Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The Soma Gullwing Bar: The Answer to One of the Most Asked Questions on Bike Forums

There are inventions from the 20th century that - when you first look at them - you aren't sure whether they are super cool or a little wacky. The "gullwing" feature on 1950's era Mercedes 300SL is one of those inventions. Of course some of these 300SL's go for over a million dollars to collectors and then there is the Delorean and the new Tesla, so maybe cool has won out.

The Soma Gullwing Bar is definitely going to get second glances like those vintage Mercedes, because of its unusual look and questionable purpose. It is essentially a flat bar designed to allow you to run drop bar STI levers. 

Bike forums are full of threads asking how to run road "brifters" on flat, riser, moustache and pursuit bars and full of threads where valiant cyclists have tried, but the results were usually between "less than ideal" and "more than a little entertaining". So we kind of knew what we were getting into releasing this in the States.
This bar was actually designed by our Japanese distributor and they asked us whether we would like to sell it here. (They also designed our 1st gen Condor Bar)

It does address the bar diameter needed to install a brifter and adds a bend so the lever doesn't bottom out against the bar. And it looks kind of sleek if you forget that the levers are oriented not the usual way, especially on current STI's.

The bar has a 30mm rise and comfortable 25ยช back sweep. Harder to see in photos is the 7° drop at the grips which suits a semi-aggressive ride position and puts your wrists in a better angle to operate the levers. 

The brake lever hoods can be used as a secondary place to rest your hands and to get more aero. Hood position feels similar to a 38cm road bar, which is fine, since this is not meant to be the primary hand position. It's more of a position to get a little aero.

Grip section is 22.2mm OD, so you can either run MTB grips or bar tape.

Straight section near the clamp is 110mm wide, which gives some room for accessories or possibly aero bars.

Lastly how comfortable it is depends on how high your stem is already and how close the bars are. The levers would normally be mounted at a flat angle, so for your fingers to activate the shift paddles it is best if your forearms are at nearly parallel angle to the levers (zero to 20 degrees). Any higher an angle and some of you may experience tension in arms or fingers over time. Get the set-up right and you should get more braking leverage than you get from braking from the hoods on your drop bar.

If you are moving away from your drops primarily to sit more upright, you may still want to add a stem with rise. (The Gullwing has a 30mm rise, but that isn't a ton) 

BUT if your goal is to add steering control and stability to your gravel bike that you sometimes ride singletrack with, the Gull Wing could be the perfect choice, if you don't want to buy new flat bar shifters.

Designed in Japan by Tokyo San Esu.

• Width: 620mm
• Center: 31.8mm OD
• Material: 6061-T6 Aluminum
• Rise: 30mm (with 7° down slope at grips)
• Backsweep: 25°
• Grip OD: 22.2mm
• Lever mounting area OD: 23.8mm
• Weight: 290g

*** Not feasible to use with Campagnolo Ergo levers, L-Twoo, or other models where one of the shifters is on the inboard side of the lever.

New Alt Bars: Soma Clarence II and Hwy 17


With long-distance gravel events and bikepacking continuing to gain popularity, Soma has decided to add functionality and comfort to two of their most popular handlebars, the Highway One and the Clarence.

These bars will be sold with custom-designed extensions under the names Highway 17 and Clarence II.

The extensions can be angled up/down just like other bar ends or extensions, BUT also allows the customer freely rotate the horns to fine-tune their set up to suit individual needs. Soma will look into adding horns of different shapes to the lineup after gathering customer feedback.  



Clarence II and Cletus Combo Bar:

The Clarence is has a 34° backsweep for a natural feeling grip angle, but its forward bend  keeps the bar from shrinking the cockpit, if you are coming from a common riser bars. However those bends also makes it hard to mount lights and GPS units.
The Cletus extensions, designed especially for the Clarence, allows space for accessories or to use the area as a hand rest. Additionally if you flip the extensions left to right and rotate the horns, you can use them as forward facing grips when the cyclist wants to reduce wind resistance or stretch their back on those long rides. The Cletus extensions have oversized clamps to make them easier to negotiate around the curves during installation. And you slip two-piece shims under the clamps when you ready to lock them in.

