At the 2006 Salisbury Plain Winter Challenge I lost my rear mech to the mud. Not the first time the vulnerabilities of deralieur gears had showed themselves, it set me thinking along two lines of thought.

I had to shorten the chain to get back to the finish and the fixed chain length prevented virtually any movement of the rear suspension, making the bike more of a soft-tail than full-susser. I found myself still enjoying the ride, apart from the lack of gears. It reminded me of my thoughts when I first rode full suss...much of the feeling and feedback from the back wheel is lost – not always a good thing. And is suspension necessary when the soft going of winter cushions much of the ride?

So, thought no.1 – I became convinced that in winter mud, full suspension is probably more a hindrance than help to me.

Thought no.2 Why dangle all that gearing where the elements could take their toll? The Rohloff Speedhub seemed such a good idea with all the working parts sealed away inside the hub.

These two ideas combined to point the way for my next bike. A Rohloff geared steel hardtail.

My cheapest option was an On One frame with sliding dropouts. Then there were the Orange P7, the Kona Unit, and the very expensive Moots. I also considered having a frame built by Mercian and Roberts. In the end I found the Solitude website and decided to have a frame built by Alex.

I sent Alex at Solitude Cycles all the contact point measurements off my Whyte and listed my expectations for the frame, the sort of riding I do and what forks etc. I intended to use. Once he had this info and a deposit he started work on the design.

A little while later I got back his initial drawing with some basic measurements...

As a check, I overlaid the drawing onto a side view of the Whyte...

I couldn't get a perfect alignment in Photoshop, but close enough to see that the contact points all match up pretty well.

Time moved on and I got the first glimpse of my new bike posted in the blog on the Solitude website...

The images show the brazing around the gussets and head tube.

Next, the finished frame, back from the powdercoaters. Initially, I was going to go for a stealth look. Possibly black or gunmetal grey, but on reflection, I felt those colours would make it look just like so many others out there. This frame is special. Unique and made just for me. I wanted a colour that would stand out from the norm. One that would make heads turn and raise questions. So I plumped for a yellow-green...

Alex got in touch to tell me there was no powder coat to match, so I asked for the closest on his swatch – a bit more yellow and a bit less green than I really wanted, but close enough.

A week or so later and the frame was back with Alex for finishing off...

Yet to be done, the head badge and taking back the paint on the cable rub and sliding dropouts.

The bottom bracket shell showing the quality of brazing and finish.

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