If you’ve been following along at home you’ll know that I fretted over my which bike I was going to get to replace the rig I’d been riding. If you haven’t you can read about it here, and the start of it all here. On the other hand I picked the bike quietly, only leaving pictures and little bits of text about its smoothness and more importantly its fun.
I picked out Soma’s Smoothie ES, as opposed to the Smoothie model for two reasons: I wanted to be able to fit bigger tires and the geometry fit me better. I planned to use the bike as my Rando, dirt road explorer, and everyday workhorse. I haven’t done a brevet yet, but the bike has fulfilled in every other way.
I went with a size 52, which carries 54cm top tube – which is how bikes should be sized – because it was the closest to the fit I like. I’ve found that I tend to like, and fit bikes with a “slack” geo. I put slack in quotes because the frame is still a bit aggressive – closer to American Crit Geo – than what the industry now calls “endurance” geometry. Still, the bike’s handling is stable, giving me point and go stability I was looking for.
Like I said in a previous post, I chose the steel fork over a carbon one with the idea that I would later “upgrade” to something modern and lighter. Truth is this, while the steel fork does add weight, it doesn’t lessen and may add to the ride quality of the bike. That may have to do with the fact that I think bikes were perfectly fine before this modern obsessions with weight and stiffness. But if those things are your main concern then you were probably looking for a bike other than this one.
With that said, the frame’s smoothness comes mainly from tire choice. If I were to fall to convention, and hit those points that marketing departments and engineers love to brag about I would have to say that the frame is stiff enough. I’ve pushed it hard in the saddle, out of the saddle for sprints, on climbs, and through corners. While the bike doesn’t spin up fast, it does get up speeds that I would consider fast and maintains its great handling.
I do have two complaints, one I hinted at earlier, and that is the geometry. I wish it truly were slacker, going with a more laid back old school euro geometry. I also wish the bottom bracket were a bit lower. Closer to 8 cm instead of the accepted 7 most modern road bikes have settled on. This bike wasn’t designed for railing crit corners and the increase in ride quality would make this bike even better. Those are the things I miss most about the custom bike I had.
Over the last thousand miles I’ve ridden the bike on long steep paved climbs, a converted railroad grade into the foothills of the Cascades, long days daily commutes and even a bit of singletrack and never really felt like I the bike was lacking in anyway. It also looks good, classic even. I plan on using this bike to pursue this season’s Randonneuring goals. Soma does make the Grand Randonneur for this purpose, but the top tubes are too long (per size) for me and I’m not all in to the point of wanting to go 650b in the wheels.
Bottom line is that the bike is fun, stable and comfortable. If you want steel, and can’t swing the price of going custom, then you should check this bike out.
*Small note. Soma recommends the 45mm rake fork for the size 52, but the distributor shipped me 43mm rake. The 45 will decrease the trail a bit, but I haven’t felt any problems with the shorter rake. I may at some point (funds dependent) to try it with the 45. I suspect it will make the bike even more stable.