Germany's Solid Bikes have gained an enviable reputation in the downhill and freeride scenes over the past couple of years. Their latest slopestyle bike, the Flair, has undergone two years of development and refinement, and it's now a worthy addition to any freerider's arsenal.
Solid offer three complete builds, starting at £1,249.99, but we opted for a custom setup with a similar spec to the top-of-the-range Flair Pro at £2,049.99. Unusually for a full-suspension bike, the Pro comes with a singlespeed drivetrain as standard. This results in a low-maintenance, quiet and dependable rig – but at the cost of some versatility and pedalling efficiency.
Ride & handling: Silent, yet never subtle
The Flair is designed for slopestyle competitions like Crankworx, where riders are judged on their style as they pick a line through a course littered with jumps and other obstacles. In the UK it's more likely to be used as a playbike for hacking around the woods. This suits the Solid just fine – as long as there's no major pedalling involved!
The Flair stands tall and looks a little awkward, with a high front end, steep head angle and long rear triangle. But once the wheels get spinning this all starts to make sense. Our initial impression was of very agile handling combined with an impressive feeling of stability. The bike is surprisingly easy to manual.
Soon the single geared setup started to shine, with the Flair railing tight berms and ploughing stealthily through ruts that would normally have prompted loud chattering from a bike's drivetrain. In fact, the only noise was the satisfying squelch of the suspension compressing and rebounding. This added to the bike's inspiring feel.
Despite the Flair's firm presence on the ground it was still keen to get airborne, proving stable and very flickable when it did so. The suspension coped just as well with the small bumps as it did the big hits and always felt predictable. Of course, a bike of this nature will (or should!) always endure some pretty spectacular stacks at some point, but rest assured the Flair is going to be stronger than its rider. With no flimsy derailleur hanger to bend, it's always ready to ride out of even the harshest of scenarios.
The only area where the ride of the Flair disappoints is when the terrain flattens and pedalling comes into play. What is normally an agile bike turns into a sluggish and wallowy ride. Of course, this isn't a major factor for slopestyle competitions, but it can make it hard work to ride to the trails and robs the bike of some versatility. If this is a major issue for you, Solid also make a linkage bike, the Blade, which is billed as an enduro machine and should pedal a lot better.
If you're looking for a bike that will help you progress as well as having a lot of fun, the Flair is certainly a strong contender. Whether in the woods or at the bikepark, it'll handle anything you can throw at it.
Frame: Lives up to its name – Solid
The Flair can be set up as a singlespeed because the rear triangle pivots around the bottom bracket shell and the frame has horizontal dropouts. Due to the location of the pivot, the suspension's action is influenced by pedalling forces, particularly when climbing.
The frame is constructed from 7005 grade aluminium and a combination of large tubing, gusset reinforced sections and quality welding add up to an incredibly stiff chassis that inspires confidence. The rear linkage offers two different positions for the shock, providing travel adjustability between 130-160mm.
All pivots rotate on full cartridge bearings and mud clearance was ample. The seat tube helps keep any muck thrown off the rear wheel away from the shock. The rear end is extremely stiff thanks to a large chainstay yoke and use of a through-axle.
Available with a number of shock options and colour combinations, our tested Flair featured Marzocchi's Roco Air R rear shock and was finished in raw aluminium instead of the standard painted white. Contrasting with its distinctive yellow decals, the frame's mirror-like finish was great at first but soon became dull after a hose-down or two. We'd recommend polishing it to retain the shine.
Equipment: Bombproof meets bling
The Flair manages to strike a perfect sweet spot as far as strength-to-weight is concerned. By avoiding the extra heft of a geared setup, the bike comes in at a decent weight despite a bombproof build.
The air-sprung 2009 Marzocchi 55 R fork (the standard Flair Pro comes with a Marzocchi 66) kept things on line and worked in unison with the Marzocchi shock. Both suited the bike well, and air pressure and rebound damping adjustments allow you to tune the ride.
Combined with Schwalbe's beefy Al'mighty rubber, the plush suspension meant the Flair failed to feel out of depth in any situation we threw at it.
Shimano's SLX stoppers on our test bike were a delight, with reliable and well modulated power on tap, while the 36/16 gear ratio was spot-on for the task and meant you could concentrate on what really matters.
New Sun MTX 29 welded rims mated well with Reverse Components hubs, staying true, tight and with quick engagement throughout the test period.
The only kit we felt needed an upgrade was the flexy Reverse bar and stem combo, which was a noticeable weak point in the handling of the bike.