It’s buoyancy, however, should not be understated, nor it’s tenacity. Without being a 29’er or MTB tire, these tires are capable of deep woods adventure, chasing the muse into the unknown. It has been remarkably resilient through alleys and broken pavement. After my initial infatuation, I had expected the buttery sensation to subside. Yet, even without topping off the psi over a few weeks, these tires continue to inspire confidence, roll exceptionally smooth, and keep me smiling for miles. Highly recommended!!

Going forward, I’ll enjoy testing other Compass Tires set up tubeless, and when these tires are retired, I’ll cut out little sections for emergency tire boots.

all-weather ready

all-weather ready

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Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, all rolled up into one

Posted on Oct 20, 2014 | Comments Off on Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, all rolled up into one

A conversation with Zack, from NW Asian Weekly, turned into these nice words…

*click pic for full interview*

More Bikes = More Fun







We’ve been based in Pioneer Square for over 5 years. We’ve seen a lot of change, and some of it, we’re very proud of participating in. If you’re new to Seattle or Pioneer Square-curious, stop by for a chat, some maps, some high-fives and some jams, M-F, 9-ish to 6-ish.

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SOMA(tic) Tangerine Wolverine

Posted on Oct 6, 2014 | Comments Off on SOMA(tic) Tangerine Wolverine

27lbs of All Road Can Do Goodness

27lbs of All-Road Can Do Goodness

Earlier this summer, SOMA launched the Wolverine and billed it as a MonsterCross adventure bike and a 29’er with drop bars. The Gate’s Carbon Belt Drive compatible frame boasts clearance for 45mm tires with fenders, sliding drop-outs, a full suite of braze-on’s, Tange Prestige tube set, understated retro graphics, and it’s all dressed up in the color of the year.

I was keen to bring a couple framesets into the shop, even build one up for myself, when Justin, from the local club, Point83,  gave me the green light to come up with his custom build. His bike was recently stolen while in Portland. He had just completed doing medical support for the STP ride, and now he needed something sweet. His requests were easy- SRAM Rival, green Chris King, Thomson cockpit, and white cable housing.

SRAM Rival, Pacenti SL23's laced to White Industries CLD rear with DT Swiss Revolutions. Made to go around by a Wipperman Black edition chain.

SRAM Rival, Pacenti SL23’s laced to White Industries CLD rear with DT Swiss Revolutions. WTB Nano 2.1 meaty’s maxed out tire clearance. Made to go around by a Wipperman Black edition chain.

The SRAM Rival components set up super easy and worked intuitively with the TRP Spyre brakes (more on that in a bit). Mounting the Nano 2.1’s to the SL23’s was a bit of a challenge. Soapy water, a compressor, a few goes at it, and an extra measure of patience sealed the deal. This system is tubeless ready, and I would encourage trying it out. Once properly seated, the tires filled out nicely.

Nano 2.1's maxed out the clearance. The extra volume begged to pointed towards the woods, into singletrack, and through busted up alleys.

WTB Nano 2.1’s maxed out the clearance. The extra volume begged to pointed towards the woods, into singletrack, and through busted up alleys.

The IRD/Tange-designed sliding drop-outs further enabled going with the big 2.1″ tires, but fenders would be a no go. The drop-out’s are designed so that sliding the wheel does not interfere with the disc brake set-up. They simply move together.





TRP Spyres with Shimano 180mm centerlock rotor.

TRP Spyres with Shimano 180mm centerlock rotor.


The TRP Spyre’s dual piston caliper brake has known issues clearing the front wheel spokes with 160mm rotors. With a 180mm rotor, clearance was restored. Pictured here, the fork blade caliper mount isn’t the most elegant solution, but it does provide ample contact with the fork blade.

This is one fully featured drop out.

This is one fully featured drop out.

The rear drop out hosts a myriad of adjustability and compatibility in a handsome package. Also, can I say how exactly RAD the Paul Components quick-release skewers are? It’s just a quick-release skewer, I get it, but the action is ultra positive thanks to the ovalized cam and the lever feel is good, like clapping your hands.

Salsa Cowbell bars, Nitto M18, Swift Industries Ozette, B&M Luxos Dyno light powered by a SON28

Salsa Cowbell bars, Nitto M18, Swift Industries Ozette, B&M Luxos Dyno light powered by a SON28


The initial set-up of the bike was aimed at quick, spirited, 1-2 day summer adventures. I cannot say enough good things about the Salsa Cowbell bars. With their compact transition to the hoods, the slight flare of the drops, I find many usable hand positions, especially when the route tends towards loose gravel. They have become something of a mainstay in the cyclocross arena. The wheels are a highlight of the build- 24mm wide Pacenti SL23 rims laced up with DT Swiss Revolution spokes- inspiring confidence with the quick and positive engagement of the new White Industries CLD centerlock rear hub (their lightest weight hub yet!). To complete the build, we opted for a dyno hub light system- SON28 and the new Luxos U, with it’s USB recharging capabilities- infinite light and USB energy on the go. Built up, the Wolverine inspires confidence, begs to be ridden, and with the gentle slope of the top-tube it preserves an aesthetic that I find very important. I wanted to ride this bike all over the Cascades.


