Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Rivenoma or Somadell? Thoughts on a Soma San Marcos

It might seem that with the injuries I've been coddling since the start of the year that I have no business looking at adding bikes to the fold, but there has been reason to do some switching around - mostly due to those injuries, but also because I think I'm slowly coming to understand what it is that I actually want out of my bicycles (very slowly, apparently).

The Soma San Marcos has been on the market for a handful of years now. I recall seeing it when it first became news, but if I'm perfectly honest, I didn't give it a second thought at release time, and didn't think much about it over the years that passed either. I'd read a few reviews at various points and thought it sounded like a perfectly fine Rivendell design built for Soma's brand. I like Rivendell. I like Soma. I just didn't see that I had need for this particular bike.
Soma San Marcos
*Image from Soma
Over the last year and a half or so, my bike herd has changed. My needs, wants, and thoughts have morphed a bit and I've discovered that there's just a reality to the sort of riding I do. I may have want for super-speedy and light road bikes, but it hasn't been entirely practical for me between injuries and the mess I created with attempts at custom frames. It isn't that I won't ever have that type of bike, but for now, my needs and desires are in another place.

At the beginning of the year, as we plodded our way through winter house renovations, I was thinking a lot about bicycles and the types of rides I hoped to take this year. I had desire for a bike that would behave like a road bike in that it would be lighter than some of the other bikes I have, but would also allow for comfort over potentially long rides; a bike that would handle a 200-300k possibly without unnecessary discomfort.

As is the case for many, the problem came in trying to test this sort of bicycle out in person. My one very specific requirement for this bike was that it be steel. I don't have anything against other materials and have often enjoyed the ride on carbon and aluminium, but this was my own weird sticking point. Despite many available local shops, they simply don't stock the sort of bike I hoped to test. So, my shopping and browsing headed online.

I browsed possibilities from the fairly inexpensive to the ridiculously costly, but decided that I wanted something in a reasonable (to me) price range, especially knowing that I wouldn't be able to test it out first.

One bike that stood out to me as a possibility was the Velo Orange Pass Hunter. After reading a number of reviews of this bike, it sounded ideal for my purposes: comfortable, able to handle longer distances, but not too heavy so that a bit of speed could be gained.

After looking over the geometry charts, my biggest problem with the Pass Hunter right off the bat was sizing. The smallest frame available is what VO terms a 51cm. Now, depending on the manufacturer, design, geometry and so on, this size could potentially fit, but the fact that the seat tube measurement was 51cm concerned me. I do not have long legs and I am not considered tall. Still, there were many positive things to be said about this choice.

The second option I spent time researching was the Soma San Marcos. It is available in a 47cm, but because it was designed by Rivendell, I was well aware that the 47cm size would actually fit larger than the numerical size would indicate.

I quickly realized that each of these bikes had the potential to be too large, and for each this was my biggest concern.

So, as we rolled into spring time, I started looking more seriously at each of these possibilities. After lots of debating and looking into geometry and how I thought these would fit, I went for the Velo Orange Pass Hunter and crossed my fingers. My reasoning was that given the measurements, this option had the best opportunity to fit as I hoped.
This may be one of the only photos of the Pass Hunter while it was built up. Don't mind the ridiculously tall stack off the head tube, nor the multiple colors of spacers used (which should be an indicator of just how tall the stack really was - and this was after some of the steerer had been cut).
Needless to say and without going into all the detail at this moment, I wouldn't be writing about the San Marcos had the Pass Hunter worked out. Don't get me wrong, the Pass Hunter is a lovely bike, and for the right person, it could be the perfect choice, but for me the fit was off and I had to move on to something else.

