Solaris or FlareMax – long term musings…

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  • Solaris or FlareMax – long term musings…
  • Premier Icon Kryton57
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    I’m wondering if we could build an opinion from experience.   I’ve pretty much made up my mind that my race Carbon HT will go to make way for one of these bikes, but as this would be a long term investment, am not sure which one – and there’s no rush.

    I’d train and continue to race on my Scott Spark, but I want a bike that I can sit up on, relax, pootle and take for bigger days out in comfort.  The Solaris appeals – especially for winter – because of its lesser-maintenance perspective, but if I’m to own a Cotic for a while I’m wondering if investing more into a FlareMax is more sensible.

    Weight and bling are not a factor, i’d go for a Silver build at 130/140 for either as I’m happy with the durability of SLX but I need to factor in that shoulder and lower back issues do kick in on rides over 4h just how comfortable is a Solaris? But I don’t think I want 2 FS to maintain…  and other tyre kicking type questions…

    Would really value some sensible comparisons/views, thanks.

    Premier Icon joebristol
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    I’ve no experience of any of your bikes but if you don’t want two fs bikes why not sell the Spark and keep your existing hardtail for racing xc on and get the flaremax for everything else?

    This seems to make sense rather than have an fs for racing xc on and a more relaxed hardtail for longer rides where you find after 4 hours you struggle on a ht often.

    I like having an fs and a ht and picking the most fun one for each ride. Big days out it’s fs, and rocky / uplift stuff where you get a pummelling it’s also fs.

    If it’s hugely muddy / very pedally / mucking about on pump tracks etc then I take the ht.

    Hob Nob
    Member

    But I don’t think I want 2 FS to maintain

    I never get this. You’re talking about a handful of bearings you can get for about £20, a couple of bushes for £4 and a shock service once a year for £100.

    Buy the bike you want to ride, rather than the bike you want to maintain.

    Premier Icon chakaping
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    Where you gonna be riding it?

    The Solaris is more versatile into the XC sphere while the FlareMAX is more versatile into enduro bike territory.

    You say weight doesn’t come into it, but one will be notably quicker on the flat than the other. Is that a factor?

    The Solaris is very comfy for a hardtail, but it’s still a hardtail. A set of plus wheels gives it genuine two-bikes-in-one value, but 29 is quicker for sure.

    Both are so good that they may be genuine “bikes for life”.

    Premier Icon weeksy
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    I never get this. You’re talking about a handful of bearings you can get for about £20, a couple of bushes for £4 and a shock service once a year for £100.

    Buy the bike you want to ride, rather than the bike you want to maintain.

    Exactly.

    Over 3 years i swapped 4 frame bearings on my Whytes, that was more down to the previous owner rather than the bike. Whyte replace the bearings FoC, so it’s £0 outlay and 2 hours of my time in 3 years.

    Some FSs seem to eat bearings, but even they are once a year generally. Is it really ‘less’ in a real world context in terms of maint ? Mmmmm not so convinced.

    As a race bike at a decent level i ‘get’ the HT thing… but as a nice comfy bike for playing about and cruising around, i don’t understand why you’d not just have a nice FS.

    oldnpastit
    Member

    I’ve happily ridden hardtails for far longer than 4 hours without any obvious comfort problem.

    South Downs Way – the main problem is running out of gas, nothing to do with comfort. No amount of suspension will help with that.

    Premier Icon Kryton57
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    I can’t race XC Marathons on an HT, it beats me up too much for my liking so the Spark stays for that.

    For the Cotic – to generalise – speed isn’t an issue.  Durability, being a Cotic, being of a more relaxed geometry and being a bike to enjoy rather than race are the factors   Oh, and it’ll be 29.

    It’ll be ridden primarily down south, Epping, Swinley, Peaslake but I’d also take it for long days out, Chilterns, Peaks, Wales, South Downs – I have a long term goal to spend some alone time exploring the Lakes.  In the short term “race” years, it’ll be used more in the winter.

    Premier Icon Alex
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    I’ve had both. Kept the SolarisMax. Flare Max was a fun bike but too much cross over with what i had. I find the HT is just great fun all year round, not just in winter. I’ve ridden in all sorts of places where I’d normally take a FS.

    I like having the choice of a different type of bike, and find the chubby hardtail great for quick blasts and all day rides. Didn’t like it much on 29s, although I would like to try it again with some wider tyres.

