This SOMA Fabrications Saga touring bike was built for a customer in Poughkeepsie, NY, completing a coast-to-coast tour following her college graduation. The Trans-America ride is something of a rite of passage for dedicated bicycle tourers, and we were eager to help this rider build up a vessel worthy of the voyage that also wouldn’t break the bank. Soma’s Saga frame was an ideal place to start as an affordable but purpose-built platform for loaded touring that could easily accommodate a Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 internal gear hub.
When planning a cross-country journey, it can be a challenge to determine where to make investments in terms of equipment. In our opinion, too many riders overlook the massive benefits of a reliable internal gearing system when building a bike for longer tours. No doubt, the peace of mind that comes with knowing your bike will shift and the pedals will turn regardless of conditions is worth far more to the seasoned tourer than is shaving a few grams of frame weight here and there.
This bike was built accordingly, pairing a sturdy workhorse of a frame with the best internal gear hub on the market for to ensure this rider enjoyed her post-grad adventure free of the painstaking mechanical issues that can ruin a tour. The build was completed with utilitarian accessories including a Shutter Precision dynamo hub, Sinewave Cycles USB charger, bar-end shifter adapter from Hubbub, and front and rear racks from Tubus for a bike ready to take on the long haul.
Soma Fabrications is a local Bay Area company, (their name refers to a large neighborhood in San Francisco), who builds affordable framesets for the “everyday cyclist.” In their own words, Soma builds bikes for the rider who “gets out and rides everyday or almost everyday: Using their bike for commuting, for work, for errands, for fitness, or just for the joy of riding.”
Soma’s CrMo steel frames offer strength and durability without excessive weight, making them an excellent choice for tourers and everyday riders alike. The Saga model seen here is their loaded touring platform, with upright geometry that’s comfortable for long days (or weeks) in the saddle, and the frame is covered in mounts for bottles, racks, fenders, and other accessories. Soma places a premium on intelligent simplicity, and the classic aesthetic of this frames is another reflection of their mantra that “fun is not complicated.”
We agree that having fun on two wheels shouldn’t be complicated, but mechanical issues are often anything but a simple fix when out on the road. Enter the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 internal gear hub, long a favorite option among dedicated touring riders thanks to its unparalleled reliability and consistent performance in all weather conditions.
The SPEEDHUB features 14 evenly-indexed speeds with a wide enough gearing range to confidently handle steep hills and long days under a full touring load, and the internal nature of the gearing makes it virtually impervious to the elements. Rohloff builds premium products that are made to last for the long haul, and in their 20+ year history, they’ve never seen a hub taken out of commission due to mechanical failure.
Anyone who’s completed the Trans-America ride with a derailleur probably knows a thing or two about adjusting their shifting, but the Rohloff unit requires no such frustrating dark-campsite-under-headlamp adjustments, and no maintenance beyond a roughly annual oil change that can be performed at home, a local shop, or by Cycle Monkey.
While there are a number of internal gear hubs on the market at a lower price point, few of them match the torque input capacity of the SPEEDHUB, a crucial measure of how well a drivetrain component will stand up to the power input of a tandem or fully loaded touring bike. For riders taking on ambitious tours like this one, there really is no substitute for Rohloff in terms of both reliability and performance.
The SPEEDHUB is typically activated with a twist shifter designed primarily for use on flat handlebars, but there are a number of aftermarket options available for those who wish to run Rohloff on their drop bar bike. You can see a full run-down of the options here, but this build uses Hubbub’s bar-end adapter to place the twist shifter at the end of the right-hand drop.
The Hubbub installs with a 6mm allen key, and the Rohloff shifter slides over the shaft and tightens in place as usual. This placement retains all available hand positions on the drop bars, making it perfect for touring riders taking on open roads, who may not need to shift as frequently as those riding trails or frequently stopping on their urban commute.
A proper lighting and navigation system is also crucial to a successful long-distance tour, but access to electrical outlets can be challenging for those constantly on the move. That’s why we suggested this rider opt for a self-generating dynamo front hub, which provides power to the front and rear light, no charger necessary. Shutter Precision offers affordable, reliable dynamos for a wide variety of bikes, and they can also be used to charge navigational devices or your smartphone when paired with a USB charger like the Sinewave Cycles Reactor seen on this bike.
Hermann’s front and rear dynamo lights ensure visibility for the early morning and late night miles that are inevitable when riding across America, with large and highly-visible LED light patterns that also help riders to stand out to drivers.
Comfort at the touchpoints -- where your body meets the bike -- is important on any ride, but on a Trans-America ride, it can mean the difference between completing a longtime goal, or having to abandon the journey in painful defeat. High-volume Marathon Plus tires from Schwalbe can be run at lower pressure to reduce jarring vibrations from the road, providing a cushy feel while maintaining excellent rolling efficiency.
An all-leather Brooks saddle with an ergonomic cutout provides additional compliance where it matters most, in addition to contributing to the vintage, retro appeal of the frame’s classically-styled lines.
Of course, this dedicated long-range touring setup is just one example of how Soma’s versatile steel frames can be built up. Check out another recent Cycle Monkey build of their Wolverine model here, and drop us a line if you’re interested in discussing a custom build project of your own.
Whether you’re going across the country or around the neighborhood, we can help you enjoy the journey with a low-maintenance, worry-free ride built around internal drivetrain components.
Frame: Soma Saga
Fork: Soma Saga
Headset: Cane Creek Ten Series
Shifter: Rohloff Twish Shifter with Hubbub Bar-End Adapter
Seatpost: Kalloy Uno
Saddle: Selle Anatomica
Front Hub: Shutter Precision
Rear Hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
Spokes: Sapim Race
Nipples: Sapim Brass
Rims: Velocity Dyad
Tires: Schwalbe Marathon Plus
Pedals: Shimano XT
Front Light: Hermanns H-One S Dynamo
Rear Light: Hermanns H-Track Dynamo
Front & Rear Rack: Jandd