Solace Cycles OM-1P on The Adirondack Trail Ride
Michael Intrabartola puts the Solace Cycles OM-1P through its paces on the third annual grand depart of The Adirondack Trail Ride (TATR). Read his thoughts on this custom titanium hardtail built around a Pinion Gearbox. Plus, get the backstory on TATR, of which Michael also happens to be the creator…
Words by Michael Intrabartola, photos by Eric Teed
This story starts in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York at Solace Cycles HQ. Actually, it goes back further than that. It goes all the way back to 2012, when, after having raced the Tour Divide, I returned home with the dream of creating a bikepacking route through the Adirondacks. I wanted to design an off-road route inspired by my time on the divide – one that would challenge riders and give them a taste of the terrain where I cut my teeth as a mountain biker. I wanted a route that surveys the entire Adirondack Park, one that promotes this wild, beautiful landscape as a destination for riders, and a route that encompasses the relentless difficulty of this place that I call home.
No doubt, The Adirondack Trail Ride (TATR) is a demanding route. The Adirondacks are a remote, rugged, and beautiful place. The route loops its way through the largest state park in the country. It is 585 miles of tough, rocky singletrack, seemingly endless dirt roads, 4×4 tracks, pavement, and snowmobile trails. It’s an accomplishment to ride the entire route, let alone race it.
The route was officially released in 2015 for the first grand depart on the second Friday of September. After three years of endless riding and mapping, TATR was officially born. This past September, I had the pleasure of riding the Solace Cycles OM-1P in the third annual grand depart of TATR. Although I created the route and participated in the first and second grand departs, this was my first time actually finishing the event.
About Solace Cycles
Solace Cycles was born in Westport, New York, a town only 10 miles from my home. Jeff Allot and Courtney Fair are the creative minds behind Solace Cycles. They are committed mountain bikers and leaders in our local community. If I had to describe Solace Cycles, I’d say it’s the evolution of two very different minds coming together in a collaborative way. Jeff is a technically oriented engineer who spent 25 years running a manufacturing company focused on advanced materials. Courtney is an artist and craftsman working with traditional materials and someone who is constantly considering what might be. Their conversations are lively, particularly when it comes to bicycle development. At their core, these guys are riders, and their ideas are the culmination of intuition, experience, and technical investigation.
Courtney and Jeff began to design bikes as Solace Cycles in 2016. Their dream started to become a reality, and by the spring of 2017 the first of Solace Cycles’ bikes was built. I’m lucky enough to ride with them here on our area trails where their bikes were conceived and tested, allowing local terrain to dictate how the bikes are designed and will perform. They’re built for steep climbs, designed to be smooth over the rocks and roots that characterize Northeastern trails, and, of course, they’re meant to descend!
The Solace Cycles OM-1P
Although they didn’t necessarily have bikepacking in mind when designing the OM-1P, Solace’s Pinion-equipped steed, they quickly realized the benefits that a Pinion drivetrain would lend to this type of riding. Jeff and Courtney loaned me the OM-1P to ride during this year’s TATR grand depart. I was incredibly curious to see how a bike designed for the Adirondacks actually holds up to a rugged off-road route through the Adirondacks. I pedaled close to 1,200 miles on this bike between training rides and the race itself. Being so close to Solace HQ, I was able to ride the bike in various different setups prior to settling on the iteration I rode for TATR.
The OM-1P is a titanium hardtail built around the Pinion C.12 drivetrain. This one was mated to a Gates Carbon Drive with a 1:1 gearing setup. Initially, I thought 12 speeds weren’t going to be enough for a loaded bike. Even with my racing build being lighter than a traditional bikepacking setup, I was sure I’d have trouble on the climbs. Nope. The Pinion provided an extraordinary range and I was never left feeling like I didn’t have the proper gear. Whether it was climbing, pushing hard on flats, gravel roads, or pavement, the Pinion shined in its simplicity and gear range. I really appreciated the simple setup while navigating through the hike-a-bike sections of TATR. I dragged this bike through two river crossings, led it down muddy trails, and rode endless miles through the rain on gritty dirt roads.
It was a pleasure not to have to worry about a chain and derailleur or their associated shifting problems. I was able to ride and not think about the drivetrain; it was simply not affected by the elements. It allowed me to free my mind of worrying about my drivetrain and to focus on the ride. The Pinion enables you to just ride.
