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.