2013 Interbike Dirt Demo
This is part 1 of Krob’s bike tests from Interbike’s Outdoor Demo. Be sure to read Krob’s All Mountain Bike Tests at Interbike – Part 2.
I always like to preface my Interbike reviews/impressions with a disclaimer.
These are not scientific and comprehensive reviews. They’re just first impressions from brief rides on some really cool bikes, on some really fun, tough trails. Take them for what they’re worth. Setup, bars, tires, adjustments, not to mention my state of dehydration at any given time during the ride can and does affect my impression of a bike. If you’re dumb enough to base a $5000+ bike purchase solely on my semi-coherent ramblings then you deserve what you get. Having said that, I’ve ridden a ton of bikes in a lot of locations over many years and I think I’m a pretty good seat-of-pants judge of whether a bike is good or not. So listen up….. or not.
Who am I
Just a guy who likes to ride bikes. I’m 52 years old. I’ve been riding mountain bikes for 16 years. I love all kinds of trails from fast and flowy to steep and chunky to jumpy and droppy. I’ve ridden mostly in the Western USA but have covered a lot of territory and trails in that region from Moab to Tahoe to St. George to Park City to Oregon to Fruita/Grand Junction to Sedona to Tucson to Phoenix to Flagstaff to Sun Valley but I call Ely, NV home. I’m 5’ 11.5” and weigh 160 lbs. I ride 5-6 days a week year round. I value the ride more than the bike and in the end I’m not that clued in to details but I think I know what makes for a good ride…and a good bike.
27.5 is the new 26er: Everyone (except Specialized) has one and going back and forth between these and the 29er offerings it was easy to feel the differences between these two sizes… but I soon forgot how a 26er would feel any different. It was just the bigger wheels and the smaller wheels.
Fat bikes: They were everywhere. It was like an invasion I didn’t see coming.
1 x 11 drivetrains: They are the real deal. Most bikes were sporting this set up and we dug it. Shifts were snickety-snick accurate and the overall range of gear ratios was sufficient. Do we still need front derailleurs?
Fox forks are much improved this year. That is good.
Some companies came back (Niner), some had a bigger presence than ever (Devinci), some didn’t show at all (Trek, Cannondale).
Bikes I wanted to ride but either they weren’t present or I just ran out of time and didn’t get to:
Devinci Troy, Niner WFO, Ibis Ripley, Ibis Mojo HDR, Cannondale Trigger, Transition Covert 29, Knolly Warden, Giant Trance 27.5, Trek Remedy 29, Pivot Mach 429, Banshee Spitfire 650b, Turner Flux 650b…
It was hot (again), it was crowded (again), but it’s still just like a free day in Disneyland for this bike geek (even had strollers, freaks and geeks of all sorts to weave through to get to the good rides just like Disneyland).
I teamed up with Craigstr for the first day of demos so I want to thank him for his help in securing some bikes and for his valuable input. I hope he opts to chime in on add his comments to these first impressions.
Santa Cruz Solo (5010) C
I’ve been looking for a nice short travel 27.5 or 29er as a complement for my Knolly Chilcotin so the 125mm Solo was high on my Interbike demo list. First thing Monday morning I headed straight for the Santa Cruz tent and stood there patiently waiting for them to open. The guys from Santa Cruz were friendly and helpful and got me set up and out the door in short order. First thought? Wow this bike is gorgeous! Love the Mountain Rescue Orange and beautiful, well proportioned, carbon swoopy lines. Second thought? Wow this thing is light. Next thought? This thing pedals incredibly well.
As I climbed the road to the start of the trails I assessed the fit and determined that a large is just about right for me. At 5’11” I’m a bit of a tweener and some large frames feel a bit big but I knew from experience that SC tends to run a bit shorter so there was no question which bike to choose.
As we got on to the trail and started climbing over some of the rocky outcroppings I was trying to sense any of the dreaded pedal kick back that the v.1 VPP was famous for but was unsuccessful in detecting any. The wheel would hang up just a tad on some of the slower, squarer edges but not worse than most other bikes. Generally the rear suspension worked really well on this climb, staying bob-free and efficient when the trail was smooth and smoothly absorbing most rocks and ledges on the way. I was a bit disappointed to see the Fox 32 fork up front because I’ve had less than stellar experiences with it in the past but this 2014 version is a sweetheart. It responded well to small and medium sized edges, rocks, and ledges on the way up and tracked very well.
This was also my first experience with a 1×11 drivetrain setup and was immediately won over. Very slick shifting even up onto the gigantic 42 tooth cog and plenty of range for most any riding you’d do on this kind of bike. Having ridden double shifting bikes for the better part of 40 years (yes I’m that old) I never gave much thought to the what it takes to coordinate shifts and gear combos between the front and rear derailleurs, but having only one lever to deal with all of that was noticeably easier on the brain. I’ll be even more interested when the 1 x 11 set ups start becoming available in the lower and mid-range groups.
When we arrived at the top of our climb and started down the back side into the caldera I was kind of expecting the thin-legged Fox and short travel rear (remember when 125mm was considered long travel?) to show their stripes but not so: This thing just flew and the fork did not hold it back. It displayed very little flex and the action was controlled and well damped only falling behind a tiny bit on some of the rougher sections. Steering was sharp, and tight switch backs took some getting used to after stepping off my 65.5 deg head angled 170mm forked Chili, but once reacquainted with what accurate, playful steering can do to a tight trail it was great . With a relatively slack 68 deg head angle, low bottom bracket, and biggish wheels, the straight line stability was still very good as well. Despite that low bottom bracket number and rocky terrain, I did not get any unusual or excessive pedal strikes.
The Solo … err 5010 (awkward name) was very easy to get comfortable on and gain confidence in quickly—Way more than I would’ve previously expected of a bike with these “travel” numbers. Yes there may have been some visions of Peaty bombing the Scottish Highlands running through my head as I swerved, popped, flowed, and threaded my way down the trail…. But delusions of grandeur aside, the 5010 felt really good. And I gotta say, I didn’t notice the wheel size one way or the other. The bike as a whole just felt incredibly well-balanced, fast, and fun.
Trademark issues may have forced a name change but I’m still going to call it the Solo.
1×11, It’s the real deal
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