Officially it’s called the 5010, although everyone knows it as the Solo. Ratboy calls his a YOLO, but enough of nomenclature, what’s it like? I’ve had my Solo for 3 months now and have to say that for most of my riding, it’s the best bike I’ve had. Some of the time I’d like a bit more travel and a slacker head angle (and my Heckler ticks this box), but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this less well known bike in the Santa Cruz range. My frame is the ‘5010 Carbon C’ version, which can be bought frame only and custom spec’ed. The ‘5010 Carbon’ is the cheaper carbon frame and is just available as a full built bike. More details are here on the Santa Cruz UK site. My bike is as light as a sabre at 28lb or 12.7kg. This is an honest weight by the way, including pedals and proper, strong tubeless tyres with 2 scoops of sealant in each tyre. Don’t think though that it’s a lightweight in temperament! The great thing with this bike is that you get a genuinely capable, stiff and strong framed trail bike, with fit for purpose parts, that comes at an XC weight. The light weight helps to make it such a fun ride and it’s a hoppy, quick and agile thing indeed. The lower bottom bracket and shorter chainstays, as compared to the Bronson and Heckler, make it just that bit more playful. It corners noticeably quicker and the weight and shorter back end make you want to hop and skip along the trail all day. Having less travel (125mm at the rear) is also a positive with the Solo and you really feel the bike respond immediately to your input. This is a very capable bike but if you’re going to take it at speed into 160mm bike terrain you have to ride it properly and still be prepared for it to get a bit wild! This can be a lot of fun, but you will be reminded that there is just 125mm of travel at the back if you try to just smash through the trail. In this way it’s a ‘rider’s bike’ that rewards good line choice and the the ability to pump the trail correctly. I’ve ridden mine in the Basque mountains in Spain and on big Lake District passes and I loved it in these environments. The best trails for the Solo are twisty, flowing singletrack where your energy is not getting soaked up by the travel and you feel so light and fast on the trail. Trail centres are super fun on a Solo. Big day rides in natural terrain are also its forte with the light weight making the climbs easier and the great handling a blast for the twisty bits. For the UK and the majority of real world mountain biking it’s hard to beat. Round Hebden Bridge there’s a fair bit of technical riding and the Solo shines here. Trails are often short in length and not flat out. The 140mm fork coupled with the shorter rear travel is perfect. You get manoeuvrability, accuracy and a plush, poised VPP ride from the rear end.
The 27.5 specific X-Fusion Sweep fork is great, especially when you take into account the bargain price in the UK of £454.99 RRP! It punches much higher than its price and feels plush with good quality damping and a reputation for reliability. You get adjustable rebound and a lockout. Separate high and low speed damping would be nice to have (if you know how to set them up!) but this would be adding to the cost, and really unless you’re getting picky you can live with the ‘run as it comes’ set up. 140mm travel feels just right for the Solo and the stance is good for going up as well as down. I’m using Chromag parts again in this build with the excellent BZA 35mm clamp size bars and lovely machined stem. The carbon bars feel fantastic. There is a bit of give making them not harsh at all, yet at the same time they feel precise and they look as cool as can be. The bars come at 780mm width which I’ve cut to 750mm. Grips are a personal favourite, the Chromag Basis, which are firm and slim with a very grippy yet hard wearing surface and super cool rounded end caps. Pedals are the grippy Chromag Scarab, with clever pins designed to snap rather than destroy the threads that they screw into. These are a reliable and strong pedal with a good sized platform that the ball of your foot sits in nicely. I’ve been using Scarabs on both my bikes all year and have been well impressed. They are ready for a bearing change now and luckily you can get kits for this from Shorelines who supply all the Chromag kit. I’m running a light weight Chromag Moon saddle, which is sleek looking yet comfortable. It has nicely rounded edges for moving around on and not getting stabbed by! I’m using KS LEV dropper posts and this is the DX model. The