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Demo Ride: Masi Soulville

by Commute by Bike

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.

Masi Soulville Commuter Bike

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.

Masi Soulville Commuter Bike

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.

Masi Soulville Commuter Bike Leather Saddle Seat

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.

 
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25 Responses to “Demo Ride: Masi Soulville”

  1. Mike Myers says:

    The Soulville LOOKS like a cool bike. But I don’t understand the reasoning behind the fenders. It looks like they’re actually narrower than the tires, and that doesn’t accomplish much. Is the Soulville just an $800 beer bike?

  2. Tim Grahl says:

    To a certain extent a lot of the draw to the bike will be purely aesthetic. However I think there are people that will spend money on a bike that looks good and also rides good.

    As for the fenders, I did ask about them and they are as wide as the tires. Not narrower.

  3. Craig says:

    No chainguard, huh?

    What’s the status of rackmounts?

    I’d sure love Masi to come up with a front porter style rack with slats in the same style as the fenders.

    Personally, I cannot imagine that these fenders aren’t adequate for the situations where I’d use this bike, mainly commuting in mild to moderate rain with only a bit of mud. I think the flat look is gorgeous.

    Regarding the toe overlap, what was the frame size?

  4. Bret Moss says:

    Was there a Speciale available for a test ride?
    Thanks,
    Bret

  5. Dr. Logan says:

    Needs a front brake. If you lose your chain on a down-hill you’re SOL.

  6. Craig says:

    Internal hub shifting does mitigate the risk of losing a chain somewhat, of course.

  7. Dr. Logan says:

    True, but it can still break or be bumped off. If one doesn’t torq the rear hub tight enough and it slips forward for instance… All it takes is one time. Plus – why not have a front brake? Better for stopping in many cases.

  8. MIke Myers says:

    The fenders LOOK narrower than the tires, but that must be because of the angle at which the pics were taken.

  9. Ghost Rider says:

    It’s a gorgeous-looking bike…but it looks to me like it’s catering to someone who wants a “fashion bike” to ride to the bars rather than someone who needs a serious commuter rig.

    The fenders are stylish but “flatties” are a joke — they keep the worst of the muck off, but you’re still gonna get sprayed. And Dr. Logan is right on the money — put a front brake on! The most efficient braking is given by a front brake…a rear-only brake is for someone who doesn’t really care about stopping, but likes to skid for his buddies.

    All that being said, it will probably sell like hotcakes and get more people out there on bikes, which is always a good thing! My only real gripe is that bike companies can make a very stylish bike that is more capable than “just looking cool”, if they really put their minds to it.

  10. Craig says:

    I have to admit that the lack of any other brake is my biggest worry. But I’ve had lots of hassle with caliper brakes so I’d definitely prefer discs, I think.

    I’ll take your word for it on the fenders, since I’ve never even seen a bike with flat fenders before.

    Sure is a fun time to know I’m going to buy a moderate use (daily, but short) commuter bike. Lots going on (this,Kogswells, Civias tomorrow, the Felt stuff, that new Giant bike.

    What will I do?

  11. Mike Myers says:

    I’m really hoping Gary Fisher brings the Simple City to market. It also has a coaster brake, but it’s specced with a front brake. I’d prefer front and rear calipers or cantis. I seem to remember having a 3 speed Schwinn with front and rear calipers as a kid—-am I mistaken? If it’s possible to do it, why the rush for coaster brakes? Is it a style thing?

  12. Dr. Logan says:

    It’s definitely possible. Most internal hubs are available with no coaster brake. It is a style thing for sure, because it’s not terribly practical or safe. I suggested a second trim option for this bike to Tim on another forum and he basically said they were looking into it, perhaps for future runs. I think they should offer one with disc brakes and a front porteur style rack.

    The Simple City on the other hand – I’d order one tomorrow.

  13. Craig says:

    Tim:

    Please let us hear any news of the Simple City at Interbike. I know Trek’s not officially exhibiting, and I assume that includes Gary Fisher, but if you hear anything…

  14. seth vidal says:

    I agree with craig, commuter bikes need chainguards. Always. That keeps your pants from being screwed up and guarantees you don’t need to put on special adornments to your clothes in order to ride your bike.

    chainguards, always. :)

  15. Tim Grahl says:

    Hey thanks for all the questions… I’ll do my best to answer them here…

    There are rackmounts brazed on for a rear rack.

