Second Look: SOMA C-Line Tires

When we reviewed the New Albion Cycles Privateer frameset last summer, the bike’s SOMA C-Line 700×38 tires really stood out–and not just because of the terracotta-colored tread. The tires’ mild tread and supple casings made it easy to transition between paved and unpaved surfaces. To help test the new Zipp 30 Course wheelset, we decided to give the C-Line tires a dedicated second look. gravel grinder SOMA C-Line Panaracer Pasela Compass Barlow Pass Zipp 30 Course

Manufactured in Japan by Panaracer, SOMA’s C-Line tires ($59.99/ea MSRP) share the same tread pattern as the company’s New Xpress line of tires. Unlike the New Xpress, however, the C-Line lacks the former’s Hypertex casing. Why not go with the more cut/puncture-resistant Hypertex casing? Easy–superior ride quality. Adding extra material to the casing makes it stiffer, which in-turn makes the tires less supple.

Mounted on 25 mm wide Zipp rims, our sample tires measured 37.8 mm when inflated to the maximum pressure of 90 psi. Both tires came in under the claimed 400 gram weight, tipping the scales at 387 grams and 395 grams. And although we fitted the tires with inner tubes for our testing, we were able to seat the tires (sans-tubes) on tubeless-compatible wheels from HED, Rolf Prima, and Zipp (although some combinations did require a compressor or COcartridge).

Despite being rated to 90 psi, we rarely inflated the C-Lines over 65 psi. On paved roads, our testers found that 50 psi front and 60 psi rear worked best for unloaded riding. When it came to dirt and gravel, dropping the pressure by 7-10 psi improved traction and comfort without inviting pinch-flats. Our test period took place during unusually wet weather in Colorado, and the black tread offered plenty of traction on damp roads. The classic tan sidewalls received numerous compliments, but we’d like to see SOMA offer a version with black sidewalls, too.

How do C-Lines compare to Panaracer’s popular Pasela family of tires? You know that expression about having your cake and eating it, too? If you want Paselas with folding beads, they’re only available on models with puncture-resistant casings. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, many riders prefer the livelier ride of the more supple casings found on the SOMA tires (and wire-bead Paselas). Knowing that we’d get asked to compare the C-Lines to Compass’ similarly sized Barlow Pass tires, we spent plenty of time switching between the two. The verdict? For pavement, we preferred the Barlow’s minimal tread, but on dirt and gravel, the C-Lines offered a bit more traction and control.

Disclosure: SOMA Fabrications provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.

Under Test: TomTom Bandit Camera gravel grinder GoPro TomTom Bandit Morsa Designs Zipp SRAM

POV action cameras make it easy to capture your adventures, but weeding out the less-than-epic footage is often a chore. That’s not the case with TomTom’s new Bandit camera. Built-in sensors automatically tag maximum speed, g-force, acceleration, deceleration, and vertical speed. A built-in media server makes sharing quick and easy, and the company’s mobile app features shake-to-edit functionality.

Stay tuned…

First Impressions: Jones Loop H-Bar Pack

We’re big fans of Jeff Jones’ Loop handlebars The bars’ swept-back design and multiple hand positions successfully bridge the gap between conventional drop- and upright-bars. Ample real estate for packs and accessories make it a popular choice for bikepacking and adventure riders, and with the introduction of the company’s Loop H-Bar Pack ($80.00 MSRP), you can add convenient storage to the bars’ list of features.

Expertly crafted in North America by the folks at Porcelain Rocket, the single-compartment H-Bar Pack is constructed from 500D Cordura, 200D liner fabric, closed cell foam, and YKK #8 water-resistant zippers. Mounting is simple thanks to four heavy-duty Velcro straps and two cam-lock nylon straps. While the Velcro straps’ positions are fixed, the cam-lock straps have multiple attachment points making it easy to accommodate bar-mounted accessories or other packs. For on-the-go access, the dual-pull zipper can be opened with one hand from either the right or left side. Despite the pack’s use of heavy-duty materials, weight is a scant 120 grams.

With a capacity of approximately 110 square inches (1.8 litres), the Loop H-Bar pack isn’t a replacement for bikepacking-style handlebar rolls such as the ones from Apidura, Blackburn, or Revelate. We found that the Loop H-Bar Pack’s easy access design made it ideal for storing small, frequently used items such as sunscreen, a cell phone, or energy bars and gels. If you’re riding in uncertain weather conditions, the pack is large enough to hold a lightweight vest, skull cap, and a pair of thin gloves.

Depending on your preferred grip, you may find that the Loop H-Bar Pack interferes with some of  your favorite hand positions. One tester found that the bag made it difficult to wrap his fingers around the bars’ outer loop section. Those riders who tended to ride with their hands draped across the top of the bars typically had no complaints, however. Some testers reported that the added weight of the pack and cargo was noticeable on technical drops.

The Jones Loop H-Bar Pack is an excellent alternative–or complement–to top tube and feedbag-style packs. After several months of use, our test sample shows no signs of wear despite being swapped between multiple bikes and riders. If you’re running Jones Loop handlebars and want to add some extra storage space, the Loop H-Bar Pack is definitely worth your consideration.

Disclosure: Jeff Jones Bicycles provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.