By Eric McKeegan
Some things just go together. Cream cheese and bagels. Peanut butter and chocolate. Harleys and guys dressed like pirates. Soma and steel.
Soma has been turning out high-quality steel frames to fill niches in the industry for years, and the newest version of the Juice updates this hardtail with more wheel size and drivetrain options.
The front triangle is Tange Prestige, a heat-treated chromoly steel. The hourglass 44 mm head tube can handle either internal headset cups for straight steerers, or an external lower cup for tapered forks. This version of the Juice will work with 27×2.8-inch tires, or 29er tires up to 2.6. Forks can be up to 120 mm.
The slider dropouts come stock with a derailleur hanger. In addition to normal singlespeedability, there is a version of the frame with a split seat stay to install a belt drive. The seat tube is 27.2 mm, and there is no dedicated dropper routing, which limits the selection of dropper posts for this bike. Rear hub spacing is 135 mm, with inserts available for 142 thru-axles as well.
The frame also features two standard bottle mounts with star reinforcements, rack and fender mounts, full-length rear brake hose routing, and provisions for a front derailleur. There is also a gusset under the downtube for those getting rowdy. The bottom bracket has BSA threads, which is still the best thing going.
Pay attention to the geometry on these, and the sizing. We ordered a large, but with a 17.5 inch seat tube and 23.6 inch toptube, most brands would have called this bike a medium. It seems like Soma could just switch the current medium to XXL sizing to small through XL to get it more in line with modern standards.
Both riders on this bike found it a bit odd. Even with a 90 mm stem it needed a bit more reach, and while the chainstays aren’t that short, it would easily lift the front wheel, sometimes too easily as climbs were a bit frustrating. With a 120 mm fork and 27×2.8 tires, it felt most at home pointed down steep and loose terrain, which also seemed at odds with what we expected.
The steel frame was very comfortable, and fell into the “stiff enough” category for me. Those used to modern aluminum and carbon trail bikes might find the front end to be a little whippy feeling, but it isn’t going to bother most riders who aren’t trying to do Scandinavian flicks into bermed corners.
With its classic styling and conservative geometry, this isn’t a bike that is going to appeal to most riders looking for a new-school long and low trail bike, or those trying to project a dirtbag singlespeeder image. But the versatile frame is solid starting point for all kinds of bikes. Basic rigid singlespeed 29er, plus size hardtail, bikepacking or rough-stuff touring, or a belt drive commuter, the Juice is only limited by your imagination and parts bin.
-classic good looks
-lycra and shaved legs
-dirtbag style points