We thoroughly enjoyed the previous iterations of Silverback’s aluminium hardtail 29er, the Segma Nine and the Vida 1. In fact, they were some of the best aluminium hardtails we’d ridden in their price categories. Would the Sola 1 continue that legacy? – TREAD test team.
Photos: Dino Lloyd
Silverback previously hydroformed their aluminium tubing, but say they have now switched to mechanically reshaping round triple-butted tubes (ovalising them), which they claim ensures lighter weight without sacrificing strength and offers more optimal vertical and lateral stiffness where needed.
The metallic charcoal with white and red detailing is somewhat understated compared to most of Silverback’s bolder finishings, but classy nonetheless. The thought that’s gone into the colour-matching is actually remarkable. The coloured stripes on the saddle match perfectly with those on the top-tube when you look at the bike from above.
The seat-tube angle remains a neutral 73 degrees, while the head-tube takes a 0.5-degree drop from 71 to 70.5 degrees. There’s a Rock Shox Reba 100mm travel fork with Pushloc remote lockout and a 15mm through-axle. The wheelset comprises Stan’s Crest rims and Shimano SLX hubs with Maxxis Crossmark tyres. Brakes are Shimano’s Deore hydraulic disc with a 180mm rotor upfront, while there are Shimano SLX shifters, front derailleur and triple crankset with a Shimano XT rear derailleur.
The bars, stem, seatpost and saddle are all Silverback’s inhouse brand, SBK.
We noticed a change in sizing over the Vida 1 of last year. The Sola 1’s Medium frame is an 18-inch size, while it’s predecessor’s Medium was a 16.5-inch size. Would we feel a 38mm difference?
We did actually feel the size difference. Reach wasn’t a concern, but we immediately flipped the stem and removed the headset spacers to bring us as low as possible over the front end for optimal control. The Maxxis Crossmark tyres, tapered headtube, 15mm through-axle and the ever-so-slightly relaxed head-tube collectively delivered a feeling of consistent control, especially in corners at speed and on descents. We seldom needed the granny gear on the triple crankset (the previous model had a double crankset) but felt that most potential buyers of this bike would appreciate the additional climbing support. And climbing was always comfortable, except on very steep ascents where we felt the need to exaggerate the forward lean somewhat. This was something all our testers commented on, which made us even more aware of it. Most performance hardtails have a 71-degree headtube angle. Could the 69.5 angle on the Sola 1 be that telling on steep climbs? Possibly. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing when you consider that we tackle way more descents (gradual and steep) than we do super-steep climbs.
As ever, the Shimano gears worked with predictable precision, while the SLX brakes performed up to standard on this type of bike, with the extra 20mm on the front rotor adding a little more confidence on the really technical, fast descents… The cables have full housing and run beneath the top-tube (moved from beneath the downtube), ensuring minimal dirt interference, which we liked. There’s also space for two bottle cages, which we appreciated on very long rides. The remote lockout fork is probably the best update on this bike. We feel any performance-orientated bike should have remote lockout fork. Did we notice if the bike was lighter and/or stiffer with triple butted, mechanically ovalised tubing as opposed to hydroformed tubing? No, we can’t say we did. Did we think it’s an improvement over its two predecessors? Overall, we think it’s still a great aluminium hardtail, the fork remote lockout stood raising it a notch over previous models.
With the adjusted headtube angle and triple crankset, there’s definitely a shift towards more comfort on climbs and more control on descents with the Sola 1 over its predecessors. The whole package is well thought out to offer reliability and good performance at a very reasonable price.
SIZES: S (16-inch); M (18-inch – tested); L (20-inch); XL (21.5-inch)
TOP TUBE LENGTH: 605mm
SEAT TUBE LENGTH: 450mm
HEAD TUBE ANGLE: 70.5 degrees
SEAT TUBE ANGLE: 73 degrees
CHAINSTAY LENGTH: 440mm
PRICE: R16 927
COLOURS: Gloss charcoal with white/red graphics.
FRAME: Triple-butted Aluminum
WEIGHT: 12,02kg (incl pedals)
FORK: Rock Shox Reba with 100mm travel, 15mm thru-axle & remote Pushloc lockout
SHIFTERS: Shimano SLX Trigger (3×10)
FRONT DERAILLER: Shimano SLX
REAR DERAILLER: Shimano XT Shadow Plus
CRANKSET: Shimano SLX 175mm, 24/32/42
BRAKESET: Shimano Deore hydraulic disc; Rotors: 160mm Rear, 180mm Front
WHEELS: Stans ZTR Crest rims with Shimano SLX Hubs
TYRES: Schwalbe Racing Ralph EVO 2.1 (our test bike had Maxxis Crossmark)
OTHERS: SBC bars, stem, seatpost and saddle; Jagwire gear cable housing
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*Originally published in TREAD Issue 28, 2014 – All rights reserved