Friday, August 16, 2013

[PHOTOS] 2014 Santa Cruz Solo Carbon SPX AM Complete Bike Review

2014 Santa Cruz Solo Carbon SPX AM Complete. What else is there to say?


                 THE YEAR OF 27.5



Carbon fiber has been a cycling industry buzzword for quite some time. This year, however, carbon has been living in the very large shadow of 27.5-inch wheels. And delivering truth to this is Santa Cruz's full embrace of this new standard. With trail bikes like the 125mm travel Solo Carbon SPX AM Complete Bike, Santa Cruz is taking an aggressive stance on mountain biking's most aggressive platform.

The SPX AM build dresses Santa Cruz's carbon frame with Shimano XT components, DT Swiss/WTB wheels, and Fox suspension in order to keep the price reasonable without killing the Solo's all-mountain sense of purpose. One of the biggest contributors to this is the rolling stock. Sure, within the gravity/park sect, stiff, nimble, and strong 26in wheels will continue to shine. Likewise, though, when the trail favors high-speed, flowing singletrack the 29er rules supreme. But, any riding between those extremes will see the 27.5-inch Solo Carbon's ability to dominate.

A quick look at the geometry makes this perfectly clear. The Solo's chainstay length is only a quarter-of-an-inch longer than the Blur TRc, yet it's three-quarters-of-an-inch shorter than the Tallboy LT. Another key number is its bottom bracket height -- the Solo is .04-inches higher than the TRc and a quarter-inch lower than the Tallboy LT. This means that aboard the Solo, you'll enjoy that 'seated within' felling of two-niners, while retaining the nimbleness that would otherwise be lost to long wheelbases, high-center of gravity, and flex'y wheels.

In fact, the Solo's wheelbase is a full-inch shorter than the Tallboy, and it has a trail-worthy 68 degree head tube angle. That's should be enough numbers to expose the playful, yet composed nature of the Solo. But, just as essential to that balance is Santa Cruz's carbon mastery. The Solo Carbon uses a one-piece layup and curing process for the triangles, as opposed to assembling joints, which would require bonding, wrapping, or rivets. And, because this process allows continuous interlocking fibers to wrap between tubes, the resulting structure efficiently distributes loads and absorbs impact energy.
 All the while, this process eliminates any excess material. As you might imagine, each size's dedicated tooling makes this is a costly process. However, this allows Santa Cruz to control the outside shape, the inside shape, and to compact the fibers during the layup for the to each frame size.

From the Small to the X-large frame, structure is optimized for intended rider weight and forces.
Additionally, placing material where it's needed most results in a strong and nimble chassis for the VPP suspension to work its magic. And speaking of the VPP suspension on the Solo, it's the second generation and features upper- and lower-links that flatten shock rate in order to provide active motion early in the axle path. This allows the rear wheel to easily move up and back as you ride over a bump. The link design also balances downward pedaling force with the pulling force of the chain. This effectively neutralizes them, while also preventing pedal-bob or squatting during acceleration. This keeps speed up, however, VPP also assists in keeping that speed in check. The VPP design also prevents brake-induced lock-out, effectively keeping the suspension supple over braking bumps.

And whether you're rolling over rock gardens, clawing up rooted and rocky climbs, or negotiating steep descents, VPP suspension remains active and responsive. Key to this are its linkages and hardware. A carbon fiber upper-link not only shaves weight, but it also enhances lateral stiffness. At the bottom end of things, an alloy lower-link features easily-serviceable grease ports that are positioned in order to avoid damage and to ensure a long bearing life.

The pivots are oversized, with 15mm locking axle-pins. Additionally, they run on intricately-sealed bearings with one-way purging seals that are intended to last the life of the frame. Even better, this design won't either creak or loosen. And for the people who want every lightweight feature addressed, Santa Cruz topped it off with anodized aluminum hardware where it's applicable. Managing the Solo's 125mm of travel is the lightweight and reliable Float CTD with the smooth and durable Kashima coating.

The easy-to-adjust three position lever provides platform options to maximize efficiency while either climbing, traversing, or descending. At the front of the Solo, a 130mm travel Float 32 Evolution has CTD dampening, as well, to keep tuning intuitive. For drivetrain duty Shimano's venerable XT bits ensure fast shifts and reliability.

This kit includes a 3x10 layout with XT cranks, shifters, derailleurs, and cassette. It also includes XT brakes with an 180mm front and 160mm rear rotor that slow the WTB Frequency i23 rims that have been laced to DT Swiss 350 hubs. Casing the wheels are Maxxis High Roller 2 EXO Tubeless tires. This kit also includes a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post with the actuation line hidden within the Solo's frame. On top of the post sits a WTB Volt Team saddle. And to complete the SPX AM build, Santa Cruz included a TruVativ AKA stem along with Easton Havoc handlebars.

The Santa Cruz Solo Carbon SPX AM Complete Bike is available in four sizes from Small to X-large and in the colors Gloss Orange/white and Matte Black/green.

Brantley SmithAbout Me
Hello, I am Brantley Smith and have been riding road and mountain bikes since the mid 90's. I previously worked here at Ride-A-Bike from mid-97 to mid-2000 doing repairs and other duties around the shop. I attended Wester Carolina University and graduated in 2004 with a computer information systems degree. Add my to your circles.