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.

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.

First Impressions: Lizard Skins La Sal 2.0 & Monitor 1.0 Gloves

Lizard Skins has come a long way since the company was founded in 1993. In addition to the neoprene headset seals and chainstay protectors that put them on the map, the Utah-based company’s product line has grown to include grips, handlebar tape, and gloves.

Whether you prefer short- or long-finger gloves, Lizard Skins has several models to choose from. We tested the company’s La Sal 2.0 ($30 MSRP) and Monitor 1.0 ($42 MSRP) gloves, putting them through the wringer over a six-month period.

Lizard Skins La Sal gloves gravel grinder

Image courtesy of Lizard Skins.

The La Sal 2.0 gloves sit in the middle of Lizard Skins’ short-finger lineup. Padded Clarino palms are paired with breathable mesh backs, and the cuffs feature hook-and-loop closures. Reflective highlights offer increased visibility, and the unobtrusive thermoplastic rubber logos complement the three colorways. Sizes range from Small (8) to XX-Large (12). We found the La Sals’ sizing to be a bit roomy, so you may want to size down if you’re in between sizes.

For improved dexterity and breathability, the La Sals feature strategically placed pads and an otherwise unpadded palm. The gloves’ thin, dense padding does a good job damping shocks and road buzz whether you’re riding on the tops, hoods, or in the drops. We tested the La Sals with a variety of handlebar tape (Octto, Zevlin, and Zipp), and found the synthetic leather offered plenty of grip, even during rain showers or when soaked with sweat.

Lizard Skins Monitor gloves gravel grinder

Image courtesy of Lizard Skins.

Lizard Skin’s top-of-the-line Monitor 1.0 gloves combine seamless Clarino palms with mesh backs. The Monitors’ articulated fingers are touchscreen compatible, and have rubber imprints for slip-free shifting and braking. Like the company’s short-finger La Sals, Monitors are available in sizes ranging from Small (8) to XX-Large (12). Because the Monitors have a semi-relaxed fit (and will stretch with use), you may wish to size down if you’re in between sizes.

The Monitors’ thin Clarino palms and minimal padding provide a very direct interface between bike and rider. Between the palms’ textured pattern, and the fingers’ rubber grippers, we never experienced any slippage or loss of control during our testing. That tenacious grip doesn’t come at the expense of ventilation, as the Lizard Skins gloves kept our hands cool and comfortable. Despite the gloves’ light weight and ultra-thin materials, our sample gloves showed very little wear after months of testing.

Lizard Skins recommends hand washing the La Sal and Monitor gloves, but our absent-minded testers reported no problems when the gloves were tossed into the washing machine. We did notice that the cuffs’ hook-and-loop closures had a tendency to snag the gloves’ lycra trim, and irritated some testers’ wrists when not fastened all the way. The biggest shortcoming, however, was the Las Sals’ lack of finger pulls–making it difficult to remove them quickly from sweaty hands.

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