Extra Smoother

Things have been pretty quiet around here lately, I’ve realized. But that’s not because I’m just sitting on my ass watching TV and drinking beer (well, not much anyway — and I haven’t had any beer for about 10 days).

Nope, I’ve been riding as much as possible (given that I am recovering from messing up my back a few weeks ago) and messing with bikes in the shop. The first product of all this wrenching has finally seen the light of day and been put through its paces.

Extra Smoother
Extra Smoother

After not riding the Soma ES much last year–mostly because I’d started to tear it apart without knowing how I’d put it back together–I’ve reconfigured it for a wider range of conditions.

Changes include:

  • Cockpit: 46cm Salsa Cowbell 2 bars, Thomson 90mm 10 degree stem, TRP RRL brake levers, and SRAM 10spd barcons (replacing 46cm Nitto Randonneur bars, SRAM Rival brifters, and a 90mm Velo Orange stem). New housing and cables as well.
  • Wheels: Neuvation M28AW wearing 35mm Clement USH tires (replacing Shimano 105/Velo Orange PBP wheels wearing 28mm Panaracer Paselas)
  • Brakes: Paul Racers (replacing Tektro R559 sidepulls) with a Paul Funky Monkey (front) and a Surly cable hanger (rear). New housing and cables as well.
  • Saddle: Selle Anatomic Titanico X (replacing an older Selle Anatomica non-X) with a different, shorter Thomson seatpost (since I don’t need the extra length anyway).

In other words, the frameset, headset, and drivetrain are all that remains the same.

There are two things missing:

  • Fenders: I’ll use the same set of silver Honjo knockoffs (or are they a knockoff of VO fenders…I’m not sure). With the massive clearances provided by the Paul Racers, I can use them with 35mm tires, but it’s a tight fit, so I’ll probably use 32mm Clement MSOs when the fenders are in play. A pair of Sheldon’s fender nuts make mounting and removal a ten-minute affair. And if I’m feeling particularly lazy, I’ll mount them on the other set of M28AW wheels so that I can just swap wheelsets instead of remounting tires.
  • Bar tape: I didn’t wrap the bars to start with, since I was still fiddling with brake lever position, but after about 110 miles of riding in the last week, I think I’ve got that sorted out to my satisfaction. Now the question is whether to use black cloth or brown leather.

The Differences

So how does it ride? Well, first of all, like a completely different bike. Just about everything that I added is lighter (except for the Paul Racers, which are every so slightly heavier) and stiffer than what they replaced–so it feels much more sprightly. The extra rubber, especially when run 10-15 psi below maximum–make for a very smooth ride and tend to inspire confidence no matter the surface.

The cockpit, in particular, feels very very different. Moving from bars with very long ramps, a deepish drop, and no flare to a bar with short ramps, a short drop, and substantial flare means that I now spend less time on the tops and hoods, and more time in the drops (since I can actually reach them comfortably), which themselves are long enough to allow for 3 distinct hand positions.

The shifters are also a huge improvement. No one who’s ridden with me in the past couple of years has escaped having to listen to me bitch about SRAM DoubleTap–while also being treated to volleys of profanity when I accidentally shifted down two cogs instead of up two on a climb. The SRAM barcons, on the other hand, just work. They were dead-easy to set up and they have a positive shifting process that almost makes me want to shift more just to experience the joy of it. And then there are the several advantages of barcons in general: being able to see and feel what gear I’m in, being able to shift multiple cogs in one motion, and being able to shift both at once. All good.

And the brakes? Nothing but superlatives will do. Paul Racers are the best centerpull/sidepull calipers that I’ve ever used and combine perfectly with the TRP levers, which are themselves the best feeling and most comfortable levers I’ve found. But the Racers are also the most difficult of brakes to set up–extremely fiddly and difficult to get tuned just so (perhaps the post-mount version is easier, but I somehow doubt that).

The Purpose

The Soma ES is now a versatile, do just about anything bike. In it’s present configuration, it can handle anything from road rides to gravel rides. With the addition of a small rear rack and a larger saddlebag, it can take on some light touring and warm weather S240s

Now I just have to figure out how to reconfigure the Smoothie so that it can take 32mm tires. 650b anyone?

8 thoughts on “Extra Smoother

  1. I love this website. You have both versions of the Smoothie and I’m now torn between them. I thought I wanted the ES but the bike shop says that at my weight and height , 6’2″, 200 lbs (I hope) the Smoothie makes more sense. This is my first bike purchase in 12 years. I might commute but more likely just go on long weekend rides.

  2. Well, I’m 5’9″ and 200 lbs. If I had to choose between the two based on my bodyweight I’d probably go with the ES because it can run much larger tires. The Smoothie tops out at 28mm while I’ve squeezed 38mm tires on the ES, though 35s have better clearance without fenders and 32s work best with fenders.

  3. Looks great with the new set-up. There could be a Soma in my future. I’m really eager to find out more about the Wolverine. Specially since I really like the Belt Drive bike I ride now.

    I found the post-mount Paul Racers very easy to set-up on my handmade frame. Centering is a cinch, five minutes per brake and then never touch them again until they need new pads. That’s coming from a fairly average amateur mechanic.

  4. Post mount. They look the same as the center-mount, but pivot completely different. That may be the difference.

  5. I suspect the post mounts make all of the difference. The third rotational point seemed to me to be what kept making it get out of tune.

    A custom frame may be the only solution. I can live with that.

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