I'm an experienced cyclist but am finally getting around to building up a dedicated randonneur-style bike, and would be interested in opinions/thoughts about my options.
I already have the frame, a new Soma Grand Randonneur. I realize this is not a custom-level frame by any means (I also own a full-custom road bike, so I know the difference), but for now this will serve as a test-bed for equipping rando-style and seeing how I like low-trail geometry without the huge upfront cost. Worst case, I identify weakenesses and use this input to have a nicer frame built. Best case, I really, really like it so just ride on . . .
Anyhow, first thing I want to to is build the wheelset -- I do them myself, and it gets me motivated to complete the rest of the bike. I'm interested in the Grand Bois 650s available from Compass, and I like and have used the SON 28 generator hub. But am undecided about the rear hub, mainly because I'm undecided about the drive train.
I like the looks and the ethos of going "retro" -- friction shifting, 9- or 10- speed cluster/hub. If I went that route, I like the looks of the high-flange Grand Bois hub. But I also love the feel and action of the Campy 11, and think the polished Athena group would look fantastic. In that case, I would use a White T11 hub in back, which I have also used before and like. My question, though, is why so many rando bikes seem to eschew 11-speed groups in particular, and integrated shifters in general. Is it a reliabliity issue? Yes, the Chorus-11 group on my Seven does require a little more attention than the downtube 9-speed setup on my Surly LHT, but how much is this really a factor for ultra-long distance riding? Are there other compatabliity issues I haven't thought of (like, running Paul cantilevers, for example?)?
I appreciate thoughts/ideas/opinions on this -- thanks!