Saturday, January 16, 2016

Soma Wolverine

The Soma Wolverine frameset includes fork and Tange IRD stainless steel sliding dropouts. Photo courtesy of Soma Blog.
The Soma Wolverine frameset is available from Soma Fabrications for $620.

We once had a commenter -- our resident curmudgeon, really -- who called himself "Al in Philadelphia." Whenever we posted about a bike like this one, Al would exclaim: "Why is this THING being reviewed on a site that calls itself 'Bikes for the Rest of Us'?"  I'm not even paraphrasing. Check out Al's comments on the All City Space Horse.

So for Al and anyone else who wonders why I consider this THING a bike for the rest of us, let me explain.  It all comes down to one word: VERSATILITY.

This Wolverine will take racks and fenders. It can be built up with an internal gear hub.  It is compatible with a Gates Carbon Belt Drive.  But best of all, it accommodates really wide tires.  According to Soma, it will fit 700 x 45 tires with fenders.

A Wolverine with racks and fenders. Courtesy: Soma Blog.


Bike tires are shock absorbers.  Skinny tires might make sense on racing bikes, but they make for an uncomfortable ride in the real world. Wide, fat tires are great for riding on unpaved surfaces as well as roads that are paved but strewn with potholes and bumps.  Wide tires are also useful when hauling cargo.  So get with the cush.

One more thing about this bike: the color.  We never talk about the color here, even though, let's face it, many bicycle (and car) purchase decisions are made on color alone.  The Wolverine is pumpkin orange, which brings to mind the bike that set the standard for versatility nearly 25 years ago: the 1993 Bridgestone XO-1.

By the way, there is a great review of the Wolverine on reddit: Soma Wolverine vs. Surly Straggler. It's recommended reading if you're interested in this bike

Here are the specs:

- Tange Prestige heat-treated CrMo front triangle; butted CrMo rear end
- Clearance for 700x45c tires w/ fenders
- Rear hub spacing:135mm
- Gates Carbon belt drive compatible
- Matching lugged flat crown fork Tange Infinity CrMo steel fork; double eyelets pannier rack and mini rack mounts (mini rack mounts not pictured)
- Braze-ons for rear rack and fenders (disc brake-compatible racks only)
- 1-1/8" size headtube
- Sizes:50, 52, 54, 56, 58. 60, 62cm
- 4.79 lbs (frame); 2.3 lbs. (fork, uncut steerer)
- Color: Pumpkin Orange
- Compatible with Paragon Machine Works "flat/flanged sliding dropout" replacement inserts (Rohloff, Single Speed, Direct Mount, Thru Axle)



8 comments:

New England Bicyclist said...

While I own more than one bike - ok, 3 - I think any bike that is versatile is better than one that isn't. Having a bike like the Wolverine gives great flexibility for whatever you want to ride. I use my commuter, since updated with dyno lighting, a stronger rear wheel, Clement USH tires, and PDW fenders, for a decent amount of off road riding. I love the Soma build in the picture but I'd drop the low rider front rack and keep a front rack like the chrome one pictured. And I'd have the perfect bike for gravel and dirt. It might be a $2,000 plus bike but that's well below a custom bike from a great builder and far less than stock high end machines. I have a colleague that struggles with the idea of a $700 Breezer and this bike isn't for her. But if you have the financial flexibility, this Soma is a great step or two above the Breezer. It seems to be in the same category as the Salsa Vaya and the Surly Straggler and fits a lot of my needs and interests. But I'm guessing that Al from Philadelhia wouldn't agree with me here.

And I also like the color, which reminds me of my 1997 Lemond Alpe d'Huez, which a friend still rides in the Bay area.

Jianfu said...

We're fortunate there are so many options such as this available now. I was in the market for a steel-framed, versatile bike last year, and was almost overwhelmed at the number of options. Here's hoping it continues.

Unknown said...

Woohoo, someone thinks my review is great! I'd never know except I google bikes I like when I get bored, My own included... I get bored a lot.

Freewheel said...

Unknown, that was a great reddit review. Any additional thoughts about your Wolverine that you'd be willing to share with us?

Unknown said...

Sorry for the late reply. Honestly. I still love the hell out of this bike. It just seems to do whatever I turn it into so incredibly well. If not perfectly. It's an almost bike. It's almost a road bike. but not completely, I can make it almost a rigid 29er, but not entirely.

