The Solaris has had some great reviews from trail riders but would it work for a relative shorty on the race course? Big rolling wheels have a great theoretical advantage for endurance racing but I'm unconvinced that at 5'6" I have the height to make the bike work. Feedback from my coach Kate Potter who is the same height as me and who had been test riding the other small Solaris, had been really positive about its relative advantages. However, I remained unconvinced that the benefits of smoothing the lumps and bumps would outweigh disadvantage of the lack of maneuverability and difficulty getting weight over the front end; a major negative for smaller riders and particularly for someone who possesses as much bike handling skill as Boris Johnson. Conversely you could argue that as I can't move a bike anyway it would make little difference to my riding.
After a few test rides of the bike in a fairly burly build, I found a stem and seat post combination that seemed to make the bike work fairly well - changing to an inverted 25 degree stem made all the difference to the grip I was getting on the front end. Yep, it was harder to move around than littler wheels but I was flowing much quicker particularly on loose and rocky trails where the stability was really noticeable. Given the relative success of my demo-ing I decided to go ahead and purchase my own components to build up a bike suitable to endurance racing and my non-aggressive riding style.
Perhaps it may have been more sensible to ask an experienced mechanic to put the bike together for me but it seemed that there was no better time to give this bike building lark a whirl and so went ahead unsupervised. I'm happy to report that there were no major issues despite me almost cabling up my gears the wrong way round but it did take me hours. And hours. Thanks to Cotic, Clee Cycles, Race Mechanic & Eurobike, Paligap, USE and Cycle Sport North for the components and to my butler for the supplies of tea and biscuits.
Its maiden voyage went pretty well (I'm pretending the two face-plants had nothing to do with my new bike) and my seconded run out with adjusted position was much better. Keeping the front end down on sharper climbs is perfectly do-able although I have found that I have to preempt weight and positional changes much more than on my Soda. I don't see this as a bad thing, one of my big weaknesses is adjusting my body position to move and balance the bike, but it is going to take some getting used to.
As to what degree I'll move across to the bigger wheels on the race course at this stage I'm unsure except the to say the obvious, it will be course dependent - weighing the advantages of the flow against the decrease in handling. I'll be taking both my 26" Soda and Solaris with me to 24hrs Exposure next week just to hedge my bets. As for more relaxed trail riding, I can't wait to get it out into the Peaks and give it a blast!
Final scores on the doors
|My sub 22lb Solaris- not bad for a steel frame with full complement of gears|
|Frame - Cotic Solaris small - thanks Cy and Paul at Cotic|
|Forks - Reba RL 100mm|
|American Classic Race wheels|
from Eurobike and Race Mechanic
|AC hubs & KCNC rotors from Clee Cycles|
|XTR shifters, mechs and brakes with KCNC |
chain and cassette from Clee Cycles
|Carbon bars from USE & |
Ritchey Pro stem from Paligap
|KCNC post and clamp from Clee Cycles |
Sella Italia saddle from Cycle Sport North