SANTA CRUZ 5010 V5 REVIEW
THE FUN-FIRST TRAIL BIKE
Review by Dario DiGiulio
If you’ve been waiting for the long term review of the Santa Cruz 5010 V5 since our First Ride and initial review, rejoice! The new Santa Cruz 5010 is still the fun shredder you want it to be, but it’s also more. I traded a long-term tester, the Santa Cruz Hightower, for the new 5010 and hope the comparison notes below help offer insight to this bike alone, and for those looking at making a decision between the two capable mountain bikes. Trail bikes are getting more and more capable with every year, and companies can no longer get away with designs that only excel in one field, so how does the historically play-focused 5010 stack up in the trail bike field? Let’s find out.
• 130mm VPP Suspension
• HTA 64.9
• STA 77 (effective)
• REACH 496 (XL)
Price: $5,299 – $10,649
The 5010 has always been a unique bike in the Santa Cruz lineup. For a brand with a bit more of a racing and performance focus, it has always been the less serious “play bike”, and as a result it’s occasionally been overshadowed by more popular models. For the newest iteration though, Santa Cruz is pushing the 5010 forward as “more than just the little bike,” with design and spec that reflect this expanded capability with the same 130mm of rear travel and 140mm fork.
The most major update to the bike is the switch over to the MX wheel setup – Santa Cruz’s moniker for 29” front, 27.5” rear. Much like the recently released Nomad, this change gives their engineers’ more latitude to tweak the VPP suspension, thanks to the extra clearance of the small wheel, and still has all the other knock-on benefits that come with the mullet setup. Speaking of that rear suspension, the kinematics of the 5010 have seen quite a change as well, in particular around the anti-squat numbers. They’ve been greatly reduced for the new bike, which may hinder some climbing efficiency, but should do wonders for its handling in rough terrain and off big hits.
The other frame updates are the changes we’ve come to expect from Santa Cruz, with chainstay length, seat tube angle, and frame stiffness all based on size now. Of course, there’s also the Glovebox, which is a real treat when you’re only going out for a couple hours of riding and can leave the pack at home, instead storing the essentials inside the downtube. Giving a small element of geometry tweaking to tailor its handling to your preferences is the flip chip on the rearward shock mount, giving the choice of a high or low bottom bracket position with 3mm difference, and a corresponding 0.3 degree head and seat tube angle change.
Geometry-wise, things are in keeping with the 5010 lineage, but get the size-specific treatment that Santa Cruz is bringing to their full range that aims to deliver the most balanced handling for all frame sizes. On the XL size tested in Low flip chip setting, the stack is nice and high at 649mm; the head tube angle is pretty neutral at a hair over 65°; the seat tube angle sits at 77°; the bottom bracket is low at 334mm, and the chainstays are relatively short to keep things spunky at 440mm. The reach on my XL is on the longer end of the spectrum for a jumpy trail bike at 496mm, but the balanced chainstay length makes for a good neutral feel when you’re up and on the pedals. With the chainstays growing by 3mm with each frame size increase, the front center to rear center ratio still increases from 1.68:1 to 1.95:1 through the size range, but it offers a slight improvement to this ratio all the same to improve the balance.
Build kits come in a very wide range for this model, from SRAM NX to AXS; and Fox Performance DPS up to the brand new Super Deluxe Ultimate. There are 6 build options, with C and CC frame kits available to further differentiate the lineup. The CC frames are a bit lighter, but carry the same stiffness values, and of course the C frames cost less. The rather high low-end price point for the lineup is the $5299 NX build, ranging up to the bike we were sent to test. I’ve been riding the XO1 AXS RSV model, which has every high end part one could want – and a price of $10,649 to match. A RockShox Pike Ultimate and Super Deluxe Ultimate suspension package offers a high level of adjustability. The drivetrain is SRAM XO1 AXS with an X1 Carbon crank; and the brakes are SRAM G2 RSC’s with a 200mm front and 180mm rear rotor. A Reserve 30|HD and Industry Nine 1/1 wheelset wrapped in Maxxis Minion DHRII EXO tires handle rolling duties. Rounding out the specs are a Santa Cruz carbon bar with Burgtec Enduro MK3 stem, and RockShox Reverb Stealth hydraulic dropper post.
