For many reasons our favourite bicycle frame material is steel, that’s another whole story, but not all steels are created equal.
It’s a bit like saying you like wooden tables, but as we all know there’s a big difference between a solid, handmade, hardwood table with dovetail joints and a cheaply made laminated chipboard table - even though they are both made of wood.
Similarly, you get steel frames and you get steel frames, they can vary greatly in quality - from the cheap department store kids bike to the high end hand made custom frame built for the most discerning of bicycle connoisseurs.
So how do you tell a good steel frame from an average one?
It’s not that easy. they all look skinny and similar. Because of the incredible stiffness-to-volume ratio of steel (about twice that of Titanium and three times that of Aluminium), it allows steel tubes to be really skinny, this in my opinion makes for really pretty bicycles. It also makes it hard for a good modern steel bike to look different from a cheap heavy one. Other frame building materials fatigue if they flex too much, so they need bigger diameters to prevent them flexing (btw stiff frames aren’t faster).
You can tell quite a bit by the quality of the joints: Lugged, TIG welded, MIG welded, fillet brazed etc, however the technique often just comes down to personal preference, but good workmanship should be obvious. Also try learn a bit about the bike brand and who builds the frames, if they’re hand made or machine welded etc. Thankfully there has been a bit of a steel revival recently and there are some really talented craftspeople out there building beautiful steel frames. Check out Cycle EXIF every now and then to grow an appreciation for the craft.
I find the best way is to look for a recognised tubing manufacturers sticker on the frame. Because any frame builder who spends money on high end, name brand, steel tubing is going to let you know about it by placing the tubing specification sticker on the frame. Also if you’re using expensive tubing you tend to work a bit more carefully.
There are a handful of highly respected steel tube manufactures in the world, the most famous are: Columbus tubing (Italy), Tange tubing (Japan), Reynolds tubing (England) and True Temper (US). All of these companies make a wide range of specialised tubing, including some very sophisticated exotic tube sets. These technologies include: special alloys, cold-working, heat-treating, air-hardening, butting (thin wall thickness in the middle and thicker at the ends for the welds), to mention but a few. These technologies were often developed for the aeronautical and space industries and for the motor industry (for things like lightweight side-impact bars). A high-end steel tube set has so much advanced technology and is chalk and cheese from the basic (similar looking) steel tubing found on cheap bikes. It’s well worth getting to know the hierarchy of the manufactures range of tubing, there is a bit on it here.
So if you have the budget, there are plenty material choice options available for a high end bicycle frame, but the durability, beauty and ride quality of a high-tech steel frame is very, very hard to beat. Just make sure you’ve checked the label and know what you’re paying for.
The New Albion Drake is an adventure touring frame built around 650b/27.5" tires. Stable enough medium duty touring and bikepacking, but also offers an enjoyable ride unloaded as well. The bottom bracket height is higher than your average touring bike or road bike, but not as high as a hardtail mountain bike to give some advantage riding off-road while still feeling steady loaded up.
Here’s an account of cycling the PCH on the Drake: Unknown PCH.
The Drake frame and fork sell for just under R 10K, feel free to contact david@everydaycyclesupplyco for more information.
Low profile tires, a hard boneshaking ride, impressive aerodynamics, bold branding, all good if you’re racing professionally. Not so good for everyday riding.
If you’re commuting, going on a long road trip or even wanting to get somewhere really fast, a more practical ride is going to be so much more comfortable and enjoyable than something that’s trying to emulate the racing world.
Unless you’re on the payroll of professional race team, and are fed free bikes on an annual basis we would far recommend a quality steel frame over a stiff somewhat disposable aluminium or carbon frame.
A quality steel bicycle with decent sized tires is what most people should be riding, they’re more comfortable, more practical, more durable, less garish and probably easier for a non professional rider to ride fast over long distances as they’re generally less fatiguing.
If you like to dress like a pro and ride a bike that makes it look like you’re a sponsored rider, go for it. Who knows you may actually get onto the podium one day and have someone pay you to ride a real racing bike.
