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  1. #1
    Wildflower Century TwoHeadsBrewing's Avatar
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    2009 Trek Soho Review

    After two months of research for a good commuter bike, I settled on a 2009 Trek Soho. It was one of the last two models on the floor at my LBS (North Rim Adventure). The price of my bike was $899 and significantly less than the new 2010 models at $1,049. Below is my review of the bike, for any else that may be considering this bike.

    http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/urban/soho/soho/
    Bike Summary:
    Frame: Alpha Black Aluminum
    Fork: Bontrager Edge, aluminum w/lowrider mounts
    Wheels: Shimano IM70 front hub, Shimano Nexus 8 rear hub; Bontrager Satellite Nebula rims
    Tires: Bontrager H2 Plus, reflective, 700x32c

    --Drivetrain--
    Shifters: Shimano Alfine, 8 speed
    Gearing: Shimano Nexus 8 speed IGH - Driven by a Gates Carbon Drive Belt
    Crank: Bontrager Satellite Nebula w/chainguard, 55T alloy Carbon Drive belt sprocket
    Cassette: 24T alloy Carbon Drive belt sprocket
    Pedals: Soho, alloy body w/alloy cage

    --Components--
    Saddle Bontrager H1
    Seat Post Bontrager Satellite Nebula
    Handlebars Trek Urban, alloy, 620mm
    Stem Bontrager Soho, 15 degree
    Headset Aheadset Slimstak w/semi-cartridge bearings, sealed
    Brakeset Shimano IM50, roller brake w/Tektro alloy levers

    Overall Impression:
    This is a very well put together bike. The frame welds are completely smooth, the paint looks great, and the quality of the components while not the top of the line are for the most part very solid. The bike is obviously intended first and foremost as a commuter. Not a race bike, not a touring bike, but a commuter and in this task it does very well. My only complaints are with the roller/drum brakes, the saddle, and the pedals. Other than those items I have no complaints, and this is a fantastic deal for a sub $1,000 bike.

    Pros:
    • Belt Drive - very quiet, no lube, feels smooth through the pedals
    • Nexus IGH - very smooth shifting, low maintenance, sealed and protected from dirt and weather
    • Ergonomics - Upright riding position is comfortable and easy to ride
    • Ride Quality - Solid frame, but surprisingly a smooth ride for an all aluminum frame
    • Components are all matched well with the intended purpose of commuting
    • Looks - love the blue color with the black components and the color-matched fenders


    Cons:
    • Brakes - the roller/drum brakes are "squishy". They work fine, but are just different. I would rather have disc brakes and would have paid another $100-200 for them. Hubs would be lighter as well with discs.
    • Saddle - Even after 2 months and over 300 miles the damn thing is uncomfortable.
    • Pedals - While they work fine and have not broken, they do not inspire confidence. A more solid all-metal set would be better suited for this bike.


    The bike in use:
    To sum the ride quality of this bike up: SMOOTH! The belt drive really cuts down on any chain noise or vibration from the drivetrain whatsoever. The wider 700x32c tires at about 70psi really soak up a lot of the small bumps on the road and make for a nice comfortable ride. Most of the time all I can hear is the wind, or my breathing. I've only put about 350 miles on the bike thus far, but I'm getting very used to it and I can feel the bike beginning to break in. Shifting is smoother, tires are quieter, and I'm getting used to the more upright riding position.

    I ride the bike every day about 8 miles round trip commuting to work, and a few times during the week and on weekends around town. It's perfectly geared for a commuter; low end is great for carrying big loads or hills, top gear is good up to about 25-27mph. I currently have mine loaded down with a Topeak MTX rear rack and the Trunk Bag DX, filled up with tools, pump, extra tube, etc. Even with this load I cruise easily at 17mph or at 20mph with just a bit more effort.

    As I mentioned, the roller brakes have a completely different feel to them but work fine. I prefer my brakes VERY stiff, and I want stopping power without having to apply much pressure. With these brakes you have to apply A LOT of pressure to get the wheels to lock up, almost feels like the cable is stretching rather than applying more force to the drums. After you get used to it, it's not a big deal but I think disc brakes are a much more suitable component on a bike at this price point. The only good thing about these brakes is that they are sealed off from the weather and dirt, which should be better for maintenance and stopping in the rain. I suppose this is also cohesive with the overall design of the bike, but still Trek...disc brakes please!

    Here's a few pics of the ride:






  2. #2
    Senior Member sh00k's Avatar
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    Great review and stunning ride! the black and teal is a perfect combo! i hope you enjoy it!
    2009 Trek FX 7.2 (Blue) -- SOLD!
    2010 Trek FX 7.7 (White) -- SOLD!
    2011 Trek FX 7.3 (White) -- Haven't sold it yet! haha

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the review. I almost bought this bike about 6 months ago and was wishing there were more reviews on line. This will be helpful to people. That said, I rode the bike and decided it was too upright for me. I ended up buying the Trek Valencia, and even that was too upright for me...I swapped a lower and longer stem and flat non-swept handlebar.

  4. #4
    Cam CameronC's Avatar
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    What a beautiful bike. Belt drive is very intriguing, would love to take one for a spin.
    Great review.