My first take on the 5010 was very positive, but skewed a bit by some magical conditions in the mountains of Oakridge Oregon. We spent a few days shuttling the new Hightower and 5010 on the seemingly endless shuttle trails in town, and with a truck taking us to the top of some stellar flowing descents, it was hard to argue with how fun the smaller mixed-wheel bike felt right off the bat. After that press camp, I took a Hightower home and put it through the paces over the first half of the summer, getting pretty familiar with its very supportive suspension and nice handling characteristics. Towards the latter half of the summer, I traded that Hightower for a 5010, and was surprised at the differences I felt right off the bat. I’m going to draw a lot of comparisons between the 5010 and Hightower here in the hopes that it’ll help to give prospective customers the help to decide between the two bikes, or at least some comparison for perspective sake.
Where the Oakridge shuttle trip might have hidden some of the major differences, they became very clear in my first few rides back home in Bellingham. First off, the pedaling characteristics of the two bikes are quite distinct, with the Hightower feeling more like a long-legged XC bike, and the 5010 giving a bit more traction and compliance over chunkier terrain. This does result in the 5010 feeling a little bit more sluggish on the climbs, but the low overall weight of the build helps to mitigate that quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, the 5010 was much much faster over undulating terrain than the bigger enduro sleds I’m testing right now, but compared to the very firm feeling Hightower, it gives up a little in terms of efficiency. The seat angle on the 5010 is a bit slacker than the most on-trend bikes of the moment, which is nice for flatter terrain and moving around the bike with the post extended. The downside to the slacker angle is that you do feel a bit in the backseat when climbing steeper terrain or consistent fire roads. Luckily, the nature of the bike has more of a stand-and-sprint feel to it, so you stay moving pretty quickly.
Between the two bikes, when things turn downhill I have a clear favorite: that surprising little 5010. The 130mm of travel on this bike is nothing short of impressive, offering excellent support when you want it, but mitigating any harshness that the Hightower tended to carry to the rider. Traction was quite good for a 130 bike, but obviously not quite on par with stickier long-travel rigs. I think one of the more magical things about the 5010 is the synthesis of all the geometry numbers, which result in a bike that handles exactly as I’d hoped it would. The stack height is quite high, and when coupled with the 35mm rise bars and a relatively low BB, the rider position is upright and in command. Reach numbers are long enough for each size, without being absurd, and the 495mm on my XL felt just about perfect for the nature of the bike. With slacker head angle bikes (roughly 63-64°) you can get away with a shorter reach, as the long wheelbase keeps the chassis stable at speed. With the 65° head angle on the 5010, that slightly longer reach gives you the control at speed, and when coupled with size-specific chainstays things remain nicely balanced.
Riding this bike, I became more and more comfortable drifting the rear into just about every corner and committing to front wheel traction. Not necessarily the speediest move, but that’s really not the purview of the bike. At 130 rear, 140 front, the 5010 sits firmly in the trail bike realm, and boy is it fun to ride on trails. I found it was plenty confident to ride some of the gnarlier feature-heavy trails in the Bellingham area, but it’s still a sharper tool than something with much more travel on hand. Luckily, that predictable and intuitive handling has your back when things get squirrely.
One element of the 5010 frame that worked well for me, but could be a bit of a sticking point for some, is the overall stiffness – it’s a pretty damn stout bike. I’m around 175lbs, and tend to ride pretty heavy, so the chassis stiffness just meant things felt better in the corners and off jumps. For those on the lighter end of the spectrum, it might be a bit harsh, especially on trickier off-camber and looser terrain. Not bad, just worth considering if you’re a featherweight. The upside to this is the bearings and pivots should be all the more durable for it, as there’s less funky flex happening through those members as they cycle.
The build kit on my test bike was decidedly baller, with a Reserve wheelset, AXS drivetrain, and the highest-end suspension bits from RockShox. That said, the nature of the bike won’t change much with the lower end spec levels, as the 5010 isn’t relying on any one component to shine on trail. The heart of the bike, and one part I wouldn’t personally skimp on, is the Super Deluxe Ultimate rear shock. That new damper from RockShox works marvelously with Santa Cruz’s kinematic on this bike, giving control and comfort in a refreshingly easy-to-tune package. I never really felt the need to deviate from the recommended pressure laid out by Santa Cruz, and only changed the rebound speed slightly as the shock initially wore in. I’ve said the same about the new Lyrik and Super Deluxe Coil, but the relatively few clicks on their new product is part of what I like so much.