    Premier Icon weeksy
    Subscriber

    For the Cotic – to generalise – speed isn’t an issue. Durability, being a Cotic, being of a more relaxed geometry and being a bike to enjoy rather than race are the factors Oh, and it’ll be 29.

    It’ll be ridden primarily down south, Epping, Swinley, Peaslake but I’d also take it for long days out, Chilterns, Peaks, Wales, South Downs – I have a long term goal to spend some alone time exploring the Lakes. In the short term “race” years, it’ll be used more in the winter.

    Why then would you need a HT ? Take the comfort of an FS.

    Premier Icon chakaping
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    Get on a demo day, there’s one at Peaslake next month. Ride both bikes and I bet it’ll be obvious which one is right for you.

    https://www.cotic.co.uk/demo/

    cokie
    Member

    I got rid of my SolarisMax LS for a few different reasons.

    The positives- the bike is unbelievably quick for a HT when pointing down. I think the length and geometry gave real stability when you pick up speed. When you got up to speed it would carry you through rutted trails nicely. At the bike park I could ride trails that a HT has no right to ride (especially with me piloting it)- rock gardens, big doubles, drop downs. Sure it was hard work, but it got me through. Again, I think it was that long shot geometry.

    The negatives- climbing is best described as winching. It never climbed well. I think it’s down the slack SA. I could really feel being over the back wheel. I noticed it when changing initially but then got used to it, but when I tried other bikes it really brought back to me how slow it climbed. It was hard work on the big days over previous/new bikes. Playfulness is a big factor for me as I like manualing, popping & kicking the back out. The Solaris really didn’t like it. It was so long and stable that it felt more like a serious point and shoot bike rather than having fun on your way down. The only reason I was left with a grin on this bike was the sheer speed it carried and obstacles it got you through, not because I had fun popping of this and carving that. The build quality of the frame wasn’t fantastic. I had burs in the seat tube that made a mess of my brand new dropper. Some of the tubes didn’t sit flush (top tube to seat tube) so aesthetically it wasn’t perfect. The paint was also a little brittle in dark metal and it picked up more marks. Looked lovely at a distance though.

    Not helpful, but I swapped to a Whyte S150CRS and it really highlighted the shortcomings outlined above. It climbs/descends better and more importantly, it’s playful! It’s all my own opinion though so those attributes above could be well suited to you and ultimately you need to go for a test ride.

    Premier Icon kelvin
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    SodaMAX

    (sorry, not sorry)

    Premier Icon bungalistic
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    I really like my SolarisMax, chubby tyres add a bit comfort if that’s what you’re after (which I like) but with a 29 setup it’s really quick. If I was just riding smoother flow trails i’d set it up as a 29er but I really enjoy the chubby tyres for the rocks here in The Lakes.

    Premier Icon chakaping
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    SodaMAX

    Is the seat angle the same as the Solaris though? I personally couldn’t spend that kind of money on something with what I consider a flaw. Can live with pushing the saddle forward on the steel frame version though.

    Premier Icon Kryton57
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    Bloody hell – slight correction it’s a Solaris Max I’m talking about…

    Thanks for the shout on the demo day chakaping, I’ve sent an email…

    Premier Icon weeksy
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    Neither 😉

    Get a nice comfy 100-120mm 29er FS.

    cokie
    Member

    Bloody hell – slight correction it’s a Solaris Max I’m talking about…

    I think that’s what he meant.
    The SolarisMAx LS has a 73.4/7° SA in 140/130mm, which is fairly slack given the all round nature of the bike. The SodaMax is the same geo but in Ti.

    Premier Icon Yak
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    Good point weeksy. The Swarf Contour looks lovely at 115mm. I would demo that.

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    Funnily enough I was just reflecting on the fact that it will be a year on Thursday since I placed the order for my FlareMax. That’s about the point where history shows that I tend to get bored of bikes and start thinking about swapping to something else, but I still love the FlareMax. That’s surprising really as on paper it isn’t the bike for me. It’s an aggressive trail bike, but I’m anything but an aggressive trail rider. A long 29er with a 65.6 degree head angle would have been considered extreme a couple of years ago and only really suitable for Enduro or even downhill. Yet I just bimble around exploring natural trails. Sometimes there is a bit of tech, but it’s never extreme and often I’ll spend all day on forest or landrover tracks. Even decent length road sections are not unusual, yet I’ve never at any point wished I was on a different bike. It feels sprightly a fun everywhere and personally I find it one of the most enjoyable bikes I’ve ever owned for climbing off road.

