Monday, June 4, 2012

Soma Smoothie Impressionism

Soma Smoothie
I should really know better at this point than to let something as superficial as colour scheme influence my impressions of a bicycle. But when I think of the Soma Smoothie I've been test riding this summer, it is in my mind a whirlwind of pinks and greens - a mobile impressionist garden. It does not help that every single time I've been on this bike so far it has rained. My view from the "cockpit" is a saturated blur of apple green handlebar tape and terracotta tire, as the wheel spins through rain puddles. It's like riding through an endless Water Lilies painting.

Soma Smoothie
But don't let my silly colour choices fool you: The Smoothie is a serious bike. Its biggest draw as I see it, is the successful combination of several features that are not easy to combine. On the one hand it is a racy roadbike, with the aggressive geometry and responsive handling that this notion implies. On the other hand, it is equipped to accept reasonably wide tires (up to 28mm), fenders and even a rear rack. It is also comfortable, in a way that's kind of thrown me for a loop. The best way I can describe it, is that I feel more relaxed on the bike than my positioning warrants. 

Soma Smoothie
The Soma Smoothie is a bike I'd call "aesthetically neutral." There is nothing fancy about it, but neither is it ugly or boring. The frame is welded; the fork crown is lugged. The tubing is skinny-ish. It has a mildly sloping top tube and a threadless stem. It can be dressed up as a modern bike, as a classic bike, as a fun bike, as a practical bike. A blank slate, waiting for the owner's decisions. I like that about it.

Soma Smoothie
My biggest challenge in test riding stock roadbikes, is that I am most comfortable with Campagnolo ergo shifters and it is very rare to find a demo bicycle set up with Campagnolo. The group need not be fancy; I am fine with the lower-end Veloce. I just find the levers dramatically easier to use than any others. The guys at Soma set the bike up with Chorus levers, which are what I have on my own roadbike and made for a seamless transition. 

Soma Smoothie
Most of the other components on the bike are IRD - the SOMA house brand.

Soma Smoothie
Overall I like them, particularly the Highway One handlebars with the nice flat ramps and shallow but not too shallow drops.

Soma Smoothie
The 10cm stem is a spacer away from being "slammed" and I find that height very comfortable. If this were my bike, I'd get the steerer cut accordingly.

Soma Smoothie, New Xpress Tires
I was initially skeptical about the tires and was planning to replace them with my own. These are Soma's New XPress tires that have recently come out. They are available in several colours and sizes 23mm-35mm. I guess the bright colours made them look a little gimmicky to me, and I was worried the flat protection might not be sufficient. However, so far so good and I think I'll keep these on the bike for the duration of the test ride period. The tires are supple and feel wider than 23mm; I quite like them.

Soma Smoothie
The wheelset they used is also pretty nice.

Cardiff Cornwall Saddle
The Cardiff saddle I recently reviewed here. Not sure what I was thinking in asking for a zero-setback seatpost on a bike that already has a steep seat tube angle, but that is my own doing and not Soma's. 

Soma Smoothie
The one aspect of the bicycle's set-up I do not like is the IRD crankset they fitted it with. There is nothing wrong with the crankset itself, but it is not entirely compatible with what is otherwise a Campagnolo drivetrain. This causes problems when shifting from the big ring to the small, throwing the chain unless I press the lever very gently. Considering this, I am reluctant to take this bike on a paceline ride - a pity, as that would be the ultimate test of its performance as a racy roadbike. I am still trying to decide what to do about this issue and might try to get a local bike shop to loan me a Campagnolo Veloce crankset and a suitable bottom bracket. 

Soma Smoothie
The Soma Smoothie is an intriguing bike and I am grateful to have it at my disposal for long enough to truly get to know it. My most dominant impression so far is that it is extremely comfortable for something so aggressive and speedy. It strikes me as a good choice for those who "want it all" in a single roadbike - speed, comfort, as well as options for commuting and randonneuring - and want it at a reasonable price. As I ride it however, I find myself trying to reimagine the design by pushing it into more extreme directions. What would it be like had they designed it for 650Bx42mm or 700Cx35mm tires while retaining the racy geometry and lightweight tubing? Alternatively, what would it be like had they gotten rid of all the braze-ons, used even lighter tubing and made it a pure racing bike, no holds barred? Idle musings of course, but it's interesting that this bike inspires them.

