Ive now owned and ridden a 2009 Trek Soho-S for 3 months. I ride it daily to and from work (which is a relatively short mile or two) and have ridden it for 10 to 20 miles for fun and exercise once or twice a week. All my riding is in traffic, in a city, on city quality roads with city enraged car drivers all around me. I have not gone more than 2 days in a row without riding it and it is my sole method of transportation since i don’t not own a car, so I feel like I have a very good idea about this bike and how it performs as a ‘daily driver’.
Before I bought it in mid May I did some research and read quite a few reviews. I decided on this bike because it was an aluminum frame (very light), a single speed (I ride freewheel not fixed), and it was surprisingly affordable (mine cost $499) for an aluminum frame bike.
The reviews had some complaints that seemed to crop up over and over no matter the reviewer.
1. the brakes sucked.
I found this to be true, my previous bike, a KHS urban -x would stop on a dime and had the same basic caliper style brakes as the Treks tektro. The trek, however takes far longer to stop even with a death grip on both front and back breaks. Once you get used to the difference its easy to compensate and Ive had to do some fishtailing/back tire lifting breaking now and again and they have performed just fine in those emergency situations. I replace the front pads with some better pads and found they made zero difference. I have a feeling that the cool black rims are simply more slippery than the unpainted KHS rims were. Its not a deal breaker by any means, just be aware of it.
2. the handlebars are too wide
true, it was like holding the steering wheel on a bus. I lopped about 2 inches off each side so that the width was about even with my shoulders and its been fine since.
3. Aluminum transmits more vibration
If going from a steel frame you will notice every bump and crack much more. While this was a little disconcerting at first (I kept thinking my fat ass was breaking the frame) once I got used to it I enjoyed the fact that i could really tell exactly what was going on. I managed the additional booty vibration by changing the saddle, which leads to. . .
4. the equipped saddle sucked
It certainly made my pooper sore, I changed mine out within a week for the older spring dampened one on my KHS. It might not look as streamlined and hipster as the smaller phoney san marco style saddle that came with the bike, but i ride a lot and my ass thanks me for it. The springs seemed to suck up the worst of the additional vibration caused by the frame material and I have no complaints on either ride quality or ass comfort front now.
5. the chain derails/the back wheel moves forward to easily in day to day rising.
this one has been the worst for me. After a month of riding I came off a small curb on a driveway into traffic and my chain jumped off wedging itelf between the rear sprocket and spokes. In heavy traffic I rode it fixed gear style til i could pull over praying i wouldn’t shear off my spokes. Once I got somewhere with wrenches I re-tensioned the chain and cranked the bolts down pretty well. About a month later I noticed there seemed to be more slack in the chain again and sure enough a day or two later it jumped again in heavy traffic and wedged itself between the cog and spokes. This time when I repaired it I cranked the rear bolts til they squeaked and cried for their little bolt mommies. If I detect one millimeter of looseness in my chain this time Im going to the trek store and demanding and entirely new drivetrain. This is insanely dangerous and most likely the result of the neato painted frame, some simple lock washers or toothed washers could eliminate this (or stripping the paint from the dropout area, its an aluminum frame, it wont rust.)
The pros are numerous as well, however. For one thing it is miles lighter than other single speeds Ive ridden (SE’ draft and Torker U-district) and i never ever have felt that the bike was holding me back. In fact it feels like the little guy wants you to push on a little further, a little steeper. ive often found myself looking for the steeper route just to see how well it climbs and the fun of cresting a monster without the aid of a granny gear. This is its greatest asset and makes it a pure pleasure to crank on even on those days im tired as hell after work, by the time i get home I seem to have more energy instead of less.
It looks very cool with its matte black/stealth paint job, far from being ugly in a hipster studied way or pretend retro its simply a businesslike clean machine. It looks like a serious tool not a fashion accessory which is beautiful to me. Its thin tires have not slid once on gravel sand or dirt, and seem to hold like glue even in the rain. I didnt know much about bontrager tires, but i will be using them again when its time to replace these.
Speaking of tires, I have had zero flats of any kind, pinch or puncture. Whether Ive had the tires as taught as a drum or saggy has made no difference to their resilience, im still riding on the original tubes. Ive accidentally hit potholes with my full 190 pounds and the tires and v-rims held up as if it were nothing. Caras cute torker had a flat within weeks of purchase and needs to be re-inflated about twice as frequently as my bike.
The cranks and gears themselves have remained smooth and silent even as Ive ridden through water and smacked it against numerous curbs and parking meters when i lock up. Some reviewers criticized the petals, once even say9ing that they had broken, Ive had no problems at all. they are not as spikey as some but have held my feet just fine and have withstood tons and tons of standing in the saddle riding without a a peep.
Final verdict is that I would buy one again if I had to get a new single speed commuter bike. What it lacks in cool hipsterness it makes up for in performance and pure pleasure in riding.