Road Bike, Cycling Forums banner
1 - 14 of 14 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
336 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Why did I choose a San Marcos?
I call this my “Less Slow” bike. Because of a bad knee I will never be a fast rider. I have a 42 pound utility bike here but needed something to ride when I don't need to take panniers, bags, fenders and racks. The heavy bike can be just as hard on the knee as pushing high gears, or so it seems to me. I wanted a light, reasonably responsive bike to ride for exercise and pleasure.

After seeing what was and wasn't available at the local shop I decided on a Soma San Marcos frame & fork and Campagnolo Flat-bar shifters. Here are some initial reactions to riding this bike

The good.
This bike can fit pretty wide tires. That makes it versatile.There is really no downside to a bike being able to accept wider tires. You can always use skinnier ones if you want.

This is not a re badged cycle-cross frame and the geometry is quite different from a cross bike. For example it has a lower bottom bracket which makes the bike extremely stable.

The bike has very predicable handling. It is not twitchy. I would not call it a fast handling bike but it doesn't turn like a barge either. It is a competent climber but shines when descending. There is no shimmy, no drift, no fear coming down hills

An absolutely Cadillac ride especially on flat roads. The bike is really comfortable without feeling mushy

It is actually a fairly light bike There was no real effort to bring the weight down on this bike yet it is just over 22 pounds including the pedals.

The finish and workmanship are very good. The bike is impressive to look at.

I like having the DT shifter bosses even if I don't use them.

I appreciate the eyelets for fenders and racks on the frame.

There is no braze on front derailleur tab which is nice because it allows you to use any gearing from a single chain wheel to a road double to a mountain bike triple

The steel frame is fairly light but should be rugged enough that I don't have to worry about it like I would a carbon frame.

The Bad
The Grant Petersen geometry does not work for everyone. This is not necessarily bad unless you expect to get a high performance bike. That said they don't claim it is a racing bike either

The price, This is the most expensive frame Soma sells. If you don't mind a welded frame you can save a couple hundred dollars or more. A less expensive option might be a Surly or Velo Orange frame. Just that would save $400 dollars.

It only comes in one color so I hope you like light blue

You have to build the bike from a frame. This typically adds money to the price. You can get better components on a pre-built bike due to economies of scale. I could have probably found a bike with similar components, made of carbon fibre that weighed less for probably $1000 less money. That is a lot to pay for 32 mm wide tires and lugs.

The frame has 7.7 cm of bottom bracket drop which is both good and bad. That is the main reason the bike feels so stable but means the bike is about ½ an inch closer to the ground than most production frames so avoid long cranks. This is only bad if you are trying to pedal through corners. I don't so it isn't an issue. It also means that this frame would not work well for cycle-cross because the bottom bracket could hit rocks more often due to less ground clearance.

I guess I should list frame weight here. at 6.1 pounds for frame and fork it is heavier by about 1.5 pounds than the average carbon or aluminum frame and fork.

The unusual
The fork requires a threaded headset. This is not that big a deal as there is no performance issues with the older headset types. But it does mean you need an insertion stem. The good thing is that the height of the bars is easier raise or lower but most riders don't adjust those very often.

The bike requires long reach brakes. This limits the brake selection but is necessary to allow the wider tires and fenders

Larger frames have two top tubes. This looks a bit strange to many riders

The Impressions
Soma and Rivendell bill this bike as what used to be called a “Sport Touring” frame. Well, I remember those frames, and owned three or four of them and this is not a sport touring frame. It comes closer, in some ways I think to a very good hybrid frame

This is possibly the most laid back production frame you can buy. It has a 71.8 seat tube angle. The only frames I have seen that have similar angles are Richard Sachs frames but those are a whole different animal in both price and reputation. It is far more laid back than a 1980's sport touring bike which typically had parallel 73 degree or 74 degree angles. The angles are actually slacker than some old “Touring Bikes” which were 72 degrees but unlike those frames the main frame is Tange Prestige tubing which is considerably lighter than standard Chrome-molly tubes.

The wheel base is also in between a touring and racing bike.