74 comments:

  1. Do you know what the actual maximum tire size the bike will fit? Or is 28mm the figure simply the "official" number given by Soma (I see on their website they state 28)?

    Because, they are very conservative with their own numbers, at least with regard to the Buena Vista. The Soma Buena Vista mixte frameset that I built up for Mrs. S is stated to have clearance for 700x28 max with fenders or 650x38 max with fenders. In reality, it can fit 700x35 with fenders and 650x42 with fenders (as you already know the latter). And that's with room to spare.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the Smoothie can actually fit a 700x30 or even 700x32. That would open the door to some truly wonderfully supple riding tires, like the Challenge P-R (30mm), Grand Bois Cerf (29mm), or Grand Bois Cypres (32mm).

    Maybe you should do the experiment :).

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    1. On this bike it does not look as if it could take over 30mm, though I could be wrong. In this size (52cm) there is also TCO to consider once you start going wider.

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    2. MelissatheRagamuffinJune 5, 2012 at 3:10 PM

      Somervillain, could the Buena Vista take 700x38 if you didn't care about fenders?

      I've been eyeballing this frame, but had almost written it off because I really like 700x38 tires. It's what I have on Miss Surly, and basically I want Miss Surly as a step-through or mixte.

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    3. MtR, I'm not entirely sure. I do know that the rear would fit 700x38 no problem, as the fenders on Mrs. S's BV are 58mm wide and had to be dimpled slightly to fit, both front and rear. 52mm VO Zeppelin fenders would have fit without modification. The brake reach back there is about 54mm for 700c wheels, so yeah, not at all a problem.

      My only reservation is brake reach in front. I don't know that figure, so I'm not entirely sure the front tire would clear the fork crown. It's something less than 54mm but I don't know how much less. My guess is the tire will fit, and I can measure it tomorrow for a definitive answer. Shoot me an email to remind me and I can respond to that.

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    4. In the last pic, it looks like the brake pads are only half-way down the slot in the calipers. If so it means Soma isn't taking advantage of the reach and limiting the tire size artificially.

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    5. That's what I'm thinking, David. Couple your observation with with the 70mm of BB drop indicated on Soma's geometry chart, and I'm betting this could be a good 650B candidate.

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    6. MtR, I looked at a couple of my pics of the Buena Vista, and I see that the front brake pads are all the way down the adjustment slot, so yeah, there's still 53mm of reach between a 700c rim and the brake bolt. Therefore, the bike can most certainly take 700x38 tires if you don't want fenders. I doubt fenders will work with tires that wide.

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    7. I think it would be a great one! It looks like there's a lot of clearance around the fork, so as long as the stays aren't tight, might even be able to get a Hetre in there. That would be a wicked ride!

      I really like the Soma headbadge BTW. Is it full metal or the chromed-looking plastic like Surly has?

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    8. MelissatheRagamuffinJune 6, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      Thanks Somervillain. Like I said, I've been eyeing that frame. What I really want is my Surly LHT with a step-through frame, and the Buena Vista looks pretty close. I've never built a bike up from frame before though.

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  2. I built up a Smoothie this last Christmas and with the short reach brakes and standard fork the Cypres would not fit. The clearance with 28mm Ruffy Tuffys was pretty tight. I have the Cypres on my ES and love them and I'd love to try the Cerfs on the Smoothie. As Velouria said the bike is remarkably comfortable to also be so fast and "sporty" and I bet the Cerfs would make it even better.

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  3. http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7179/7130063267_1b5cdcfc2f.jpg

    That is a very pretty stem, and while I like the practical nature of threadless, I think most are ugly. This one is actually pretty.

