Masi Soulville 10

For those of us that regularly pedal for transportation, there’s nothing worse than being trapped someplace without a bike. Traditionally, the worst part of going to Interbike is being stuck at a bike show without a bike. Fortunately, some kind individuals from an assortment of companies allowed us to borrow their Dirt Demo bikes for a few days. All of the bikes we rode were quite interesting, and deserve some face time, so we’ll each be writing a bit about the bikes we rode over the next couple of weeks.  Check out Shannon’s impressions of Pashley’s Roadster Classic and Evan’s thoughts on Raleigh’s Clubman.

I was fortunate enough to draw straws for Masi’s new-for-2009 Soulville 10. Masi first introduced the Soulville, with an 8-speed Nexus Shimano rear hub, at Interbike 2007 as a 2008 model. For 2009, Masi is stepping up the game with a few more versions of this classy commuter including a women’s step through frame, called the Mixte, which is available with a 3-speed or 7-speed internal hub, as well as men’s versions in singlespeed, 3-speed, 7-speed, and 10-speed configurations. Obviously the 2008 Soulville sold well enough to justify these other options.

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The Soulville 10 has a pleasing retro look and feel while also maintaining the functionality of fenders, gears, and a comfortable and efficient riding position. My 20” loner steed, which is the largest frame Masi makes, was absolutely perfect for me as a cruising city bike which is perhaps a bit unsettling in that I’m a mere 5’ 7” knuckle-dragger. A 565mm effective top tube on the big bike doesn’t leave many options for the tall folks out there, particularly when paired with a nice swept-back handlebar–with cork grips, no less. Don’t get me wrong, this bike is designed to have a nice upright seating position but if you’re taller than 5’10” make sure you’re not going to be cramped by the bars being low and in your lap.

By now, I’m sure you’re wondering how this hip machine rides. Stable is one of the first words that come to mind.  Even with and inordinately heavy backpack full of camera equipment the Soulville felt very composed. This impression was corroborated by the bike’s geometry; long wheelbase (1088mm), slack head tube angle (70º), average fork offset (45mm). These number come together to create a bike that is stable and predictable while comfortably carving corners in a composed, controlled fashion, all of which are admirable handling traits in a transportation machine. Personally, I like a nice stable, relaxed ride home from a long day at the office.

The Soulville 10 uses SRAM’s 10-speed Doulble Tap Flat Bar shifters to shift through a compact double road crankset and close-ratio road cassette.  It took a few mis-shifts to get the Double Tap groove hammered into my mountain-bike-trigger-shifter oriented brain, but sooner or later things sunk in. Shift action was very crisp and precise, which is to be expected from the SRAM Rival front and rear derailleurs.

I certainly enjoyed my time aboard the Soulville, scooting around and through the hustle and bustle of Vegas. If I was in the market for a classy, mid-level commuter bike, this bike would likely be on my short list. It’s not the cheapest commuter, nor does it deliver the most high-tech performance for its $1,100 retail price, but this bike certainly delivers steely class, comfort, and competence.

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