Before getting into the details of the San Marcos build though, I just have to say that this has to be one of the most gorgeous frames for the price I have ever seen. It's frankly prettier than many other far more expensive frames too. It screams Rivendellian to anyone familiar with Grant's choices. Love him or hate him, he has a point of view when designing frames and the Soma San Marcos is no exception.
The inside of the chainstay has a subtle decal pointing to its origins.
**Apologies in advance - most of the shots of this beautiful bike aren't great and the bike was quite dirty when the photos were taken, so it isn't the best it can look, certainly... but, it does go to show that it is being ridden! :)
There was a recent change in color on the latest models of the San Marcos, going from what was called "Pearl Blue" to the current batch "Tiburon Blue." My understanding is that the pearl blue leaned more toward a turquoise blue color, whereas the tiburon is more a blue-grey color. It may not be the most important detail, but it is a way to distinguish earlier models from the 2015 batch.

From my point of view, though this may be apparent from what I've shared thus far, I find this to be a quite striking frame and fork. For several days it's been sitting (when not being ridden anyway) in a passageway from one area to another in our home and I cannot help but turn to look at it every time I pass by. It is simply eye-catching and photos are difficult to capture or represent this fully.
As for differences between a typical Rivendell frame and this Soma, there are some that are undeniable. The most apparent to me with just a quick look is the fork. The San Marcos does not have the same french-looking bend found on Rivendells, nor does it have the paint detailing on many Rivendell frames/forks. The more one looks, the more differences to be found. The lugs are fancier on Riv's higher end models, for example, but I have to remind myself that this is not a $2400 frame/fork, but rather around 1/3 of that cost (Honestly, how fancy a lug does a person need? Okay, for some perhaps this is of supreme importance, but let's keep in mind the cost vs beauty ratio here and recognize that this is quite a lovely frame, particularly for the cost, I'd say). Even with the different price tags, I think Soma has a beautiful frame, and to date I don't find it to be a compromise in any area that is of importance to me, or for this particular build.

Just a quick for-your-reference, and to provide a bit of background on my experience with these two companies, at various points I have owned three different models from Rivendell: a Betty Foy (their mixte, now going by the name Cheviot), an A. Homer Hilsen, and the Samuel Hillborne (that still remains as part of my personal bike fold). I have also owned a couple of Somas: the Buena Vista (their mixte) and the ES (Extra Smooth) model. I've additionally had opportunity to try a plethora of parts sold by both companies from handlebars to tires and many bits in between. All of this to say that I am by no means all-knowing in regard to either company, but I do have some experience riding parts and frames from each.

For the initial set up of the San Marcos, I tried out trekking/butterfly handlebars that have worked well on another bike. I thought it was actually quite nice with this set up. The ride was stable and the bars offered lots of hand positions. These handlebars provided options to be close or stretch out as needed. They were perhaps a little too upright though for my wants on this bike (meaning almost cruiser bike upright because of the length of the stem) and there were some issues with the shifting setup, so I knew it was probably time to try out a more "roadie" like build.

The original drivetrain was a tad odd (not completely un-workable, but not super either). In reality, using a setup that was trying to combine part road and part mountain was not the best combination. Parts simply were not communicating well together. So, instead, we opted to change things a bit, put drop bars on the bike as well as STI shifters just to help things move a bit smoother and to allow for a slightly more leaned position on the bike.
This is probably the most accurate photo of color (at least on my monitor & with the limited number of photos I've taken) that I've been able to achieve of the Tiburon Blue color which shows off those Riv lugs nicely.
Even though the bike is still pretty upright by road bike standards, what I like about this characteristic is that I'm able to easily use all the positions on the handlebars (and it definitely helps with the current injury issues). Should I, at some point in the future, desire a more leaned over position a shorter stem will accomplish just that.

One of my early rides out on the San Marcos I pedaled just over 20mi/32km and used the drop portion of the bars about half of the time. For me, this is a rarity because of hand and back injuries and just generally feeling uncomfortable on most bikes in that lower bar space. With the San Marcos, everything is comfortable, regardless of my hand position.