Whether you’re planning to run wheels and tires from 27.5+ to 29×2.6, the sliding dropouts let this bike morph from a trail crushing hardtail to the smooth, bump absorbing, rigid fork mile machine that I used for the race. I broke a spoke on the third night of the race, which left me with a wobbly rear wheel that I couldn’t completely true on the road. However, I was able to adjust the wheel in the sliding dropouts to where it wouldn’t rub on the frame. Thanks to the flexibility of these dropouts, I had no further issues with the wheel the rest of the way.
Since I was able to try this bike with a few different configurations, I dialed in exactly what I wanted for the race. I opted to go with a rigid fork – which was a first for me – and we fitted a Niner RDO carbon fork to the bike. I traded the flat bars and lock-on grips for a set of Jones Loop H-Bars and ESI grips in an effort to achieve more comfort, as on long rides I often experience severe numbness in my hands. It sometimes persists for long periods of time after events, leaving me with limited dexterity and lasting numbness issues.
I mounted my trusty Brooks saddle, along with my various Porcelain Rocket bags. Schwalbe 29×2.6 Nobby Nics on a Race Face Turbine R wheelset rounded out the build. Stopping power came from Magura MT Trail Carbon brakes. The cockpit was Thomson, and bearings and such were Chris King. This setup worked extremely well for me. I was impressed with the RDO fork, it soaked up all the small bumps and made for a fast ride on all surfaces except the most rugged trails, where, if I’m completely honest, I wished I had a suspension fork. The tires were grippy on trails and rolled great on roads, and at 18-20 PSI they helped smooth out the ride without being too bouncy. The 27.2 Thomson setback seatpost and Brooks saddle combo kept me comfy and the Jones bars provided lots of hand positions and mounting points.
Complete Built Kit
- Frame Solace Cycles OM-1P
- Fork Niner RDO
- Grips ESI Extra Chunky
- Handlebar Jones H-Bar Loop Aluminum 710
- Shifter Pinion
- Brakes/Levers Magura MT Trail Carbon
- Wheelset Race Face Turbine R w/ Vault Hubs
- Tires Schwalbe Nobby Nic 29×2.6″
- Seatpost Thomson Masterpiece 27.2 Setback
- Stem Thomson Elite X4
- Saddle Brooks
- Headset Chris King
- Drivetrain Pinion C.12 / Gates CDX Carbon Drive 1:1 (32T/32T)
Room for Improvement
Overall, I was impressed with what Solace Cycles came up with in designing this bike, and how it was built up for this particular event. However, there were a few small things that left me wanting more. The Pinion drivetrain is phenomenal, especially in harsh conditions, and the gearing range is unbeatable. That said, the one ding on the Pinion is its inability to shift under pressure. In other words, you need to essentially stop pedaling for a second to engage its shifting mechanism. This noticeably affects performance on technical terrain with stops and starts or steep ups where you need to dump gears to spin up a hill. I found this annoying at first, but the more I rode the bike, I more figured out how to adapt. Although it’s worth mentioning in this review, it really became a non-issue for me after putting in more miles on varied terrain. I’m not sure if it was just perceived or actually true, but I also found the engagement of the internal gearing to be slightly less responsive than, say, a 3º engagement rear hub. Interestingly, I didn’t notice this so much while riding, but more on stops and starts.
My one issue with the bike frame itself was the tight rear end. Yes, tucked is great for many things, but I had a few instances where my right heel hit the chainstays. This could have been due to a combination of many things, including a boost rear end, slider dropouts, my large feet, my riding tendencies, or personal body ergonomics. Either way, once I noticed this happening, I was able to adjust and minimize the number of times my foot hit the stay. One other challenge I had with the frame was its lack of braze-ons. I know this isn’t a dedicated bikepacking frame, but it would be nice to have a few more mounting options for extra water bottles, Anything Cages, or racks.
All in all, if you’re looking for a titanium rig with modern geometry, something that can handle multiple wheel sizes, and one that can run the spectrum from trail bike to bikepacking race machine to all-conditions travel bike, Solace Cycles OM-1P may be the ticket.
My hat is off to Solace Cycles, to Jeff and Courtney for helping to build a cycling community, for promoting the sport and the region in all they do, and for creating a bike that delivers on the mantra “designed for the Adirondacks, built to ride anywhere.” They are committed to creating the best bikes in the industry. I consider myself lucky to be part of a community where people strive for the best and where people care about place. Solace Cycles is a necessary addition to the area and an important piece of the puzzle that makes this region so special.
Find more information about Solace Cycles on their website.
About Michael Intrabartola
Michael Intrabartola is a carpenter and ceramicist based in Elizabethtown, New York. He’s also the creator of The Adirondack Trail Ride, a 585-mile bikepacking route through the Adirondack Park. Learn more about The Adirondack Trail Ride by visiting its official website or Instagram.