The frame and fork weigh in at just over 6 pounds where a full race steel bike would be a pound or so lighter because of lighter tubes used in the rear triangle and fork. An old Dawes Galaxy touring frame and fork was about 7.25 pounds So the San Marcos is firmly in the mid-range for weight of nice steel frames & forks

I've ridden bikes that climb better But I wonder how much of that is wheels. The Campagnolo Vento CX wheels are not the lightest though they are actually not that heavy. However, the bike climbs better than I expected and far better than many bikes I have ridden.

This bike does not feel like a racer. It really does not even feel sporty. It does not feel like a touring bike either. it isn't going to win many races but is great to ride all day. The bike has what could be called very gentlemanly manners. Pleasant to ride, undemanding, forgiving and willing to go anywhere you want to go. It is also faster than you might expect.

The complete weight including pedals and bottle cages is just under 22 pounds. Considering I made no real effort to get an ultra light weight bike I was well pleased with that weight.

The Build
Wheels: Campagnolo Vento Reaction CX 700c
Tires: Continental Gator Skin 700X28
Saddle: Selle San Marco Regal
Seat Post: NOS Campagnolo Victory 27.2
Stem: Nitto Dirt Drop
Handle Bars: Nitto Flat
Crank: Campangnolo Power Torque Centaur 170 mm 50/39/30
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Veloce medium cage
Front Derailleur: Campagnolo QS
Shifters: Campagnolo Veloce Flat-Bar 10 Speed
Cassette: Campagnolo Centaur 10 speed 12-29
Chain: Campagnolo 10 Speed
Headset: Campagnolo Record Threaded
Calipers: Tektro 569 long reach
Grips: Who cares
Bar Ends: Short straight
Pedals: MKS touring with toeclips

Total cost about $2800.00 USD

Because of the problems with my leg I cannot use clip-less pedals that is the reason for the toeclips and straps

The Recommendation
This is a great bike. The bike handles predictably, can be built up fairly light and is very comfortable. That said if I had to do it again I think I might have purchased a slightly sportier frame if I could find one that accepts the 28 to 32 mm tires.

The problem with this bike is that I am not sure that it really knows what it is. It can do a lot of things pretty well but doesn't really do any of them as well as a bike that is focused on one type of riding. I kind of wish it leaned a little more toward a touring bike or sporty bike. "Moderation in all things" may be a good moral philosophy but I am not sure it applies to bicycles. This is a frame that is OK for someone like me that has other bikes for specific purposes but might be an issue for someone with only one bike. It is racy but not nearly racy enough for the fast guys. It can carry things but not very much and isn't really suited for a long or self contained tour. It is light but still heavier than a weight-weenie would approve of. It would make a good commuter unless you had to carry lots of stuff or had to lock it outside.

Potential buyers should think hard before buying one. If you need a touring bike or heavy duty commuter get a Sam Hillborne, Atlantis, Surly LHT, the Soma touring bike or VO Polivalent. If you want the racy steel get a StanYan or Rivendell Roadeo.

If you are looking for a pleasant riding easy handling pleasure bike that can do a bit of everything and is lighter than most of the Grant Petersen designed frames this could be your bike. I will definitely be riding this one for years to come

I'll get some photos in a couple of days when I can find the cable that hooks the camera up to the computer:blush2:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2 Posts
I first saw a San Marcos this past fall. I currently ride a Bianchi Eros a true sports tourer. It is however, a relatively heavy, and not very well rounded bike. If I am going to ride a 22-24 lb. bike it would be nice to have it flexible enough to have wider wheels, fenders and be able to be ridden on something other than paved roads. Would the San Marcos fit the bill? I'd like a bike I can ride and not worry about whether or not the road I am taking becomes gravel for a stretch or that if it starts to rain I'm not spraying mud in my face. I'm seriously thinking of getting a San Marcos for most of my rides and getting an aluminum Neuvation frame and transplant the campy components from my Eros for the faster club rides or sprint triathlons.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2 Posts
I think it would be a great option if you can deal with the hyper relaxed geometry but if possible I'd ride one first because this is your normal 1980's sport touring frame
I'm now 54 so a more relaxed geometry sounds pretty good to me. I'm getting tired of numb hands. I am 5'5" tall and had an opportunity to ride a 54cm. It was obviously too large, however, it still felt more comfortable than my 51 cm Eros. I always feel so cocked forward in the Eros. It has a 74 degree seat tube.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
336 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
I am 52 and 6 foot but with a slightly chimp build (Short legs longer arms for the height) The 54 is a good fit for me though Grant Petersen would probably put me on the next bigger size