Of note at this point is that no matter how this bike has been set up (and there have been a few tweaks along the way, including stem height/reach, handlebars, shifting, etc), it was comfortable from first turn of the pedals. The Rivendell philosophy of being able to simply get on a bike and enjoy is evident in this frame. At no point after the first build up did I wonder whether or not the San Marcos would work for me - it just did.
This photo was taken prior to the change out to the Grand Bois Maes handlebars and was using an 80mm reach stem. The San Marcos rode fine with this setup, but I needed to try different handlebars due to the shape of these.
The build on this bike is nothing particularly fancy. I wanted to use pieces that were available in the parts bin as much as possible, so I didn't purposefully seek out much. Here is how it all breaks down though, for those with interest in such things:

Frame/fork: 47cm Soma San Marcos
Stem: Nitto Technomic 1" quill (tried 60, 70, and 80 mm length reach; currently using 60mm)
Brakes: Tektro R559 (I'm not in love with these as they don't seem to brake well on this bike, but they are at least something for now)
Crank: Velo Orange Grand Cru 110 fluted double (34, 48t), 165mm
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra Flight Deck
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra
Front Derailleru: SunTour XC
Cassette: 11-32 Shimano (I believe it's 105, but I could be mistaken)
Wheels: The most generic/inexpensive 650b set I could find in silver (I've used these before and they've been quite reliable, tough and are surprisingly light for a cost under $100 for the set) The rims are Weinmann Zac19 and the hubs are an unbranded alloy - I've been told they're a Mavic hub, but cannot swear to this
Tires: Soma New Xpress 650x38b in black (my white ones have disappeared into the parts abyss, but I'm sure they'll make an appearance again at some point)
Pedals: Started with VP's Thin Gripster, currently has Velo Orange Grand Cru Sabot
Saddle: Brooks B-17 Champion
Bottle Cages: King
Handlebars: A few different models, but currently testing out the Grand Bois Maes

The only items purchased specifically for this bike were the wheels (because we didn't have a full set of 650b wheels), headset, and the brakes. There is always an opportunity to upgrade later, but I wanted to test this with minimal initial investment. I also have to admit I haven't weighed the bike, so I'm not able to give an exact measurement in that regard. I will say that it feels light enough to fairly easily pick up and hang on the wall as needed, so I'm going to guess that it lands somewhere in the vicinity of 25 pounds (11.3 kg) or so.
Circled "ding" spot on the chainstay. If you look up to the above photo of the "Designed by" sticker, you can just see a very small indentation in the middle portion of the top of the chainstay.
I also got an outstanding deal on the frame... however, when it arrived, despite being brand new in packaging, there was a dent/bump on one of the chainstays. All in all, for the purchase price, I decided to make do with the minor imperfection. My suspicion is that it was a factory blem (thus the lower price - though it would've been nice to have this information up front - and I will note it wasn't purchased directly from Soma either), but the paint was not at all damaged, so I have no way of knowing with certainty whether damage was inflicted pre-paint or post.

I will add that we did try to set the San Marcos up with 700c wheels, just to see if they would work. Had I purchased a different set of brakes, I believe it's entirely possible that a set of 700c wheels and tires could work, though the frame in this size was not designed for this option. Additionally, the stand over for me is nearly at its maximum, so it would probably not be the best choice regardless.

There have been those who have criticized this frame stating that it doesn't know what it is or that it isn't an excellent bike for any particular purpose, but I think that is precisely what I enjoy about it. It isn't a race bike, and no one is likely to use it for sprinting. It also isn't a touring bike because it's not equipped to handle the load needed for this type of travel (though it does have eyelets for racks as desired), but it can take a small amount of weight in front, back, or both and would likely do fine on a very lightly loaded or fully supported tour.

The appreciation for this bike (at least to me) comes with its adaptability and ability to take a rider comfortably over distance. If I were looking for a race bike or one to keep up with speedy club rides, this would likely not be the choice, but since most of my riding is done solo and I can push (or not) as much as I choose, why wouldn't I want something that fits well and is comfortable?

