I-MTB

Santa Cruz Solo – Test

Santa Cruz have released a huge amount of bikes this year which is unusual for Santa Cruz generally, but this year with the mass market adoption of the 27.5″ wheel size they needed to update the product line to reflect the new direction which bikes are going.

Stunning lines and color, contribute to a great finish.

Our first ride was with the carbon version of the Solo, with a more accessible priced XT level kit and the higher range Fox suspension with Kashima coatings, it was about as enjoyable as any first test can be with an especially noticeable smoothness and efficiency to the bike when ridden.

Video – Santa Cruz Solo First Ride

Visual Impression

Santa Cruz always take a simple approach to bike design with no marketing names on the seat stays proclaiming them to be “fast” or “strong”. At first look the finishing and surfacing on the frame and attention to detail is excellent, reflecting that this is a top tier product. The paint finish and color is nothing short of stunning and attracted attention wherever we rode.

The Solo handled technical climbs well.

Handling

The Solo comes in with 125mm of travel, but with the VPP system it feels like it has more when we hit bigger trail obstacles, as the VPP system doesn’t ramp up at the end of it’s travel stroke. This bike is aimed at riders who want to pedal up and down hills on normal trails efficiently, it is not an extreme Enduro bike. That said when the trail became harder the bike felt very comfortable and stable, certainly able to make any rider feel at home and in control.

Up hill rolling ability and traction was excellent with the bike floating over the trail surfaces we rode on, including roots and rocks, with no noticeable loss of power felt in the suspension system with each pedal stroke.

When descending we found the bike to be nimble and smooth, the carbon frame’s stiffness obviously helping with trail feed back and precise steering. In the loose corners the bike gripped really well and it was certainly possible to feel the effect of the 27.5″ wheels on this point with their increased contact patch. The wheels were setup tubeless and had the Highroller II 2.35″ version from Maxis.

The overall ride was stable, smooth and great for medium level riders who just like to ride trails without risking anything. However if the trail conditions did change the bike can handle bigger hits well that might upset the flow of other bikes we have tried in this segment. The carbon frame felt great, it seemed all our energy was transmitted into forward motion on the trail. Moving the bike around was easy, sudden change of directions on the trail take place with no fuss or strange  feedback from the bike.

Great cable routing, adding to the visual appeal.

Technical Observations

The bike came with a full XT group and was the usual Shimano quality, the XT brakes were excellent, the gears were smooth although we do now prefer single front rings due to their silent running and friction less operation, there is a Solo version available with Sram’s X01 group mounted, a serious consideration and the future in our opinion, even for trail bikes. The suspension system has the usual easy to maintain/adjust Santa Cruz features including easy to access grease ports that keep the bearings running smoothly. The cables run on the outside of the frame which in our opinion is much better and easier to maintain, and in this case actually compliment the lines of the bike extremely well. This model didn’t come with a telescopic seat post which we fitted, and this defiantly makes the bike better to use on the trail if it undulates frequently.

The suspension was easy to setup and fitted well with our riding style, no fuss, set the sag and go ride. VPP is a great way to suspend a bike, it has a smoother feel compared to other systems we have tried, the main point though in our experience is we have never felt that we have reached the end of the travel even when we had. Combined with excellent pedal capabilities and stable pedal-able geometry the Fox suspension units were flawless in their operation.

The overall weight of the bike in size medium with pedals and telescopic seat post was 13.1 kilos. With carbon wheels and lighter pedals this bike could go below 12 kilos easily. Even in our version we were exceptionally happy with what we felt was an ideal strength/quality to weight ratio.

When buying a bike of this type in the price range that it is in, it is certain that any customer will be happy with this bike. The Solo has such a great quality feel to it.

Davide Bagnoli setting up the bike precisely.

Davide Bagnoli setting up the bike precisely.

Video – Santa Cruz Solo Launch Scotland

Conclusion

After the realease of the Bronson many people wondered what is this bike is for? But its lighter and marginally easier to pedal around in our opinion. The Santa Cruz Solo Launch video of Steve Peat riding across a mountain landscape on undulating hills with some technical terrain, exactly explains what this bike is for. It feels great to ride, has a really great quality of finish, turns heads, and is the perfect bike to pick up and ride off into the distance on the best flowing trails that you can find. Really a great low to mid travel bike that will satisfy any rider and defiantly increase the enjoyment level of a ride.

Thanks to Bagnolibike for providing the test bike.

Posted under:  MTB Bike Test, Parts Test

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I-MTB is an online MTB magazine and trail areas operator based in Tuscany, Italy

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