Even Santa Cruz’s so-called affordable bikes have always carried a premium, but higher prices from other brands and an improved spec mean this muscular mid-travel machine now punches hard on price as well as on the trail.
Santa Cruz 5010 Carbon R frame and kit
Santa Cruz introduced the Carbon (aka ‘C’) range of complete bikes a few years ago. They use the same colours, shape, geometry and DIY-adjustable collet bearings as the premium Carbon C (aka ‘CC’) frames, but are made from cheaper, lower-modulus carbon.
You can’t tell that from the stiffness levels though, and 320g more mass isn’t bad considering that the CC chassis costs £2,999 / €3,409 / $4,167 / AU$5,340 on its own.
The C frame is still 410g lighter than the alloy version (all weights based on size large), and while 3,150g is chunky for a full-carbon, 130mm-travel frame, you get a lifetime warranty (including bearings), a screw-in bottom bracket, grease-injected bearings on the lower linkage and moulded protective sections.
The Fox Rhythm fork is a smooth yet accurate cost-effective champion at this travel (130mm). While the Performance shock feels over-tight on the Cannondale Trigger 3 and Saracen Kili Flyer Elite, that’s well hidden here by the smooth action of the ‘VPP’ pivots, and the standard (rather than extra-volume) air can suits the kinematics well.
Apart from the fixed bar clamp of the shifter, there’s no obvious difference between the SRAM NX transmission of the 5010 and the GX of the other bikes mentioned above. Especially as Santa Cruz upgrades it with a GX cassette, so it can save weight, increase gear range and use an XD driver on the rear wheel.
The Maxxis tyre mix is spot on, and the Race Face finishing kit now includes a dropper post as standard.
Santa Cruz 5010 Carbon ride impressions
It’s been a while since I’ve ridden a 5010, but within metres it was like I’d been riding it for years.
Top tube reach may be relatively short by the latest standards, but this is a 130mm bike that’s designed to be popped and played around on rather than just hidden behind as you plough through stuff. That’s exactly what it does in those first few metres too, with the swift-steering 67-degree head angle letting you throw it into turns double quick to exploit the low bottom bracket.
Everything about this immediately on-point performance is geared for the attack too. The full-carbon frame, with its short box-section upper linkage, feels rock-solid stiff through the 35mm-diameter Race Face bar and 50mm stem.
While the 2018 Fox Rhythm is cursed with the same way-too-soft set-up guide as before, if you add 30 percent more pressure, the new EVOL spring architecture makes this already plush fork even more traction rich.
Limiting travel to 130mm keeps tracking taut, and while there are more frequent damper spikes and stutters when worked hard than on Performance forks, I still prefer it overall.
The back end is a perfect match to the aggressive character of the chassis and handling too. Pedal interaction isn’t as obvious as on older VPP bikes thanks to the new high-set lower linkage, but it still tightens and lifts slightly under power for a more positive pedalling feel.
Relatively light wheels and the semi-slick CrossMark II rear tyre mean every watt you can put through the cranks is amplified into extra acceleration, so you can always hit the next section at maximum speed.
The VPP kinematics also give clear feedback for keeping the rear tyre connected or drifting it to bring the excellent Minion DHF front tyre in tighter. Dropping your heels and relaxing to release chain tension over bigger stuff is totally intuitive too, and the rearward axle path means the rear tyre slaps a lot less and survives a lot better than you might expect.
From experience, make sure you keep tabs on rear wheel spoke tension though, because this bike really does ‘love back wheel’.