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Back Alley Bike Blog

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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Freedom, Winter nights, and our new shop video

Posted on Dec 16, 2013 | Comments Off on Freedom, Winter nights, and our new shop video

Yeah, it’s been a while. We’ve been busy riding our bikes. But we have a couple of cool things in the works…

My friend, Tanner, from Portland has been putting in tons of miles and was curious about getting into a dyno hub/light system to increase his nighttime funtime. We went back and forth on options and he went for the absolute best – a polished SON28 hub (with ISO rotor mounts) hand laced to a 700c Velocity Fusion (32h) rim, powering a Edelux front light and Toplight Line Plus brake tech rear. Perfect.

I love it when the bike owner has a vision and desire to achieve freedom with their bike. After all, when we shed the numerous distractions and detractions of the hustle and bustle, when we let go of the weights that can bring us down, we go forward with a purer self. Night riding is great way of transforming your favorite trails, commute, and relationship with the city.

I’m stoked for Tanner and his forthcoming adventures. We’re pretty pleased about how this video came about. And thankful for his fun approach to this video project. I have a feeling there will be lots more.

Click on the link below-

Shop Video #1 by Tanner

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It’s a New Era. Tim’s 2013 Surly Neck Romancer. None more black.

Posted on Jan 22, 2013 | Comments Off on It’s a New Era. Tim’s 2013 Surly Neck Romancer. None more black.

Tim just did himself a solid and scored the first Surly Neck Romancer unleashed upon the West Coast. Heck, it just might be the first of it’s kind west of the Rockies. He’s got some adventures to look forward to.

The Necro is Surly's 'black op's" unique build.

The Necro is Surly’s ‘black op’s” unique build.



The Necro features the "extra" clearance fork from the Moonlander. Translated: You can fit a 4.8" tire upfront.

The Necro features the “extra” clearance fork from the Moonlander. Translated: You can fit a 4.8″ tire upfront.


Not a bad first impression.

Not a bad first impression.



Tim's Necro vs My Cross Check. His 3.8in tires vs my 35cc tires.

Tim’s Necro vs My Cross Check. His 3.8in tires vs my 35cc tires.

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Allez! Alley! Tour de France 2012 is on!

Posted on Jul 2, 2012 | Comments Off on Allez! Alley! Tour de France 2012 is on!

Come join the fun in Nord Alley during our lunchtime screening of the latest stage of the Tour de France. Come by to get stamped and receive a discount from your favorite Pioneer Square lunch spot. There will be drawings and special features and events throughout the month. Follow the action on Twitter, #AllezAlleyTDF.

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2012 Bike Expo!

Posted on Mar 7, 2012 | Comments Off on 2012 Bike Expo!

Yay! Get ready for the Expo, put your pants on!!!

If you’ve never been but always wanted to, why not this year? Get you and your lovely together and ride over for a fantastical cycling extravaganza. The sponsors always do an amazing job. This year will feature even more Made in the Northwest new and cutting edge products. We’ll be there with our friend, Tarik and his classy handmade leather fender flaps, and also our new collection of custom Dank Bags top tube pads. I’m personally looking forward to mingling amongst the comradery that exists in the Seattle bike ‘industry’ as we all look forward to another event-filled calender year. Dust off the steed (or let us put a tune on it) and get ready to roll. Why not?





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Who Art-ed?

Posted on Mar 1, 2012 | Comments Off on Who Art-ed?

Lots of folkers have had their eyes caught by the lights involved in the alley art installation. It’s a good thing. Real good. Truly good. Balls good. There’s an amazing energy involved in the presence of public art. After the artist has packed up their tools, the dust has settled, and toys have wound down… a whole new magic takes over. When have you allowed a work of art to express itself? Beyond your impression and interpretation of what YOU want it to mean, do you allow yourself to bask its expression? I don’t know, but I’m starting to think that’s where art happens.

Looking forward to seeing some familiar faces tomorrow night. And every First Thursday for that matter, and see what happens.

And we can ask, Who art-ed?


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Hitting the Ground Running

Posted on Feb 24, 2012 | Comments Off on Hitting the Ground Running

Pioneer Square is reaching towards Spring~ Come get some!!

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Grand Open House – Alley Party – March 1, 2012

Posted on Feb 23, 2012 | Comments Off on Grand Open House – Alley Party – March 1, 2012

What started out as simple idea to improve the alley by putting people in it, this alley has been transformed into a unique place. A core group of residents, businesses, and friends help donate their time and energy into planning and promoting events. Over the past few years, it’s been a venue for planned public events, such as openings for temporary site-specific art installations and gatherings to watch the 2010 World Cup and the Tour de France. These two sporting events alone attracted nearly 3,000 people to the alley. Come take a stroll through the alley to check out rotating art installations and a green wall.


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