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Searching my ultimate all year fast commuter bike. Soma Wolverine?

Old 08-01-19, 08:59 AM
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antdd
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Searching my ultimate all year fast commuter bike. Soma Wolverine?

Hi,

I'm new to this forum and am looking for some ideas and opinions.

My current bike for my 10km one way commute in Montreal is a (German) Patria Roadster which I had bought 9 years ago when I was still living in the middle of Europe with mild winters and never thought of moving across the ocean. I had it configured with an Alfine 8 and some other changes, this it how it looks now (just see I can't post photos or links since I'm new to the forum, so then without... It's a sporty but robust steel frame, with Alfine 8, 28 mm tyre clearance under the fenders and a rack mounted)

It was used for heavy, year-round commuting all this time, and now shows underneath some rust, some of the powder coating flaking off. So before it breaks and I need very fast a new ride, I prefer to plan ahead...

Since I was moving 6 years ago to Montreal (4 months winter down to -25C, often slush, ice, much salt, but bike lanes are fast cleared from snow / hot summers / absolutely broken roads), my needs have shifted a bit. Additionally, I'm getting older with all what comes with it (getting 37 this year and have a baby).

I think I have a quite clear idea what I want, and am nearly sure this does not exist in a stock bike, and I know some of the requirements might need some tweaking or tricks to get it working together...
- steel frame (because I like it)
- IGH, Alfine 8 or maybe 11, but the 8 seems to be the more robust one and is quite a bit cheaper. For commuting, the Alfine 8 worked fine for me, I never wished a bigger ratio. All problems, especially in winter with its salt and dirt, were cable (and the part where the cable actual pulls on the hub) related.
- My current bike has under the fenders only space for 28 mm tyres, so in winter I had problems finding something (ran some old Vredestein Premiato 30 cyclocross tyres, these were the only knobby tyres I could fit). For the new one, I need at least clearance for 35mm or a bit more to allow some commuter spikes (Schwalbe Marathon Winter or 45Nrth Gravdal (38 mm)). In summer, going as wide as possible to smooth out the incredibly bad roads might not be a bad idea neither.
- Attachment points for mudguards and rack
- Sporty riding style like now. No ultra light, but I like to be fast. Robust build. Handling light loads a bit better then my bike now, I usually ride with one Deuter bag on one side with office stuff and my current bike feels then definitely more mushy. No extreme loads, for transporting the kid we have a cargo bike (Nihola).
- Due to the wider tyres, probably disk brakes (what do you think? Also: mechanical or hydraulic, especially taken into account the winter here?).
- Option for road bars, just because I want to try it out. For now, I never owned a road bar bike.

What do you think? I was having this already quite a while in mind, and I think something like the Soma Wolverine (or Surly Straggler and similar frames) sound like the best fit? I read people complaining about the Wolverine being too long, which sounds ideal for me, I have definitely a longer upper body (inseam something like 85 cm, body about 184cm). My current bike, frame size 56, has an effective length of 59 mm, a near-flat bar and a 10cm stem, and I think I actually would need it a bit longer. So a Wolverine 56 (length 57.5 cm) with a dropbar should be doable for me?

The next issue is of course Alfine and drop bar. I see two options:
- bar ends or Gevenalle shifter
- Di2.
The Di2 option sound actually interesting to me, since I could program the STI shifters to have one side shift up, the other shift down, which at -20C with big mittens sounds easier. Shimano lists for the Alfine Di2 only the STI shifter ST-R785, where I am not sure if this works only with the Alfine 11 or as well with the 8? It's software, so in theory it should be possible... And it is a hydraulic shifter, would in theory also a mechanical disk brake Di2 shifter exist and work? Are hydraulic break levers compatible to each other or are there different types?

