Well, a lot of this blog seems to be about serious stuff, from environment to energy to happenings in our shop. But, as with everyone, we need to have a little fun from time to time. One of the things Morgan likes to do for fun is build up mountain bikes and ride them. Her last project was her classic Fat Chance Yo Eddy rebuild. But that was a year ago. So it was time for a new project…
We’ve been intrigued by the work of
for a while now. They are a small, west coast outfit that makes very nice looking, affordable steel frames. We’ve always enjoyed steel frames for the smooth ride and the durability. They have everything from mountain frames to road frames and cross frames.
So, we got hold of a Soma Juice 29er large sized frame, to build it up and check it out. We are thinking of carrying more of these in the shop, but it is always good to have firsthand experience with a bike before selling it.
This build is set up as a 1 x 9, so there is no front derailleur, only a rear one. While we like the singlespeed concept, Morgan’s knees can’t handle the punishment of standing up on the uphills, so some kind of gearing was necessary. The 1 x 9 seems like a nice tradeoff between the singlespeed simplicity, and still having enough gears to avoid total knee blowout for those of us over 40 (yeah, being over 40 will happen to you too someday, just you wait!).
The component set is a mix of Sram stuff, with Surly Mr. Whirly crankset, Thompson seatpost, WTB laser V saddle, Rock Shox Reba Race fork (very nice, lightweight fork), and the Soma Fabrications Noah’s Arc handlebars. Wheels are WTB speedisc with Shimano hubs, machine built. Last year Morgan hand built the wheels for her Fat Chance, but she no longer has the time, so these will have to do for now. Oh, and last but not least, Hayes Stoker hydraulic disc brakes.
The finish of the frame is excellent, with one exception. Two of the cable routing braze ons for the disc brakes have the little holes filled by sloppy welding. That was kind of a bummer, the zip ties won’t fit through. But, supposedly this problem has been fixed on the more recent Soma frames.
Things came together well, with only a few typical glitches with the first time build of a new frame. By 3 AM on July 4th, she was ready to roll.
Here are some pictures of the build:
The test ride
We are super lucky to have a 3 mile loop in our backyard that is a nice mix of technical east coast singletrack, a short stretch of pavement, and a stretch of two-lane dirt road. It is a great place for testing bikes.
The bike handles very well. The large wheels on the 29er roll over almost anything with ease. The Schwalbe Racing Ralphs seem like great tires for dry conditions around here, but the tread is a bit sparse for wet conditions. Anyway, the bike is very comfortable, and fits my long torso well. It corners well, though not quite as quickly as my Fat Chance Yo Eddy. It climbs like a dream though, even on the steepest climb, the front wheel never left the ground. This thing tracks almost like it is on rails. And of course the Hayes brakes stop this thing in no time.
I am not missing the rear suspension. Maybe for really long rides I’ll miss it, but the hardtail just feels more efficient on the climbs and even the flats. Plus, it seems to steer better. And, since the Juice is steel, there is some give in the frame. Overall, this is a really nice ride. And it looks really cool too.
Well, it isn’t quite as supple as my Fat Chance build, but that’s an unfair comparison. The Fat was a USA hand built $900 frame in 1992 dollars, the Soma is an overseas built $400 frame in 2008 dollars. The Fat just feels a bit more supple, like a german car, whereas the Soma might compare more to a Honda or Toyota. Nice, but not quite as precise as the German version.
Some of the ride difference may also have to do with the wheels. On my Fat, I hand built the wheels using DT revolution spokes, which being double butted, have a thin section with a lot of flex, that makes them forgiving. My Fat Chance wheels also have nicer hubs, and I always like the velocity rims. The speeddisc wheels on my Soma are just machine built with straight gauge spokes. No comparison on those.
But this is not to complain, the Juice frame fits me better, and I think for overall riding I will enjoy the 29er platform better. I really like
One other thing is that the front end is really high – the combination of 29″ tires plus suspension plus head tube adds up to a tall bike. I initially installed the stem with positive rise (6 degrees), but it was too high up, it almost felt like a cruiser bike. Once I turned it upside down to get -6 degrees, it was much better. But, for those who like a tall front end, you wouldn’t need a big spacer stack or riser bars on this bike.
I will post more after spending more time on it. But my first impressions are very good. I like the bike a lot already – it both looks and rides really well for a reasonably priced hardtail 29er build. For anyone in the Triangle area who wants a Soma Fabrications bike, just drop us a line, we’d be happy to spec it out for you.