SOMA CONDOR HANDLEBAR
348g (XL as tested) $ 100 (£82.18 inc VAT)
The Soma Condor Handlebar is the quirky looking love child of a riser and compact drop bar.
The advantages are a slightly higher position and thus, the ability to spend much longer on the drops, compared with other road bars.
Great for commuting, gravel and rough stuff/touring, there are some minor drawbacks and I’d still be inclined towards something like Salsa Cowchipper for competitive ‘cross. Nonetheless, several weeks and 500 miles hence, I’ve formed a very definite bond with the Condor.
Pros: Comfortable, rigid bars well suited to touring, commuting and trail duties
Cons: Pattern can make fitting some accessories tricky.
The Condor are made from shot peened 6061 T6 aluminium alloy and any colour you like so long as it’s satin black. Now, I’m not overly drawn to dun finishes per se but at this end of the market, they tend to be durable and classy. The Condor’s ticks both boxes but being picky a silver option would be welcomed. Some have suggested they’d like a 25.4 diameter option. I can see the appeal, say for older mountain bikes.
However, experience suggests, narrower diameters, in this context, tend to be a little whippy. There are three widths, etched on the ends. Medium (40/45cm) Large (42/47cm) and extra-large (44/49). Smaller than you were expecting, too? That’s because they were originally developed for the Japanese market.
The smaller number is the centre to centre (hoods to hoods) measurement. I’m deceptively broad across the shoulders, relative to my height and build, hence I plumped for the XL.
Describing them as a hybrid of riser and compact drop, though a good starting point, doesn’t give the full picture. More accurately, it has rise; back sweep, upsweep and flared drop. Reach is 52mm, rise 46cm and drop 98mm.
Rotating the bars slightly will accentuate these individual characteristics slightly. I experimented a couple of times, during the first 70 miles before settling on that in the photograph.
Most bar wraps, including BBB and the Lizard Skins DSP 2.5 (pictured) are ample for the most buxom bars -even allowing for doubling up at key points. As I’ve come to expect from the swoopy, shallow genre there was a reasonable amount of excess, permitting a more tailored, shock absorbing effect at key points.
Positioning of accessories should also be considered carefully at this point. Being a working bike, my fixed gear winter/trainer’s cockpit sports dynamo, blinkies, computer and bar cam.
Sure, an extension bracket helps on the tidy front. That said, finding the optimal position for its Trelock LS960i dynamo switch required some lateral thought, given the curves. No biggie but something to bear in mind.
Coming from other flared patterns, I was immediately struck by the Condor’s stiffness, which gave a more planted, direct feel. The more upright positioning gives a much better view of conditions ahead, which is a boon in slow moving/stationary lines of traffic.
There is some trade-off round town. Smaller gaps, say between buses and other traffic were out of bounds and some very narrow alleys, induced a gasp, or two from yours truly. Nonetheless, true to claims, there was no call to deviate from the drops.
Similarly, while steering could never be described as “barge-like”, flicking around holes and hazards required a different technique than deeper drops, or pursuit bars. By the same token, the Condor’s girth and additional torque and stiffness is welcome, especially when you’re weary and/or hauling a trailer/tagalong.
Scorching along some 1in7s, late at night with Yak pattern and its supermarket loot following behind… minimal effort to keep everything in check, despite the inevitable lumps, bumps and nocturnal creatures, that clearly wanted to play!
These qualities made perfect transition to “gravel” roads and smoother trails where comfort and control are paramount. Admittedly big section tyres, steel frame and carbon forks certainly help, on the compliance front but I’ve never felt fatigue around my neck and shoulders-even after several hours.
During these longer runs, drops have been my default although, the ability to switch positions is paramount. Cruising on the hoods was similarly comfortable; the curved tops, an acquired taste
Narrower than these Midge (which I have ridden many thousand miles on) they don’t open the chest cavity so wide (welcome for maintaining momentum up steeper gradients on the fixed).
Swapping to the hoods also induced a slightly skittish feel. This was quickly adapted to, and not a problem in the real sense.
Overall and against their design brief, I’ve been very impressed by the Condor. A pattern such as these Midge might be a better option for riders experimenting with drop patterns. Neither would the Condor be my first choice for a road or competition ‘cross build.
I would recommend them for touring, commuting, gravel and indeed, less challenging mountain bike duties. So much so, I’m seriously considering a set for my Univega rough stuff tourer. Riders with smaller hands and narrower shoulders, or those who can’t get along with more traditional patterns, should also take a closer look.