So yes, a lot of ideas, not everything 100% clear yet. I guess first I should settle on a frame, or if someone knows an exactly fitting complete bike, why not. I know building it custom is for sure not cheaper. The Wolverine v3 are currently at a good price, if this will be my choice I think I'd order the frame soon, and the parts whenever things become more clear and prices are good. If I have this ready to roll in spring, this would be completely fine. I would like to try building as much as I can by myself, there are a couple of community bike places with all tools in the city, but of course I would give things I can't do (wheel building, not sure about hydraulics, bottom bracket and head set) to a professional.

What do you think? Is this absolute stupid or makes somehow sense?
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Old 08-05-19, 03:01 PM
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My $0.02 worth:

I ran cable actuated discs (TRP Spyre, to be exact) on my Wolverine through Chicago winters with zero problems - they consistently offered the same level of feel and always immediately returned when I released the lever. By contrast I have a Raleigh Tamland that originally had the exact same brake setup but constantly had the rear brake cable freeze up, necessitating a switch to hydraulic brakes. The only effective difference between the two bikes was how the rear brake gets mounted: on the Wolverine the cable exit of the housing points down, whereas on the Tamland the cable exit of the housing points up. After some troubleshooting and experimentation with my LBS we surmised that any moisture getting into the cable housing on the Wolverine was able to drain out, but the same moisture getting into the cable housing on the Tamland wasn't able to draiin or evaporate and would freeze within a couple of minutes.

As for tire sizes, I ran 38mm Soma Shikoros then 37mm Panaracer GravelKings with fenders and that was about as wide a tire as I could fit with; the fenders fit pretty close and had no problem shedding water and small road debris, but I wouldn't trust them not to get packed up with slush and snow (I removed the fenders every winter for this reason). As you are anticipating the wider sizes smoothed out the roads very well, with little sacrifice in feel.

Finally, if you are going to use drop bars I would recommend buying used stems and experimenting with overall length before settling on one; on my build I thought I wanted a 90mm stem, but eventually swapped it for a 100mm stem and was much more comfortable. (Of course, that is good advice for any bike build...)
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Old 08-06-19, 07:00 AM
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my $0.01 (cad) worth:
You are doing good to think tire size as a priority. I use 32mm tires that are super fast – I’m convinced they are faster than smaller tires around here because they smooth out the crappy pavement. If your bike can go up to 40mm, that gives you a lot of flexibility – for large summer tires, or fenders or studded tires with snow build up. 40mm is kind of the standard for any gravel oriented bike these days.

Personally, mechanical disk brakes are just as good/bad as rim brakes in my experience. The one huge difference is in snow/ice where they are horrible. So – go for hydraulic disk brakes. Disk brakes make it easy to change tire size too. Big bonus.

Road bars give you a lot of flexibility for hand positions. For commuting getting the second set of brake levers can be handy (one for the drops and then one for the tops). Not sure this works with hydraulics though.

Raleigh Tamland is a good steel bike for your purpose – not sure on the compatibility with your hub choice though.

FYI, I find the Schwalbe G-One to work surprisingly well in snow and winter – it is an excellent all around tire (if your not doing gumbo mud).
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Old 08-06-19, 08:31 AM
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Thanks to both of you, this is indeed valuable input!

Currently I run the Panaracer Gravelking 28mm, before Conti GP 4 Season, and I really like them. I think they wear down faster then the Conti, but I guess that's a tradeoff. So will try for sure the larger version.
@sallen73: Does the clearance is due to your fenders? Soma says with fenders max. 45mm? I guess I'll look for the largest fender which fit.
Thanks also for the tip with the mechanical brakes, this could be one option if I go for the Alfine the bar end or Gevenalle shifter route.

@chas58: for the new Shimano GX series are in-line hydraulic second brake levers existing, I'll have a look at that. Since the Alfine with brifters is easiest with Di2, all brake levers I see are actually for hydraulic brakes... I really have to calculate the actual price difference of my different options. And yes, the Tamland looks nice, but no dropouts for IGHs...
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Old 08-06-19, 09:53 AM
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Well, whaddya know? Looking at pics of my Wolverine there is a lot of extra room for larger tires with fenders installed - the bike shop just installed the fenders close to the rubber.

