Somervillain has just built up for his wife. This test ride was a rare opportunity that I gladly seized. First off, Soma only sells frames and not complete bikes, so finding a way to test ride their models is difficult. Moreover, this mixte is an especially rare specimen, as it is built up with 650B wheels. And finally, I was allowed to borrow the bicycle for an entire day - which, of course, was much more informative than a brief test ride. I hope this will be of use to those considering this bicycle.
Soma Fabrications is a small manufacturer of bicycle frames and components based in San Francisco. Their Taiwanese-built frames are steel and more or less classic, with modern elements. The Buena Vista model is a TIG-welded mixte with twin lateral stays, available in four sizes from XS (42cm) to XL (58cm). It is a versatile frame with "sports touring" geometry that can be built up either as a roadbike or as a city bike, either with a derailleur or with an internally geared hub, and either with 700C or with 650B wheels.
Grand Bois Hetres, which make for a very comfortable ride. Soma specifies a maximum 38mm tire width for 650B wheels on the Buena Vista, but their estimate is overly conservative: The 42mm Hetres fit fine, including fenders. That is a useful piece of information for those who like wide tires and are choosing between, say, the Soma Buena Vista and the Rivendell Betty Foy. These two frames allow for the same tire width.
Surly frames we recently examined. I think that welding marks are more noticeable on a mixte than on a diamond frame, simply because there are more joints to connect.
Based on Soma's online description, I expected the handling to be aggressive - but it was not. It did not handle like a "converted roadbike" as some mixtes do, but like an actual upright city bike. Given that I had the saddle lower than Mrs. Somervillain, the handlebars were too high for my taste and the front end felt lighter than I like. Still, I felt safe and confident riding this bicycle in traffic right away. The Buena Vista was maneuverable and responsive - but easy to control, and predictable. The frame felt stiff-ish, but the wide Grand Bois Hetre tires took the edge off, making for a comfortable ride on and off road. It must also be noted that this bicycle was put together impeccably - which greatly contributed to my feeling of safety and comfort on it.
I have test ridden only two other modern-production mixte bicycles besides the Soma: the Rivendell Betty Foy and the Trek Belleville WSD. The Trek is not even in the same universe, and on just about every level I can think of the Soma is a better bike. The Rivendell, on the other hand, is a more comparable bicycle, and I even test rode the Betty Foy in the same frame size and with the same wheel size as the Buena Vista. Though over all, the Betty Foy is a more comfortable ride, the difference is not as great as I had anticipated. The Buena Vista is a bit harsher on bumps, and the stepover height of the mixte stays is a good inch or two higher than on the Betty Foy of the same size. But otherwise, they did not feel like radically different bicycles.
see here for the complete build). While everyone's idea of what constitutes "good value" differs, this could certainly fit the bill. More than anything, I recommend this bicycle for those seeking an economical way to build up a bike with 650B x 42mm tires. In that sense, the Buena Vista is a rare and excellent find.