At least this new simplicity is still relatively young in the Rocky house. The Canadians only entered the gravel business last year. The new drop bar bike goes by the name of “Solo” and was – also rather untypically – in a relatively low price segment. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun with the premiere solo – you can find the detailed test here. However, this post is about the Solo update for 2023. And there is a lot to tell …
Rocky Mountain Solo 2023 – Highlights/News
You can see the most important news at first glance: The new Solo has been given a carbon frame. While the previous model may have seemed a little old-fashioned, the update is much more refined, as if from a single mould and absolutely up-to-date. But of course this is not just an optical thing. In the context of the new frame material, the geometry has been slightly adjusted. Reach (7 mm shorter for frame size M) and stack (6 mm higher for frame size M) have been slightly modified. The frame has also been given new mounting options: A total of twelve screws on the frame and eight on the fork. On top of that, mudguards can be fitted without any problems. The tyre clearance, including mudguard, is 700 x 40C or 650b x 2.2 inches. There is also a front derailleur mount on the seat tube, so that you can now also install a 2-speed drivetrain if desired. The cables have been completely routed into the frame. In a nutshell: The new frame has become more refined and versatile.
Rocky Mountain calls its carbon technology “Smoothwall” and claims to use one of the world’s most sophisticated methods for manufacturing carbon frames. The result is a robust and durable frame that should convince with an excellent stiffness-to-weight ratio. The carbon fibres are adapted according to the requirements in the different areas of the frame.
The frame is extremely stiff in the places where it is required. Weight is saved in other places, while in certain areas the focus is on high comfort. An example of this is the “flex zone” in the lower part of the seat tube: here you can clearly see how the tube tapers. This gives the rear frame a certain compliance. The new Solo frame is designed to absorb small vibrations and reduce rider fatigue.
The rear triangle of the new frame has an installation width of 142 mm and uses the SRAM UDH standard. This means that the universal SRAM standard for dropouts makes replacement easier if the derailleur hanger is bent. The fork accepts standard hubs with an installation width of 100 mm and a thru axle of 12 mm.
The Solo is equipped with a carbon fork to match the new frame. There are “fork boots” at the dropouts to protect the fork from damage. These little “rubber boots” prevent stone chips, scratches or damage that can occur when the bike is parked while the front wheel is removed.
Rocky Mountain Solo 2023 – Modells
Last year Rocky Mountain entered the gravel business with only two models. Apparently, the Canadians have developed a taste for it, because the new model range now includes five variants. Three of them are equipped with the new carbon frame: the Solo Carbon 90, the Solo Carbon 70 and the Solo Carbon 50. In addition, there are two Solo Gravel bikes with aluminium frames. This frame has also been revised and now features the lowered seat stays and the new front derailleur mount. Visually, it is strongly oriented towards the carbon frames. The Solo Alloy 50 and Solo Alloy 30 models offer aluminium fans and price-conscious buyers an entry into the world of Rocky Mountain gravel bikes.
The different models are each available in two to three colour variants. This creates an impressive portfolio: It seems as if Rocky Mountain has a real appetite for Gravel! In Germany, the following variants of the new Rocky Mountain SOLO 2023 will initially be available:
Rocky Mountain SOLO Alloy 50 at a price of 2,600 euros
Rocky Mountain SOLO Carbon 50 at a price of 3,900 euros
Rocky Mountain SOLO Carbon 70 at a price of 5,100 euros
Rocky Mountain Solo 2023 Test Bike Parts
In Germany, our test bike is the entry-level model into the world of Rocky carbon gravel bikes, for which around 3,900 euros change hands. Compared to the rest of the gravel market, the price is down to earth. But what do you get for your money?
Basically, you can expect sporty all-round equipment on all Solo models. All models are equipped with SRAM 1-speed drivetrains and have similar gear ratios. The basic philosophy is also the same when it comes to brakes and parts. This is good to know, as you can expect comparable handling characteristics from all models in the Solo series. So, in the end, it is a question of taste and budget which model you choose.
In the case of our test bike, the Rocky Mountain Solo 50, you can expect the following: The bike is equipped with a SRAM Rival 1-speed shifting system that works mechanically. A 42 chainring is mounted at the front, and a 10-42 cassette at the rear provides the different gear ratios. In addition, there are some Rocky Mountain parts (handlebars, stem, hubs, seatpost) and relatively light 700C wheels with WTB rims and DT-Swiss spokes. The wheel rolls on lightweight WTB tyres of the Venture TCS model with 40 mm width.
To sum up: the Rocky Mountain Solo Carbon 50 Test Bike offers solid equipment without a lot of frills and without electronic components. A well-rounded product with proven technology.
