Toussaint Build, a set on Flickr.
This is how I purchased the bike – frame, fork plus! I need a different front rim, and I’m re-curving the fender line, but it will likely get built up this week. I can’t wait to ride the sweet Hetres.
I have been awaiting the Soma Grand Randonneur frame I had ordered a month ago, and suddenly got a wild hair to re-think the decision. Actually, I lost patience as the rando season is swiftly approaching.
Late last year, my LBS built up a few newer arrivals in the steel bike, low-trail, 650B vein. I did some test rides, and came away with a definite feel for how these bikes differ from my existing rides. In my weekly after-work stop, I was chatting with owner Kathleen, and discussing ordering a Rawland Stag (one of the bikes in this club I hadn’t ridden) when she suggested I look at the Toussaint again. I quickly dismissed it as I recalled it being a 57cm frame, and feeling that was too small. But the seed was planted. I looked up the geometry again, and noticed it was not much different from my A. Homer Hilsen – 1cm less top tube, but the same stand over. Hmmm – that’s why it felt so right when I rode it after the Soma.
After much soul searching and pondering alternatives, it sounds like the bike I’ve been looking for was the Cycles Toussaint Velo Routier that was right under my nose for the past few months. Kathleen is pulling some of the original build off it so I can use my existing cockpit and crankset. I will pick it up this week, and I can’t wait to get it built up and out on the trail. I may try to ride it on the Chilly Hilly this weekend – that would be amazing, but possible if the chips fall in my favor…
Having the good fortune to live and ride in Seattle near good local bike shops has its blessings. I stopped in FreeRange Cycles on Tuesday and tried out a couple of new rides that sport a low trail geometry with a bent towards the randonneuring crowd (me). Both are a bit of a departure for me in that they are TIG welded steel frames.
The Soma Grand Randonneur was recently shipped, and is a very compelling deal. It is a $500 frame/fork combo that was designed by Mike Kone of Boulder Bicycle and Rene Herse fame. Note: Soma is doing some great combo design deals lately. First Grant Petersen‘s design on the San Marcos, and now a low-trail guru’s take on a commodity frame. You’d be hard pressed to not want both!
The bike I rode is a 55cm (small for me) with a large porteur rack on the front. Good to add some weight and see how it feels with a bit of front load. In my short ride, I felt immediately at home on the bike, and really felt some of the benefits of the different front-end geometry. It was quick handling, but forgiving – not twitchy. As I slowed to a stop, I noticed there was none of the flopping I have on my higher trail bikes if I let go of the handlebars. OK – that’s kind of nice. But the thing I liked more is that on a slow climb, I didn’t have the bars slightly twisting back and forth with my pedal strokes. It tracked well at low speeds. Hmmm – I may like this sort of thing.
On turns, at medium and higher speeds, there was no uncertainty of where I was going. Perhaps it didn’t feel like it was “on rails” like my Rivendells, but there was no bad effects I could ascertain. As for riding no-handed, it was about like my Miyata. Not great, but doable, and I wonder if it’s not due to the high saddle, low bars on this slightly too small frame for me.
On to the other bike – a new effort out of Canada. Cycles Toussaint is a Calgary company recently formed (2012) with two bike models. The version I rode was a demo Velo Routier sent to Kathleen at FreeRange to see if there is interest in the area. It’s a smart-looking white frame that was nicely built up in a traditional rando effort. It was slightly bigger at 57cm, so more in line with my size (I would probably go with a 59-60cm frame).
The only real difference in ride character this bike had in comparison with the Soma GR is that it tracked better for me no-handed. I won’t guess why other than perhaps the lack of a rack, the size being more in line with what I normally ride, or some build difference (tires?). Other than that, the bike handled much like the Soma. Deliberate, comfortable, and non-eventful. At $500, this bike is at the same price point, and it may come down to looks for you if you are in the market. To my eye, the Toussaint is prettier, and I liked the additional seat-stay peg so you can choose to mount a top-tube frame pump, or a smaller seat-stay pump. Overkill? Maybe, but I like pump-pegs – call me nuts…
I’m a convert to front racks, baskets, and nice canvas bags. I currently use an Acorn Boxy Rando bag on my Riv, and a small Sackville Saddlesack for tools. On my “donut bike”, I have a medium sized Wald basket with a Riv Shopsack that I totally love.
I was planning to try out the “low-trail” design, but I’m having trouble justifying getting a new bike just to test this. I recently rode a few low-trail bikes at my LBS. I tried a VO Polyvalent, and a Rawland rSogn, but they felt not too much different than my Hilsen in terms of stability with a front load. I think I just key into trail less than some.
I am currently using a Mark’s Rack on this bike. As I want a bit more platform for the Rando bag, as well as the basket I have been known to sport, I ordered a Nitto/Riv Platrack to add to this.
I’m probably going to experiment with the struts. They are supposed to run to the eyelets at the front axle, but I’m more interested in having the same supports from the mid-fork eyelets hold this guy in place. I think it would look cleaner. I’m also worried about having more reinforcement from the bottom of the fork, as it may stiffen up the fork in a bad way. It’s probably psychological, but I’ll see if I can get a quantifiable feel for this.