Long Term Review: Soma Fog Cutter
One of the unique brands we carry here at the shop is Soma. If you are familiar with steel bikes you have definitely heard of Columbus and Reynolds Tubing. Soma uses tubing by Tange a Japanese company. The Fog Cutter itself is made with Tange Prestige double butted tubing. This means the Tubing is thicker at the end where the tubes are welded and thinner in the centre for reduced weight and increased compliance.
Soma just launched a new Fog Cutter frame with the main differences being the modular rear drop out, flat mount disc brake mounts, and an updated paint job. Unlike my version of the Fog Cutter the newly released version can accommodate thru axle hubs front and rear. However, since the changes are not geometry related I thought this would be a perfect time to report back on my experience with the Fog Cutter thus far.
I built my Fog Cutter last year for a few reasons. One, I wanted a road geometry bike that I could ride through the winter months and on rainy summer days without worrying about the components, getting wet, or reduced braking performance (as my other road bike has rim brakes). Two, I wanted to build a retro looking modern bike. Finally, I just wanted a steel road bike.
What I ended up with was the Fog Cutter frame which comes in at a respectable 1900 grams in size 48. Soma also lists the 58 at 2050 grams so being a 56, mine weighs somewhere in between the two. I opted for the carbon fork, though there is a lugged steel option available for a more classic look.
The bike features matching fenders, hand-built Velocity Aileron rims laced to All City Go-Devil hubs in polished silver. The Crankset is a square taper Rene Herse for that classic aesthetic and performance, plus the square taper bottom bracket can take all kind of abuse from the elements.
I went with a Shimano 105 hydraulic disc 2 x 11 groupset. Finally I finished it all off with a Nitto seatpost/stem and Soma Highway One handlebars. The tires are Challenge 700c x 27mm Paris Roubaix's which actually measure in at slightly over 30mm when inflated with tubes.
I had ridden steel bikes before, but never a road bike so coming from a carbon bike with carbon wheels and race geometry it took a few kilometers to adapt to the handling and road feel. The best way to describe the ride quality on the Soma is 'plush'. The carbon bike dampens vibration, but in a micro fashion whereas the Soma feels like it has better macro road feel if that makes sense. basically the ride is smooth throughout and less jarring on larger bumps than a carbon bike. It take a little more to get the bike up to speed, but once at speed it rolls along with smooth momentum. The other thing I was amazed with is how easy it was to keep at speeds similar to my carbon bike, and that is with full coverage fenders. I instantly fell in love with the braking performance. It just takes less planning and thought. When you want to stop pull the levers, no need to worry about letting your rims cool off or planning your braking point into turns far ahead of time.
I have come to really enjoy riding this bike more and more every time I swing a leg over it. The fenders and components I chose mean I can ride it in all weather conditions and it handles on gravel with no problems; not to mention I could put much wider tires on if I desired and that would make it even more capable off-road.
There have been so many 'a-ha!' moments while riding this bike. I once decided to shift into the small ring under load over a bumpy surface and the chain got stuck in between the chain stay and the chain ring. I pulled it out re-mounted the chain and as I was riding away I realized if that had happened on my carbon bike I would have been stressing out about frame damage.
Speaking of stress I do not feel the need to baby this bike at all. No good spot to lean the bike at a rest stop, no problem. Just lean the bike on the ground drive side up and you are golden. I still wash this bike as nothing beats the feeling of riding a shiny bike, but I do not feel pressured to wash it as often as other bikes I own.
On the topic of vanity, the classic looking paint job and polished silver components I chose means I get far more second looks riding this bike, than I do my carbon race bike. which brings me to my next point. The great thing about Soma is they give you the ability to build 'your' bike at a price point that is hard to match. When you ride a bike that you picked out piece by piece you feel a lot more sentimental about it than an out-of-the-box bike.
The only real complaint I have about the bike thus far is that with 700c wheels and fenders you really have to be cognizant of toe overlap when cornering at slower speeds or track standing at a red light. I do not have massive feet (size 43) and my crank length on this bike is 171mm so it is a pretty standard set up. That being said once you are aware of it it becomes less of a problem. I would imagine this is mainly a result of the fenders and I love the geometry the way it is so I would hate to see the front end change at all.
If you are looking for a classic looking steel road bike with the ability to put in long days in the saddle that can venture off the beaten path, look no further than the Fog Cutter. With the recent updates the bike, in my opinion, is even better and more practical than before.
Also if you want to build up a bike from the frame and really feel like you have put your own personal stamp on it, Soma allows you to do so with it's affordable price point and range of matching components.
If you are coming from a road bike with a racier geometry or the lightweight of carbon, just be aware there will be an adjustment period. Though, I guarantee if you give it a fair chance you will come to love the Fog Cutter as I have.