    Getting back to the original point, I’m a fairly analytical fellow and keep lots of stats. Most of them are meaningless really as there is either too much variability and not enough measurements or you can’t control for your own bias. But something like average speed over ~100 hours of riding gives a fairly reliable result. I’ve found that the average speed for the FlareMax over the year is coming out around 5% faster than any of my previous full-suss bikes (26″ Trance, 26″ Five and 29″ Smuggler, all of which were within a couple of percent of each other on average). Perhaps of most relevance here is that my average speed on the FlareMax is the same (to one decimal place) as my average on the Solaris, which is very surprising. I’d expect the Solaris to have been clearly faster but it looks as though I’m not really giving up anything in terms of speed with the full suss, but am gaining a heap of comfort (and a bunch of fun) over a long day ride. That is comparing a longshot FlareMax to a Mk1 Solaris, but if anything I’d expect the older Solaris to be faster.

    I’ve always likes the idea of a hardtail, but I’ve reached that age where my back complains for days if I ride one for more than a few hours. I’ll happily ride the FlareMax all day long though.

    In contrast to some, I really like the slightly slacker seat angle and longer stays compared with some bikes I’ve tested. It’s all personal preference of course, but I find short stays and steep seat angles fun for short blasts, but much prefer the longer rear and slacker seat angle for all day comfort.

    I take your point about the simplicity of a hardtail and that’s always been a big part of the appeal for me too. But I had to change the droplink bearings in the FlareMax and it really was a simple job. I’ve not done the ones in the main pivot yet, but they don’t look to be any harder.

    Premier Icon fathomer
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    weeksy
    Get a nice comfy 100-120mm 29er FS.

    That’d be a FlareMAX then 🙂

    For what it’s worth I love mine, it puts a massive grin on my face every time I ride it, I finished a descent on Saturday and I was giggling to myself. The walkers that were passing must have thought I was mad!

    Regarding the seat angle and climbing, I don’t find it an issue at all. In fact I’ve been setting PB’s on climbs, both techy ones and not, I genuinely thought it’d be slower due to the weight.

    And they look lovely in my opinion.
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BuO1AYgFk7U/

    Premier Icon weeksy
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    That’d be a FlareMAX then

    TBH it could be any of dozens of bikes… What confuses me is

    but I want a bike that I can sit up on, relax, pootle and take for bigger days out in comfort

    and

    I can’t race XC Marathons on an HT, it beats me up too much for my liking

    Why would a HT be nicer just because you’re riding slower ? If it beats you up over a 4 hour Marathon XC then surely if you’re doing a touring ride over 4-7 hours it’s still going to beat you up ? Surely ?

    cokie
    Member

    To be fair, I had a Trek Superfly XC race bike and that was incredibly uncomfortable. I swapped over to a 120mm trail HT and it was far more comfortable. Bigger rubber, more travel & comfier riding position. Still, an FS bike is much comfier than any HT.

    Premier Icon Kryton57
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    @weeksy – riding at your athletic limit and/or at a racing geo is very different to the opposite .

    Thanks Roverpig I’ve been following your thread with much interest .   Maybe it’s a 130mm FlareMax I’m leaning toward…

    Anyway, I’m about to muse on my carbon HT for an hour….

    Premier Icon weeksy
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    riding at your athletic limit and/or at a racing geo is very different to the opposite .

    But a HT for hours and hours is still a HT for hours and hours… Sure, if speed is an issue then I get the HT29er, tehy’re quick…. but I honestly think it we took a poll,

    “What’s more comfortable over 5-6 hours, a FS or a HT” then assuming all things equal like them both fitting correctly etc, then the FS is going to be WAY in the majority.

    Premier Icon Kryton57
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    Anyway, I’m about to muse on my carbon HT for an hour….

    Well that that was of no help at all.   On the plus side I’m booked in for the Cotic demo for both bikes, so will see how the feel.

    Part of me says that there’s no point selling the carbon HT as the return won’t be great but I’ll need the space and to soften the Cotic financial blow 🙂

    core
    Member

    650b, not 29er, but I’ve gone from a Soul to a Flare and there’s no looking back for me, a bit heavier yes, but more grip uphill, less time out of the saddle climbing, less aches and pains after long rides, and not silly long travel to lose efficiency or fun factor. I’m actually still running 120mm reba forks off my Soul. Short(ish) travel full sus is the bike for a bit of everything ‘mountain biking’ to my mind. Even non techy, fast, bumpy descents off the hills are a pleasure on my Flare, used to dread them on a hardtail.

