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Quick Ride: Soma Tradesman

March 20, 2012
Soma Tradesman on Yellow

The lines of a Cycle-Truck

There was a time when the vast majority of bicycles were used for moving people and stuff around, “utility” you might say. Now that we’re experiencing the problems associated with motorized-transport in our cities utility-bikes are starting to make a comeback. A bicycle can be the fastest and easiest way to get around with or without cargo, and parking is a non-issue.

Cargo-bikes come in all shapes and sizes depending on what loads you need to transport. The bike in question here is the Tradesman from Soma Fabrications. Soma hails from San Francisco and this is their interpretation of the classic American Cycle-Truck or what we’d call a Butchers-Bike here in the colonies.

Soma Tradesman Headbadge

Review bike was built as a 10x1 (10 cogs down the back, 1 up front)

Cycle-trucks remain relatively compact by placing the “load” out the front on a sturdy rack. The rack is attached to the frame (not the handlebars or fork) so even with a portly Labrador up front for company the steering remains light and the bars don’t flop around. The really clever bit, and the reason for this bikes unique look is by utilizing a smaller front wheel the centre-of-gravity is kept low and the handling remains stable and predictable.

I didn’t get a chance to carry any cargo but the naked bike was a joy to ride, really nimble, light and comfortable. It handled just like a mountainbike and the only odd thing was when you turn the handlebars the rack doesn’t move with them, disconcerting at first but I soon got used to it.

You could bungee items directly to the rack but it’s really there to enable attachment of a “box” of some kind. Use you imagination here; a stylish wooden crate or wicker basket, a big plastic “fish-bin” or an insulated alloy container for pizza delivery or cold drinks? – The possibilities are endless.

Soma Tradesman Panda

Big rack. Just add box/bin/basket - groceries/beer/pooch

The Tradesman would make a practical commuter as well, it rides too nicely to be reserved for shopping and load-carrying. If I wasn’t such a tall freak I’d seriously consider buying one myself, but I reckon 6′ 3″ would be the upper size-limit if you’re to be riding any distance.

The rack is generous in size but narrow enough to negotiate doorways and slip down the side of your car in your garage. The car won’t like it of course, it’s had a lot of “garage-time” since you’ve been flitting around town transporting things by bicycle!

At present Soma only offer this bike as a “frame-set”, that’s a “frame and fork” and in this case also a front rack. You can build it up yourself (if you have the skills) or get to know your local bike shop. The review bike was imported by Rode in Point Chev and built-up using an eclectic mix of quality components, I loved the funky swept-back handlebars in particular.

Soma Tradesman Brick Wall

Reminiscent of the old Schwinn Cycle Trucks

I’m excited that cargo-bikes are starting to filter down to the Antipodes, to me that’s a sign our bike culture is growing. Long may it continue!

Thanks to Rode in Point Chev for the review-bike. This one is for sale if you’re in the market or Tim can order another frame-set and build one up to your specifications.

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