As far as cable actuated discs being good/bad, or better/worse than hydraulics my recommendation would be to try and ride bikes with different makes and types of disc brakes, if possible. My experience has been that the TRP Spyres have good feel, but can be tricky to set up the front (they are known for interference issues if not set up perfectly, and even then...); Hayes CX brakes are just awful and loud (replaced them after one ride on my Marrakesh); Yokozuna Motakus (hybrid style, cable actuated hydraulics) have really good feel and modulation.

The Shimano hydraulic brakes I installed on my Tamland are great, but hydraulics have their considerations. Stand-alone levers that do not incorporate shifters can be difficult to source (I think TRP/Tektro makes some) which is what you would want if you use an IGH; also more care has to be taken when the wheels are off the bike to not squeeze or bump the brake lever as the pads will not retract on their own accord.

I agree with @chas58 regarding road bars - even in an urban environment I like having multiple positions for my hands to rest/grip. [And a Tamland makes a great bike for commuting, but I might be a little biased on that :-)]
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Old 08-06-19, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by antdd View Post
- steel frame (because I like it)
- IGH, Alfine 8 or maybe 11
If you're going to use a belt drive, I think the latest Wolverine frames DO NOT have the split seat stay that allows the belt drive, but they still sell older versions that do have the split seat stay.
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Old 08-06-19, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by tyrion View Post
If you're going to use a belt drive, I think the latest Wolverine frames DO NOT have the split seat stay that allows the belt drive, but they still sell older versions that do have the split seat stay.
sort of, there are now two different versions of the new 4.0 (A-type and B-type). one has the seat stay split and one does not. There are other differences as well. For me, the ability to run a belt drive was one of the reasons I chose the Wolverine. https://www.somafab.com/archives/product/wolverine
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Old 08-06-19, 01:05 PM
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N+1? N+2?

You may find that "fast winter commuting" and "fast summer commuting" are different enough that you would benefit from two quite different bikes.

Narrow tire road bike in the summer.
Fat tire MTB (or similar) in the winter.
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Old 08-06-19, 05:13 PM
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I think that for the accumulated price tag of the parts you're shopping, I'd rather have a 3-season drop bar fender bike with all the nice parts and a crude flat bar studded-tire winter bike. Hey, looks like Clifford already said that.

Some bike hydraulic brakes use DOT fluid and some (notably for this thread, Shimano) use mineral oil, you want the former for bitter cold and the latter for just about any other reason

Month High / Low(F) Rain
December 30 / 18 13 days
January 24 / 11 11 days
February 26 / 12 10 days
March 35 / 21 11 days

April 49 / 34 10 days
May 63 / 46 10 days
June 75 / 58 10 days
July 80 / 64 10 days
August 78 / 62 9 days
September 71 / 55 9 days
October 56 / 43 10 days
November 44 / 32 10 days
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Old 08-07-19, 11:48 AM
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I will not go with a belt drive for now, I heard about too many problems of people here with belts in winter. And a friend had 3 years ago problems finding a replacement belt after his snapped, he was in several shops and finally had to wait for weeks. So, in Europe with a milder clima and more IGH on the road, it sound good, here it seems not so much (here my Alfine is already exotic, some bike shops don't know how to handle them, people ask in the street what this is etc...)

Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Narrow tire road bike in the summer.
Fat tire MTB (or similar) in the winter.
The roads are really broken here. In French, a pothole is a nid-de-poule, a chicken's nest. And in spring in Montreal, the holes in the streets are indeed as deep and large you can hide a few chicken inside. My current 28mm are ok, but not comfortable on these roads...

Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Some bike hydraulic brakes use DOT fluid and some (notably for this thread, Shimano) use mineral oil, you want the former
Thanks! Which manufacturers would use DOT? Can levers of one brand be used with brakes of another, or only within a brand/series? Until which temperature works oil?
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Old 08-07-19, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by antdd View Post
Thanks! Which manufacturers would use DOT? Can levers of one brand be used with brakes of another, or only within a brand/series? Until which temperature works oil?
SRAM/Avid, Hayes, Hope use DOT brake fluid (just like a car)

Shimano, Tektro, Magura use mineral oil. It doesn't freeze, just gets sluggish.

Meanwhile cables, you might gather, don't get sluggish at all nor are they toxic.
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Old 08-12-19, 07:31 PM
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Thanks! I assume hybrid disk brakes like the TRP HY/RD (cable lever hydraulic) have similar problems in the cold?
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Old 08-17-19, 12:21 PM
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I just upgraded to Alfine 11 when my Alfine 8 bike got stolen. I did run out of gears sometimes in the 8 so I have liked it so far. Havent done all the same routes yet, as I am only a few weeks in on the new bike. So far thumbs up. Only time will tell.
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Old 08-17-19, 08:07 PM
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I know that steel can be a contested topic. Let me say this much:
I have steered away from steel as far as I can for my winter bike. Frame is aluminum, all bolts are stainless steel. Chain is the KMC EPT / EcoProteq rust-resistant chain. No orange, no aggressive rust. Works well for me. Rear derailleur takes a bit of a beating, but has survived so far.
If going with steel, I would make sure to coat the frame insides with frame saver or similar products. I use a BOB trailer (CroMo steel) for weekly errands and that thing by now is suffering from rust issues, unfortunately.
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Old 08-18-19, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by antdd View Post
Thanks! I assume hybrid disk brakes like the TRP HY/RD (cable lever hydraulic) have similar problems in the cold?
I have no direct experience with those but they seem like they're for retrofitting hydraulic calipers onto an existing cable system. If you are building from the ground up you have native options.
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Old 08-18-19, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by antdd View Post
So, in Europe with a milder clima and more IGH on the road, it sound good, here it seems not so much (here my Alfine is already exotic, some bike shops don't know how to handle them, people ask in the street what this is etc...)
I suspect that this might be more due to the role cycling has here, compared to many European metropolitan areas. With cars and car-centric infrastructure, cycling is so much more a recreational activity. Recreational bikes (think: road bikes) are all derailleur bikes due to the efficiency and weight advantage. Most North American brands are more leaders in performance oriented bicycles, less in urban utility-centered bikes. That's a place for European brands.
I do not suspect that the reason is related to cold weather - though I actually do not know. I am currently building up an Alfine 8 wheel specifically for Ontario winter use - so in a year or so, I will know better (too). Let me know how you get on with your future IGH after another winter in Montreal.
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Old 08-20-19, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by alias5000 View Post
I know that steel can be a contested topic. Let me say this much:
Yes, I plan to coat the frame well to protect it as good as I can. I have the feeling aluminum corrodes as well as steal with all that salt in winter, just doesn't show it before, it just breaks suddenly.

And: Yeah, I bought the frame! Wolverine v3, red! Plenty of time to build it, want to have it ready in spring...
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Old 08-20-19, 07:12 PM
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Happy winter project!
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Old 08-20-19, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by alias5000 View Post
I suspect that this might be more due to the role cycling has here, compared to many European metropolitan areas. With cars and car-centric infrastructure, cycling is so much more a recreational activity. Recreational bikes (think: road bikes) are all derailleur bikes due to the efficiency and weight advantage. Most North American brands are more leaders in performance oriented bicycles, less in urban utility-centered bikes. That's a place for European brands.
I do not suspect that the reason is related to cold weather - though I actually do not know. I am currently building up an Alfine 8 wheel specifically for Ontario winter use - so in a year or so, I will know better (too). Let me know how you get on with your future IGH after another winter in Montreal.
I agree, but I see a shift, at least here in Montreal. When I started winter cycling in my first winter here 6 years ago, there were only a few other crazy people with bikes on the road. Now, there are tons, bike lanes get cleared from snow within a day, the winter-biking Facebook group of Montreal has 9000 members, every media photo of a snow storm features a bike braving the storm...
In summer outside of school holidays, the bike lanes are that full I sometimes can't pass a red traffic light within one cycle! The city just announced a new major bike lane network, the inner city tries out cargo bikes for deliveries etc. In general, I see multiple cargo bikes per day now, which is great!
I am sure similar things happen in other big cities in North America, probably with different speed (was surprised to see in the middle of the city neon-vest-cyclists in San Francisco, totally uncommon here, just everyday clothes and a few mid-50s cyclists in lycra and carbon when the weather is nice). It's not the Netherlands or Denmark (yet), but even in the few years I'm here I see huge developments.