    I’ve had 29ers, a Scandal and a Solaris, but only have one MTB these days – which needs to do everything, and I prefer smaller wheels for the tight, twisty, rooty natural trails that make up a chunk of my riding. I’m sure the Flare Max will be brilliant for what you want, but there are probably cheaper, lighter and just as suitable alternatives from bigger name brands…… Get the one you like the colour of!

    Premier Icon Yak
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    If the carbon hardtail won’t be raced, get rid of it and get the trail full suss.
    And if you are going down this route – how about demoing a few trail full sussers? I was in the giant shop today and the 29er trance looked ideal for most non-race riding.

    I’m actually still running 120mm reba forks off my Soul.

    How does that feel on the Flare considering you’ve still got 130mm of travel out back? Considering turning my Flare frame into a shorter travel all-dayer bike for now.

    Premier Icon boobs
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    Ooh I’m on the Peaslake demo too, want to hold my hand 🙂

    Premier Icon Kryton57
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    Depends on the quality accuracy and gender appropriateness of your user name 😉

    Premier Icon Kryton57
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    how about demoing a few trail full sussers?

    I want a cotic.  I’ve done Treks, Yeti’s, Scott’s and Giants in my life time for something more Shed than Factory if that makes sense – the MTBr’s mid life crisis Caterem 7 kit car…

    Premier Icon boobs
    Subscriber

    Well………..
    I’d be more worried about you racing and me not. I can find silly trails at Peaslake though

    core
    Member

    Flare is good on the rebas, BB is maybe a touch low, and I’ll probably go for some 130mm travel, 34mm stanchion forks at some point (I’m best part of 100kg though), but it’s far from necessary for general riding. It’s not very rutted or rocky where I ride mind you.

    I run the shock at reasonably high pressure and fast rebound to keep it lively.

    Premier Icon Kryton57
    Subscriber

    Well………..
    I’d be more worried about you racing and me not. I can find silly trails at Peaslake though

    Im not going there to race . I’ve already asked Cotic how long the demos are – on the basis they may be short I might bring my own bike so would be up for a cheeky ride if you like?

    Premier Icon Yak
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    more shed than factory… I understand. Have fun.

    Premier Icon boobs
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    A ride would be good, I’ll pm you.

    Premier Icon Kryton57
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    Well, the good news is that Cotics demo loop is 90 minutes long.   With both bikes back to back that means I’m out in Peaslake for 3hrs, what a great value demo.

    On the minus side Boobs that means I’m all afternoon on Cotics which while good, doesn’t leave any time for extras.  However I look forward to seeing you there.

    andykirk
    Member

    I concur with everything Cokie said about the Solaris above. On downhills it is a speed monster, very confidence inspiring. But it’s just sooo long that playfulness in any other aspect is eliminated. I mean it’s comfortable, it covers miles well, is a bit awkward uphill, but it just takes a whole lot of energy to ‘play’ on the bike in any situation where it’s not an all out downhill speed fest. Shorter wheelbase and steeper HA and SA for me next time.

    Premier Icon kelron
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    I can’t claim these are long term impressions when I’ve barely ridden over the winter, but I like my FlareMax a lot.

    The comments about the Solaris largely apply to the FlareMax as well – but for me that’s a positive as its how I want to ride. It’s a bike I can pedal all day comfortably and it gives me a lot of confidence downhill. The length does make it feel a little cumbersome at low speeds, but the riding position is very central and I find it easy to control going faster.

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    I think these are fair points. All day comfort and downhill confidence are a big part of the appeal to me too and maybe it wouldn’t be so ideal for a shredder.

    I would dispute the idea that it’s not playful though. In practice I find it more playful than previous bikes. Those shorter/steeper bikes were easier to do car-park tricks on, but out on the trail I’d often find myself hanging on for grim death, stiffening up and just praying to get down alive. Riding the same trails on the Flaremax feels so much more secure that I find myself staying more loose and looking for features to play with.

    If you don’t lack confidence then I can see that a shorter/steeper bike might allow you to have more fun but if, like me, your riding is often limited by a lack of bottle a more stable bike can end up being a lot more fun.

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