Specs: 6061 T-6 aluminum, 31.8mm center, 670mm wide, Weight with extensions: 600g

Price: $119.99 (reflects supply chain issues)


Hwy 17 with Road Extensions:
The Hwy One bar is our compact bend road bar with 130mm drop and 75mm reach. It has a single groove for cables. The Hwy 17’s extensions (like the Cletus) have oversized clamps to make it easier to negotiate around the curves during installation. And you slip two-piece shims under the clamps when you ready to lock them in. Depending on what hand position the cyclist prefers they can rotate the horns to form a loop or have them point almost straight out – whatever position is more aero or produces less muscle tension and still lets you feel in control of the bicycle.


Specs: 6061 T-6 aluminum, 31.8mm center, 38 to 46cm wide, Weight with extensions: 610g

Price: $149.99 (reflects supply chain issues)

Sorry. The extensions are not being sold as a separate component.

We will consider that possibility later. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The Smoothie HP: New "High Protein" Endurance Road Frame

Our Smoothie road performance frame model is as old as the Soma brand itself. It started out with a classic looking level top tube design and a curved unicrown fork. The tubes were a combination of Reynolds 631 and 4130 butted chromoly . It was an affordably-priced, solid road frame aimed at commuters as much as at seasoned road cyclists.

First generation Smoothie. 2001

Later iterations included a semi-compact geometry, lugged steel and carbon fork options and of course upgrading to a lighter Tange Prestige heat-treated chromoly. But the intent of the frame has never changed. Its designers never sought to make it the "most agile"or "most innovative" or promised podium finishes at your local crit. The Smoothie was just meant to be a competent and versatile road bike with smooth-riding steel tubeset. 

Reaching Higher
Initially we were just going to put disc mounts on the Smoothie and call it a day, but the project soon came to focus is on utilizing some of Tange's more premium Prestige Japan tubes and adding more modern road bike touches. It morphed into a High Performance version of the original Smoothie (i.e. a "High Protein" Smoothie). 
The Smoothie HP uses the thinnest walled tubes of any frame in our line up, but in oversized 34.9mm and 38.1mm diameters (depending on the frame size). Those tubes and the oversized tapered chainstays (32x18mm oval) promise to increase pedaling stiffness and responsiveness. Lastly an ovalized top tube was specced to add back in vertical compliance that might be lost with the use of the fatter down tubes, but since the tube becomes wider horizontally when ovalized, it also adds a bit of torsional stiffness.

Though optimized for 700c x 26-28mm wide tires,
both fork and frame will accept some 35mm tires.
Yes, that is a hole in the crown for mounting a rim brake.
Why? Because there are always a couple of you out of a hundred
who will ask whether your brand new disc brake frame will fit rim brakes.
Never fails. Frame and fork should fit 57mm reach road calipers. 

Photos are of a prototype. Production frames will not have so many bosses on the seatstay.

Horizontally ovalized top tube helps with lateral stiffness
and vertical compliance, but the HP is meant to have a snappier, stiffer feel
than the rim-brake Smoothie.

We wanted the high stack of an endurance road frame, but with a shorter wheelbase than our Fog Cutter and most current endurance road frames. Except for sloping top tube, we wanted a "tried and true" road geometry, so seasoned riders don't have to adapt to something novel. We avoided slackening the headtube and raking out the fork to restore "racing bike" trail numbers, which some performance brands have been doing. This we hope results in confident handling on fast descents and a responsiveness that many cyclists will enjoy.

Modern Yet Old School:
Modern touches include flat mount disc compatibility, thru-axles, ED rust-proofing coating, and a 44mm headtube. 
Traditional and utilitarian touches include a BSA threaded BB shell, fender eyelets, external cable routing for less hassle during maintenance time, and down tube shifter bosses. These are not necessarily the features that win you style points on club rides, but nods to practicality and backwards compatibility have always been part of Soma's DNA.

