Not that there are not plenty of really cool off the shelf complete bikes out there, but sometimes it's even better to build up a bike from scratch. I specced out this Soma Grand Randonneur with a super smart and functional build and the end result is a truly awesome bike.
Let's start with the frame set from Soma. The Grand Randonneur is a great option for a light weight touring or randonneuring bike. The geometry is designed around carrying the primary load high on the fork in a large bag or basket through what is called "low trail". The idea is that it puts much of your gear, or more importantly, snacks up front and accessible. Unlike just throwing a bag or basket on a bike that is not designed for this purpose, the steering stays stable and predictable. The secondary location for gear would be on "low rider" style front panniers, which also has negligible effect on the handling of the bike.
This idea not only keeps your gear where it's more accessible without compromising the handling of the bike, but it allows for a tighter and better riding rear of the frame. By designing the bike this way the back of the bike can be built with lighter and shorter tubing which gives the bike a "road bike" like ride rather than the heavier more sluggish feels of many heavy duty touring bikes.
Not that there is not a place for touring bikes, but if you're not planning on carrying the kitchen sink with you to Kalamazoo, a bike with design more in line with that of randonneuring bikes will ride far better under light loads and unloaded alike.
But enough about the frame, lets get nerdy about parts.
The drivetrain is all from Shimano's newest Tiagra series of parts. In years past Tiagra was considered to be a serious compromise compared to Shimano's higher end parts, but no longer. While it is still a bit heavier than the more racing oriented parts the functionality and finish is hard to knock.
The wheels and tire are tubeless compatible which I'm a huge fan of. I use a tubeless setup on my personal bikes and I will never go back. It makes getting a flat tire extremely difficult which is obviously a serious bonus weather you're on a long ride like the Bear Creek 200k or just commuting to work. Nobody want's to have their ride disrupted by a flat tire.
What makes this bike truly shine however is the light setup (pun intended). The front wheel is built with a Shimano dynamo hub which generates the electricity to power the Busch and Muller EYC headlight that is tucked neatly under the front rack. Unlike many rechargeable lights which have designs that have trickled down from off road riding lights, the B&M lights have optics that are optimized for road riding. Rather than casting one bright spot the light divides and diffuses the light from the super bright LED into different zones. A large square area for seeing the road ahead, smaller dimmer areas to the sides and an area pointed down at the pavement directly ahead. All the German designed lights like this also have a point in which the light is cutoff vertically so it won't shine directly in the eyes of pedestrians, motorists, or other cyclists. The best part is that there is no battery to change or recharge. I have a system like this on my primary bike and generally leave it on all the time.
Things are finished off with a Nitto rack and Velo Orange front bag. Perfectly paired with the bike and great for carrying your tool kit, and whatever other essentials the ride calls for.
The bike built up on the floor is a 52cm frame which would be perfect for a rider between 5'5" and 5'8". I can easily build the same bike out in any size or make whatever customizations you need.
Check out a new version of this build Here.