Matt has submitted a Readers’ Rides post before and this week, we’re featuring his “Unicorn” Soma Wolverine build, which he’s documented in detail for your enjoyment below!
Is it drop-bar 29er? A gravel bike? Maybe a ‘monstercross’ rig?
Call it whatever you want. I call it my funky fun Unicorn. This Soma Wolverine build was inspired by Marin County’s beautiful Bolinas Ridge trail. There’s a rad loop from the mountain bike haven of Fairfax. It’s a mix of pavement and dirt, about 45 miles long with 4K feet of climbing. There’s plenty of steep, technical bits that Marin is known for along with rolling country hillsides, grazing cows and yes, even some stretches of proper “gravel,” an elusive surface here in the Bay Area.
I used to ride Bo Ridge on my trusty Surly Cross-Check. It was fun with 700c X 42mm rubber, but I had to slow down to a crawl on the backside descent, which is rutted out double-track best suited for a hardtail. Even taking it slow, this part of ride always left me feeling like a jackpot ball in a pinball machine. I wanted a bike that could make the ride comfortable but also efficiently cover the 20 miles of pavement at the end of the loop.
Thinking through this was how my Unicorn was born. I sold my Cross-Check last summer to fund the build. The Wolverine takes everything I liked about the Surly and does it better: bigger tire clearance, slacker geometry and disc brakes are the highlights. To maximize the level of rad, I asked Oakland-based frame builder Erik Billings to drill the seat tube for a dropper post and installed the Redshift ShockStop suspension stem, which takes the sting out of mistakes on the trail.
For me, the Wolverine is all the cross-country mountain bike I need. What makes it unusual in this crowded genre is that it can run 2X compact cranks on a standard 68mm bottom bracket shell while *unofficially* clearing 2.1″ tires in the rear. I have tight, narrow hips that are much happier on narrow q-factor road cranks. Unfortunately, most drop-bar 29ers rely on a 73mm shell to clear fat tires and assume the rider will be happy with a 1X setup. I dig 1X for my mountain bike, but I feel a mixed terrain bike is best served with the closer spacing you get with an old-fashioned wide-step double.
I have no doubt that a gravel bike with tires measured in millimeters is a fine machine for backroads all over the world. Here in the Bay Area where mountain biking was born, however, we don’t have much gravel like I see in magazines and Instagram posts. Most trails are what you’d consider cross-country. Think: rocky climbs, washboard fire roads and rutted out descents. Can they be tackled on plumped-up cyclocross tires at ~40psi? Sure. Are they more comfortable and fun on mountain bike tires with the psi dropped down to the 20s? I think so!
My favorite component is Mike Varley’s no-BS Monstercross fork, with its unusual 55mm of rake and triple mounts, shod here with the Tailfin 4-bolt cargo cage. I can’t say enough good things about Nick’s team at Rogue Panda, who worked with me on a custom taper to avoid the knee rub issue I had previously with an off-the-shelf option! My goal this summer is to knock out a couple dirt-focused solo trips while I dream of one day attempting the GDMBR with the Unicorn.
I run Wolftooth’s Roadlink for a bikepacking-friendly 17″ granny gear. The fenders are a nod to the Unicorn’s mtb intentions. I’ve found Schwalbe’s new version of the Racing Ralph, which is marketed as a rear-specific XC tire, to be perfect on the front at 2.25″. Oh, and John’s “Shred Lightly” stem cap reminds me that I’m not on my mountain bike! It’s easy to forget aboard the Unicorn, which screams “SEND IT!” at the top of every climb.
I’d love to see other people’s genre-busting bikes in the comments below. For me, celebrating all that a bike is capable of is more fun than defining what it “should” be.
FRAME Soma Wolverine v4 (Type-A) HEAD BADGE Rainbow-barfing unicorn by the amazing Jennifer Green
FRAME BAG Rogue Panda custom tapered
RIMS Velocity Blunt SS
HUBS White Industries
TIRES Schwalbe Thunder Burt 29 X 2.1″ rear, Racing Ralph 29 X 2.25″ front
HANDLEBARS Ritchey Venturemax w/ Controltech 20mm extensions
HEADSET Cane Creek
CRANKSET Sugino “sub-compact” 40/24 double, 167.5mm
PEDALS Shimano XT
CASSETTE Sunrace 11-42 10-speed
FRONT/REAR DERAILLEUR SRAM
BRAKES TRP Spyre
SHIFTERS SRAM Red 2X10
SADDLE Specialized Phenom
SEATPOST PNW 110mm dropper (frame custom drilled)
STEM Redshift ShockStop 90mm
CARGO CAGES Tailfin 4-bolt
OTHER ACCESSORIES PathLessPedaled stickers, Mucky Nutz fenders, Crane Bell, King Cages, Problem Solvers mount for rear taillight, Zefal 1L bottles, Jagwire Pro cabling
We’d like to thank all of you who have submitted Readers Rides builds to be shared over here. The response has been incredible and we have so many to share over the next few months. Feel free to submit your bike, listing details, components, and other information. You can also include a portrait of yourself with your bike and your Instagram account! Please, shoot landscape-orientation photos, not portrait. Thanks!