Custom Shop Builds: 56cm Fog Cutter - A Fast and Stylish Gravel Bike
An Idea Born out of Necessity
The Covid 19 pandemic threw the global bike industry into a supply chain shortage like no other before. The combination of people having to stay at home while still wanting to get outdoors meant the demand for bikes exploded. Not only was there a higher demand, but the global pandemic slowed supply chains from manufacturing to delivery.
In years past, we have always built custom bikes to clients' specific needs and wants. However, this past summer we were required to get creative in order to continue to provide rideable bikes for clients. So we started to build bikes from the frame up with parts that we had received before they had been ordered.
We knew that even with the demand for bikes so high we still had to build bikes with a purpose. Bikes that make sense when you lay them out on paper. They had to have certain characteristics and thought put in to them to justify their price tags, all the while setting them apart from boxed bikes.
This is the build story of one of those more recent builds: a Soma Fog Cutter, an all-road/gravel bike that is fast on tarmac as well as dirt but has its own personality.
The inspiration for this build came from a desire to showcase one of Soma's newest frames in a category that is rapidly growing. The Soma Fog Cutter was originally an endurance road frame with IS disc mounts and quick release dropouts. With the release of their newest Fog Cutter in cerulean blue there have been some significant updates.
The new frame still has the option for a carbon fork with an alloy steerer tube or a lugged full steel fork. We chose to build ours with the former for small bump compliance and a reduction in weight since the climbs here are long and steep. The frame now utilizes the more popular flat mount disc brake mounts, has switched to thru-axles, and has clearance for much larger tires. These updates, in my opinion, move the bike out of the road category and into the fast/racing gravel bike category with an aggressive, but still comfortable geometry.
The frame still maintains the use of the high quality double butted Tange Prestige steel tubing. This Japanese tubing is strong were it needs to be and compliant due to the thin walled sections of the main triangle. You get the peace of mind only the durability of steel can give you when flying down those loose gravel roads.
In addition to the frame and carbon fork we decided on a Shimano GRX 400 groupset. The gearing on the front is a Praxis Zayante crankset with 48/32 chainrings. The Zayante cranks are stiff and light and the and the 48/32 chainrings can handle whatever terrain you are faced with. The gearing on the rear is 11-34 to accommodate the high and low end of the gear ratio.
To continue with the theme of Japanese parts we chose some Suzue Ukai gravel wheels. In my opinion, one of the most important features of any off-road wheelset is the hubs. Mainly, the ease of serviceability. If you are going to race a gravel event in dry, dusty conditions like the Okanagan, it is possible for your hub bearings to become contaminated. The hubs in the Suzue wheels use standard cartridge bearings that we keep in stock and can swap out easily if needed. The freehub is also just as easily serviceable.
The shallow rim depth of the Ukai wheels means the weight is relatively low and helps make those long climbs less of a grind. We chose to mount Continental Terra Speed tires in a 700c x 40mm because they balance low rolling resistance on pavement with enough grip off-road making them a perfect tire for a fast gravel bike.
The hydraulic disc brakes will give you plenty of stopping power and the dual compound 160mm rotors front and rear mean heat build up will not be an issue. The bike also has downtube cable stops with tension adjustment should you need to fine tune your shifting on the fly.
The frame has a straight 1'8" steerer tube so we chose an IRD Techno-Glide headset. This headset comes with high end sealed cartridge bearings. The top cap completely seals out any dirt or dust and an additional rubber seal in the bottom headset cup does the same job. This means your headset can withstand whatever nature throws at it. Furthermore, if you do need to replace a headset bearing the bearings are non proprietary and very common in the bike industry.
For the cockpit we decided on a very cool Japanese Nitto CNC'ed alloy stem. This stem is stiff and adds a ton of points for style! The bars are 42cm Whisky 24F alloy bars. These bars are narrow enough for speed and comfort on the hoods or tops, but the wide flair means you have plenty of stability when descending in the drops. The seatpost is a Salsa Guide with an 18mm setback. Great for comfort but not too far back for climbing. Finally we changed our minds on the saddle at the last minute and went with an SDG that matches the tan sidewalls of the tires. It also requires less maintenance and care than the leather one we were initially planning on using. This is important because if you are entering an event you do not have the luxury of choosing the weather on the day.
Final Touches and Overall Impressions
To tie everything together, give the bike a unique flair, and emphasize the Japanese theme, we added a few custom touches.
In addition to the standard headset spacers we also added some colour matched blue Wolf Tooth spacers to make the blue really pop. Then we wrapped the bars in PDW silicone donut bartape. It is comfortable, stylish, and keeps your mind focused on the reward for your efforts!
We also added a handmade in Japan Crane E-Ne bell to let traffic and bystanders know you are approaching. Finally, we added a maneki-neko (lucky cat) bottle cage by PDW. It is sure to bring you luck on your rides or races and we are pretty sure cats like donuts as well.
So in conclusion, this bike was built to be an all-road/fast gravel bike. We built it with personality to stand out from other bikes in its category. It is highly practical and easily serviceable. Like all of our builds we took care to ensure the highest quality of workmanship.
If this bike sounds like the perfect companion for your next gravel event or solo adventure shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. or give us a shout at the shop.
If this build inspired you, but maybe you want some things tweaked or a completely different style of bike all together we can do that too!