Solid Strike Black Star | Overview
Words: Max Neely
Photos: © Tommy Wilkinson
Solid have stepped up their game massively this year, moving to a direct sales model has significantly reduced the price of their bikes to put them in head-on competition with the other direct sale and mainstream brands. Rather than sponsoring individual Freeriders like YT, they have invested in a World Cup DH team with 2 UK riders and 2 European riders, demonstrating their intent for the bike.
Solid have been around for a while now, over 10 years though you might not have heard of them . Their Mission 9 being their last well known DH rig up until now. Over the last 3 years, in partnership with Matthias Reichmann, Solid bikes engineer, the Strike was born. Looking far sleeker and more purposeful than the fairly agricultural looking Mission 9, the Strike looks to be a race ready World Cup level DH rig straight out of the box.
The question with these direct sales brands is; can they compete in terms of performance with bikes from big manufacturers, charging over twice the price? And what about reliability, quality and customer service?
The Strike Black Star comes priced at 3650 euros, which currently sits it at about £2650 . For a bike equipped with Boxxer World Cups, Cane Creek Double Barrel SRAM X01 DH drivetrain, it is certainly an attractive price. The bike is finished with “Reverse” parts, a stand alone components company. They are functional and look to be of good quality, better than expected. The carbon bars sit at 810mm wide, probably slightly wide for most people but its an easy job to cut them down to your taste. The Strike is compatible with both 650B and 26″ wheels, I don’t see many choosing the latter option but I guess it is good to have the flexibility.
Early models came specced with the Sram X01 DH mini block rear cassette, which has recently been replaced with Reverse’s own brand 7 speed cassette with 10 different cogs from 11-25t to allow custom gearing. This allows them to use a hub with a standard driver rather than an XD, which means other cassette options are simple to change over, as they say to “prevent you from overpriced and annoying spare part supply”. They have also moved to Reverse’s new EFS (Equal Flange System) for the rear hub, allowing for equal spoke angles on both the drive and non-drive side of the wheels, which is supposed to lead to a stronger wheel.
Great to see a company having the balls the make their own products that reduce the cost of a bike and a riders running costs. They might not have the bling and desirability of some bigger brands parts but for consumable parts such as rims cassettes etc., it makes sense as long as they work.
The frame uses a pinch bolt rear axle system which is simple and secure. It would be nice to see larger diameter bolts used to to give a more positive feel when nipping them up but the system has worked without fault so far. Bottom bracket Cable routing is neat up near the head tube with bolt on cable guides stopping any rubbing of the frame or upper fork stantions. Here tested in the Raw aluminum finish rather than the stealth black, the bike looks decisively “solid”, with chunky well finished welds. The shock is placed in direct fire from muck thrown up from the rear wheel but Solid make a neat carbon fender to protect the shock , or an average mud guard with a few zip ties will do the trick. Due to problems with Schwalbe’s supply, the Black Stars are being specced with Maxxis High Roller 2’s rather than Magic Mary’s. In terms of weight, it sits under 36lbs in size Large/Extra Large.
Fit and Geometry
The Strike is a pretty long bike; well that’s what I’d heard about it. The truth is, all bikes have got a lot longer in the last few years and the Solid is no different. The wheelbase is at the longer end of the spectrum, sitting at 1270mm in L/XL However it’s not much different to comparative bikes in the same size e.g. GT Fury in Large coming in at 1269mm. The sizing is carefully explained on the website with a size chart which shows a range of heights and how they would fit into each size. You can take a smaller frame for your height for a “playful poppy bike”, right in the middle of a size, or a larger frame for you for stability and control. It’s a good idea but perhaps slightly complex.
The sizes don’t make it easier, they grouped as S/M, M/L and L/XL. Solid say this is due to the M/L being bigger than an average medium bike and L/XL being a big bike for Large, closer to some XL sizes, which in a way is true when you look at the numbers but bikes vary depending on the manufacturer. In my opinion a simple S, M, L would be easier, possibly with an XL size for the giants over 6 ft. 3”. The reach on the L/XL (453mm) is perfect for a ~6ft rider but I think the reach on the M/L (433mm) is too short for your average 6ft guy. So, in short, look carefully at the size chart but find somebody with a bike you can try so you can be sure, one of the disadvantages is, you cant got to a shop and sit on one so don’t find out the hard way! At the end of the day, personal preference is key.
Geometry wise, it’s slack and low. The Head Angle sits at 62 degrees, slacker than most by a degree or so. The Bottom Bracket height is also low, meaning the bike is supremely stable and corners well, at the expense of getting a few pedal strikes here and there.
The first thing you notice on the bike, apart from how stable it feels, is how awesome the brakes are. Seeing Magura MT7s on the spec sheet looked a disappointment amongst the other top-flight gear. The “carbotechture” levers looked a bit long and less refined than the likes of the Saints. But after a run down the hill I knew I was seriously wrong. I haven’t felt such power and modulation from a brake before. This translates to you being able to brake far less, as you are totally confident in the brakes ability to stop you on a pin point, no matter how steep the trail is or how fast you are going. I’m not sure what Magura have done in there, perhaps it’s the 4 separate pads or their heritage from the old Gustav M’s coming back to life, but they have created a seriously awesome brake. Having Danny MacAskill sign for them will surely boost them back to being a renowned brand after a few years of being unnoticed.
On the hill the Strike feels incredibly fast and capable. The pairing of the Boxxer World Cup up front and CCDB on the rear make for a confidence inspiring setup. Once you have a bit of gravity behind you, the bike really does just want to push on and you find yourself feeling composed enough to stay off the brakes even when things get super rough and technical. Holes and ruts don’t phase the Strike at all,making it easy to skip over them and carry speed. Bikes like this really make you able take bigger lines and hold them with ease. Could it be the 650B wheels playing a roll in the Strikes dramatic capabilities? I think they certainly do, but it is the overall package that really works-light weight, capable suspension, well chosen drivetrain and confident geometry.
The Strike is definitely a bike that thrives on gravity, due to its low weight it is a maneuverable bike but like all DH bikes it does need that bit of speed to get it warmed up. The 62 degree head angle on flatter tracks does feel a bit slow therefore its true habitat is big DH tracks with elevation, not a bike for a flat local track. The bikes true purpose is going fast down gnarly tracks and Solid have certainly succeeded in creating a bike that does just that. With the spares being fully available online through the Solid website and every bolt, bushing and linkage being available separately for a reasonable price, it’s a clever outfit they’ve got going on. And most importantly, in contrast to many other brands at the moment, they do actually answer phone calls and emails.
In short, your getting 5 grand’s worth of bike for just over half that. It’s alloy but it’s as light as the competitor’s carbon bikes and so far we haven’t heard of one breaking. It’s a race ready World cup level DH machine at a price that most people who are serious about the sport are willing and able to pay, so I think the Germans are on to a winner.