But How Does the WOLVERINE Handle?

the Wolverine is at home on singletrack as well as asphalt. In fact, I can't think of any type of road I wouldn't want to take it out on.

the Wolverine is at home on singletrack as well as asphalt. In fact, I can’t think of any type of road I wouldn’t want to take it out on.

My very first impression was of how STABLE the front end feels. With a lightly loaded handlebar bag (I imported my usual set-up of a Nitto front rack and the Swift Industries small Ozette bag), the Wolverine’s slightly more raked out fork holds a line very well (as well as 650b??). Riding hands free is no problem, such as when grabbing for a snack, removing a riding layer, or taking pictures. Obviously 2.1-inch trail tires won’t feel spry climbing on Seattle’s hills, but they were fun! Especially cutting through alleys and around the Central District’s choppy streets and all over Beacon Hill. The Wolverine reminded me of when I switched from downhill skiing to snowboarding, and how I viewed terrain differently. Whereas obstacles and tree lines were only for flirting with on skis, on a snowboard I’d duck in and out of trees, I’d head straight for the swoopy humps and get some radness. Same thing with the Wolverine. I started popping off of dirt embankments, skidding into loose corners, and rolling obstacles like on-board a 29’er. The SRAM Rival shifting worked flawlessly, the wide gear range (50/34 and 11-32) was up for the aggressive riding as well as always finding a suitable climbing combination. Back on the street, I was reminded of girth of the tires, but smiling, scanning the urban landscape for the next adventure section of road/trail.

During a wet ride, the front braking was a bit “pulsey”, requiring a bit more of a brake lever grab than I am accustomed to. This seems more a function of the TRP brakes and the brake pads needing to “settle” into the caliper. The handsome lugged front fork gave an accurate feel for whatever terrain I took it over. The 180mm rotor was a bit “grabby” on technical sections, tugging on the fork blades. The steering was even and predictable, albeit with a bit more rider input than I am used to with tighter geometry.

Street ActionThe one thing I did not have an opportunity to do was to try out a pair of lightweight, all-road mid-sized tires (35-45). I have a strong feeling that paired with a set of Compass Bicycles 38c Barlow Pass tires, some on-road quickness would be awakened.

I did notice a couple of inconsistencies while building the bike up. Neither of the rear drive-side eyelets were threaded. This oversight could have been a major spoiler. As per SOMA’s request, it’s important to have a qualified bicycle mechanic thoroughly inspect the frame after shipping and to prep it (chase and face the BB, face the head tube).


Tange Prestige steel feel is still good.

The frame encourages a wide, wide range of applications.

A drop bar 29’er just feels fun.

These wheels are SO boss.

SRAM Rival.


Need to build rider confidence in the fork during technical descents.

Why not a third water bottle cage mount?

2.1″ tires might not get you across town very fast, but it’ll be fun.


Bottom Line

The Wolverine vs. Seattle

The Wolverine vs. Seattle

Is this the new breed of All-Road bikes? The word is out that skinny tires won’t get you very far in the woods, or through and across the mountains. Spectacularily appointed, the Wolverine is like a custom frame/fork, at 1/4 the price. The geometry comes up a bit slack for trying to win at the races, but it’ll be your friend during those hour long descents into pure adventure. There are only a few offerings in the “MonsterCross” catagory, but gravel grinders and bike-packers alike would respond well to SOMA’s newest family oddball. In the next couple of years, I expect this segment of the market to expand dramatically. SOMA has established the bar with a tremendously versatile steel bike. And what’s so odd about it? Well, just that there’s not much out there like it.

The Wolverine can deliver on the promise of adventure and the roads least traveled. I just wonder who’s gonna be the first to do the Gate’s Carbon Drive on a Rolhoff with hydro brakes…


SOMA Wolverine – msrp $599 frame/fork, $3599 as pictured.

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Oregon Outback round-up

Posted on May 31, 2014 | Comments Off on Oregon Outback round-up

The guys at VeloDirt put on one hell of a ride. The first running of the Oregon Outback left from Klamath Falls, OR on Friday May 23rd and went through the rolling hills and high desert of central Oregon, across the entire state following decommissioned rail beds, gravel roads, OHV trails, creek canyon roads, a bit of highway, and some of the most scenic areas the wild west has to offer.

The crew at Swift Industries offered their newest, lightweight pannier sets for some field prototyping (performed flawlessly, ample stowage, clean design. Couple of small tweaks till their available to you!) and Ibex outfitted our small crew with a smattering of their performance wool. My friends at Sugar Bakery culled a delicious and nutritious menu of ride fuel for the duration, because this ride was completely UNSUPPORTED. Which meant we’d have to carry our own provisions and have our own means to survive for however long we were out there.

