Tuesday, December 13, 2005

SOMA Smoothie ES update

I've passed the 2000km mark on the SOMA Smoothie ES which is remarkable considering it feels like I barely have time to ride these days. Here's an updated review:

The good:
The bike handles great unloaded and while carrying a large saddlebag. Stability is excellent and I can easily ride no-hands down to 10-15kmh. At higher speeds (50+ kmh) the bike remanins shimmy free. Ride quality is quite nice. It would be easy to say the smooth ride is due to the forgiving nature of steel tubing or the result of the carbon fork. Of course then I'd be spouting the same garbage as the big bike magazines. The bike does glide over rough asphalt but that has much, MUCH more to do with 28mm tires at 95psi than anything else. The frame fits and the handling is such that you can just hop on it and ride without having to pay attention to the bike. Really this is about as good as it gets. With a retail price of under $600 it's a hard bike not to like. It's a blue collar bike: rugged, cheap, and dependable.

The bad:
Mounting fenders on this bike isn't as easy as it should be. The bike is designed around standard (57mm) reach brakes and is sold as having fender clearance. However the frame/fork only include fender mounts at the dropouts. There are no fender mounts at the brake and chainstay bridges forcing me to use clips or zip ties. Problem with this is that it results in rattling over rough roads. Very annoying. I'm contemplating adding a riv-nut to the chainstay bridge. Not sure if I can safely drill and tap the brake bridge. I can't imagine it would cost that much more for them to make this change in future production runs.

Fender clearance when using the carbon fork is pretty scant. I'm running 28mm SOMA tires and they barely clear under the crown and brake. The fenders I'm using are SKS plastic fenders and when I hit a hard bump or jump out of the saddle the tire buzzes the underside of the fender. A fender boss on the underside of the fork would probably help as it would allow the fender to be pulled up closer to the crown. Plan to replace the SKS fenders with more solid Berthoud models in the new year. Hopefully that will solve some of the problems. Also plan to switch to slightly narrower tires.

Handling is fine when the bike is unloaded but suffers (as most bikes do) when the bike is fitted with a loaded handlebar bag. I suspect more offset/less trail in the fork would help and early in the new year I plan to have the steel fork re-raked.

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