    I'd like to hear more about how the Smoothie performs when ridden aggressively. One addition to my now rather small stable is a nice derailleur road bike (my current roads are fixed) and the Smoothie, if adequate, would be a much cheaper alternative to the Rivendell Roadeo. (I can see equipping the Smoothie with Rivendell's "Carbonomas" form.) Kudos to Soma for offering what seems to be a very nice road bike at such a low price.

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    1. Have you seen Nitto's lugged threadless stem or this stem from Igleheart?

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    2. I've seen photos of the Riv and other customs including this one:

      http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_wSjooMCwpZE/R-xfWGHBgRI/AAAAAAAAAkU/IIPukpViOdo/s400/custom+threadless+topcap+1.JPG

      Not bad, but I still like that cream-with-silver Soma.

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    3. Hey Bertin, just wondering what, besides the color, you like about the Soma stem? You say you think threadless stems are usually ugly. To my eye, this Soma one is just like 90 percent of the threadless stems on the market: two pinch bolts hanging off the back, four-bolt faceplate on the front. Nothing special. Maybe you secretly DO like threadless stems, but it took a cream colored one for you to admit it... ;-)

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  4. I have a 2009 Soma Smoothie ES that I've been gradually putting wider and wider tires on over the years. I just put on 32 mm tires with fenders, which is wider than the 28 mm everyone says will fit. I'm positive that I've now reached the limit, but I think I'm finally satisfied.

    The Smoothie ES is a slightly more relaxed geometry than the Smoothie, but I wouldn't be surprised if you could fit 32mm tires with fenders on that thing.

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  5. The Smoothie is a pretty good approximation of my custom bike and it sounds like Soma did a great job. There are several incarnations of this idea, like the Raleigh Clubman and, I suspect, the Pashley Clubman, and the appeal of the idea seems to be growing. It is very nice to have a bike that reasonably well at several things although it won't do everything. It sounds like you really enjoyed the Soma. We are considering the mixte frame. Are you impressed with the build of the frame?

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  6. Derailleurs have limit settings, you should look into it. Those little screw thingymabobbers are designed to set the throw so you don't overshift.

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    1. Derailleur adjustment is not the issue here.

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    2. I' curious about this. Few months ago I picked up my custom bike and every time I have to shift from the big to the small ring I make it with fear: the chain usually doesn't enter properly! and it usually lets me down uphill...

      We tried to adjust it but the solution we found is to press the lever VERY gently. Otherwise, the chain falls out.

      I'm really not comfortable with that. Do you think it may have another solution?

      I forgot to mention it mounts Campagnolo Veloce but Shimano 105 chain and cogset...

      Help! :(

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    3. I find that the non-'QS' (i.e. non-indexed) campy front shifting doesn't particularly know or care what derailleur & crank combo it's running on as long as the limits are set properly-- sounds like that QS front lever is the problem here...

      Also, not sure if you have posted about this before, but have you tried SRAM levers? I would be curious to hear your impressions, as someone who prefers campy levers to shimano myself.

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    4. tamaso - It is not about the shifters; it is about the crankset's compatibility with the rest of the drivetrain. It uses a different BB width than a Campagnolo crankset would and that is the heart of the issue. A little complicated to go into beyond that.

      Aida - It could be a number of things and I suggest having a mechanic take a look at it. You might get 6 different suggestions online, but someone really needs to have a look in person.

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    5. Sounds like you're backing into saying the bike as set up has bad chainline. Or maybe not.

      BB width is in the frame. It's 68mm. Spindle length varies with crank model and application. There are normally enough choices of spindle length to make common drivetrains work.

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    6. Anon 10:50,

      People us BB length to describe spindle lengths. I often hear people referring to the frame BB as the BB "shell". Whether accurate or not, it's what people use, and it's acceptable terminology. I would not call BB width as fixed as 68mm, but I would call the BB shell width fixed at 68mm.

