I wish my Visa would get here just as fast.. .
- usted quiere un poco de water?
o necesita el restroom? -
the US C.B.P. Field Operation Officer asked me in “Spanglish”. I had been in that freezing cold room for more than two long hours. I didn’t even know why I was there or how long it was going to take. I just wanted to cross the border and keep riding my bike.
After taking my mugshot and scanning all my fingerprints I was finally told I need to go to the US Consulate and apply for a visa. Apparently they think last time I was in America I stayed longer than I should have: I get 3 months tourist visa with my spanish passport but after riding from NYC to LA in 2009 I never gave back my customs document when we crossed on to Mexico. I forgot and no one stopped us or asked for anything at the border.
I wasn’t expecting this. Now I’m stuck in Matamoros until I can get a visa. Now I know what Mexicans feel when they ask me about crossing the border.
The other day on the beach in Ciudad Madero (my first rest day) I met Señor Mantequilla (Mr. Butter). He sold me an amazing icecream and told me his experiences as a “wetback” in the US:
he pays about US$3000 to get across with a “Coyote” and stays there doing any jobs he can until they find him (they always find him eventually). By then he’s made enough cash to feed his whole family for a while back in Mexico.
He couldn’t quite understand when I was telling him how I could just show up at the border and get through just like that; simply because my passport says I am born in Spain. I was so wrong.
I’ve been in Mexico for over 2 years now. After all this time it feels great to be back on the road again: finally, we keep going. “We” as in me and my bike. I’m riding my Soma Rush (fixed: 46×17/21) from Mexico DF to Chicago for the 2012 Cycle Messenger World Championships.
The ride so far has been beautiful: mostly flat, nice roads, amazing scenary and tailwinds. I went from DF toTulancingo (with Vico, Charly and Adrian. Gracias banda), then through the Sierra Madre mountains, down to the coast in the state of Veracruz all the way to Tampico (Tamaulipas) and then a long, pretty much straight road (with some very rough unpaved sections) to Matamoros.
And I’m loving my bike; the Rush is my workbike in DF with BicimensajerosDF. The best bike I’ve ever had. I love the geometry, its steep angles and long top tube. Super comfortable and a super smooth ride. The weight of the bags makes it a little bit unstable, especially at the fron end, and when climbing off the saddle, but it’s just a matter of getting used to it. I know it’s not a touring bike, it’s a track bike! for touring? why not? yes, I love my bike.
I made a feetrest platform thingy with some cheap plastic pedals so I can give my legs a break every now and then. My homemade front rack support is doing the job just fine. I carry my Skingrowsback messenger bag on it with all the essentials (tools, tubes, rain jacket, snacks) and everything else (tent, sleeping bag, clothes) in my Carradice Barley saddle bag (I’m sending home my Seagull bag and stuff I don’t want). That’s all I carry, all I need.
All I want now is to be able to keep going. I am not complaining though: I couldn’t find any cyclists on Warmshowers so I went on Couchsurfing and met Carlos, one of the most geniunely nice persons I’ve ever met. He’s a doctor and owns a private hospital, where I’m staying now. It’s a bit weird (since I hate hospitals) but I have my own room with bathroom, air conditioning, wifi internet, and cable tv. And they also feed me!
Besides, Carlos knows some people here who can help me with the paperwork for my visa.
I also met Panchito, Don Pancho, the cleaner and all around handy man here who’s also looking after me. I can hardly understand his strong northern accent but we get along very well. I gave him some tools and stuff I don’t want to carry anymore and he brought me some Tomatadas his wife made for me. Awesome. And we went for a ride to the local bike shop this morning.
So, I’m quite happy (muchas gracias Doctor Carlos y Doctora Vilma, Pancho y staff en el hospital San Francisco) but I can’t wait to be back on my bike, across the border, in America, on the road, all the way to Chicago.
John (Bryan’s brother) got us some tubes and Slime tire liners (thank you dude, you guys are awesome!). As a courier I’ve used Slime liners for years on my work bike and except for the inevitable pinch flat, I can’t remember last time I had a puncture, so I’m very glad we now have them on our SOMA New Xpress tires.
Before I put the liners, I’d only had 4 flats since we left L.A. in October, not a lot, considering the amount of cacti, rocks, nails, glass, goat heads, and pieces of thin sharp wire we’ve found on the roads of Mexico.
The New Xpress are made in Japan by Panaracer for Soma Fabrications. They feature a puncture resistant hypertex casing and a high carbon compound. They have enough tread to work fine on loose gravel roads and even on sandy trails, but you don’t feel much rolling resistance as with other knobbier tires. We haven’t had much rain (yet) but we’ve ridden on wet slippery roads and the tires always handled very well.
We carry a lot of stuff on our Soma Sagas and they feel so nice to ride because they’re very well built and made to ride perfectly when fully loaded, but that nice ride feeling is also due to high quality touring tires: inflated to the recommended 95 psi they’re super smooth and there’s no lateral flexion in spite of the weight we carry.
Sometimes I wish we’d chosen the 35’s instead of our 700×32c just to have a bit more extra cushion, but now, after over one thousand kilometers on our Soma New Xpress tires, i am very happy with our choice. They keep us going nicely.
For more info on Soma’s tires, visit:
I’ve just washed my Keen Commuter Sandals for the first time and they look and feel like new.
2 weeks riding down Baja California, 900 miles, pushing my bike through sand and rocky trails, walking among cacti, under water in the sea, heat and sweat, with or without socks, cold nights in the desert, walking around towns, cobble stones, warm nights by the campfire, just pushing the pedals, and my feet are so happy.