Up front, the 5010 features the new Pike Ultimate, the baby of the updated RockShox family. Despite its smaller package and low weight, the new Pike lives up to the somewhat legendary status of the prior generations. That said, the feel of it has changed quite significantly. Where the prior runs of RockShox forks felt very soft off the top, the new Pike gives a bit more of a platform in that first bit of travel. That platform is very nicely controlled though, which results in a fork that handles speed and slow speed loading quite well, and can be made pretty comfortable with some settings tweaks. Mine came with no spacers, and rode well in that configuration, but after some messing around, I settled on one spacer and slightly lower spring pressure (72psi vs 75psi) to get things to feel right. This small change resulted in a better feeling in that top inch or so of travel, which is additionally helped by the Buttercups that RockShox has integrated into this new batch of forks.
One component lowlight for me was the SRAM G2 brakes, which never really impressed on trail. They work just fine on mellower terrain, but were prone to overheat and fade on longer sustained descents, and lacked the top-end power of many other brakes in a similar weight and price bracket. I’d much rather use the 4-piston stoppers from brands like Shimano, Hayes, or Magura on a bike like this, as its impressive capabilities warrant brakes that are truly powerful. The stock rotors on all builds are the Avid Centerlines, which I never really had issue with until I used their new HS2 rotors. The thicker 2mm disc really improves the performance of SRAM brakes, though they still didn’t turn the G2s into something I’d choose for my own bike.
Stock tires are a cleverly-specced DHRII front and rear, with a MaxxGrip compound front and MaxxTerra rear. The supposedly rear-only tire is a great front option, clearing mud nicely and hooking up well so long as you commit to the turns. Unlike something like an Assegai, there’s less bite at moderate lean angles, so dig in.
I swapped the stock tires out fairly quickly, as I wanted to get time on some other test rubber and see how it changed the character of the bike. In the rear, I mounted up a Continental Kryptotal Re, in Super Soft DH form. Excellent braking performance, great grip on slabs, and a nice drift to catch feeling that was made all the better by the smaller rear wheel. Up front, most of my time was spent with the new Specialized Hillbilly, in DH T9. It was killer through a weirdly snowy and frozen late fall here in Bellingham, providing grip in even the sloppiest conditions. As things dried up a bit and got faster, it stayed composed, working well with the nice handling characteristics of the bike and never faltering in a hard corner.
We’ve covered Reserve wheels in some standalone reviews on the site, but let me reiterate here: they’re fantastic and fuss-free. They feel quite stiff, but aren’t too harsh over chattery terrain. Despite some loose riding throughout the test period, they’re still perfectly true and the tension remains dialed.
The Wolf’s Last Word
You’ll notice I’ve hardly mentioned the MX wheel arrangement on this bike, and that’s because you’re having so much fun you hardly notice the difference. The geometry of the 5010 gives it fantastic handling characteristics in corners and on jibby terrain, and the 27.5 rear wheel only helps it feel that way. With 130mm of rear travel that surprised me with how composed it felt, this little bike is far more than just the “play bike” it’s always been billed as. One of my favorite trail bikes this year, I had a hard time giving the Santa Cruz 5010 back when the time came.
Weight: 31.0 lbs (XL, tested)
Frame: Santa Cruz 5010 CC; 130mm
Fork: RockShox Pike Ultimate 140 29″
Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate
Brakes: SRAM G2 RSC, 200F/180R Centreline rotors
Handlebar: Santa Cruz Carbon 35mm| 800mm cut to 770mm | 35mm Rise
Stem: Burgtech Enduro MK3 35mm | 42mm Length
Headset: Cane Creek 40-Series Integrated
Seatpost: OneUp 210 (test bike) | RockShox Reverb Stealth (stock option)
Saddle: WTB Silverado Medium Ti
Hubs: i9 1/1 Front & Rear
Rims: Santa Cruz Reserve 30|HD 28h, 29” front 27.5” rear
Front tire: Maxxis Minion DHR II 29″x2.4″, 3C MaxxGrip, EXO, TR
Rear tire: Maxxis Minion DHR II 27.5″x2.4″, 3C MaxxTerra, EXO, TR
Bottom Bracket: SRAM DUB 68/73mm Threaded BB
Cassette: SRAM XG1295 Eagle, 12spd, 10-50t
Cranks: SRAM X1 Eagle Carbon 148 DUB, 32t, 170mm
Shifter: SRAM GX AXS Controller
Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle AXS, 12spd
Capable beyond its numbers
Very high quality frame
So damn fun to ride
SRAM G2 brakes
Expensive build kits
Could be too stiff for lighter riders
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