  5. #5
    Wildflower Century TwoHeadsBrewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MattyA View Post
    Thanks for the review. I almost bought this bike about 6 months ago and was wishing there were more reviews on line. This will be helpful to people. That said, I rode the bike and decided it was too upright for me. I ended up buying the Trek Valencia, and even that was too upright for me...I swapped a lower and longer stem and flat non-swept handlebar.
    I'm actually thinking about getting flat bars or MTB bars with a minimal sweep and rise. The stock bars are nice, but force you into a comfortable yet very un-aerodynamic riding position. I love that Valencia, beautiful bike...one of those that I considered along with the Portland. I still drool over that Portland!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoHeadsBrewing View Post
    I'm actually thinking about getting flat bars or MTB bars with a minimal sweep and rise. The stock bars are nice, but force you into a comfortable yet very un-aerodynamic riding position.
    Personally it's a move I would make, based on my preferences. The "urban" handlebars that are curvy and swept back don't work for me. As I recall the rise is not huge on the bars (25mm?) so you might want to consider a lower angle stem if you're trying to change your riding position materially.

    Of course the Soho isn't exactly supposed to be a "sport bike"!

    Cheers,
    Matt

  7. #7
    Senior Member Fast Cloud's Avatar
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    Great looking bike...I love the color and the awesome keg-o-coffee holder. Nice fenders as well. Enjoy!

  8. #8
    Wildflower Century TwoHeadsBrewing's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the replies!

    I'm thinking about placing an order for these el cheapo bars just to test out a different riding position: http://www.cambriabike.com/shopexd.a...ISER+HANDLEBAR
    There are also these true flat bars that would work: http://www.cambriabike.com/shopexd.a...MINUM+FLAT+BAR
    Last edited by TwoHeadsBrewing; 10-30-09 at 10:25 AM.

  9. #9
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    That is a great review, I almost bought this model of bike due to all the low maintenance. Looks a great bike and nice to see someone give it a decent review.

  10. #10
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    Roller brakes are drum brakes. Sturmey Archer is better quality and you can even combine them with a front dyno hub for lighting. They're found on utility bikes. I've had no issues with drum brakes installed on my Raleigh Superbe and Pashley Roadster.

  11. #11
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    Awesome looking bike. I saw a guy riding one through midtown NYC the other morning.

  12. #12
    Wildflower Century TwoHeadsBrewing's Avatar
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    Just clicked over 400 miles on the way home today. I made it a memorable dash at 20mph most of the way. Maybe it's just the way I have it loaded down, but getting it up to speed takes some good effort. But once there, it's not hard to maintain that speed at all. I was doing 20-21mph on a slight uphill...no tailwind either. I really need to take this out for a 30 mile ride one of these weekends.

  13. #13
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    Compared to a chain, what is the belt drive really like????

    "Retirement is the best job I ever had!" Me, 2009


    Specialized Crosstrail Sport - '08
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  14. #14
    Wildflower Century TwoHeadsBrewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wanderer View Post
    Compared to a chain, what is the belt drive really like????
    Honestly, it's like a chain...just feels different I guess. It works and does the job, and I appreciate not having to clean and lube the chain. Here are the other things I can think of to say about the belt drive:

    • No oil/wax, no cleaning
    • No stretch under power. I've hammered on it pretty hard, and it's solid.
    • Very quiet
    • Clean so far - despite riding through a few rainy days
    • No vibrations or chatter through the cranks
    • Belt tension is important, the rear dropout bracket is like a motorcycle to allow for tension adjustment
    • Lasts about 30,000 miles (so they say)
    • Must have a break in the frame for belt replacement
    Last edited by TwoHeadsBrewing; 11-05-09 at 01:28 PM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member
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    I have never ridden one. It is an interesting bike. Doesn't look like a speed demon tho, which makes absolutely no difference to me.

  16. #16
    Winter commuting mode Tequila Joe's Avatar
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    Great review, the carbon belt drive is really interesting isn't it? I thought that it would be a cool upgrade for my Alfine hub but your review made me realize that there isn't a break in my rear triangle to install it. Oh well, I'm stuck with a chain.

    I've replaced the bars on my commuter with a flat bar & lowered the stem angle, it is much better for me as it puts me in a position closer to my road bike and is much more aero. If you go witha flat bar, I would recommend that you get bar ends as well for the additional hand position and out of the saddle climbing / sprinting.

    T.J.

  17. #17
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    Today Ive had the chance to try a Trek District and now Im in love. I allready liked the styling of the bike and after a half hour drive on one I want one bad. The ride was totaly silent, only the noise of the tires on asphalt. The whole bike feels pretty light and fast even if it has only the one gear. Now I get wat people on singlespeeds are on about. If the Soho is just half as fun its stille one hell of a machine.

  18. #18
    Senior Member mtalinm's Avatar
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    I have a Trek Soho and agree that the belt drive is fabulous. quiet, clean, all the things the reviewer mentioned.

    that said, I hate the brakes. i really have to squeeze hard and even then they don't stop like rim brakes. great in the weather, but discs are pretty good in rain as well. the only advantage is that I feel like I can ride the roller brakes down the hill without worrying too much.

    also, the internal gears are nice but I bet the Alfine hub is smoother. I have lots of trouble downshifting
    Trek Domane 4.5 (commute/distance), Specialized Roubaix (climber), Xootr Swift (winter/travel), Trek Soho (around town)

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