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Soma Smoothie review

3 Mar 2016
Verdict:

The Soma Smoothie is an incredibly desirable bike that certainly lives up to its name.

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Classy retro ride
Against 
Fork was a little out of place

Soma is a small brand based in San Francisco. Its philosophy echoes the area’s hippie values and it claims to make products for everyday cyclists, not just those wanting to ape the pros. The Smoothie is its road race frame, but it still offers mudguard and rack mounts, boosting its versatility. We were keen to find out if practicality and excitement are mutually exclusive or whether a bike can really provide both. It’s also absolutely, mid-70s Stevie Nicks-level gorgeous. Not that we are liable to be swayed by something so superficial…

Frameset

Soma Smoothie frame

With its horizontal, non-compact, geometry and traditional round-tube profiles the Soma looks resolutely retro. The upper part of the head tube itself protrudes a centimetre or so higher than you would expect above the top tube. Housing a very slim headset, the whole grouping has an agreeably slender appearance. This design allows the frame to retain its handsome looks without sacrificing too much stand-over height or having to employ an impractically low front end. Otherwise there’s little to mark this frame out as much different from one coming from the era of old-school quill stems and 14-23 freehubs. Unlike most bikes, there’s no replaceable drop out, which means if you mangle the derailleur hanger you’ll need a frame builder to repair it. On the plus side, this is unlikely and means the possibility of it getting damaged in the first place is far lower than with a replaceable type. The seat collar is also integrated into the frame, which in practical terms is neither here nor there, but it looks great. Out back there’s plenty of space for wider tyres or mudguards, along with rack mounts. Our test bike came with a Kinesis carbon fork featuring a medium amount of clearance. A matching steel number is also available – fitting it will boost durability and tyre clearance but also add weight.

Groupset

Complete Shimano 105, so no quibbles here. Being a custom build, you’ll be able to specify a compact, traditional or pro-compact chainset, along with whatever block takes your fancy on the rear. The 50/34 and 11-28 ours came with seems a sensible choice.

Finishing kit

Soma Smoothie handlebars

Our test bike featured a high-quality seatpost and stem from Deda. By default, the Smoothie comes with Soma’s Highway 1 bars. They’re short and shallow, with a gentle curve. The Fizik Ardea saddle has more than average padding. Not that we had any particular desire to swap it, but should you wish to, it’s unlikely to be a problem as there’s scope to change components when ordering. Cane Creek provided the headset for our build, a high-end model with an extremely low-profile upper. To get so low, and to save weight, it runs on Norglide bushings rather than bearings. These slippery discs are thin and light but tend to wear out much quicker. Either way, the general level of the finishing kit is impeccable.

Wheels

Soma Smoothie wheels

Fulcrum’s Racing 5s are great wheels. Low weight combines with trustworthy durability. Their recently updated design now features a modern, wider rim. This should boost their already decent aerodynamics and means the Continental Grand Prix tyres they’re fitted with end up looking even broader. These are nice enough to roll on, dishing out OK grip without creating noticeable drag. Even their wire beads, which add about 50g per hoop, don’t slow down the inherently nippy wheels. 

The ride

Soma Smoothie review

It’s hard not to warm to a bike when it looks this good. Luckily, even if it were pug-ugly the Soma would still endear itself with a ride that is, as its name suggests, extremely smooth.

Tange tubing might not have the reputation of Reynolds or Columbus but the scales show that the Soma is no heavyweight. This lack of bulk is obvious in the way it gets up to speed. The skinny tubes led us to suspect it might be on the flexy side. However, the back end, which comes into play when pedalling hard, is fairly unbending. The front is more flexible side-to-side, although this only becomes noticeable when sprinting and even then not really to an annoying degree. The wheels and tyres are also a winning combo, gaining speed with little effort, and maintaining it thanks to a moderately aero profile. They twin with the frame to bring out the best in each other. Anything flexier, like the heavy, 32-spoke traditional hand-builds that often grace this kind of bicycle, would have robbed the Soma of some of its purposefulness. As it is, the wheels easily make up for the slight flex in the frame, allowing you to enjoy the comfort provided by its skinny tubes without ever feeling at a disadvantage when pushing a little harder.

The geometry, based around matching 73-degree seat and head tubes, throws up no surprises. Not too slack, not too flighty, just right. The head tube is moderately tall, so the default position is more suited to long hours in the saddle than smashing out hot laps. The frame does a fantastic job of drowning out the chatter, making pockmarked roads feel more like freshly-laid tarmac and is definitely the most comfortable on test.

Geometry

Geometry chart
Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 580mm 575mm
Seat Tube (ST) 570mm 570mm
Down Tube (DT) N/A 635mm
Fork Length (FL) N/A 375mm
Head Tube (HT) 195mm 195mm
Head Angle (HA) 73.5 73.0
Seat Angle (SA) 72.5 73.0
Wheelbase (WB) 1005mm 1005mm
BB drop (BB) 70mm 68mm

Spec

Soma Smoothie as tested
Frame Soma Smoothie Tange Prestige
Groupset Shimano 105, 11-speed
Brakes Shimano 105
Chainset Shimano 105, 50/34
Cassette Shimano 105, 11-28
Bars Soma HWY One
Stem Deda Zero2
Seatpost Deda RSx02
Wheels Fulcrum Racing 5s
Tyres Continental Grand Prix GT
Saddle Fizik Ardea
Contact cycleworx.co.uk
Price: 
£1,499

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