So I guess the market will adapt as well, one day. Of course, there is a huge space in between the cities in North America where people use bikes differently.

Regarding IGH: After my girlfriend was riding our new cargo bike, a Nihola with a Nexus 8, for a few months, she told me this week: I finally get why you like your IGH. Shifting while standing at a red traffic light is so much better! (She usually rides a really beautiful 70s mixte bike with moustache bar, downtube shifter, a 2x5 setup and weired sized 27" wheels. I got this for her when we were living in Austria, an old classic Austrian brand Puch).

The only problem I had in winter with the Alfine 8 (have the old version which has the shifter still inverse compared to how it shifts now) was the exposed cable part directly at the hub. This part and the attached part of the hub got often stuck due to dirt and freezing, regular cable changes did not help. Often it was not jumping back when I tried to shift down, so I could shift up, but for shifting down had to pull the cable at the hub directly by hand. That's why I am looking at the Di2 version, no exposed cable should mean less (or only different...) problems.
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Old 08-20-19, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by antdd View Post
I agree, but I see a shift, at least here in Montreal. When I started winter cycling in my first winter here 6 years ago, there were only a few other crazy people with bikes on the road. Now, there are tons, bike lanes get cleared from snow within a day, the winter-biking Facebook group of Montreal has 9000 members, every media photo of a snow storm features a bike braving the storm...
In summer outside of school holidays, the bike lanes are that full I sometimes can't pass a red traffic light within one cycle! The city just announced a new major bike lane network, the inner city tries out cargo bikes for deliveries etc. In general, I see multiple cargo bikes per day now, which is great!
I am sure similar things happen in other big cities in North America, probably with different speed (was surprised to see in the middle of the city neon-vest-cyclists in San Francisco, totally uncommon here, just everyday clothes and a few mid-50s cyclists in lycra and carbon when the weather is nice). It's not the Netherlands or Denmark (yet), but even in the few years I'm here I see huge developments.

So I guess the market will adapt as well, one day. Of course, there is a huge space in between the cities in North America where people use bikes differently.
Great to hear. That just upped Montreal on my list of cities I might want to live in some day by quite a bit :-)

Originally Posted by antdd View Post
Regarding IGH: After my girlfriend was riding our new cargo bike, a Nihola with a Nexus 8, for a few months, she told me this week: I finally get why you like your IGH. Shifting while standing at a red traffic light is so much better! (She usually rides a really beautiful 70s mixte bike with moustache bar, downtube shifter, a 2x5 setup and weired sized 27" wheels. I got this for her when we were living in Austria, an old classic Austrian brand Puch).

The only problem I had in winter with the Alfine 8 (have the old version which has the shifter still inverse compared to how it shifts now) was the exposed cable part directly at the hub. This part and the attached part of the hub got often stuck due to dirt and freezing, regular cable changes did not help. Often it was not jumping back when I tried to shift down, so I could shift up, but for shifting down had to pull the cable at the hub directly by hand. That's why I am looking at the Di2 version, no exposed cable should mean less (or only different...) problems.
That makes sense. Thanks for sharing, I'm building an Alfine 8 for year-round Cargo/Family bike use right now (Circe Morpheus). Will keep an eye on what you said.
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