REVIEW: SOMA Mini Front Rack – Boxy But Good
Like any other rando-nerd, I drool over shiny Nitto and Velo-Orange mini front racks. Something about their elegant lines and shiny chrome finish sets my heart aflutter and my wallet a-empty. This review is not about those racks. In fact, it’s about the rather boxy, affordable and utilitarian SOMA Mini Front Rack, which when sitting next to its flashier porteur rack cousin looks a little Plain Jane.
I’ve owned a few Nittos and a few Velo-Orange racks, many of which have been sold off in the Great Bicycle Purge of 2009. But preparing for our upcoming California tour, I got the itch to use my beloved Acorn bag rather than my Arkel. I need to carry a bit more weight and volume than the Arkel could handle without being a bear to control, so I had to find another front rack.
I had been eyeing the SOMA front rack for some time, but its boxy looks didn’t really speak to me. Laura actually bought hers first so she could strap a small army bag to the front of her bike to carry food. After she had it on her bike, it didn’t look so bad. The price was affordable and it was fairly lightweight. More and more it looked more like a good sleeper rando rack than anything else. I put my Acorn bag on her bike and it seemed to sit pretty well (though I would have use a toe strap to attach it to the back stop) so I was sold. I went to City Bikes and picked one up and installed it right away.
Installation is straight forward and easy. 2 bolts near the dropouts and a single bendable stay at the fender hole on the fork. The stay is already pre-bent (thanks SOMA!) and took a lot of anxiety out of the installation. Something about bending those fat tangs on VO racks seems so permanent and easy to screw up.
After a nearly painless installation, I put on my Acorn bag. Like many rando style handlebar bags it has a strip of leather which is meant to slide on to the backstop of a mini rack. The back stop on the SOMA is short and wide and doesn’t come anywhere close. Toe strap to the rescue. By wrapping a toe strap through the rack and through the leather piece it arrests any forward motion and secures it to the rack. The velcro straps beneath the Acorn bag are perfectly spaced for the SOMA and hold the rest of the bag down.
How does it ride? Great! I loaded up the bike with my touring load. 20lbs in the rear between two panniers and about 10 pounds in the Acorn bag. I rode it up some local hills and down some bumpy roads. The SOMA rack is perfectly sized for 700c and rests just above the fenders keeping the weight of the Acorn pretty low (esp. compared to the Arkel). Steering was great. I had forgotten why I got into these style rando bags in the first place. It seems to take less input to keep the bike tracking straight than bags mounted directly to the handlebar. The rack is a little larger than a mini front rack but much smaller than a porteur. It’s a nice functional size that will fit into an Amtrak sized bike box without having to remove it.
There’s really not much more to say about it rather than it works. When you have a rando bag on the rack it disappears and you forget its not a shiny new Nitto. It reminds me of the old Volvo slogan: Boxy But Good. For the price, ease of installation and good weight placement, it’s an easy HIGHLY RECOMMEND!