Friday, 3 May 2013

The Cotic Solaris and the Bike Building Baptism

A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to acquire what was at the time one of the only two available small Cotic Solari(i) 29er frames and this weekend saw me build it up in my first ever start-to-finish bike build.  (The small Solaris is now in production and available from Cotic).

SolarisThe 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.

SolarisAfter 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

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