As I have ridden this bike a while I've come to really enjoy it. This is the only bike I have including the Hillborne that I don't shove the saddle all the way back on the rails. I made about a 40 mile ride on my day off this past Monday It was probably the most pleasant ride in a18 months.

I am using an 8 CM dirt drop stem shoved way down so the bars are just below seat level That is a very short stem and would be problematic with drop bars but with the flat bars it is just spot on.

The gentlemanly nature of this bike is actually impressive. I used to ride a Dawes Gallaxy in the 1980's this has that same smooth ride but isn't a barge

I have put probably 10000 miles on the Sam Hillborne (See my reviews of it on this site) as a commuter and tourist including a trip from Hong Kong to Shanghai. I like the Hillborne it does what I need it to do and is a good value but the San Marcos is the bike I would ride for pleasure.

I really need to get some pictures up of this bike.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,830 Posts
Nice review. Would love to seem some photos of your bike. The San Marcos is a nice looking bike from the photos posted on the Soma website. The Rivendell geometry can be troublesome for me, and they don't offer a wide range of sizes. Although I like the clearance for larger tires, the extremely slack seat tube angle and long top tubes can make it hard to get your saddle positioned properly. If it fits, this should make a great commuter bike.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
276 Posts
Seriously considered one of these but the short front centre stopped me cold. Looks good otherwise {if you can fit on a 54 or smaller at least}, but my old, stolen frame had too much overlap for comfort and SM is worse. Custom is on its way {sigh}..
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
276 Posts
Overlap depends primarily on front centre measurement, foot size, fore-aft position of the foot on the pedal, crank length and, to a lesser degree, Q factor and foot toe-in or toe-out. Fork rake has nothing to do with overlap - it is front centre which counts, although changing to a fork with more or less offset will indeed change the amount of overlap (or clearance).

While I don't doubt that *some* people will not suffer from overlap, with the frame size which would otherwise have fitted me and my not-so-small feet there would have been very significant and very annoying overlap of my shoe with even a narrow tyre. With wider tyres and/or fenders things would have been diabolical. (Which is why I didn't buy one of these frames.)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
336 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Finally have some pictures of the bike.
Note the bike originally had the wrong fork - it was shipped with the fork for the 650B wheeled smaller frame. . The bike was ridable with the wrong fork but steered a bit funny

<a href="https://s10.photobucket.com/user/Phil_hk/media/Bicycle/Soma/SANY0034_zps21eec018.jpg.html" target="_blank"><img src=</a>



<a href="https://s10.photobucket.com/user/Phil_hk/media/Bicycle/Soma/SANY0001_zpsf89861dc.jpg.html" target="_blank"><img src="https://i10.photobucket.com/albums/a117/Phil_hk/Bicycle/Soma/SANY0001_zpsf89861dc.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo SANY0001_zpsf89861dc.jpg"/></a> View attachment 279146
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1 Posts
Overlap depends primarily on front centre measurement, foot size, fore-aft position of the foot on the pedal, crank length and, to a lesser degree, Q factor and foot toe-in or toe-out. Fork rake has nothing to do with overlap - it is front centre which counts, although changing to a fork with more or less offset will indeed change the amount of overlap (or clearance).


While I don't doubt that *some* people will not suffer from overlap, with the frame size which would otherwise have fitted me and my not-so-small feet there would have been very significant and very annoying overlap of my shoe with even a narrow tyre. With wider tyres and/or fenders things would have been diabolical. (Which is why I didn't buy one of these frames.)
For the record, I test road a San Marcos 56" at Rivendell. There was no toe overlap for me. I am 5' 8" and I have size 9 1/2 feet.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
336 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Given I have had this bike several months now I think my opinion of it has changed somewhat for the better.