      When you shop for a bottom bracket, are you shopping for a part that gets brazed into the frame?

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  7. Hi, I've been looking forward to hearing your impressions of the Smoothie. I've been curious to try the ES as a 650b. Soma recently linked to this write up of a conversion. Not sure if you've seen it... michael

    http://www.bikeman.com/bikeman-blogs/650blog/1770-bikemans-650b-soma-speedster

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    1. Nice, thanks for the link!

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    2. Unfortunately the Speedster is a model they no longer make. Those lugs sure looked good.

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    3. The current Stanyan is Soma's replacement for the Speedster. Same beautiful polished lugs!

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  8. Have you thought about using a Chain Watcher or similar device to solve your front shifting issue? I use one on my all-Campy drivetrain to prevent rare but dangerous missed shifts on steep climbs.

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    1. They included one with the build and I removed it. Those devices have their own potential dangers and IMO there should be no reason to use one on a well-adjusted double.

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    2. Another one -- I can't believe you wrote this. It has to do with bumpy terrain while shifting the front. A double shift can compound the prob along with speed. It happens.

      I've dropped my chain numerous times w/o the device both on and off road on perfectly adjusted fds.

      Every. Single. Bike in Paris Roubaix had one on. Maybe you think now you don't need one, but you'll change your mind quickly if you start riding rougher stuff while shifting.

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  9. Where can I get those pink brakes? Do they work well?

    I like how this bicycle is accessorized. It is cheerful and unique.

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    1. I think the brakes are these. Yes they work great actually.

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  10. Christopher FotosJune 5, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    As a resident Somamaniac, thank you for this review. I'm tempted to buy this frame and throw all my Smoothie ES components on it, though that would be extravagant. (partly on the quest for no toe overlap)

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    1. I am surprised there aren't more of the regular (non-ES) Smoothies out there. I've been trying to find other reviews and it isn't easy. Soma describes the ES as not quite as racy, but more comfortable, so maybe that is why. But frankly I can't imagine a roadbike needing to be more comfortable than this, so I would not want to give up this bike's handling characteristics for this supposed extra comfort.

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    2. The ES isn't necessarily more comfortable from the standpoint of road buzz (unless you go to 32c tires). The tubing is the same. What it offers is more stability at speed and allows you to go in a straight line easier with less steering work needed (and thus less mental fatigue)on those long grueling rides. The ES has historically sold better for us, but last year it was pretty even.

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  11. I forgot whether you've ridden the Surly Pacer? I recall seeing pictures of this, but can't find the post. I would find it very useful if you would compare the two.

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    1. There are pictures of me riding the Cross-Check, so that's probably what you're thinking of. However, I have tried the Pacer. My impression is that the Smoothie is more responsive and lighter, with thinner tubing.

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    2. V, your preferences show again and again that you need to stick to bikes with standard diameter tubing. And it would be nice if bike manufacturers kept in mind that not all potential customers weigh over 200 LB!

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    3. I agree. But as you point out, there are few manufacturers making stock steel frames with non-OS tubing.

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    4. OS tubing isn't just for making the frame stronger for heavier riders. The increased diameter makes the structure stronger and allows the wall thickness to go even thinner than comparable non-OS tubing. Hence an OS tubed frame can be as strong as a non-OS tubed frame and lighter at the same time. Several small bike makers that cater to the rando community specifically offer their frames in OS spec.

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  12. The build is nice, tho' I could do without the pink. Also the rd looks poorly made and that saddle is out of place. Have you tried a racing saddle.

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  13. It's pretty easy to address the chain drop problem with a Deda Dog Fang.

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    1. This can be a topic of its own. I know there is a variety of devices that can be installed to deal with chain drop. However, after having seen someone's chain actually get wound around such a device, I also know that these things can backfire and have the opposite effect. At the end of the day, I want a functional drivetrain, not a bandaid. A properly adjusted double should not drop the chain under normal circumstances.

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    2. What? You don't want a solution to a solution to a solution to a solution...
      We study history to find out how well THAT has worked out!
      Better to understand the essential problem and solve it with elegance and grace.

