Today I demoed the Masi Soulville commuter bike at the Outdoor Demo in Las Vegas. I spent about a half hour getting a feel for the bike and here are my initial impressions…
The bike is extremely comfortable to ride. A relaxed, upright position is enabled, in part, by the spot-on handlebars. I’m not sure what the handlebar angle is, however it feels completely natural. A lot of these comfort bikes that have big sweep to the handlebars are hard to steer at slow speeds as the front wheel often wants to flop over. Also, the big sweep makes it hard to get good leverage if you have to standup to pedal. Both of these problems are history with the handlebars on the SoulVille without giving up any comfort.
I encountered a few problems with the bike that I later discussed with Tim Jackson (Brand manager for Masi Bikes).
First off, there was a significant amount of toe overlap. If you ride with the balls of your feet you won’t have any trouble, however if you run flat footed like ” most” of the riders, you’d probably have toe overlap issues. I mentioned this to Tim and he was aware of the problem and will be fixing it on the next run.
The shifting workload is done on the SoulVille with the internal Shimano 8-speed hub. It shifted smooth and was extremely easy to use and you also don’t have to hassle with derailleurs. However, I did feel like it was a little on the tough side to pedal up hills. While it was still possible, it just seemed like I was working a little to hard to be in the granny gear on a comfort bike. I mentioned this to Tim and he said if someone found the gearing a little tough, it could easily be customized by installing a different rear cog.
Another cool feature of the SoulVille is the Masi branded, true-leather saddle. The one I rode was brand new and therefore pretty hard on the bum, however they will also have the SoulVille available with a much more standard, comfortable saddle.
Bottom line, Masi is doing a great job developing these urban bikes and is definitely heading down the right road. Although I found a few issues with the bike, it sounds as if they are being taken care of.
If you are looking for an extremely comfortable position on the bike while still getting the bells and whistles of a commuter specific bike, then the SoulVille could be for you.