Ever since I moved to St Paul, I’ve missed a key part of my routine – stopping at Canteen coffee on the way in to work on the bike. The new route is almost all trail, which is nice for the ride, but there’s basically no coffee along the way. So after a lot of google map searching, I decided to change the route to try Precision Grind Coffee

I’m sitting there now. And it’s not as good as CG. :-(. The latte is just frothed and dumped in a paper cup. No feather. The coffee is scalding hot, and oddly flavorless.  The scone was moist and doughy. Not what a scone should be. 

So, no, not civilized. Simply barbaric. 

And, yes, I know I’m being a HUGE snob. Canteen was just that good. 

As I mentioned, I swapped the Soma for a Velo Orange Piolet. It’s been doing some winter duty with the riser bars and studded tires. But, climate change is happening, and it’s basically Spring here now. So, I swapped out the bars for drops and the suds for some Schwalbe Super Moto tires. Those tires are OMFG sweet. I LOVE the look of fat tires and drop bars. There’s probably a hashtag in there somewhere, but really, it could just be a Queen reference. Also, I have the Axiom 29-er rack on. Nice rack, slim profile, and burly rails. Just wish it was silver. The fork is set up for something like the Salsa Anything Cage, and I think I’m going that route.1456531948_thumb.jpeg

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I was inspired by Marcus’ Soma Wolverine to step up the frame game. So I went with a Velo Orange Piolet. Here it is mostly built-up with parts from the Soma Double-cross (which will shortly be for sale). The cassette was deeply gunked-up and required a deep cleaning with parts cleaner and a scraper.  I’m not sure what lube produced that sticky sludge, but I’m suspecting the BoeShield.  Maybe it’s not really suitable for real winter …  In order to clear the chain stays, however, I needed a mountain crankset (73mm BB vs 68mm BB). That created weirdness with the chain line, so I ended up pulling a small (38t) chain ring from the parts bin and mounting it on the inside of the crank. Clears the chain stays, has a nice chain line, and allows the use of the Paul chain keeper. So, it looks a little weird, but seems to work like a champ. I went cheap and rugged for the fenders. The Planet Bike ones are just easier to work with than the VO fenders despite the VO ones being way better looking.  I have the 42mm studs on for winter commuting, so there’s a lot of fender gap. That will disappear when I put Schwalbe Super Moto 29-er (2.3″) tires on. The steerer tube I left long (with a big stack of spacers) to see if a more upright riding position is easier on the back. That may come down in the future.  I’m also digging the full length cable housing for the shifter.  I was a foot-dragger for brake cables, but I came to like the “fully-contained-system-ness” of each component – and am liking that aspect with the shifting as well.  It will make seasonal tear-down and clean sessions way easier!  The cable clamp system on the underside of the down tube is cool too – nicer than the plastic clip approach.

My only gripe with the frame was that the geometry diagram on the VO website shows the seat tube measured from the center of the BB to the top of the TT. They actually measure to the top of the seat tube, a difference of 1.5″. So, the frame is a little smaller than I thought.

Anyway, here’s some pics of it out and about.


  

Update – sold the Madsen.  My youngest cried when I told them I was selling it, cried when she found out that somebody was going to buy it, and cried when they came to pick it up.  :-(

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Well, the kids are big enough that they ride their own bikes, and we’re not hauling anything big enough on bikes to warrant it in the garage, so I’m selling the robin’s egg blue Madsen.  The bike is basically just like the one on Madsen’s site.  You could have it now!  This one was purchased in December of 2010 (it’s a v2 model) and despite having been well-ridden, is well-maintained and in good condition.  There are some small rust spots on the fenders, but the frame is all good.  The bike is basically original except for the following changes:

  • Cockpit has been re-configured to pull the rider forward and down a little more for better power.  I have the original tall stem included with the bike if you want to raise-up the bars again.  The original bar was tweaked in an attempted theft (they were foiled by the wheel lock!), so I’ve got a very similar replacement on there.  I also added the Ergon grips.
  • I have 2 of the flat bed racks (black and cream – they were out of blue when I ordered it).  One of the racks has a plywood deck on it.  The kids liked riding on it with the deck better, but it handles groceries better in the bucket.
  • Both back seats are included, and the original 4 seat belts.  I’ve had 4 kindergartners in there at once, and it’s do-able but squirmy.  The stand is super stable and kids can climb in themselves.  I added a water bottle cage for the passengers behind the saddle.  :-)
  • I have studded winter tires for both wheels as well that go with the bike.  This is Minnesota, after all.