Who Do We Think This Frame Is For?
• Cyclists who want the responsiveness of a classic road race bike, but with the stack of an endurance road bike.
• Stronger riders and former racers who like to mash hard and who might find bikes like the old Smoothie not stiff enough for their style of riding
• Cyclists that might find lightweight carbon bikes sometimes sketchy-feeling on fast descents. The HP may feel a little more planted while still communicating desirable road feel.
• Fans of steel road bikes

Since we are talking about a frame and not a complete bike, we don't want say too much about what kind of bike the Smoothie HP is.  Your choice of bar, stem and spacers determines how relaxed or racey the ride position will be. Your wheel choice will determine whether it is quick out of the gates or something that keeps its momentum on those long steady rides. As with any Soma it will be as unique as its owner.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Cape to Kapp: My New Definition of "Beauty"


Teresie Hommersand's recently wrapped her "Cape to Kapp" adventure, finishing her ride at the North Cape in Norway. Four years in the saddle, across 25,000 kilometers, through 26 countries. Distance and time are just two of the measures of a journey. Maybe the most memorable parts of any journey are the people you meet along the way and Teresie has made so many friends and have had to rely on the kindness of many many strangers to help her through it.
If you are feeling kind yourself, give a little something to her Stoves That Rock fundraiser that gets efficient, eco-friendly outdoor stoves to families in rural Kenya. Fundraiser ends 7/11/22.
We did not sponsor the Soma Saga frame for her ride, but have been making a donation for each post she writes for us. (All photos copyright Teresie Homersand. Photos on the internet are not automatically public domain)

Too often we are afraid of other people. Not long ago I crossed the finish line at the North Cape in Norway, after having cycled there from the most southern tip of Africa - on my trusty Soma Saga bicycle. Now and en route, I regularly get questions about if I've had any bad experiences on my journey - particularly with people. My ride home took me 4 years and 7 months. Who wouldn't have some negative encounters with people during such a long period of time? HOWEVER, if you consider the way I have traveled, how exposed I have been, how vulnerable, and how many thousands of people I've met, from different countries, different cultures and different religions, the few negative experiences I've had is NOTHING compared to all the POSITIVE ones!

The few negative experiences I've had is NOTHING compared to all the POSITIVE ones!

Before Covid-19 forced me to face my fear of camping alone in nature, I was a bit of a wimp when it comes to it. I wasn't comfortable sleeping alone in nature, even though I knew that in pretty much all cases it is completely fine. But when I heard a sound, and I didn't know what it was, I became alert and often my imagination ran wild with thoughts of someone wanting to do me harm. Needless to say, I didn't sleep very well, and I therefore sought people! So, in the late afternoons, after a day of cycling, and before it got dark, I found a house, knocked on the door and asked if I can put my tent outside in their garden or compound. EVERYBODY has been saying yes! Irrespective of country, culture and religion. Very often they would invite me to join them for dinner, and every time we would sit up until late, talking, learning about each other and the world, connecting, and having the most amazing time ❤️๐Ÿ™

Menna and her sister and me cycling together in Cairo, Egypt.
She and her amazing family invited me to stay with them for a whole week.
She's also big info promoting cycling for women in Egypt as it's not common,
even discouraged some places.

As in Egypt. I randomly stayed with a family in a tiny village on the banks of the Nile during Ramadan. When I arrived they were about to break the fast and they inviting me to join them. We had the most amazing meal. Eating delicious local and homemade food from a huge tray placed on the floor in the living room. We all gathered around it, eating together with our hands after washing them. Of course. We spent the whole evening laughing and smiling, being curious and interested in each other. Trying to understand what we were saying, me with my limited Arabic, them with their English dictionary. So nice! It was a party! That night I'm pretty sure I slept in one of the sisters' beds. They wouldn't hear of me putting up my tent. 

The next morning I couldn't find my cycle clothing. When I asked it turned out they had taken them and washed them! Then they asked me if I'd like tea before I got back on the bike. I said that that would be very nice. 'Shukran'. I sat and waited for a long time, the cup of tea was taking it's time. I was starting to wonder why. Then when they came, they came with a huge tray of breakfast for me!! They were fasting, yet they gave me food!!!! Accepting and being fine with me not fasting, fine with us not sharing the same religion. Still genuinely caring for me.

