The Sam in many ways, a few ways, is the best all-around bike we’ve ever made. It’s not better than the Homer, but it costs like $1,000 to $1,300 less, and that has to count. It came after the Homer, so benefited from things learned from the Homer.
They ride identically enough that I can’t tell which bike I’m on. I have a Homer-on-the-big side for me (a rare 60), and a Sam-on-big-side, a 56. They both fit fine, I ride them the same amount, both are set up alike, and when I’m not looking I can’t tell, and at any point on any ride I might not even know. This was the plan—to make the Sam ride like the Homer.
The second top tube doesn’t hurt anything. It must make the bike laterally stiffer, better for touring with a load, but since I have my Atlantis for that, I don’t put the 2TT to the test.
The Sam’s made in Taiwan. The SOUND of those syllables isn’t musical, but that it’s not musical is —- because we associate, still, deep down and from years of seeing it plastered on toys and junk, those same words.
I’ve been to many bike shops and factories, from one-manners to Bridgestone, with maybe seven others in between. Panasonic, Wford, Match, Toyo, and many small custom shops. They’re all impressive in their way, but none is more impressive than the one that makes the Sam. It’s big enough to require efficiency. There’s no pipe-smoking gnomes contemplating the next hand-miter there, but there’s also no rush. The floor is the cleanest I’ve ever seen. Each operation has a specialist who learns perfection by repetition, exactly the way you want your surgeon to learn it. There’s no sign of rushing, just of no wasted movements, no backtracking an oops, or anything like that. The frames are checked for alignment at various stages, and there are in-house testing machines that use hydraulics and computers to replicate specific tests.
Even if you don’t ask for test results (we do), they test the frames, because they’re in the loop and they want to know. It’s a comforting level of concern, and not at all what you might expect when you think of a “Taiwan bike factory.”