Here’s some pics.  I’ll post on CL and NextDoor as well.  Asking $1000 OBO.  Respond in the comments if you’re in the Twin Cities and want to come get it.

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As I might have mentioned, I had the Soma re-painted. Actually, I had the excellent dude Anthony Paints do a full media blast and powder-coat of this sweet creamy green color. Frame, fork, stem and rack all got the electro-static love. Additionally, I had tried a North Road bar, but it was a little narrow. I finally popped for the Nitto Albatross and fitted it the other day. Here are some pics. Pretty sweet looking bike, with the hammered VO fenders and the color-matched frame. It’s new personality matches my own aging – not so racer-y and aggressive a stance anymore. ;-)

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So, the older kid, who’s 10, has grown out of her Electra single speed beach cruiser with the 20” wheels.  The seat doesn’t go high enough.  The next step was a 24” kids bike.  But I hate that size.  That’s the size where they are nearly big enough for a proper bike in a 26” wheel, assuming the frame can be small enough.  The 24” size, in my opinion is just a money gimmick.  You get a still-crappy, heavy, hi-ten steel lunker in a marginally larger wheel.  The idea that your kid will have 3-ish bikes (16”, 20”, 24”) before they get to a proper bike is pure marketing and hype.  

So, I researched.  And researched.  It’s hard to find a good small frame bike.  But I did find one.  My LBS had a Linus Mixte 3 in the small size, and the 26” wheels.  Real brakes.  Gears.  And enough range in the frame-saddle-bars that she can ride it now (admittedly at a little stretch) and can continue to ride it all the way to college (assuming it’s not stolen).  Yes, that’s a lot of money for a “kid’s bike”, but in my mind, it’s a bike that grabs them when bikes are really important, and then stays with them for a long time.  It’s not a phase bike.  It’s a real bike.

The little one is riding a 16” now, but I’m pretty sure that she’ll be on the Electra this summer.  She’ll get a few good years out of it, and then she too will be ready for a real bike.

So, I was doing a little tidying up in the garage, and going through old bike parts and gear.  For some odd reason, I’ve kept worn out derailers and cassetts.  I’ve kept worn out chainrings.  I’ve kept worn out chains!  Shift and brake cables.  Pedals with frozen bearings.  I think that I thought I might do some kind of cool project with them.  Well, years later, I haven’t done any kind of project, and it’s time to clean house.

Most alarming, however, is the bar problem.  You see, I work in IT.  That means that my hands and wrists only get a work out punching keys and clicking a mouse.  So, I’m forever in search of the perfect handlebar.  You know – the one that doesn’t tweak the wrist, or put a weird pressure on a nerve in my palm, or make my hands tingle and go to sleep.  The result is that I’ve purchased a lot of handlebars over the course of that search.  As I pulled them out of bins and off of shelves, I counted them.  Like sins.  9 bars.  Various forms of drops, flats, risers, mustache.  You name it.  Those are the bars that are not on a bike, mind you.  There are more than a few that are actually mounted on bikes.

So, I’m ditching most of those bars.  Most have 31.8 bar clamps, but some have 22.  There’s a FSA compact wing, a RaceFace Cadence, a Salsa Woodchipper, a no-name mustache bar, and a Nitto Randoneur. There’s a Marin riser that I chopped shorter.  

There are some that I’m keeping.  Just in case.  There’s a VO rando bar, a Salsa Cowbell, and a FSA Metropolis.  But that’s it.  The bikes all have bars that work pretty well, and the only thing I’d really do is my somewhat-annual swap between drops and the northroads that I have on the Soma right now.  The fattie is happy with a Soma Clarence.  And the super-wide nearly-flat bar that came on the fattie is on the Madsen.

If anybody wants one of the bars I’m getting rid of, leave a comment and we can talk.