Trek’s Soho DLX ranks as a fail in my repertoire. I prayed it it would be the ultimate commuter bike for the winter, but alas somethings are too good to be true.
This is a sweet, sweet ride. An upright, sporty commuter bike, metal fenders, a bike rack, disk brakes, a rubber bumper on the top tube and an 8-speed internal hub. Even the dollar-store coffee mug looks good.
BUT Trek should have stopped there and left out the belt drive for their northern friends (MEC stopped there).
Like the coffee mug, it wasn’t built for the great white north where weather routinely reaches -20 Celsius and fresh snow is a biweekly event.
Riding home from my purchase, the cold cracked the glue causing the stainless steel lip to fall off the mug, revealing that it was really a plastic cup on the inside (I doubt it’s bisphenol A free anyways).
I am in search of the holy grail of winter biking, it’s a religious quest! I want a bike that’s resistant to the snow, ice and salt. I’m lazy, I just want to bike. I don’t want to spend time in the shop freezing my fingers off. However, a working bike is better than a $1350 bike that can’t go in the snow!
It’s a design flaw. The problem is that the rear sprocket has sealed grooves. So when there’s fresh snow spraying up from the tires it fills the grooves slightly and pops the belt off. It doesn’t help that there’s no guide keeping the belt in place. It makes this bike useless when it snows, which in Canada makes it heap of junk from December through March.
It happened on the Soho’s second ride. With about 200 meters to go, I heard a grinding noise. I looked down and sure enough the belt had fallen off. Dismayed I tried to pop it back on, but it continued to pop off. At 100 meters I just walked the bike to work. I read a review from a person in Calgary who mentioned this happened when it snowed. I should have believed them, sometimes the internet is actually correct.
Then a week later the belt drive on my DLX Trek Soho fell off again. This time it happened 200 meters into my commute. I had left work with 45 minutes to meet up with colleagues who were visiting from our head office in Antwerp. We were meeting for a dinner which I had planned. After it fell off, I wasted 20 minutes fiddling with the belt, putting it on like 40 times before giving up. I ran the rest of the way home, pushing the bike through the snow. I swore that I’d never again rely on this belt drive again.
I was 30 minutes late for the meeting, having taken a deodorant shower. I’m finished … with belt drives.
TREK you have a few options in order of preference:
- replace the belt drive with a ‘normal’ metal chain at no additional cost
- provide a sealed enclosure for the belt drive (dutch style), but then why not do this for a chain.
- full refund
I bought this bike at Ziggy’s Cycle, who don’t officially accept returns. That’s not a customer friendly policy, but I guess I can understand that returns could be pricey for a small independent dealer. Maybe it’ll be a reason why MEC’s new bike sales will succeed, they actually accept full returns. Ziggy’s has treated me well in the past, so I’m expecting they’ll be calling up Trek on my behalf.
I’ll be providing periodic updates in my quest to get a winter bike back on the road. As of today the bike is sitting at Ziggy’s Shop. Until a bike is up and running you’ll see me running as my main transportation mode, keeping my road and mountain bikes out of the salt.
I’m willing to change my mind on the Soho, but it’ll take a heck of a lot. Any satisfied Soho winter riders out there?
[Refer to Part 2 of the Soho Belt Drive Saga.]
Others have had this complaint too (I read a few of these before I made the purchase. I naively hoped it was just their bike … unfortunately now it’s mine as well):
A Commenter on Jeff Perrin’s blog references the problem - http://jeffperrin.com/2009/12/30/on-winter-bike-commuting-in-calgary/
- Buzzilions review - http://www.buzzillions.com/reviews/trek-soho-dlx-reviews
- Tern of the Wheel (2 reviews) - http://ternofthewheel.com/product/trek-soho-28988-1.htm#reviews