Let it not be assumed though that this ride is slow. I've bested some of my own records on local segments with relative ease - even being injured - so if the rider is willing to push, the San Marcos is perfectly capable of working with the rider's abilities.

Sam has made reference more than once comparing the San Marcos to the A. Homer Hilsen. I had mentioned the idea of re-purchasing the Hilsen as I found it to be comfortable and practical on long distance, slightly slower speed rides. However, practicality took over and unless I was able to find a second hand frame, I wasn't willing to splurge at this juncture.

In some respects, I agree with Sam's comparison of these two frames, but there are differences in the feel between the two. I don't know if it's entirely realistic to compare the ride of a more expensive frame to one much less so (nor in trying to compare two bikes that are being ridden years apart from each other), but I find myself enjoying the San Marcos just as much as I did the Hilsen, and on some days, perhaps even more. That in itself is enough for me to think this frame was a great decision.
Current setup for the San Marcos
The San Marcos actually feels lighter than the former Hilsen to me, but this could merely be the fact that there has been a decent chunk of time (and bicycles ridden) in between the two and the reality that I've been riding, for the most part, far heavier bicycles more recently.

What I find interesting is that I have yet to take the San Marcos out over a distance my body is conditioned to handle and return feeling spent. I always know that I am ready to take on more if the need or want arises. This causes me to believe that my hope for a bike that will allow me to potentially cover brevet-type distances with relative ease is being found in the San Marcos (at least if I can get my body to cooperate and heal). At present testing, I believe the only limitation is my own body and its training (or lack thereof, as is the current situation). Which is actually rather exciting.

Time is probably the best indicator as to whether or not a bicycle is working well, and for that we will have to wait and see. However, the San Marcos and I are off to a fabulous start, having covered quite a few miles in our limited months together given the present circumstances. I look forward to seeing how this particular bike pans out and hopefully having the opportunity to ride some longer distances down the line.

Until then, I wanted to share somewhat early impressions of this bicycle. I think I was more surprised by this bike than I thought I would be. It's just easy to ride, and at the present that is all that I need and want. At some point, for those interested, I will take better photos and add them to the collection which can be found here.

If you've had experience with the San Marcos, I'd love to hear what you think of it and what you've liked (or not) about the bike/frame.


  1. Those are both gorgeous bikes. I've always loved the color on the Pass Hunter. It makes me so happy to hear that you are have found a bike that promises to be comfortable on long rides. I really hope this one works out for you.

    I'm curious about how the San Marcos differs from the Sam Hillborne. Is the geometry on the San Marcos more aggressive?

    1. Hi Kendra!

      The Pass Hunter is a lovely shade of red... almost candy apple, which I think is a perfect red. Not too bright to be obnoxious, but not so dull that it blends. At some point, I'll have to write a bit on that bike too, as it was interesting as well (just sadly too large for me).

      As to your actual question, the San Marcos and the Hillborne are similar in geometry. I think most of what Grant designs tends to have very similar geometry - meaning that it's designed more upright than most bikes to keep the rider comfortable. That said, the San Marcos frame is a bit smaller than my Hillborne frame, so that helps with the ability to get into a lower position, if wanted. I cannot ride the Hillborne any distance on drops because the reach is too far (thus the albatross bars on that bike to bring the reach back a bit). Honestly, the A. Homer Hilsen in the 47cm was the perfect size/geo for me. The San Marcos is a bit larger, but because of the slight differences in angles and such (I'm not an expert on this, so I'm not even going to attempt to dive into this topic because I'd just spin and we'd get nowhere :) ), the San Marcos has a similar feel to the Hilsen. I think I could do with a mildly shorter stem or shorter reach handlebars to make up the slight differences (it doesn't help that the current handlebars could have a shorter reach for my liking). In short, the geometry is similar between the Hillborne and the San Marcos, but the Hillborne is bigger which has created a situation that had us build it into a more upright position to get the reach closer for me. On the up side, I could (because of the size) put a shorter stem on the San Marcos and get a bit more aggressive a position.

