Words and photos by Bill Brown
Howdy! I’m Bill, and I manage a local bike shop, Ride Bicycles, in Seattle. I grew up in the Northwest but fell in love with cycling after college when I spent nearly 10 years in Chicago, where I worked as a bike messenger and shop rat. In my free time, I enjoy riding the plethora of local trails here in Puget Sound with my wife or taking our rescue dog, Leon, to any of the amazing parks/hiking trails in the area!
I always loved the idea of front-load-carrying bikes dating back to my messenger days. I spent a handful of years schlepping around file boxes and knew whatever bike I owned would be front rackable. While most of my riding is in the city—commuting, small grocery runs, and picnics in the park—I enjoy riding the many trails in the area, both paved and unpaved. The Soma handles all the with ease and allows me to just ride wherever I feel like without worry.
Prior to building the Soma, I owned a Surly Pack Rat, which was my favorite bike up to that point. It was Frankensteined to hell, with a Straggler fork and rear disc tab welded on. I loved that thing but desired something equally as functional but way more stylish. It had to be low trail, had to be green, and had to look good. Enter the Grand Rando.
I originally intended to swap over all the parts from my Pack Rat, but after initial headset issues, my coworker gave me this Vintage Silver Deore XT headset, and I knew the parts had to be silver. The parts on my Rat were all black, so they had to go. I scored the Shimano hydro brakes/shifters from another coworker and sourced the rest of the parts through my shop’s various suppliers. Shout out to Merry Sales for always having the weird cool shit! The wheels and pedals are the only things that remain of my past bike.
- Frame/Fork Soma Grand Randonneur V3
- Rims DT Swiss G 540
- Hubs SONDelux (front) / Origin8 Elite MTB (rear)
- Tires Rene Herse Babyshoe Pass Endurance 650b x 42mm
- Handlebars Salsa Cowchipper 50cm
- Headset Shimano Deore XT
- Crankset New Albion Clipper 44/28
- Pedals OneUp Alloy Platform
- Cassette S-Ride 11-36
- Derailleur Shimano R8000 (front) / R7000 (rear)
- Brakes Shimano RS785 Hydraulic
- Shifter(s) Shimano RS RS685 2×11
- Saddle Selle Anatomica X2
- Seatpost Nitto S83
- Stem Riv Nitto Faceplater 60mm
- Front bags Large Swift Peregrine or Junior Rangers
- Rear bags Swift Every Day Caddy or Swift Zeitgeist
- Rack Pelago Commuter
- Lights Busch + Müller
- Other accessories Velo Orange Fenders, Spurcycle Bell, Ultralight Mirror, PDW Timber Town Cages
It started as a wide-range 1x but eventually went to a double up front because, well, it’s classy and good-looking. It also allowed me to have a greater overall range, making the hills here a piece of cake. As a Midwest cyclist at heart, I’m not a big fan of climbing, but this bike makes it easy enough! I would love to say this is its final form, but knowing me, it may look a little different this time next year.
I’ve owned countless bikes over the years (seen here), but the Grand Randonneur is by far my favorite. It’s the most comfortable and capable bike I’ve had in my stable and one I could never see myself parting with!
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