I've had a Solo aluminum R kit for a month now and still messing with the suspension--I'm a suspension noob--so when I heard about a Santa Cruz demo in the area last Saturday, I was the first to be in line.
I chose a Solo C XTR kit to demo--still Solo, not 5010--just to make sure that I had the suspension set up correctly, and to see if I have buyer's remorse for not opting for carbon. We then headed off to Waterdog park 1.5 miles away and had a awesome demo ride the next 2 hours.
To sum up, the bike was as awesome as I had expected, both in terms of climbing and descending. Technical climbing was simply a piece of cake; the bike just wanted to climb and never stop. And pointing it down was a pleasure; it simply floated over things. Although the shock on my demo was stuck in Trail mode the entire time, it wasn't holding me back. Suspension action was indeed smoother with the Kashima coating!
So how did this $8,200 carbon machine compare to my $3,300 alloy entry-leveler?
It was indeed lighter, and I could feel it. The difference was about 2.7 lb (same pedals, but mine lost 1 lb due to running 1x10), but it felt much lighter on the climbs, especially from the wheels. It was much easier to hop the front up over things on climbs. I couldn't feel the difference in stiffness from carbon, but that might well have been my inexperience. Pointing it down and it was pretty tough to distinguish the two. I actually prefer the heft and secured feeling the alloy version provides when going down.
Overall, I'm not sure the $4,700 price increase (almost 150%) justifies the 2.7-pound difference and slightly smoother fork action. But if money were no object...send it my way!
Other tidbits worth mentioning are the bar and tires. I didn't notice the carbon bar difference on the demo, but definitely liked the 750mm width better than the 710mm on mine. I don't care for the riser on the demo, since it tended to cause the front to lift on steep climbs. Are there 750mm+ flat bars with slight sweeps on the market?
In addition, although I like the lighter wheel combo, the lighter and faster rolling Maxxis Ardents were not as sticky and confidence-inspiring in loose corners as the stock HR II.
Also, I finally found the ideal suspension setup I like. (If anyone is interested, for my full riding weight of 155, it's 75 psi front, 3 clicks from fast rebound, 135-140 psi rear, 2 clicks.)
BUT THE MOST SIGNIFICANT revelation from the demo for me was the dropper seatpost. The demo bike came with a Reverb and, although it was a bit sticky from all the mud and prior abuse and had a weird remote, it got me hooked on the dropper post idea. Before the demo, I never thought I would need it, and that the occasional stopping and QR adjusting would suffice. After about two hours of using one and realizing how much better my descending and climbing got while riding through technical terrain, I was sold. It was a game-changer for me.
Earlier today, I ordered a KS E-ten remote dropper. It has the right entry price ($125), provides the right amount of drop with 100mm (125mm would be too long for me), and does away with hydro hose bleeding of the Reverb. It is on the heavier size, but then my bike is already 30 lbs. In essence, I just spent money to add another pound to my bike--the pound that I lost by going 1x10 to begin with.
Overall, it was an informative and fun demo. From talking with the others on the ride, I think Santa Cruz got at least three new takers for Solos and Bronsons. Thanks to Passion Trail Bikes and Santa Cruz for hosting the demo. Thanks Robert for leading the Waterdog ride!
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