The Soma Triple Cross. © Cyclocross Magazine

The Soma Triple Cross. © Cyclocross Magazine

SOMA Fabrications has created a new frame for the cyclocross and gravel set: the Triple Cross. Made with beautiful brass fillet-brazed American-made KVA MS2 stainless steel with an unpainted polished finish, the frame is a flashy and classy alternative to the many available carbon and aluminum options.

SOMA isn’t new to the ’cross scene, and already has the Double Cross that we reviewed very favorably in Issue 7, back in the summer of ’09, as an excellent steel ’cross bike for low cost. The Double Cross Disc came out shortly thereafter and you might think that the Triple Cross is a shiny version of that, but it is designed to be a bit racier with a steeper seat tube angle and a longer top tube, giving a more forward position with a 6mm shorter wheelbase. Combined with a 7.0cm bottom bracket drop, 4mm lower than the Double Cross, this bike is perfect for gravel events and modern cyclocross courses. The price climbed with the material, construction, and polish, but given the construction details of the frame it still seems to be a good value.

The Frame

The Triple Cross is available as a frameset only, tipping the scale at four pounds even in a 56cm size. The Triple Cross is versatile, featuring  dual reinforced bottle bosses fender eyelets and an IS disc brake mount as part of the left rear dropout within the rear triangle. The subdued graphics are etched onto the tubes and a metal head badge completes the look. The frameset is designed in Northern California with input from Tony Tom, part of the local road and mountain bike scene for decades, and longtime owner of A Bicycle Odyssey in Sausalito, California.

While almost every disc bike now boasts a tapered or 44mm head tube, the Triple Cross is a bit retro with its straight 1-⅛” head tube. This means disc fork choices are more limited since most new ’cross disc forks are coming out with tapered steerers. Two choices available from SOMA are the Double Cross steel fork, and an aluminum steerer-equipped Tange Prestige CX carbon fork. Merry Sales, distributor of the SOMA Fabrications products, shipped the latter along with a beautifully polished Tange Techno Glide headset with stainless steel bearings. The Tange fork has a gently curved rake of only 43mm with blades that are oval and stout, tapering slightly from the crown to the fork ends with included fender eyelets. The crown is pierced for a fender, rack, or long-reach caliper rim brake.

The slender mirror-polished stainless steel tubes are mitered and fillet-brazed with smoothly radiused and polished brass fillets, all exposed for inspection. The tube diameters are what used to be considered oversized for steel frames with 26.8mm (1-⅛”) top and seat tubes, and a 31.6mm (1-¼”) down tube. If you are a regular reader of Cyclocross Magazine, you may recall we reviewed a bike made of KVA MS2 stainless steel in Issue 18’s Part 2 of our “Considering Custom” series. The KVA MS2 stainless steel alloy sheets are used to produce seamed tubes that are subsequently cold-worked and heat-treated, yielding properties quite different than typical steel alloys used for bicycle building.

The Triple Cross frame geometry matches what I now consider “standard” modern cyclocross geometry, with a 72-degree head tube angle paired with a 73.5-degree seat tube angle. The effective top tube length is on the slightly longer side at 56.7cm for a 56cm frame size. 42.5cm chainstays brazed to the standard threaded 68mm wide bottom bracket shell are flared to offer wide tire clearance even with the chainstay bridge, yet they are slender enough to clear the crankset without a dent.

The cable runs take the more traditional road bike style and are run with down tube shifter bosses where bolt-on cable stops can be used if you have your shifters elsewhere. However, since the frame is set up for disc brakes, the cable hose mounts are along the top of the top tube. If you have not jumped to hydraulic disc brakes, the full-run cable housing can be clamped to the same mounts, of course, and they are friendly to the slightly oversized compressionless brake housings such as the Yokozuna Reaction brand, also from Merry Sales. The rear IS disc brake mount is part of the rear dropout and places the brake caliper between the seat and chainstay. Though this is a tight place for the mount, it makes sense given that the brake forces are then transferred to the chainstay instead of the more delicate seatstay.

Two sets of water bottle mounts are included with nice diamond reinforcements, and double eyelets are on the rear dropouts for both rack and fenders. The seatstays don’t have rack mounts, but the seatstay bridge has a mount for a caliper brake that could also be used as the upper rack mount.

Maximum clearance for mud on the Soma Triple Cross. © Cyclocross Magazine

Maximum clearance for mud on the Soma Triple Cross. © Cyclocross Magazine

The Build

We reached into the Cyclocross Magazine parts bin, with some help from Merry Sales, to put together the disc brake-equipped Triple Cross for our usual thorough testing and review, just as this 2013 ’cross season was starting. The drivetrain was comprised of Shimano Ultegra 6700 10-speed components, including the 110mm bcd crankset with WickWerks 34/44 rings attached. The handlebar and stem were also provided by Shimano in the form of PRO PLT alloy models. SOMA Fabrications Layback single bolt seatpost and Hishou saddle were provided by Merry Sales. Stopping power was provided by Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes.

A pair of HED Ardennes clincher wheels that include HED centerlock disc hubs was used for the majority of the test rides, but a pair of HED Stinger 3 carbon tubulars substituted on occasion.

The build itself was straightforward except when mounting the rear brake caliper. With the IS brake mount as part of the rear dropout, positioning the caliper between the chain- and seatstays, the holes are too close to the rear seatstay, thus disallowing outward lateral movement of the caliper. That works with the BB7 and other mechanical disc brakes with independently adjustable inner and outer pads, but with hydraulics, you may not be able to center the caliper correctly.

With the build kit we put together, complete bike weight was 21.1 pounds with the Ardennes wheels, 14.2 pounds without.

The Ride

I love the ride of a fine steel frame. The material itself has properties that feel familiar since I mostly rode steel frames until a decade ago. For any given material, parameters of the geometry, tubes and construction will determine the ride qualities, and SOMA Fabrications seems to have found the right formula again with the Triple Cross.

To read the rest of the review, get your hands on a copy of Issue 23 of Cyclocross Magazine!

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Clifford Lee
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Clifford Lee

Tester, Bike Geek at Cyclocross Magazine
Clifford Lee geeks out on all things cyclocross, and is one of the primary testers for CXM Labs. When he's not testing or racing cyclocross, he's tinkering with bikes in the basement, being a dad, or helping people see better.
Clifford Lee
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