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    3. A chaincatcher of the type found on cyclocross racers and pro level roadracers is pretty close to foolproof if adjusted correctly and installed so it doesn't drift. I've seen them get all tangled up too but so far it was only on bikes that didn't seem to benefit from the best mechanical lovin'. However, I TOTALLY understand not using or being reluctant to use something that lessens your confidence so won't say that this should be your solution. Even if it does the chain in place, if it feels like a bomb waiting to go off it's kinda hard to say it's made your bike better...

      Spindizzy

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  14. How do you feel about white bikes? My first serious bike (a 71 Mercier) was white, but I do not care for this color on bicycles. I find it pallid, almost sickly, and attempts to liven it up (e.g., with pinks and greens) akin to applying lipstick to a corpse.

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    1. Yikes. Personally I don't mind white bikes at all. This one is a nice pearlescent white if you see it upclose.

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    2. And you must have noticed that white bikes don't photograph well. What you get is just one long sad parade of blown out highlights. I simply cannot understand the point of owning anything that the camera doesn't love.

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    3. "I simply cannot understand the point of owning anything that the camera doesn't love."

      That's a great line.

      The blown colours are my fault, for photographing in sucky weather instead of waiting for a nice sunny day. This bike looks great bathed in the gentle golden light of sunny afternoon. I'll try to take better pictures.

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  15. The straight horizontal of the bars makes a really sharp line.

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  16. All that's going on with the front shift is that it is (or appears to be from here) a 50/34. That's a big drop and a lot of loose chain. All the fancy shaping on modern chainring and sprocket teeth is pretty amazing and it's possible Campy would do better than IRD. More likely it would only be a slightly smaller problem somewhat less frequently.

    Even with tutto Campy I would never quite trust that shift. Even if tutto Campy was problem-free the first few thousand shifts I would not trust it. If this were a permanent bike the better choice would be 48/34. Two teeth make a huge difference. From anything ever reported about V's riding habits a top gear of 48x13 or even 48x14 would be plenty.

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    1. That is not what is going on here. Also I have ridden other bikes with 50/34 and it's been fine.

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    2. I ride a 50/34 and while the jump is great in terms of output or gain (as I think Sheldon Brown might say), I never see this effect. I ride all Campy Centaur.

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  17. I have a 56c Smoothie really like it a lot. I can ride 28c with fenders but its a tight fit. The first place you run into clearance problem will be the top of the tire rubbing the brake calipers. You could probably do 35c or 38c 650b tires with normal reach brakes, or just try an ES.

    I really like the SOMA stuff. Have a looke at the lugged Tange stem they sell. And the Shotwell, naming a stem after a marginal street in the mission is a hoot. I'd be interested to see the relationship between Merry Sales, IRD, American Cyclery, SOMA and Paké.

    There are a lot of things that can cause a dropped chain the first place I would look after the limit screw is the placement of the front derailleur. If its too high they have a tendency to drop chains and if there is too much toe in on the inner plate they can over shift going to the big ring. I would loosen the FD and rotate it just a degree anti clockwise, and see if that helps.

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    1. Oh wow, I had not seen the Tange threadless lugged stem before (here it is). Nice that there are others besides Nitto.

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  18. Wows. There is so much to disagree with here:
    IRD cassettes & drive train components are vastly inferior to Shimanologno, imo, and you get what you ask for when you spec Campy levers.

    I don't know why your speculating about larger tires when you've said the rig is smooth enough.

    You can't run a review of a Smoothie without acknowledging the components that give it, in large part, this smooth quality.

    If setback is a problem why do you have your saddle in the middle of the rails.

    "Slammed" denotes a stem set on top of the headset with stem flipped down; it doesn't count if the stem is flipped up.

    A properly-designed chain catcher works properly. The problem was a kinked chain. You keep your rig running properly and this stuff is minimized, but shit happens on a bike. The catcher isn't "dangerous"; this falls into the category of "what will kill me about bikes" once again.