After hundreds of miles on the bike, I'd best describe it as a zesty touring bike. So many touring bikes handle like Minivans, but this one handles like it remembers road riding is supposed to be fun too. It takes a load very well. It is capable of some entry level mountain biking, provided you have the right tires. It fits some 29x2.2s, but not all of them.

If I was to share the nit-picks that come with familiarity. The bright orange paint annoy's me half the time. I wish there was a more punk rock finish. The new paint color is Matte Black, and that is also, just not my jam.

I wish the fork crown was slopped. But I appreciate that the flat crown is there for maximum clearance. I wish it had a thru axle front and a 44mm head tube. So I could have maximum compatibility. But if it had those, it would be less pretty.

as far as bikes go. I'd give it an 8.5 out of 10. The biggest true detractors being paint durability, paint styling and fork compliance (I am very heavy, and I feel the fork is too soft.)

Anonymous said...

hi
but how would you compare the wolverine frame against the Thorn Nomad mk2 ? any comparisons. and while speaking of touring bikes.. how about the popular in USA (surly LHT/disk trucker) ? im just curious about opinions there. not speaking of gears etc.... just frame + convinience/option of a Rohloff etc...

ScorchedFingers said...

Great post Freewheel, and you too Unknown.

Unknown, your comment about the fork makes me curious, do you think the Wolverine would handle a moderate front load well? I'm currently on a Trek 520 and I prefer to load the majority of my gear on the front of the bike (via panniers and a wald basket). I'm considering the switch to a Wolverine for the tire clearance upgrade, but wouldn't want to end up with a bike that would squirm under a load of camping gear.

Cheers!

Graham Ashton said...

@Anonymous – you asked how the Wolverine would compare to a Thorn Nomad Mk2. They're two very different bikes.

I've never ridden a Wolverine, but I have ridden a Straggler, which (from Unknown's reddit review) we can confidently assert is a bit stiffer and less flexible than the Wolverine.

The Nomad on the other hand, is the stiffest bike I've ever ridden. I owned the (now discontinued) X-Series version that used slightly narrower tubing on the main triangle (so mine was more flexible than the standard model). My frame was about half a kilo lighter than the standard Nomad, but still very stiff. Nomad frames tend to be smaller too, so they're made of small triangles (which, along with strong tubes, gives them their stiffness).

The Straggler rides like a sports coupé, by comparison. I rode a Disc Trucker too, and it was nice but a bit less nippy than the Straggler. Comfy though, and preferable for general use to the Nomad in my opinion.

When people asked me what I thought of my Nomad, I employed maximum diplomacy and said "it goes very well downhill". Which it did. Like an arrow. Or a bowling ball. Actually, it really does. I've been down some very steep mountain passes at around 45mph with 4 panniers and a bar bag, and it felt soooo solid. :-)

My Nomad was the heaviest bike I've ever owned (or will ever own), and it taught me a lot. It taught me that if I'm not about to set off on a round the world tour, I shouldn't buy a round-the-world tourer. It had heavy wheels too (the rims were 800g a piece), which won't have helped the ride. Having said that, 4 years after I got the bike they were still perfectly true. Just what you want if you're going round the world.

I've also learned how to go cycle touring (camping) with just a couple of panniers since I bought the Nomad. There's no need for me to load a bike up with that much weight (which is great, because riding lightly loaded bikes is a lot more fun).

These days, I can't envisage myself going touring with more weight than the Wolverine would cope with. Camping holidays for 2 weeks are well within its capabilities, so long as you have lightweight kit and don't take stuff you don't actually *need*.

Also, the Nomad has 26" wheels, the Wolverine 700C. The Nomad will only work with a hub gear, the Wolverine takes any transmission you like.

Comparing the two bikes is a bit like comparing apples and oranges really – they're designed for two different purposes.

If anybody reading this would like a round the world bike that's more in the style of the Wolverine, take a look at the Stanforth range (there are derailleur or Rohloff options).

I sold my Nomad to a guy who's planning on cycling half way round the world. If I were doing that myself, I'd have kept it. If I were going round the world and starting from scratch, I'd either get a Stanforth Kibo or one of the new Surly Trolls. Neither will be quite as stiff as the Nomad, but would be plenty stiff enough for me.