  2. Love it. The 650b wheels and tires look right on this bike.

    1. I think the 650b wheels look right as well... plus, it helps with the stand over for my short legs. :)

  3. It looks amazing. I know what you mean about sizing ... As a small person myself, I am continually frustrated by how limited my bike options are. If only I were 10 cm taller, a whole new world of bike possibilities would open up! Bikes that are a bit too big, while rideable, are just not comfortable and in the long term they just don't work out. I love the look of your new bike, but the Sam Hillborne and the touring bike are also lovely to look at. All your bikes are nice! You are lucky in the US, there seem to more classic looking steel bike options available to you. Here in the UK we don't have access to Rivendell et al which is a shame as I like their philosophy and their bikes. I really, really don't like the look of the aluminium sporty Giant, specialized etc frames that crowd all the bike shops. I am sure they are great bikes, I just don't like the look as I am not that kind of sporty person. Anyway, I wish you many hours of joy on all your fab bikes!

    1. Ditto!! Except.... here in the UK, I'd say we are totally spoiled for choice in classic steel bike options, far more so than in the US. And the odds are much better here that there will be several builders within easy travelling distance to go have a look before you commit -- no need to order online sight unseen and un-test-ridden.

      The industry here is very different from the UK, especially in terms of self-promotion, so a lot of framebuilders may be beneath the mainstream radar, being content to gain new customers purely through word-of-month recommendations. They certainly don't advertise in glossy bike magazines.

      Just a small sampling of what's available can be seen each year at the UK Handmade Bike Show, for example have a look at my report from the 2014 show:
      That's just the tip of the iceberg. Besides the high end custom builders, there are many garden-shed operations making very small batches of frames who don't bother with shows etc. These guys are just as experienced, just as skilled, as the names who do advertise themselves -- and they tend to be more laid back and willing to work with you on what you want/need.

      Let me know if you'd like a list of UK builders! ;) It won't be at all comprehensive but since you live in London, you can have a great deal of fun window-shopping!

    2. Oh wow, thanks Rebecca ... I had no idea these kinds of options were available to me. The Hadmade bike show sounds very intriguing, I will try and go to the next one. I will definitely ask you for a list of builders when I am looking for my next bike! Thanks again.

    3. The show is in Bristol next April - I've already blocked out the time off work to go! :-)

    4. Stephanie, I was going to say what Rebecca has already stated in that I would think there would actually be more options in the UK (and in Europe in general) than there are here in the US for steel bikes. It still seems to be rather a novelty here and I have to purposefully seek them out. There are a few exceptions as Surly is committed to building with steel, and Soma does the same, but it's not easy to find these brands or others in bike shops locally. I have noticed this changing every so slightly over the last 5 years or so, but it's still challenging. I hope that you are able to check out the UK Handmade Bike Show (and I'd love to hear about it if you do). The North American version of this show is scheduled in late February in Sacramento, California, but I doubt it will be something I'll be able to attend. I'm still upset that I missed out when they had the show just a 40 minute drive from home a few years ago. Kicking myself for that miss, for sure.

      Rebecca, I'm sure you'll write a post about it, but I'll be interested to read about what you find as well.

  4. Congratulations on finding a bike that you enjoy riding! I didn't even know Soma made this frame. It looks pretty cool with all the Rivendell lugs. I find those Nitto Technomic stems very useful. I'm using a 50mm on an old touring bike with a long-ish top tube.

    1. I really like the Technomic stem too. I've learned to just keep a couple different sizes on hand (I pick them up when I find them inexpensively) for just these types of set ups.