posts I’ve used this year proenhance work have been solidly reliable and have a nice smooth action. On my Heckler I’ve got the optional Southpaw lever, which mounts under the bar where the front mech shifter would go. It has a very slick action and is safely out of the way in crashes, or when standing the bike upside down. Well recommended and something I’d like to change on the Solo. Nothing wrong with the standard lever, but the Southpaw is just better and more stealthy. After all we use the dropper lever almost as much as a gear shifter now so it makes sense to use the same ergonomic design. From new I wrapped the frame in an Invisiframe kit to protect the finish from scratches, rubbing and bashes. Actually I got my son Nial to do it because I can even make a mess of putting a stamp on an envelope! As the name suggests the kit is almost invisible and I know from experience that it keeps the bike frame looking like new underneath. Well worth £50 when you’ve shelled out for an expensive frame, especially when you come to sell the bike on. I started off with WTB Vigilante tyres front and back and they don’t half dig in and give amazing grip. On the front, and this has stayed, is the Team Issue edition which comes with a dual casing and soft compound. Absolutely love this tyre, it’s really confidence inspiring and great in the wet and dry, on loose and hard ground. I used the TCS version on the rear until I wore it out, which is a harder compound and so faster rolling. This has a single ply casing. Ideally I like a faster rolling tyre on the back and am waiting for the new Trail Boss tyre to come available. I managed to get one (but only one!) of these for my Heckler and so far it is everything I was looking for. Dual casing for toughness on the back where you need it, especially on rocky trails and with tighter blocks and a faster compound, but still keeping a grippy shoulder for corners. The Trail Boss will soon be available in the UK via Hotlines. While waiting for the Trail Boss I’ve been using a Mavic Crossmax Roam XL rear tyre. This is Mavic’s Enduro race tyre and is mega fast rolling. It’s got a great soft grippy rubber which does wear pretty quick. The centre can slide pretty easily, but the edges grip really well. Not everybody likes this, but if you can commit it’s ace! It’s a bit small volume and I found I had to run more pressure than usual in it. I never realised I needed XTR until I tried it! It’s so light and makes you look sexy! The brakes are the best I’ve ever used, with loads of feel and power. They look gorgeous, are a doddle to bleed and have the nicest levers ever. The shifter has a precise and light action and still feels like it did the day I fitted it. The cassette is a work of art, with hard wearing titanium larger cogs as well as alloy lower gears. I’ve got a pretty special rear mech which combines the XTR body with a short cage Saint cage and jockey wheels, for a neat, tidy and very trick set up. I’m using a 32 tooth North Shore Billet narrow wide chain ring on gorgeous XTR cranks. Overall the set up has been reliable without any other retention, and the bike has certainly been punished! I lost the chain once though when I hit the chain on a rocky step. Maybe this pulled the chain to one side causing it to derail. One other time the chain came off in a fast rock garden which surprised me as I’ve ridden plenty of similar trails with no problem. Maybe just bad luck, but ultimately it might be good to run a top guide and a bash plate to avoid the small chance of losing the chain. I’m not rushing to do it though. So far I’ve been using a fast rolling Easton Vice wheelset. The rims have stayed true which is impressive, despite picking up a couple of dings on the back. The spokes, especially when new pinged quite a bit as tension was released from them. Not a nice sound but hasn’t seemed to have any negative effect. The hubs go through bearings pretty quickly though which was a surprise especially as it’s been such a dry year. I get asked a lot. “Solo or Heckler?” Honestly I love riding both. I appreciate the extra beef, great uphill grip and extra travel of the Heckler on faster rocky trails. I love the light weight and agility of the Solo and I like the cheeky way it gets all squirrely when pushed. If I have to commit to an answer, it would be that I’d accept the limitations and go Solo. Maybe though I should try a Bronson….or a Nomad, or whatever the Californian wizards come up with next?
Thanks to Doug from Basque MTB for the photos on the Basque coast.