    Ultimately you're running a mish-mash of stuff you've speced that doesn't work properly together for good reason.

    Also, do some research on wheels if you want an insight as to how they function relative to ride quality.

    Finally, the colourway is irrelevant if the machine doesn't work well.

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    1. Good to know the proper definition of slammed.

      I did not spec the drivetrain mishmash.

      It is indeed significant that the Smoothie feels smooth with 23mm tires. I am imagining wider tires in terms of road to trail stuff.

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    2. Campy levers + IRD = mishmash. A proprietary system is designed to function together well; any "bastardization" and it will function sub-optimally or not at all.

      Forgot: SOMA is incapable of building a competitive race bike. An off-the-shelf plastic bike is the appropriate tool. Per usual, it's not the bike but the rider tho.

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  19. I own two bikes that are equipped with Campy brake/shift levers. Both bikes have Shimano double cranks and mixed (brand) chainrings (Shimano, T.A., etc). The levers shift perfectly -- up or down. Never dropped a chain, and that includes riding bumpy dirt roads and trails.

    Also, don't lump all chain catchers into the same "dangerous" bucket. There are some really crappy ones on the market, and there are some really good ones available. N-Gear's JumpStop being an example of the latter.

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  20. Dear Velouria,

    Having used compact (Ritchey; Shimano; TA) or super-compact (TA; Velo Orange, and now René Herse) doubles with Campagnolo Ergo levers since the late 1990's, I've found 10s Campagnolo front derailleurs (with Ergo levers) are ordinarily pretty ecumenical with other brands' chainrings and chains. I'd suggest it is a front derailleur setup issue.

    I'd still install a chain minder (I've used the Deda ones with success, though the K-edge design is also a good one) as a matter of course until I become completely comfortable with the setup, as 8s and 9s campy front derailleurs did tend to toss the chain from time to time, and they were fussier to set up properly. I retain that habit, reinforced by the horror of picking a chain out of the nest of bolts on a TA Pro 5 Vis chainset once it gets really wedged....

    Best Regards,

    Will
    William M. deRosset
    Fort Collins, CO

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  21. The chain dropping issue is kind of important. I've seen a dropped chain perforate a steel frame tube. I've seen twenty riders go down 'cause one of them dropped a chain. I've seen chains snarled so bad 6 chain rivets had to be removed to begin to assess the damage.

    I haven't dropped a chain (offroad excluded) in twenty years. The crank that was or is on your Moser never dropped a chain. I use all sorts of bastard systems and they all work fine.

    The front downshift is the one that's least affected by all the advances in shifting technology. Just because the right lever stirs the rear derailleur flawlessly without a stutter is no reason to expect the same from the front. The left lever is a ratcheted friction lever operating a Bowden cable that pulls or releases a spring loaded striker plate. Very primitive stuff. After the striker plate hits the chain it's gravity, inertia and levers. Gravity does not care what logos are on your parts.

    When you shift off the 50T the chain is moving about 1 meter per second. The bike is probably moving at 10 m/s. It's an unsuspended vehicle, everything is vibrating. Nobody pedals perfectly; the chain is being pulled by intermittent and erratic power pulses.
    The spring in the rear derailleur pulls on the chain slack but that pull may not be applied evenly or at a good moment. Waves set up in loose chain, those waves pull hard at the RD spring. There was likely a wave going even before the shift. This is hardly an exhaustive list of things that are going on, it's a beginning.

    It's a wonder front shifts happen at all. It's much easier to explain why they should go wrong than to account for the fact that most shifts are OK.

    Chain drops used to be something that happened to the rawest novices and on cheap badly set up bikes. They were not common at all on good bikes or in the paceline. A handful of riders improvised one-use chainwatchers from unused Zefal pump pegs. Now chain drops happen to excess and expensive elaborately machined chainwatchers are fast sellers.