  5. We too, are looking to add to our bike stable. We've ridden cro-mo steel city bikes the past couple of years, which work very well for urban conditions. However, we do take some longer rides now and then, and a bike that is a little lighter weight with tires skinner than 60 mm might make sense. Our city bikes have 26x2.35 tires. They are also equipped with "flat" handlebars.

    After some research and test rides, we decided a bike with 700c tires and at least 40 mm wide would be suitable. Luckily, they are now making both "adventure" and touring bikes with drop bars and clearance for 700x40mm and wider tires. Modern adventure and touring bikes are influenced by cyclocross bikes.

    A couple of things we found out. Compact 2X gearing available on most touring and adventure bikes these days is for the birds, as far as we are concerned. Just impossible to get low enough gearing. We are "older" now and ride long hills and need gearing in the low 21 to 22 gear-inch range. That's impossible with today's 2X road bike drivetrains. Apparently, road 3X has gone by the wayside - at least in modern 10-speed and 11-speed drive trains. Our last road bikes had triple chainrings. Those are very uncommon on modern bikes.

    Yes, you can go to 3X mtn bike gearing, but you are then relegated to bar-end shifters. Some people like bar end shifters, we don't. Bar end shifters are sold to the public as "reliable", but are really outfitted on touring bikes because they are relatively cheap. For those interested, if you go with the older technology 9-speed gearing, the Shimano Sora combo road shifter/brake lever will work, but you then cannot go with modern hydraulic disk brakes.

    We found that if you want drop-style road bars, road type shifters and the possibility for integrated hydraulic brakes, you have one choice - a 1X drive train. SRAM has its Rival 1 group, for example. The Rival group offers a 10-42, 11-speed rear cassette and when used in a 1X configuration, you have a single chainring in front. This allows for extremely low gearing - by adjusting the size of the chainring. You have 11-speeds available, which we find works well. Remember, many speeds on 2X and 3X drive trains overlap or are unusable.

    I've ridden disks for the past couple of years and will never go back to rim brakes. The disks work too well. Probably more of an issue for us, as we are in hilly terrain with long descents. We decided we wanted road combo shifter/brake levers on drop bars and hydraulic disk brakes.

    The second thing I discovered in newer bikes is "thru-bolting". Like everything new in road biking, it started with mtn bikes. Thru-bolting the wheel axles firms up that connection considerably. Thru-bolting was originally pursued to better locating the disk brakes used by mountain bikes with suspension forks. However, there is a big side-benefit for all bikes, including road bikes. Thru-bolting let's the bike designer utilize more compliant (softer) seat stays and forks. This softens the frame vertically and improves ride quality dramatically. Believe it or not, but modern, thru-bolted aluminum frames ride as good or better than older steel frames with the old quick release axle technology.

    To make a long story short, a couple of things to be aware of in looking for a new bike today.
    (1) Can you run a 1X drive train for low gearing?
    (2) Is the frame set up for thru-bolting?

    1. It is definitely challenging to find a road bike with 3x gearing anymore. I believe Shimano Tiagra is still something that can be purchased in a 3x, but I understand it isn't long for this world either. Part of the problem with the original setup on this bike is that it was trying to combine mountain and road pieces and they just were not cooperating at all.

      Gravel Bike recently did a write up on the SRAM 1X (it can be found here) which I found interesting. Might be worth a read to anyone interested in a similar set up.

      I agree that disc brakes are awesome... I always seem to end up with setups that don't allow for this. I really do not like the brakes currently on this Soma, particularly because I have weak hands and beyond that it's just really difficult to get them to brake properly.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave your experiences and thoughts here. I know it will be useful.

  6. I've never compared the geometry between the two, but the San Marcos looks to be in the "sport tourer" genre once filled by the Rivendell Rambouillet. I was lucky enough to pick up a used orange Ram about 12 years ago and I still have it. It rides like no other bike I've ever had. I've seen an occasional San Marcos out and about and they are lovely. I hope you have many happy miles on this one!