But hey if you’re paying for your own bike, that you want to enjoy riding for many years without feeling like it’s out of date and you don’t want to you feel like you are riding a billboard. Get real, go for steel.
Inspired by the international summer-solstice bike-campout, also known as the Swift Campout, we thought it would be great to steal their idea and encourage cyclists to all go bike camping on the same night. Just this time on a night that is more suitable for us who happen live in the Southern Hemisphere, because who wants to go camping in the middle of winter?
All you need to do is, round up some friends and organise to go bike camping on Saturday the 20th of October.
Once you've got your group together and a camping spot planned please sign up for free and add your campout to our interactive map.
Alternatively you could look to join in with a group camping in your area.
We have booked a few sites at Miller’s Point campsite near Simons Town and anyone is welcome to join us, although spaces are limited, so if you'd like to join us get in quickly. You can find our event details here.
As you may know, very few things are better than bike camping with friends, except maybe if you also won a really cool prize!
So thanks to a few generous event partners we have some great giveaways and prizes up for grabs. Check out all the details here.
Follow others and share your Southern Campout stories by using #SouthernCampout on instagram.
The cool prize Sponsors are: NODO Packs, Scuttle, Trail’s End, Finni, Unclipped Adventure and us Everyday Cycle Supply Co.
Time to show off a beautiful coffee flavoured Wolverine build.
Our friend Robo has just completed this meticulously specified Wolverine.
He loved the coffee brown sidewall colour of the Shikkoro tires so much that the entire build became a mission to work with coffee brown tires and the stealthy black frame.
It's the first belt drive and Rohloff hub Wolverine build in South Africa.
It also features a beautiful (coffee coloured) Giles Berthoud saddle and bar tape, Yokozuna cable actuated hydraulic disk brakes and a dynamo front hub with a usb charger on the headset cap.
He's christened her "Double espresso" and we think she's going to get his heart racing and may even keep him up at night thinking about tomorrows ride.
You can see the full specs of this bike on our custom builds page.
Updates to Soma's 29er and 650b MTB frames are in the pipeline.
We just have to be patient as they are not mass produced frames and the first batch is being hand made in Taiwan at the moment (using top quality Japanese Tange Prestige heat-treated CrMo steel tubing). Hey, frames like these are well worth the waiting for.
The first production batch is due to arrive in San Fransisco in early June. Models will be added to the website next month.
Here's what Soma Fabrications has to say about the new frames:
We came up with the B-Side name mainly to help Kirk Pacenti create buzz for 650B as a new mountain bike tire standard. We weren't alone on using puns: Carver Bikes had the Killer B and Haro had the Beasely. But that was over 10 years ago and we feel the name doesn't suit the times anymore. Our main reasons for thinking this?
1) MTB tire makers in their wisdom have chosen to put "27.5" on their sidewalls-- instead of using the original name 650B.
2) On a 45 record, side A had the song you bought the record for. The B-Side usually had a weaker track no one cared about. But now the 27.5" tire size is a huge hit on its own. So it hardly fits the role of the other tire size no one cares about.
We are making some significant changes to the frame this year, so it is as good a time as any to work in a new name.
So we give you the Riff (another music-themed name, a practice we started back in 2001 with the Groove).
IRD Broski sliding dropouts
New sizing and longer geometry
34.9mm seat tube to fit more models of dropper posts
Dropper post internal routing on seat tube
Paint: Pelham Blue, a classic color for electric guitars
What stays the same?
Still is a trail-oriented hardtail frame designed for 120mm (or 100mm) travel forks and 27.5" wheels
Fits 27.5" tires up to 2.8" without needing Boost parts
Belt drive option available
Tange Prestige heat-treated CrMo steel tubing.
Can handle 1-1/8" steerers as well as tapered steerers by using different lower headset assemblies
Can take a front derailleur
The Juice, our 29er hardtail, adopts the same new features and sizing scheme as well; however the Juice goes from SM to XL, while the Riff goes from XS to LG. Paint: Battleship Gray.
Geometry charts included below.