    You just have to shift differently at the front and rear. Different habits for the left hand and the right hand. The left hand controls a primitive failure-prone system. The greater the spread between the two chainrings the easier you have to go when shifting. The motor skills for the left and right hand are completely different. Learned behavior that works for the right hand is not appropriate for the left.

    The other arcane skill that will keep your chain on is to softpedal for the shift. All shifts used to require this. It's wonderful in a way to do anything at all to an Ergopower rear at full power and get an accurate shift. Full power shifts changed racing. They changed the way we all ride. Front downshifts still work better with a soft touch.

    The final issue is the spread between the two chainrings. A 16T gap between rings does not shift the same as a 10T gap. Sixteen does not equal ten. The bigger the gap the softer the hand on the lever. The bigger the gap the more things are likely to go wrong. Wide doubles are tempting, they do not come without issues. A race speed downshift across 16T is not going to happen flawlessly every time.

    Stay safe.

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  22. Chain drop is an interesting topic to discuss, but it is impossible to play armchair diagnostician without knowing the specifics of the drivetrain. In this case, I am not looking for a diagnosis; the problem has been identified and confirmed by several professionals now, and it is an obvious one.

    Some franken-drivetrain setups work. We have set up "Shimpagnolo" on 2 bikes and there were no problems once everything was properly adjusted. However the situation here is different.

    I am not categorically against all chain catchers. But I do not think they are a good solution when there is a deeper issue causing the problem.

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  23. To be clear, I am not try to play the armchair diagnostician and clearly some of the comments have gone haywire, per usual.

    Whatever the cause may be, fact is some interchangeability is possible, so the anecdotal "i don't have a problem/i've never experienced it" don't refute that it sometimes doesn't work.

    When you take a Campy lever that is designed to dumb the chain quickly with a thump! it's good idea to make sure the smaller chainring has the shaping to handle it, that is all. It's very different from a lever/fd combo whose default is a gentle action.

    I don't care if you run a chain catcher or not; my months-before suggestion for one was merely an attempt to be helpful about a dropped chain situation you expressed neurosis before. Oh well, I guess you have fears about something else now.

    Can't say I didn't try, per usual.

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    1. Jim I don't think we are disagreeing here. I am not afraid to ride a bike for fear of chain drop and I am riding the Soma very happily. But I do think it would be in bad faith to take part in a paceline ride specifically, on a bike with a known issue of this type.

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  24. Forget the drive train problems, as an artist I take issue with linking this bike to Monet's paintings.

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    1. Funny. As an artist I am actually not a fan of Monet, but as a cyclist I am a fan of the Soma.

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    2. There you have it :)

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    3. Ah! Sorry, I misjudged your taste.
      "Anonymous" just sounds like such a Monet fanclub name.

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    4. It's never about taste....one should never be informed by one's taste.

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    5. I don't know, I kind of like how some paintings taste. Not Monet though.

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  25. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your impressions of the smoothie. I have the buena vista, partially built up according to somervillan and despite your lack of enthusiasm, I love this bike! It would be interesting to hear more about your impressions of the smoothie regarding speed since this is an area of biking that I'm becoming more interested. Thank you for the blog, I appreciate your writing and love that you visited NI.

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    1. How cool that you're building one of these up in Northern Ireland! I like the Buena Vista and have recommended it to multiple people; just not so sure about that IGH hub. If it were my bike, I'd go 650B like Somervillain, but derailleur gearing, maybe 1x9. YMMV.

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  26. Thanks for the review! Soma is one company I considering for a new bicycle. I was also thinking of using the IRD crank with Campagnolo. I glad I learned of your difficulties first.

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  27. As a guy who wrenches on bikes for a living, I've always enjoyed the never ending battle between form and function... what looks really cool on a bike and what actually works under the stress of real world riding. Soma is a great choice here, the bikes look great and perform well out on the road. That IRD crankset however, it looks all cool old school retro, but it has way too much flex and it will toss the chain if you ride it hard. I'd get a stiffer crankset if you're going to ride hard with the boys...

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