I love it and so I keep going…
When Bryan and me decided to keep going, unsupported, riding our bicycles around the world, I had to get a proper touring bike. I know it sounds a bit crazy but I didn´t think twice (well, actually, I did think about it a few times) when I was able to swap my Colnago for a Surly Long Haul Trucker at the end of our trip in Los Angeles (thanks Callie!).
And then we found out Soma Fabrications were interested in sponsoring us. It was just perfect timing. At the time we wrote to Soma they had just come out with a brand new touring frame: The Saga. They wanted us to field test them on our trip so they gave us 2 frames (and forks, along with headsets, tires, tubes and a super sweet deal on everything else we needed). So I built my Saga with most of the parts I had and some I got from Soma (thanks Thayne!).
Riding the Saga in hilly San Francisco was fun. It felt very comfortable, nice to ride and easy to handle, but I was looking forward to riding it fully loaded, that´s what the bike has been designed for.
I remeber I could hardly even lift the bike over a step at Asira´s house when we were leaving L.A. It was so heavy, even pushing the bike along was hard. We had way too much stuff. I was worried.
But then I got on my bike and rode away. And that was it: instant love.
I got rid of some of my stuff, and now, with my 2 panniers and duffel bag at the front, and 2 rear panniers and messenger bag on my rack, the bike feels even more comfortable.
It feels solid, but it doesn´t ride like a tank. Handling is easy enough to cut tight corners, and there´s no toe overlap with the front wheel. Climbing , even off the saddle, is not much different than on a road bike. And going fast downhill is always predictable. The low bottom bracket and long wheel base makes it very stable. It´s everything you´d want from a touring bike.
The Soma Saga is made with super solid Tange Prestige tubing. The head tube came off a downhill bike and the top tube from a freeride bike: very strong tubes. Made to last and carry pretty much anything you´d take on a longhaul tour.
It has a semicompact geometry with a slooping top tube. Mine is a size 58 with a 56cm seat tube (CTT). My bars are just above my saddle height with an uncut steerer tube. I´m 5´11″ and it fits me perfectly, giving me a very upright position.
The saga is a very versatile bicycle too: pump peg, eyelets for fenders and racks (eyelets on the fork for a lowrider rack), bolts for 3 bottle cages, spokes holder on the left chainstay, and even a platform behind the bottom bracket for a (very useful when you´re fully loaded) kickstand! It takes 26″ wheels up to size 54 and 700 from the 56. With fenders on, you can fit tires up to 35c. And one of the best thing about it is the price: at $500 for a quality steel frame and fork, it is a very affordable touring bicycle.
The Soma Saga is the perfect touring bike.
The Saga continues…
4 Ortlieb Roller panniers, 1 saddle bag and one handlebar bag.
1 coffee travel mug and 2 water bottles (plus 6 more, one in each pannier and 2 in my Pac Ultimate messenger bag, which goes on my rear rack)
Reload hip pouch
Lots of socks
3 pairs of underwear
Adidas Samba shoes
2 Dickies shorts
Pearl Izumi (water resistant) shorts
2 padded cycling shorts
Rapha arm warmers
Endura (winter) tights
Sealskinz gloves and socks
A few cycling caps (House Of Pistard, LCEF, Campy, DeOro, …)
Rapha stowaway jacket
Gore Tech waterproof jacket
3 cycling jerseys (Tserv, Freewheel, Trackstar)
Swobo long sleeve wool jersey
Half of my broken heart
Howies base layer
Devold base layer long sleeve wool jersey (thanks Grant!)
7 tubes, 1 spare tire
Pedal Revolution hoodie
Rin Project wool jersey
Canon G7 camera
Vango Cooking pots kit
Military cutlery/knife/corkscrew kit
MSR whisperlite internatinale multifuel stove
REI sleeping pad
Big Agnes Lost Ranger sleeping bag
Big Agnes Seedhouse 1 person tent
1 (big) map of the world
Lots of dreams
Brake/shifter cable/housing set
One bag with lots of bolts and nuts
Another bag with zip ties
Extra SPD cleats for my Sidi’s
Water filter/purifier pump
Some tools: Topeak Alien multitool, Parks spoke tool, Parks chainbreaker, chain whip, Pedros cone wrench, Swiss Army knife, puncture repair kits, tire repair kit, pliers/cutter, adjustable wrench, electrical tape, shoe goo, …
Boneshaker (a bicycle almannac BA 42-300)
Adventure Cycling Handbook
Polar Bear pipe
Food (beans, rice, pasta, nutella, …)
External hard disk
Things I forget
Mini U-lock and Kryptonite cable
our new SOMA saga’s
my final build:
frame: soma saga size 58, tange prestige cr-mo d.b. tubes
fork: soma saga tange prestige cr-mo
bottom bracket: ird qb75 68×110
crankset: andel, forged arms, aluminum rings, 110mm BCD, 48-36-26t
chain: ird 590 sport
(pedals: shimano spd’s)
cassette: ird comp 9 11-32t
rear derailleur: shimano xt long cage
front derailleur: shimano tiagra triple
hubs: shimano xt 36h
spokes: dt swiss 14g stainless
rims: alex adventurer 36h black
tires: soma new xpress 700×32c
brakes: origin8 cross cantilever
brake pads: kool stop
brake cables/housing: yokozuna jet lubed
shifter cables/housing: yokozuna jet lubed
seatpost: kalloy 27.2 x 300mm
saddle: brooks professional honey
headset: ird (tange) techno-glide 1-1/8″ silver, sealed cartridge bearings
stem: kalloy 1-1/8″ threadless forged, 26.0mm clamp
handlebars: nitto b135 randonneur 42cm
bar tape: soma thick & zesty
brake levers: tektro r200a
shifters: shimano bar-end 9 speed
fenders: sks p50
racks: surly nice racks
bottle cages: blackburn