L’Eroica, meaning ‘The Heroic’ is a race held every year in Tuscany (and now in a few select countries), giving up to 3000 like minded, fanatical individuals the chance to ride and race on the ‘Strada Bianche’, the famous white gravel roads of Chianti and to spend two days wallowing in pure cycling nostalgia. In true heroic style only pre-87 bikes are allowed. So there are no auto-indexing gears – this is golden era cycling where shifters are mounted on the down tube, where tubular tyres are also favoured, alongside chrome, cloth bar tape, solid colour paintwork and water bottle holders that attach at the front and where the woolen jersey reigns. Any man interested in the traditions of the Italian cycle race can certainly get his fill here.
This historic event is the "ispirazione" for the Soma Stanyan frame, it features a threaded 1"steerer fork, not just because "that's what vintage road bike used" but it just looks better with lugged frames. Lugs limit how angled your top tube can be, so it used a 1-1/8 threadless set up most of us would need to run a tall headset spacer stack. The original Stanyan launched in 2008 was threadless.
Soma have ditched the polished lugs of the previous model for color schemes that fit right into the scene of vintage jerseys and dusty roads. The main thing that's not period correct is the 130mm rear hub spacing, since it is hard to find quality freewheels these days. You can run an 11-speed cassette, if you want.
The Stanyan '18 is an ideal frame for you to source those old parts and build your perfect "heroic bike" for this heroic event.
This is so sad, it seems Rivendell Bicycle Works are going through some financial difficulties and have sent out a cry for help. Please support them if you can.
We have always admired Rivendell bicycle works for the beautiful products they develop and their un-race-centric approach to cycling.
In fact a few years back they designed a special edition bicycle for Soma Fabrications called the San Marcos, I wish this bike was still in production. Hey Soma Fabrications maybe this is the time to bring out another run of these beautiful frames to help Rivendell out.
Bicycle Quarterly magazine is a rare source of no bullshit bicycle facts, reviews and advice. We highly recommend it. To celebrate 15 years of the magazine they are examining 12 myths in cycling – things they (and most of us) used to believe, but which we have found to be not true.
They have already published 5 myths we look forward to reading the rest.
These are the first five:
Myth 1: Wider tires are slower
Myth 2: Titanium is lighter than steel
Myth 3: Fenders slow you down
Myth 4: Stiffer Frames are faster
Myth 5: An Upright Position is Always More Comfortable
In a world of expensive, uncomfortable, stiff carbon frames with skinny tires, you gotta feel sorry for all those poor cyclists succeed into thinking they have an advantage over a cyclist on a steel bike with thicker tires and fenders.
Here is a link to the first myth that wider tires are slower, enjoy:
After organising and riding Karoobaix a grueling gravel race through the Karoo, Stan Engelbrecht decided he wanted to take some time off and go bike camping with a few friends. What better place to take them than to hell?
Stan planned five day bicycle adventure from Matjiesfontein to Oudtshoorn via Die Hel. Die Hel is one of the most hidden away valleys in South Africa and not many people go there. For many years the only access to Die Hel was a steep donkey trail called "Die Leer" (The Ladder), folk who lived in this fertile valley lived largely in isolation until 1962 when a long and zig-zaggy 4x4 road was built into the valley. Today there are still only two ways in or out of Die Hell and neither of them is an easy way - all the better for a memorable bicycle adventure.
Here are some pics from what turned out to be a great little adventure to see what lay in Die Hel.
When Marchant Van Rooyen approached us wanting to build up a Grand Randonneur, we were slightly surprised as most of our customers are wanting the more modern disc brake compatible steel frames that we have to offer. We quickly learnt that Marchant was no ordinary customer and that he has built and ridden many custom bikes in the past.
So there was no need to give him any advice, he knew exactly what the wanted from a bike.
Here is what he wanted in his own words:
The objective of my build was:
I wanted a bike that fitted me comfortably, ie, could have a front end high enough and the reach not too long for me (as it tends to be with most racing bikes).
Road bike with clearance for wider tyres.
I like high quality steel frames that are not too burly.
SOMA Grand Randonneur frame set, Frame size 61.
IRD Rollerdrive needle bearing headset.
