My Soma Saga city bike build is complete – and I have just about 40 miles in the saddle thanks to the errandonnee challenge (more on that for another blog post) – so now is a perfect time to share some pictures any my impressions.
Why a “city bike”? Well it all came about when Kate got a Beater Bike to test from the Daily Rider, and I wanted something to match the slow pace and upright, casual riding style of that bike. There was also certainly a bit of new bike jealousy involved. Oh, and the drawing of a porteur bike and list of Velo Orange parts that I kept above my laptop at work. Of course, now that it is done the Beater has found a new owner, and Kate has a beautiful new Raleigh Clubman sport-tourer that compliments the Long Haul Trucker so nicely. C’est la vie.
Why the Soma Saga? Availability – many frames would have worked, but the Soma was on craigslist for a nice deal. Plus it had a nice geometry, plenty of braze-ons for racks, fenders and all. The frameset is nice and light with that Tange tubing, and damn if that blue color isn’t pretty.
How does it ride? It rides pretty nice, but it is totally different! The top tube is shorter than my Long Haul Trucker, and the swept back bars mean my hand position is a lot closer to my body than I am used to, but I am getting used to it. The ride is comfortable, stable, and responsive when cruising along a straight road, though I need to cool it on tight turns – you can’t use as much body english and weight shifting to maneuver as you can when in the drops. The 1×9 gearing (48t chainring, 11-32 casette) is nicely suited for most of the casual riding around here, though I may go down to a 44t chainring to match my natural preference for a slightly higher cadence. Shifting is crisp with a Deore XT rear derailleur even though the downtube shifters are not indexed – though I notice that I shift less frequently due to the inconvenient shifter location. The Velo Orange Porteur handlebars are really nice, with many comfortable hand positions thanks to the Dia-Compe knobs, though they are a bit narrow for me. I think this bike needs a cavernous Caradice saddlebag so I can stuff it full of city exploring materials and spend the day out and about (food, camera, iPad, etc.). I can’t tell if a porteur rack is a worthwhile investment just yet. I’m pretty happy that the bike makes me feel like “I’m riding a bike”, rather than “I’M RIDING A BIKE!!!“ – if that makes any sense.
Was building a bike worth it and what is next? From a pure pride in my work standpoint – yes! But at the same time it is very emotionally hard – there are so many choices and you second guess yourself a lot. Plus, wrapping handlebar tape and cutting brake housings sucks! (Thanks to The Daily Rider for headset install and cable assistance). The Long Haul Trucker needs some immediate love, then I need to adjust the fender line a bit on the Soma, followed by an overhaul of an old Trek 1000 that we’ll either be selling, or tuning up as a back-up bike for Kate. Then I need to build Kate a mixte of some sort – just because they are awesome. Once all of that is done, I’ll have about a year to plan on a new bike for me, to partially retire the LHT to touring and grocery hauling duty (and if I’m lucky, commuting to a new bike-able job location). I just rode a carbon fiber bike with Ultegra di2 this past weekend (both firsts for me) and that was kind of amazing – so perhaps the build needs to be a fast and light sport-tourer with some speedy components (and maybe a nice fancy frame – Waterford, Boulder Bicycles, custom, Trek Domane?) Maybe I am dreaming – but if you aren’t “living the dream”, you might as well be dreaming!