Update 7th November 2022
I completed my first overnight bikepacking trip with this bike over the weekend. It was a heap of fun and I’ve written a review, included the route and some photos of the trip and gear I took if you’re interested here: 24hr Bikepacking Adventure – November 2022 – SamuelMcNeill.com
Whilst this blog is mainly about EduTech, I do occasionally post off topic, anything from historical reflections on ANZAC soldiers, through to one of my most popular blogs I’ve written about buying my first eBike and the thought process that went into it. I even have a series of pages dedicated to outdoor adventures I’ve gone on.
Given the interest in my bike posts, I am going to share a new one today about my first custom built bike – a Soma Wolverine v4 Type B frame which the team at Soma describe as an “Adventure/MonsterCross”. Going on they say:
The original inspiration for the Wolverine was “monster cross”, but it is seriously so much more. Its geometry is stable enough for off road touring, but sporty enough for all-around adventure and gravel riding. With its sliding dropouts, you can run single-speed, derailleur gearing or hub gearing. With a split seatstay, it is compatible with the Gates Carbon Belt Drive.Wolverine (v.4.0) Type-B (Adventure/Monstercross) | Soma Fabrications
And in that last sentence is the clue to why I chose this frame to start the build. My Riese & Mueller eBikes are both using the Gates Carbon Belt Drive system and I’ve found that this is has been a super low maintenance alternative to a traditional chain drive. In my eBike post I opined that whilst I was happy with the Enviolo internal gear hub, I’d really love to get a Rohloff:
On the upside, the Enviolo is virtually maintenance free and is a masterclass in engineering (if I had my time again, I’d choose the Rohloff e14 Speedhub for a wider gear range but still internally housed)Reflections On Owning A Riese & Muller SuperCharger 2 eBike – SamuelMcNeill.com
So when it came to building this custom bike I was going to start with the drivetrain first:
- A Rohloff Speedhub
- A Gates Carbon Belt
Naturally this would narrow the options of a frame as I would require that split seatstay to be able to insert the belt – enter the Soma Wolverine v4 Type B
Omafiets Sydney – An Excellent Build Partner
A couple of local bike shops recommended this frame for what I was wanting to do in terms of building a bike that would be a “go anywhere, do anything” type of bike but unfortunately the supply was non-existent in New Zealand. After an online hunt I discovered Omafiets in Sydney who responded that they had my size in stock and were happy to ship it as is. Given how helpful they were I started an email dialogue and then a phone call followed to dial in precisely what I was wanting.
I can not speak highly enough of the team at Omafiets – they were super engaged, happy to answer a million questions I had, seemed to “get” my vision for what I wanted, and totally humoured me on the finer details I wanted for this bike. On an early phone call they said “we don’t mind if there is another 50 emails back and forth whilst you get the exact spec you want” …. I laughed saying it would not take that, but in the end it must have been close and the team there were super patient and happy to answer any questions I had.
The final build was stunning – even if I do say so (photos below were taken by the team at Omafiets after the build was completed to let me see how beautiful it looked):
I live in New Zealand, so after the build was completed, Omafiets boxed it up and my sister brought the bike over for me when returning for our parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration (shoutout to Air New Zealand taking bike boxes as extra baggage for $70! Definitely cheaper than couriering it here)
Some other features of the custom build that I was super happy with on the finished product include:
- Rohloff Speed Hub (red)
- Alongside the Gates Carbon Belt, this was the foundation of the bike build and I knew I didn’t want the plain black hub. Getting it in red started somewhat of a trend for other speciality components on the bike….
- Brooks B17 leather saddle
- Once broken in, these saddles are meant to be super comfortable. I can attest to this from my Pashley Sovereign bike that had a Brooks and I loved it. They require a little extra care, but you get the benefit of it.
- Son Dynamo (red anodized)
- I’d read a lot about the pros and cons of a dynamo hub and whilst I doubt I’ll do too much multiday adventuring where I would not be able to get access to a power plug at some point, I wanted to add something in on the off chance. Additionally, from my eBike experiences I loved having a power source for a front light without ever having to think about charging batteries for the light.
- Son Edelux II (red anodized)
- I was originally thinking about an alternative front dynamo light but this was where working closely with Omafiets again paid off – their team suggested the Edelux since it came in matching red and really started to make the color scheme pop!
- Sinewave Cycles Reactor (red anodized) – USB charging port in stem
- I had seen other USB charging ports for bikes but most were quite ugly with cables visible. I loved how this one was inserted into the top of the stem and was very discreet. The fact in came in shiny red really had me at first sight! I’ve tested this and even at low speeds of 10-20kph it accepts plenty of charge from the dynamo and charges devices quickly.
- HT Components Nano Pedal (red)
- I had not initially thought about custom pedal colours but as more splashes of red were making their way into the build I reached out to Omafiets and they sourced and recommended these ones. I felt it could be a bit indulgent, but so glad I went with it and many people comment on how great they look.
- Surly Moloko Handlebar
- This is a pretty unusual looking bar but was again recommended to me for a custom bike build, offering various handgrips as well as mounting points for bags and cameras. Having ridden the bike on one 100km ride so far, I can definitely attest to the comfort of the various positions on this handlebar
- Panaracer GravelKing SK TLC with brown walls (running tubeless)
- I am not a tyre specialist at all, but the team at Omafiets guided me expertly towards these based on my intended riding, providing a combination of good grip with high rolling speed for mixed terrain riding. I’ve been surprised by the compliments from others “in the know” about the tyre choice – seems like Omafiets know their stuff!
The rest of the componentry I largely took the expert advice from Omafiets (and glad I did) who helped me settle on a very cool, very custom, one off bike for me.
Some Photos From The Road
The bike is pretty new still and I’ve done a nudge over 300km on it, with one 100km ride so far loaded up with about 80% of my camping kit:
I am planning to head away on my first overnight bikepacking trip with a friend this weekend actually so will update this blog post with some additional details (UPDATE: here’s the review from the weekend – 24hr Bikepacking Adventure – November 2022 – SamuelMcNeill.com).
I love this bike, it’s lively and fun to ride, can go long distances at a steady pace, climbs well, is stable on descents and looks great of course (beauty being in the eye of the beholder of course!). I have some multi day bikepacking rides lined up for this summer and will know more about it’s overall performance then. One aspect I was a bit nervous about was pulling out the back wheel in the event of a puncture. Even though I’m running tubeless it will need to be done at some point and my experience of removing the Enviolo and belt on my eBike was a bit of a mission,
Fortunately, I have a friend who is a bike mechanic and volunteers additionally at Recycle A Dunger, a community project in the heart of the city where they provide free bike maintenance advice/repairs and try to upgrade donated bikes for others to buy at affordable prices. I popped in and saw him this week at RAD and he showed me how easy it was to get off the rear wheel – even easier than my traditional derailleur bikes!
Ultimately, I wrote this post for others that might be thinking about custom builds, want to know more about the Soma Wolverine (I did a heap of searching and there were not that many reviews on it) or simply just love bikes as much as I do! Hope this was interesting!