Tuesday, 27 May 2014

New bike

I'd never tried a mountain bike with either 650b or 29inch wheels so wanted to try two bikes that other than the wheel size were as similar as possible. I've been thinking about getting a hardtail for a while, partly to use to get in to remote Munros and partly to have something much simpler to ride than a full suspension MTB.

After some prevaricating (posh word for faffing about) a few weeks ago I arranged to ride a couple of demo bikes at Dales Bike Centre in Swaledale. This was actually the same weekend as we did the Bowderdale loop in the Howgills. We did a couple of rides, one on each wheel size, one up Harkerside and one round Low Moor. One bike that I didn't ride out on the trails but did have a play on in the yard was a Cotic Solaris it was actually Stuart's,  the shop owner's own bike. I didn't see much difference if any between the handling of the 650b wheeled bike and my current bike - it happened that the 650b was a full suss bike rather than a hardtail.

Decision made! It was going to be a 29er. But which one? Two weeks ago it was a wet Saturday so I headed back up to place an order. I was after a simple bike and one of the simpler features I was after was a 1x10 drivetrain, this removes the front derailleur mechanism for a single chainring but has a wider range cassette. I also wanted tubeless tyres and a dropper seat post.

There was really only one frame in the running - the Cotic Solaris, somehow it just felt right. After some discussion we settled on me being suitable for a medium frame, then it was on to all the bits that a bike needs, like wheels and handlebars. Just the matter then of paying a deposit and waiting for the build.

This weekend it was time to pick up the bike. As it happened it was another wet Saturday. Some final fitting out (and for Stuart to take shots of it) and it was time for a ride.

I'd asked for a Hope 40 trex to extend the cassette range even more but even with this I ran out of puff near the top of Fremington Edge. There was a headwind though :-) Once on the moor top it was horizontal rain for the descent to Hurst and the long steady pull up to the top of the descent from Fell Top to Storthwaite Hall. The last time I'd done this (on a full suspension bike) I'd had to walk a couple of sections of rock steps. This time no such problem - it was an absolute hoot blasting down, the only thing slowing me down was not knowing the best lines, oh and the gate halfway down. Rather than head back on the road to Reeth I did the Low Moor loop again as the off-road bit began only about a kilometre from where I'd hit the road at Langthwaite.

Again it was just a blast, the hardest part for me was knowing when to drop the seat as I'd get in to a technical section with the seat up and be concentrating on getting through the difficulties. This will come though.

Back at the shop, it was time to pay. The other staff said that Stuart was lusting after it and was considering converting his own Solaris to 1x10. There's still a little bit of work to do on it as the rear tyre isn't the one specified as there don't seem to be any of that particular model in the country at the moment. I'll get that sorted out when I go back and get the first service done.

So fun time. Cath wanted to do a bit of riding on the Bank Holiday so we decided to head over early to Staveley and do some riding round there. It was before 9am when we got there and there were only a few cars in the park, other mountain bikers by the looks of things. Our planned route was over the Green Quarter to Longsleddale then back via the track up from Sadgill and down to Kentmere before climbing over Garburn Pass and sussing a way back from Troutbeck.

We'd set off on something similar to this last December but the track over to Longsleddale was sheet ice so we'd cut it short. Everything was reasonably dry this time though and good flowing track with the occasional technical section. Slowly the speed picked up as the gradient changed to being generally downhill. Once through a gate it became very steep and fast and increasingly loose and rocky before arriving at a farm. Down the track to the road and up the valley.

Descending to Longsleddale

We got the wrong bridleway leading out of the valley so the first half was a definite push but we rejoined the route at about the point where the angle eased so the rest was mostly rideable if a little hard work. The descend down to Kentmere was fast and only interrupted by a couple of gates. Rather than return to the village by the road we dropped down to the lane used by the fell race which was much more pleasant.

Dropping back down to Kentmere, Garburn Pass visible on the hillside opposite.

Then it was time for Garburn Pass. The lower section is definitely rideable but it gets increasingly rocky and loose, this happens at about the same time as the gradient steepens so unless you are good at track stands and hopping your way up it's hike-a-bike time pretty much all the way to the top. The descent down the other side used to be reasonably technical but it's been "managed" presumably to stop erosion so now it's just a speed blast slowing down to avoid spraying walkers with stones from your wheels.

The lower, easy, part of Garburn Pass

At the top of Garburn Pass

All too soon we are on the road heading towards Ings. Cath checks her GPS and figures out that there's a bridleway leading back on to the common above High House. This turned out to be lovely flowing hard packed track, a few small climbs here and there but apart from the few gates there was little to slow you down.

The ford at the top of the final descent.

Finally after a ford across a beck it was time for the last descent. Known as the Three Rivers (we'd just forded the top one) we'd done it back in December when it was a bit wet. No excuses this time though and we got down in one go, again last time I'd had to walk one or two short sections.

Supposedly Garburn Pass is a classic of the Lakes but I felt it was the most disappointing part of our entire ride, possibly enjoyable on a full downhill rig going west to east, but otherwise it's a push followed by a rather boring wide track. A full set of shots here.

I suppose that the seven years of development in the mountain bike world since I got my last bike show through but it may also just be a better bike. It may be the bigger wheels or that the bike fits me better but I'll go for stuff and I'm far more confident about getting down technical stuff on this bike than I was on the old one. I think the gearing of 30T on the front and 11- 40 on the back is just about right for me. By the time I can't push the dinner plate of the Hope 40T I'm just about ready to push anyway and by the time I'm spinning out on the 11T I'm going fast enough that I want to freewheel. The dropper seatpost makes a big difference in being able to adjust things on the fly.

Overall the new bike is in Spinal Tap territory, the grin factor goes up to ELEVEN!!


  1. Reynolds steel? Nice. A proper bike

  2. Yeah, Reynolds 853. Not convinced of carbon fibre for mountain bikes and titanium would add about a grand to the cost.