First Impression: Soma Wolverine

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The original inspiration for Soma’s Wolverine was “monster cross,” but this frame’s geometry, versatility and even the screaming orange means you shouldn’t save it for just one, specific purpose. This type of bike is becoming more and more common, and we’re out to discover what sets this beast apart.
Soma currently sells its Wolverine as a frame and fork for $620, but was kind enough to build us a complete bike for testing purposes. So far, I’ve been impressed by the Wolverine’s lively and supple ride quality. As the saying goes, steel is real!
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Soma’s Wolverine promises great versatility with clearance for 45 mm tires with fenders, sliding dropouts for adjusting chainstay length and singlespeed use, as well as a plethora of rack and fender mounts. All that and the classic good looks of a Tange Prestige steel frame and Infinity steel fork with a lugged crown.
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Even though this is a custom build, it’s worth commenting on as it will affect our rides together. This is my first experience with SRAM’s Rival 1 drivetrain and I’m very impressed so far. The shifts are crisp and the Double Tap shift action didn’t take as long to adjust to as I thought it might. The 10-42 cassette provides a range of  gearing wide enough for most applications.
I do sometimes miss the very tight ratios of a traditional road cassette, though. The 42-tooth chainring on my test bike is fine for spirited riding, but would be a little tall for touring with any sort of load. I’d definitely swap down to a 38 tooth ring for any touring application. Chainrings are available from 38 to 50 teeth in increments of two.
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The Wolverine’s sliding dropouts offer a touch over 20 mm of chainstay length adjustment to adjust handling characteristics and accommodate singlespeed drivetrains. See the two bolts on the drive-side chainstay? That little piece unbolts so you can install a belt drive, a nice touch. With that feature, plus the disc brakes, this is a bike that can grow and morph with you, should you not be the type to just live with one setup for all time.
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With a handful of commutes on the Wolverine, I’m starting to get the riding position dialed. Soma set me up with its Gator bar, but I’ve struggled to warm up to this unique handlebar. This bar has a ton of reach when setup with the tops flat. Due to the wide open angle, it seems I was always sacrificing one hand position. When setup with the tops comfortable, the drops are pointed down too steeply. If you set up the drops to be comfortable, the tops slope down too aggressively. Ultimately, I’ve swapped the Gator out for a traditional bar with a little bit of flare.
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I’m really digging Soma’s Shikoro tires. Made by Panaracer, these 42 mm tires roll well on the road and offer a nice suppleness for an armored tire.
Now it’s time to remove the fenders, throw on some knobby tires and see how the Wolverine does on more aggressive rides. Stay tuned for the full review in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times.