My 2004 Surly Cross Check had been dialed in over the winter months with several ‘training’ rides. I fit the widest tires possible (Surly Knard 41c rear/WTB Nano 40c front), strapped on my Revelate Viscacha and Tangle bags to my frame, used the Jaand Low-Rider front rack to mount the Swift Industries lightweight panniers, and mounted a custom Swift Industries Rando handlebar bag to a Nitto M12 support.

Leading up the event, the Bicycle Times mentioned the event and proclaimed that this would be the most documented bike-packing trip ever. Check the ‘grams (my user name @fuzz_faced), check the FB, #Oregonoutback did not disappoint.



Riders converged on K Falls throughout Thursday and by nighttime, the buzz was LARGE. Some riders wowed the group with their extreme lightweight set-ups, clearly intending to race the event. Most others came ready for bush camping. I gotta say though, there was a cool/weird party/drug vibe by quite a few people who were intending on indulging their senses over the ensuing days. That would surely provide some comedy during the ride. By all impressions, it was an overwhelmingly positive and fun bunch of riders from across the industry- capable and confident. Everybody I met/rode with was on point and rad.

The goal for Day 1 was to go big. At 115 miles, the Cowboy Dinner Tree offers either a 30oz steak or a whole chicken, IF you made it (and you had to make a reservation). And it was brutal. The first 70 miles followed the OC&E rail line- a decommissioned rail bed sometimes grown over, at other times deep with fine, pulverized red pumice. The advancement of 100+ riders only made it more difficult, so getting out ahead of the mass was a strategic move. For some time, the miles were ticking off slowly and a common thing I heard from some Canadian riders was “what’s with the miles, man?? How far is 6.3 miles anyways?” That was part of the comic relief you get with such a diverse bunch. We made it to the Cowboy Dinner Tree about 30 minutes ahead of our reservation and sat, exhausted, for about 2 minutes before a feast of food appeared before us. I tried, but my thrashed body could only muster about 8 bites of steak. The rest was destined for my breakfast of Mountain House beef stroganoff. More jokes… The first night we camped in the Silver Lake town park with about 30 others who had achieved their goal for the day, 120 miles.

I was having a bit of a tough time from about mile 80 on. Looking back, I realize I didn’t take my food schedule seriously enough. Rather than eat every hour or hour and half, I was waiting 2 hours between substantial feeding, so I was getting bonky. A mental note was made.


Day 2 was a trek. After a slow roll out, we embarked on 100 miles from Silver Lake to Prineville. Across the high desert with an 80 mile stretch without any services or water. Though the gravel road conditions were a welcome change from the pea gravel, we could not have fully anticipated the “red sauce” that awaited us. Ugh. It was the worst. My rear end was squirrely at best and I fought to gain forward progress. Thankfully, we popped out of that mess and sailed along graded gravel roads… right into the headwinds. The scenery made it so worthwhile. Ranches, reservoirs, sun, and lots of eating later, we came upon our first epic descent of the trip, following the Prineville reservoir, snaking along the Crooked River, into headwinds. I don’t ever recall working so hard for 23 mph, downhill. But the promise of cold beer in Prineville was the carrot dangling on the stick. We found the local brewery, Solstice Brewing (great pale ale), and nearly collapsed at our table. A bit of food charged us up to get to the campsite and set up, where I drank a canned beer in my sleeping bag.

Day 3- 140 miles to go. Maybe we should blast through, we thought. Though I had brought enough food for 4 1/2 days, I was feeling pretty solid and I’d keep an open mind. Began the day climbing in the Ochoco Nat’l Forest. We passed a pile of vomit on the side of the road during the climb… pure comic relief. Unlike somebody else, I felt great during the climb and hit the descent ready for adventure. Being so far into an epic ride, I was taking corners a bit conservative to avoid cuts in my supple tires and pinch flats. And also to gawk at the luscious scenery. Just beyond the start of the climb out of Ochoco, we got lucky with a beer hand-up courtesy of Selwood Cycles in Portland. Thanks Jack!!! As the day grew, the wind picked up, the ridge lines gave us maximum exposure and views for miles in all directions. So good! A stretch of highway, and we were in Antelope for a lunch stop. Feeling great, so far. A long (and much Instagramed) climb to Shaniko, for more refueling. It was 6pm. We had 60 miles to go. Straight into the famous wind-swept rolling plains above the Columbia river. I felt amazing. Not sure where it came from. Much excite. The end was near, I guess and I wanted it. I heard those miles were hard, but I don’t recall. A beautiful sunset can make things like that melt away. We coasted in to camp at 11:30pm. 3 very full days after taking on this physical and mental challenge.

There’s a lot of reflection that goes on during a ride of this sort. I think I’m smarter than when I started. Probably not, but at least I feel that way. If I do it again next year (probably, duh), I might wanna hang back with the revelers and bark at the moon a bit. I think there’s something to be gained from that, too. The Outback affords an immense backdrop to lose track of the banalities that weigh us down. We become unhinged, closer to our truer selves, in good company, doing a whole lot of what we love. Get some adventure. Love the ride. And keep the rubber side down.

Strava it, or it didn’t happen.

Some of the Flickr set

Does the Oregon Outback rock? Yup.

photo (16)

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