You don’t necessarily need a custom frame to compete in PBP. In fact, you don’t even need a true randonneuring frame. James started that way, with a Trek touring bike which he converted to a 650b wheel size. After that didn’t work out as planned, he sought out an affordable 650b frameset before finally landing on the Soma GR v1, which he promptly stripped it of its logos and repainted.
Now that he had a frame, he wanted to make the build something unique. You see, he has a penchant for customizing otherwise overlooked details with his bikes. Logos stripped, levers and derailleurs polished. In fact, one of the only logos visible on his bike are the Rene Herse cranks.
This year James competed in PBP and after he landed back stateside, he reassembled his bike and promptly dropped it off at Golden Saddle Cyclery, where the guys fixed an issue with his rear Powertap hub.
My favorite details on this bike happen to be the brake dust swirls on the tires and the dented fenders. This bike has been through the shit, for sure.