More so, in Kenya, a guy that was walking next to the road one day when I was thinking it was time to find a place to stay, invited me to stay with him and his family when I asked where I could put my tent. I followed him through bushes and over a few small hills, on a dirt path. More like a trail. Then we got to what turned out to be a tiny Maasai village. His wife Florence didn't know I was coming until she saw me but welcomed me with open arms and the biggest smile, literally from the first second! 

In the evening we sat around the indoor fire, drinking the best milk tea, eating beans, their curious cousins that came asking me if I like drinking cow blood, my thoughts on communism vs capitalism! We had such a good time that I couldn't say no to their invitation of staying one more day to join the village celebrating two youths passing their exams! Goats were slaughtered, chapatis were made, huuuuge pots were being pulled out to cater for everyone that came. It was a grand celebration! Everyone so beautifully dressed up in their traditional clothing. Me in the only t-shirt and loose pants I had. 

The granny Rose and I had a special connection. She didn't speak a single word of English, me a few words of Swahili, yet we were communicating at a different level! She asked me if I didn't have anything else to wear? No... She leaned over to another granny and then they said 'Come with us'. They dressed me up as a Maasai! My secret dream! Wow! When we returned to the party, everybody turned their heads, saying how beautiful I was! Haha! Speeches, dancing, FOOD! I was so warmly welcomed and included by everybody. At one point I fell asleep in one of the ladies' lap. I registered that someone put a blanket over me. Caring for me. What a day! 

Jeremiah and Florence and me dressed in traditional Maasai wear

In the evening we were all changing back to our everyday clothing, me returning the beautiful necklaces and bracelets. Without a thought I said I felt empty, that something was missing around my neck. Florence went into the neighboring room. She came back with a necklace. 'This is for you'. For me, this was the ultimate symbol of inclusion!!! I cried when we said our goodbyes. We all did. Everybody saying that they wish that I will one day come back. The grandmother. Rose. I don't know who cried the most, me or her. I walked away, pushing my bike, with tears in my eyes.

This is not even the tip of the iceberg of stories I can tell about the people I've met. I feel like I'm stating the obvious, that I shouldn't have to say this, but we're all the same. We have the same needs, the same wants. We all just want to be happy and included, loved. But we so often forget this when constantly being exposed to the news which solely focuses on the sensational and negative and are often taking things out of context and not telling the whole story. Often in society there's also negative perceptions about certain groups of people that feeds into this discourse, creating distance and misunderstandings between us. In the end, it only hurts us, prevents us from profound and beautiful meetings.

Beauty can be defined in several ways, but what I've come to know as THE definition is this; the love between strangers

Beauty can be defined in several ways, but what I've come to know as THE definition is this; the love between strangers. Countless times I've rocked up at someone's home. We don't speak the same language. I look different. Maybe I'm dirty and a little bit stinky after riding on a gravel road the whole day. Yet people take me in. My first winter in Turkey I didn't sleep outside a single night. When I asked to put my tent outside of people's homes they said it's way too cold to sleep outside, and invited me in, preparing a warm bed for me, shower and food! I don't know what this is, this care, this kindness, generosity, warmth and actually love between strangers. Strangers who at a first glance seem very different. But I genuinely cannot think of anything else in this world that is more beautiful than exactly this. I cycled because of our climate and wanting to reduce my carbon footprint, but not only did the said love enrich the experience, my life, to a previously unimaginable level - it also made this journey possible. Without "strangers" love, my heart would not have been full and I would not have been able to cycle 25,000 kilometers. I'm forever grateful and humbled.

Family in Turkey who let me sleep in their home.

 Friends I made in Haifa, Israel, at the annual event
'The Holiday of Holidays'. It's a celebration of the holidays
of the three main religions in the Haifa; Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Hanukkah, Christmas and Eid al-Adha to be exact.
The event is intended to encourage the values of coexistence
and mutual respect of all religions in the city
and celebrate the cultural and religious diversity

A fantastic family in South Africa who took me under their roof
during a very cold winter night in the southern hemisphere

A boy offered me plums when I got to the top of a mountain in Tanzania. 
Such a welcome sight after a tiring climb.