My Soma Saga touring bike sporting a new set of shiny fenders and new leather saddle. I could have at least wiped the mud off the chain stay!
With 4 tours covering a good deal of Oregon and Washington, 3 years of commuting all winter, plus numerous overnight tours and day rides, the Soma Saga has been a solid, dependable, and fun ride. This page has the original specs and a picture when it was new. I think I did the first two tours with the Jandd Extreme front rack, but then opted for the Tubus Tara low rider. I've changed the saddle a few times, most recently to a Selle Anatomica X series. The original set of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires got 6,500 miles without a flat. I swapped them out for a set of Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires which are still going strong with no flats. The most recent addition has been a set of Velo Orange hammered aluminum fenders, which really added some class.
Soma Saga frame and fork
The frame itself is all I could ask for. Of course it feels solid, but it handles quite well with or without a load. And it does like a load. When I'm not touring I sometimes put on both sets of panniers and go grocery shopping, loading it up much heavier than when I tour. When I do it always feels great, like it was really made for a heavy load. When touring I can bomb down hills with confidence. The steering is true and never sloppy. Bumps and irregular pavement jolts are absorbed nicely by the steel frame. On smooth level roads I can ride this bike hands free much easier than my other bikes, even with a load in the front. The paint looks new after 3 years with only a couple of little dings where it got banged around in bike racks. The kickstand plate has worked out wonderfully with my Pletscher double leg kick stand. Compared to the other frames in it's class, the Surly Long Haul Trucker, and the Salsa Vaya, I still think the Soma Saga comes out on top. There is no question that I am very happy with it.
SRAM Mountain Double drive train
As for the build I am also happy with the choices I made. I recommend the SRAM mountain double with the 11x36 10 speed cassette, to anyone building up a touring bike. The shifting is clean and precise, and I have all the gears I need to get up and over the mountains, without the need for a third chain ring. The SRAM Apex levers provide the most comfortable brake hoods of any I have ridden with. I have replaced the chain 3 times, and have not yet needed to replace the cassette. I am sold on the SRAM setup and even installed it on one of my other bikes.
Wheels and Hubs
The wheels are built on 36 spoke Alex Adventure rims. The rear hub is a Shimano XT, and the front is a Schmidt SON 28 dynamo. I have had no broken spokes and the wheels have remained true. What more can you ask for? The brake surfaces are holding up well but I expect I'll have to get new rims before my next tour.
Dynamo hub and lights
I would not build another bike without a dynamo hub and full time lights. For commuting it was a no brainer, but even for touring it is wonderful to have. I never have to think about it. The lights are on all the time, providing extra visibility, and if it starts to get dark I keep right on going. People ask me a lot if the Schmidt SON hub creates any resistance when the lights are on. Honestly if it does I have never been able to detect it. I've experimented and cannot detect any different if the lights are on or off. So I just leave them on, front and rear, all the time. The exception is when I'm charging my phone with the Sinewave Revolution USB adapter. The iPhone is very touchy and wants a steady stream. I think it does get a slow charge when the lights are on, but it complains. As far as the quality and reliability of the Schmidt hub, of the Busch and Muller lights, it has been excellent. No problems and no indication that they won't continue to function flawlessly for may years to come.
Avid Shorty cantilever brakes
So far I have successfully stopped every time! That's what brakes do right? I've replaced the pads about once a year. I've had good luck with the Kool Stop pads. The real question is would I prefer disc brakes. Soma now makes the Saga with disc brakes. For the kind of touring I've done so far I haven't felt the need. Of course I have not found myself bombing down a muddy wet mountain with a full load. I can see where disc brakes would be nice under those conditions. Right now I feel no inclination to change.
The Old Man Mountain rear rack, and the Tubus Tara front low-rider have been ideal. They are rock solid and still look like new. These were a good choice.
If you're looking for a first rate touring bike you would be hard pressed to find a better frame than the Soma Saga. Soma now sells the Saga as a frame and fork only, or as a complete bike with a decent build. Although I have 3 bikes that I ride a lot, the Saga is the one I choose for everyday riding and touring. And now that it is well broken in the only thing left is to get out for a much longer tour, which I plan to be doing very soon.