    1. I would agree with this assessment. Sport touring geometry sounds like the perfect explanation. Thank you!

  7. Ahh, you snatched up that 51 Passhunter. I'd been debating on it since July. Same reason it seems as you, the fit. The day I finally said what's the worst to happen, and it was gone. I figured at the end of the day it could be nodded to accept 26x1.50 to get the height down. Sure it'll change the geometry. The math seems right. The visual appearance of the rear wheel and seat tube may not be pleasing, but who cares if it works.

    1. Hehe... yes, I suppose it probably was me... and someone else got a fantastic deal on it from me with not very many miles on it. :) Interesting that we were having the same debate. I think it would fit a person a bit taller better (I'm thinking around 5'6" or so). I think it could've worked with some time, patience, and modification, but there were some things that I wasn't sure would be to my liking regardless of stem changes or easier switches. I completely agree with you that as long as it works, it works -- all that truly matters.

  8. Congratulations on the new bike! Glad you're enjoying it. I've been on a bike hiatus this summer. Just so much going on I didn't have much time to ride. But, I'd like to get a new bike and start riding more too. Don't know where to start really. I like a more upright bike and I'd like something light for a change. Hopefully I'll figure it out.

    1. It does seem as though it's a challenge to find that combination together - upright and lightweight. It's also interesting that we each have our preferences for bikes and what is comfortable to one is perhaps not so much to someone else. Anything in particular that you've looked at that you're considering? I'm always curious what others have found out in the world that work for their needs.

      I hope you're able to get back to riding soon and that life calms down a bit.

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    1. Hi Daniel... I have 38mm tires on the San Marcos, and I think it's possible it could have slightly wider ones -- Possibly a 40 or maybe even 42, depending on the brand. I don't think a bigger size would work with fenders, but without I think it's possible. It's unfortunate that the Sam Hillborne is gone for a bit, but I'm sure it will return (I think the latest email I saw said something around April next year).

  10. My San Marcos is set up with soma lauterwasswr bars with sram 53/39 to 11-36 9 speed X0 in hot pink. With matching jagwire pink elite cable kits. Looks sharp as all hell!

  11. I am chuckling at your title "Rivenoma" or "Somadell". Grant had suggested early in the project to call it "Amos" which is "Soma" reversed. Hope the bike continues to work out for you.

    1. That would've been fun... Soma Amos. :)

  12. Beautiful frame built up nicely!

  13. I have a San Marcos at the other end of the size spectrum (63 cm) and it has been a fantastic bike. I bought one four years ago and set it up as an all-road randonneuring bike, then proceeded to ride the #&@! out of it on multiple long brevets including Paris-Brest-Paris, and hundreds of adventure rides on mixed surfaces. After 16,000 miles and 1,100 hours of almost pure joy, the seat tube cracked below the seat lug. I'm a 200-lb guy and rode that bike hard, so I don't fault the bike or the design. Faced with replacing it, I looked around for options that fit... and ended up buying another San Marcos.

    I agree it's an outstanding value. Soma has announced that they are discontinuing the model, so if you want want one, get one now.

    Reportedly, the San Marcos has been the worst seller in the Soma lineup, which is perplexing until you consider the market niche that Soma occupies. Most Soma frames are $500 and tig-welded. Those are fine frames too, but I bet most of those customers consider the San Marcos too expensive. Customers willing to pay a "premium price" for a lugged frame might gravitate toward a Rivendell or other custom or semi-custom option. That puts the San Marcos in a bizarre gray zone: too fancy for the cost-conscious, yet not fancy enough for the lugged-frame enthusiast.

    1. Eric, Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with the San Marcos. It is a real shame to hear that Soma is dropping it from their line up. It's hard to believe it could be on a worst-selling list, but as you've said, I think Soma has many customers who expect a certain price point, regardless of what is involved in the making of a frame.


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