A few technical notes
I have the 54 cm frame. I also have UK size 11 feet. There is no noticeable toe overlap

Comparison to my Sam Hillborne & Battaglin
I made a trip back to Hong Kong for a two week vacation and had a chance to ride the Sam Hillborne unloaded after riding the San Marcos here on Guam. This gave me a chance to make a direct comparison of two Grant Petersen designed bikes. My perceptions of the Hillborne were somewhat skewed because I used it as an all weather commuter and had it loaded down with fenders, racks, panniers and lights. I hadn't really ridden the Hillborne unloaded for several years until this trip back. I still love that bike but oh my God is it a slug compared to the San Marcos!

What huge difference. The San Marcos is stable and comfortable like the Hillborne but nearly 5 pounds lighter (27 pounds vs. 22 pounds) It turns faster, it climbs better with wheels that are only slightly lighter. The Hillborne despite smaller 650B wheels has a much longer wheelbase. I didn't measure it but it looks like three or four inches longer which is simply huge. That is a good thing for heal clearance if you use panniers but makes the frame feel a lot bouncier. The Hillborne's long top tube is also apparent after riding the San Marcos so the fit of the bikes is different even though the saddle and bars are basically the same height.

The Hillborne is sort of the bicycle equivalent of a pickup truck used on the farm. They can be fun to drive and if you need a work vehicle really useful if you need to carry a load. The San Marcos is kind of like what used to be called a "personal luxury car" like a Monte Carlo or Thunderbird. A little more sporty than a family sedan but far more comfortable than a sports car though nearly as fast.

It still is not the 80's "Sport Touring" bike it is advertised as I had a Centurion, Panasonic and Peugot version of those and this is not like those

I think the reason I did not realize how well the San Marcos rides is that my light bike, the Battaglin is a weight weenie steel frame with extremely light tubular wheels that is left over from my Triathlon days. That whole bike weighs just under 20 pounds sans pedals primarily because of lighter tubing and stupidly light wheels, the bike does not even have a carbon fork. That bike just floats and that probably skews my perception. It is also an absolute squirrel in the corners. I loaned that bike to a friend who normally rides an old Trek Y-Foil and he was amazed at how light it felt.

I think I'll revise my evaluation upward a bit after doing the comparisons with my other good bikes. If you are a person that rides for pleasure wanting a fairly light, low maintenance steel frame with fancy lugs this is a great choice.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
40 Posts
I have had a Soma San Marcos for about 10 days. My other main bike is a mid 90s lugged steel Serotta Colorado CSI, which is a racing frame that I have fitted as far as possible for a more relaxed ride. I had initially emailed Rivendell asking about the Sam Hillborne, San Marcos and Betty Foy (I am a guy BTW) and indicated that I was interested in a relaxed geometry sportive bike with drop handlebars. They gently guided me towards the San Marcos over the Sam Hillborne, and I am glad they did.

I am 5 ft 8 1/2 inches with an 84 cm PBH. I am riding a Soma San Marcos 54 cm frame. I initially had a real concern regarding the Soma San Marcos' generous top tube length. This concern arose because the fit data from a formal fitting on the Serotta suggested an ideal top tube was 53 cm with a head tube of 20 cm or more. This arises due to my preference for a really upright posture. I have a 50 mm reach on my Nitto Technomic stem with short reach, shallow drop handlebars on my Serotta (top tube 55 cm) to try to compensate, and ended up putting a 70 mm reach Nitto Technomic stem and a Nitto 177 "Noodle" handlebar on the Soma San Marcos which theoretically should make the reach several centimeters longer on the San Marcos compared to the Serotta. The San Marcos feels quite comfortable and I am quite happy with my reach despite the theoretical concerns.

The San Marcos feels quite zippy and is no slouch compared to the Serotta which was after all designed as a racing bike. So I am comfortable and with a fairly zippy bike. I do not have racks or fenders on it, and am running 700c x 28 mm tires. Overall, I am quite happy with this build.
 
1 - 14 of 14 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top