Nitto Technomic stem (100mm) and Noodle handlebars (46) Giant tape.
Soma Grand Randonneur EX 650b tyres on Pacenti SL23 650b rims.
Ultegra rear hub and Shutter Precsion SV8 front dyno hub
SHIMANO 105 10SPD Derailleurs. and Dura Ace down tube shifters.
Sram Rival OCT compact crankset with Shimano A600 pedals.
12-30 ultegra cluster.
Cane Creek SCR5 brake levers wit Tektro CR720 cantilevers.
Selle Anatomic saddle on Thompson post.
SOMA Champs Elysees mini front rack.
B&M IQ Cyo premium front with Secula Plus Rear dyno lights.
Zefal HPX pump.
King ti bottle cages.
Crane E-Ne bell.
Optional SKS 700cx50 fenders.
Bathroom scale weight +- 10 kg all in without accessories ( which could be 2.3kg)
Well done Marchant, we think its a beautiful, well thought out build and hope it brings you many miles of joy.
Teresie Hommersand is cycling on her own from Cape Town all the way up through Africa and Europe to her home in Norway! As if that wasn't long enough she decided to take a little detour down South from Cape Town to Cape Agulhas the Southern most tip of Africa. She sent us this wonderful picture of her and her Saga at the tip of Africa.
We wonder if any Soma Saga has ever been further south?
She is now heading North and we like to think that her Saga may even end up being the Saga that has been riden further South and North than any other.
We will keep you posted as she sends us pics or you could follow her story here.
This weekend we decided to join the Swift Campout, a global call to go bike-camping on June 24th for the summer solstice.
Except this wasn't one of our regular everyday summer S24o's, this was our 2nd mad midwinter microadventure.
As usual gathered at our usual meeting spot Woodstock Cycleworks then headed for the station and took the train from Cape Town to Wellington. After a pub lunch in Wellington we headed up the incredibly beautiful Bainskloof Pass to our campsite in the mountains. Once we got to the campsite we pitched our tents, made our campfires and started to enjoy an evening with lots of food, drink and friends.
After a freezing cold night, some warm porridge for breakfast some of us even braved an icy swim in the river. We then hung out for a while, swimming, fishing and chatting before slowly packing up and heading up and over the pass for lunch, some more wine and a last ride to the station to catch a train home.
All in all it turned out to be another wonderful, memorable S24o with such a great bunch of people, I can't wait to go again.
Here are a few snaps:
Here's a little video from the ride between our lunch stop and getting to the train on time.
We're so proud of Nils and his friend Tom who climbed the height of Everest on their bicycles in support of the Eyethu Hout Bay Skatepark initiative. It was a grueling challenge with over 8800 meters of climbing over a distance of 235km. Well done fellas!
We're proud to announce that Dave Mercer is now one of our official dealers.
We look forward to seeing his magnificent custom frames sporting some of the components we have to offer. He often has customers wanting a more traditional looking build with hard to find silver components. Fortunately we have access to an incredible range of unusual handlebars, tires, racks and accessories to mention but a few things that we think can help make a Mercer even more unique and special.
The bike pictured is Cameron's custom Mercer with quite a few of our products complimenting a beautiful build.
The new batch of Double Cross Disc frames are now available in a beautiful Sky Silver (it has a slight blue tinge to it). The geometry has been tweaked to accommodate slightly bigger tires, not as big as the Wolverine, but these days any tire clearance improvement is considered a good thing.
Here is a list of the tweaks:
- Sky Silver paintwork.
- The dropout and disc mount is more refined, stiffer and has more caliper clearance.
- The frame is ED (electrophoretic deposition) coated for rust protection. Most Soma models in the future will have this as well.
- The tire clearance of the frame has been increased to fit 700c x 45mm tires.
- Sizes 50, 52, 54, 56cm have shortened top tubes. Because of this we were able to get rid of the 48cm size.
Check out the April edition of Bicycling magazine, they have featured one of our bikes.
So good to see a local cycling magazine featuring a versatile steel bike that's not aimed at wannabe racers.