The Solo Test Ride
In addition to various test rides in the Sauerland region, our Rocky Mountain Solo Carbon 50 test bike had to prove itself above all on a bikepacking trip to Frankfurt. The route led through various low mountain ranges: from the Sauerland to the Bergisches Land, to the Westerwald and through the Taunus. From steep climbs to rapid gravel descents and technical trails, there really was everything. We were on the road with full bikepacking equipment and the weather made for really “complete” test conditions: We had pure sun and dusty trails, but also thunderstorms with heavy rain, puddles and mud. What more could you want?
Before we set off, we pack. We equipped the Rocky with the new Deuter Cabezon bikepacking bags. As a result, only one drinking bottle fit in the frame, which was fine given the mixed weather and various town crossings with shopping opportunities. At the front of the fork, there was a holder for the tripod that Martin always has with him to take photos on the trip. Moreover, most of the assembly sites remained unused. In general, however, it is always good to have them. We particularly like the option of being able to easily mount mudguards. This way, the Solo can be upgraded to an everyday gravel computer in no time at all – a big plus in terms of versatility.
Let’s go. The first impression: the Rocky is comfortable, yet sporty, which definitely suits the intention of a long bike tour. This means that you don’t sit too stretched on the bike, so that you can ride it for a long time without getting bruised. Nevertheless, the pressure on the front wheel is good. The Rocky Mountain Gravel Bike has a relatively “classic” gravel geometry, and as it turns out, this is ideally suited for long and enduring rides.
In addition to the long-distance seat position, the handling is also convincing. Both on more technical trails and on fast descents, the Rocky is safe on the slopes and doesn’t let itself get rattled. If you were expecting a more MTB-like geometry from a mountain bike pioneer like Rocky Mountain, we have to disappoint you or can reassure you – whichever way you look at it. The geometry of the Solo Carbon 50 is balanced, sporty, but without great experiments.
On the way, you quickly notice what you like and what you don’t like. This is the case with the handlebars of our Rocky Mountain Solo Carbon 50 test bike: they are really “standard”, relatively straight, thin and stiff, with little damping handlebar tape. If you are sensitive with your hands, this setup may not suit you so well. Especially when it comes to comfort on long tours, there are much more ergonomic and comfortable handlebars with a larger diameter, a larger contact surface for the hands and an ergonomic backsweep.
The tyres are also a question of taste: The WTB rubbers offer quite good grip, but their very finely “fanned” tread still takes some getting used to. It feels like they roll relatively “loudly” and are not particularly energy-efficient – although it is of course difficult to prove this without a laboratory. But it’s not that important: if the WTB tyres are not your favourites either, you can quickly change them if you want.
The last critical note regarding parts: the gear ratio of the 1-speed drive. Of course, it depends a lot on how much power you have and where you ride, whether the gear ratio suits you personally or not. In our case, the Westerwald and the Bergisches Land in particular ensured that Martin reached his limits on the way. A smaller chainring or more teeth on the cassette would have eased him considerably. On flatter terrain, with more power in the legs and without bikepacking luggage, things would look quite different: Then this gear ratio would be just right. You will probably never be able to please everyone here. The nice thing about the SRAM equipment is that most parts of the different groups are compatible with each other. This way you can change many components afterwards without having to replace the whole group. So a more mountain-suitable gear ratio is basically no problem.
Stop “grumbling”. Instead, we now have a big thumbs up for the new Rocky. Because all in all, it did a really good job. What do we base this on? It’s simple: apart from a few climbs that were a bit too rough, we never really had to think about our equipment on the way. The bike just did a really good job. No grinding, no shifting, no flats, no back pain – instead, simply a beautiful ride with many enjoyable moments. And that’s exactly what a gravel bike is made for, isn’t it?
In particular, the frame’s handling characteristics can fully convince us. The seat position is ideally suited for long rides, but still comfortable, so that no typical “aches and pains” occurred. All parts did a smooth job and seem absolutely reliable. Although the drive and brakes in particular are rather inexpensive, there is absolutely nothing to complain about here. On the opposite: the gears are defined and precise, the brakes absolutely powerful and well dosed. This shows that it doesn’t have to be electronic or super expensive.
Rocky Mountain Solo 2023 – Our Bottom Line
The new Rocky Mountain Solo Carbon 50 adopts the philosophy of its predecessor in every respect: it is a down-to-earth, well thought-out and reliable gravel bike that does a really good job on crisp after-work laps as well as on long-distance rides and bikepacking trips. Compared to last year’s model, the 2023 edition nevertheless received a significant upgrade. Especially the features of the new frame can convince us. The slightly modified geometry ensures very pleasant riding characteristics and a comfortable riding position – even after hours in the saddle. The only small point deduction is for the somewhat “uncomfortable” steering wheel on the new Rocky.
With the new Rocky Mountain Solo Carbon 50 you get a true gravel bike with great looks and well thought-out features at a fair price. The certain cult factor of the mountain bike pioneer Rocky Mountain comes free of charge.