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.
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
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
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
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.
- 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
- 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: