This article is part of the Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here–http://reviews.mtbr.com/category/enduro-compare-o-2014
To label the Santa Cruz 5010 Carbon (née Solo) as just an enduro bike would an injustice—and perhaps a slight exaggeration. Sure our stunning full carbon 27.5-inch tester dressed with beautiful ENVE AM wheels could hold its own at most U.S. enduro races (Europe is another matter). But that’s not what this bike is all about. As its original name hints, the Santa Cruz 5010 is made for all-day adventures, huge climbs included. Our size large tester weighed less than 26 pounds—and that was with a dropper post and a set of portly Maxxis High Roller II tires.
One need only watch the enthralling Santa Cruz promo video of Steve Peat’s rustic Scottish Highlands adventure aboard the 5010 to understand where this bike could take you. There’s Peaty nimbly picking his way up a techy, rock strewn climb. There’s the former DH world champ popping off ledge drops and roosting corners. There’s the aging pro carrying the 5010 up a mountain on his back so he can get a look at the view. (This bike is light, remember.)
Sure it’s all marketing shtick. But as our test crew found out, sometimes there’s a bit of truth behind even the most transparent PR campaigns. Indeed, the 5010 can capably take you to far away places—or simply shred your backyard trails.
The 5010’s design philosophy will remind Santa Cruz disciples of both the Blur TRc (except with 27.5-inch wheels) and the Bronson (except with slightly steeper geometry). The core of the 5010 includes a VPP suspension, 125mm of travel, a moderately slack 68-degree head angle, and a low’ish 13.2-inch bottom bracket. The result is a bike that’s stout and strong, but also deft and nimble. It rides low, connecting rider to trail, where inputs yield immediate reaction, not muddled feedback.
“The 5010 handled like a razor and dared you to lay off the brakes,” said one tester of its handling characteristics. “It confidently dove into corners and rewarded you with a blast of speed out of turn exits.”
Of course before we get too deep into this review, the price must be mentioned. Our tester came with an IRA-robbing $9,575 price tag. No one said modern day adventure was cheap, though you can get on a less blinged-out alloy version of the 5010 for less than $3,500).
Photo by Tyler Frasca.
1-2-3, The Suspension Is Called VPP
Unless you’re brand new to this sport, you’ve surely heard of Santa Cruz’ well-regarded Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension system. In short, VPP employs a dual-short-link design, where a pair of counter-rotating links produce a firm pedaling platform. The result is consistent, bob-less performance, even for out-of-the-saddle climbing, when our testers were impressed by the 5010’s quick acceleration.
Indeed, in most cases, the biggest limiter of this bike’s climbing ability will be the pilot. If you have the legs, lungs and want to, the 5010 will ramble up just about any hill—save for that snowy mountain in the Steve Peat video.
Point the 5010 downhill, and the accolades continued to roll in. With its relatively short chainstays (17.1 inches) and low BB, the bike has the mannerisms of a whippet, darting in and out of corners with flicky ease. “Assuming the rider does their job, keeping their weight in the right spot, this bike will slalom all day long,” said one tester. “It’s very responsive, without being twitchy.”
The lone suspension gripe was directed at the Fox 32 Float CTD fork. Testers felt that while the 130mm of travel was sufficient, the 32mm stanchions created a weak point in an otherwise bomb-proof set-up. With a stout carbon frame and stiff carbon wheels, any flex would likely manifest in the front end.
Photo by Tyler Frasca.
“It delivered what I needed when I needed it and did so in a predictable and plush manner,” said one more-XC oriented tester. “But I could see more aggressive riders quickly running out of rope with the 32-millimeter fork. I’d bet some people will be tempted to swap on a 34 or even a (35mm) Pike just to see the difference.”
All-in-all though, the general consensus was that for a bike with just 125mm of travel (call it an XC-oriented enduro machine) the 5010 maintained composure as long as its rider did so as well.
“While not bottomless like some of the other bikes in the test, the 5010 absorbed big hits confidently, even though you’d feel the bottom out on long drops and jumps where your technique was lacking,” explained one tester. “On the more chattery stuff, the 5010 was smooth, though it tightened up slightly under braking.”