    The flat fenders ARE as wide as the tires, but won’t be adequate for lots of wet riding. They’re not purely aesthetic as they’ll keep a lot of water off you, but they aren’t as good as fenders that wrap around the side.

    I was riding the medium size frame and it did have the toe overlap issue, however this is one of the things the Masi folks already know about and will be fixed on the production run.

    There were a few comments about not having a front brake… there’s actually no brake levers on this bike… it’s coaster brakes. Push back on the pedals to make it stop. Rock on.

    And yeah, Ghost Rider, this bike is more of a “fashion bike”. Masi has they’re more sporty commuters as well, but there are plenty of people that could use this to get to and from the office and don’t want to be hunched over the drop bars.

    As for the simple city, I’ll do a quick post on what I’ve heard about that…

  16. Joe says:

    This is more or less the very thing I have wanted for a long time, a 700c beach cruiser. Maybe it is more upscale than a classic beach cruiser, but they are on to something I will buy with this concept. It is 700c right?

  17. Ghost Rider says:

    I should add that most of my gripes with the bike are because I am jealous of those who can buy such a bike — I would LOVE to be able to afford this “fashion bike” and have the storage space to add it to my fleet — it IS a beautiful machine, after all!

  18. scott says:

    how much does it weigh?
    what sizes are available?
    is that a seven or an eight speed?

  19. sunny says:

    my LBS has some of these, they are 8 speed, and for another hundred you can get a hub brake on the front, which looks totally cool. I rocked a Kronan for a while, only rear coaster brake, I loved it, but it did add to the danger level. I’m seriously thinking about getting one of these. it seems a bit more than just a beer bike to me. paying retail is going to be hard though.

  20. Jeff says:

    Ummm… can I get it with a banana seat and Schwinn style RamsHorn Fastback bars? :)

    Add to my wish list a Campagnolo Elephante stick shift on the top tube :)

  21. Jeff says:

    I’d love to buy one of these, but still looking for a couple things: Front and rear hand operated brakes. Whatever type, I’d make due (skip the coaster brake – I’ll do skids on my collection of Stingrays). Discs are nice but would add a lot to the cost…I’ve ridden my old hand built Klein MBs on some tough trails with cantis), and I don’t think this bike cries for awesome downhill braking performance.

    Aesthetically, I’d like to see brazed on cable stops instead of guides for full-length cables. It would look cleaner, and not distract from the frame design as much. Also, it would look better if someone wanted to turn it into a fixie. Cable stops could be on the downtube for the shifter cable and along the back stay, plus a set for the rear brakes.

  22. Bluto says:

    I bought one and REALLY like it, works great for commuting and around town…however the seat is an iron hard POS (a very poor imitation of a Brooks) and this bike is waaay too fast (since it has gears) for just a coaster brake. I fixed these things by changing the seat to a real Brooks and adding a front brake, but this should not have been necessary…the need for a decent seat and front brake is glaring

  23. Mooseworth says:

    I’ve got one, and believe me, it is a sweet ride. The downside? I don’t ride it enough to break in that gorgeous leather seat. As for all the “It needs this, it needs that…” – if you start adding crap to it, you are defeating the purpose. This looks like like a single speed with the convenience of a few gears. It’s perfect – well, the seat is a brick and I would love a cool looking rack and basket to match….

    Steel is real!

  24. Mettleurge says:

    On the Nexus 8-speed (w/a 44 t front) you only need the creeper gears if you are going up pretty steep hills, and then you need more brakes than this.

    The Bianchi Milano has all of that. I ride mine hard. This seat is probably better than the bianchi stock, but seat should always be personally chosen, anyhow.

  25. Tim says:

    I just took a test drive on one today in Colorado. What a sweet bike. I love it. I like the clean handlebars WITHOUT any brake levers. It brakes with the slightest of pressure… even at 6 and 12 o’clock.
    I haven’t skidded in 40 years… makes me feel young again. The only change I would like to feel is to put it on a diet and lose about 6 of the 30 pounds I rode.
    Keep it simple and clean.
    Tim, I ride a Medici…

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