Soma El Toro Bullhorn Bar Review
Soma Fabrications is certainly not afraid of trying new things, or revamping old, forgotten designs that cater to an underserved niche market. They boast a full line of frames, tires, parts and accessories along with a number of different bar shapes. One of their newest bars is the El Toro chrome steel bullhorns. I set these up on my main work bike for a couple months to see just how well they stood up to daily courier abuse.
I’ll start off with the friendlier side of El Toro. Pardon the obvious pun but the first word to come to mind handling these things is beefy. Everything about the El Toro gives you the impression that they are built to last. After riding them for a couple months I’ll say they don’t disappoint in that department. One would be very hard pressed to bend these even in the gnarliest end of the eating it spectrum. As far as flex goes, it’s a non-issue. When using aluminum bullhorns I’ve always had problems with a disconcerting amount of flex during really hard out of the saddle efforts, or with overly heavy boxes on the front. In both situations the El Toro did nothing but reassure me of its burliness. These are probably the stiffest bars I have ever used, making for insane power transfer in sprints and in climbing.
Visually, I think the El Toro look pretty badass once chopped. Very reminiscent of the much sought after Mavic bullhorns but without the rarity tax or the crapshoot that is 25-year old lightweight aluminum. Not to mention the chrome finish, which looks fantastic if you neglect the bar tape. Nice bends, and good shoulders with enough flat on the top and bend for your whole hand, with five distinct positions in total. I never felt at a loss for another position once my hands started fatiguing and in panic situations anywhere I happened to grab was stable enough to perform evasive maneuvers. At $40, El Toro certainly won’t break the bank.
While El Toro has some very standout qualities, there is definitely a bad side to the bull. The most obvious issue and the first thing I noticed are the ridiculous tips of the horns. Almost 4-inches of steel protruding off the end of the horns made for a massive length, another useless hand position and an eyesore. Unless you really enjoy trying to hook pedestrian’s shopping bags, I would highly recommend chopping these tips post haste. Being steel, these bars are heavy. If you care about grams, these aren’t for you. Another issue I had was the drop. With over 3.5-inches from the tops to the flats, it can be quite a stretch to ride on the horns for any amount of time. I felt I couldn’t set it up without the horns being too low or the tops being too high. I found this rather disappointing because my favorite position when riding bullhorns is recreating the position of the hoods on a road bike, and I just couldn’t get that comfortable with the El Toro. That much drop also made riding boxes on the handlebars much more awkward than it already. It is worth noting that the El Toro will not accept bar end time trial levers without a shim from Soma, and without any sort of cable routing you’re probably better off using cross-top levers anyway. Before getting a chance to tape them, I also found that pretty chrome finish to be quite a bit more slippery than normal matte finish as well.
With a little less drop and without the ridiculous tips, the El Toro could be the perfect urban bullhorn. But as it stands, the good definitely outweighs the bad and I would certainly recommend the El Toro to anyone who ranks durability appearance and affordability high on their list.
Reviewed by “Texas” Josh Hunt, full-time courier currently bouncing around Europe. Anyone who passed the Urban Velo booth at the 2008 North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Indianapolis surely met Josh, who came along to help us work the crowd.