Compare-O Bottom Line: Ultimate one bike quiver? The $10k Santa Cruz 5010 Carbon might be it

27.5 Enduro Compare-O 2014 Video

This article is part of the Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here–

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.”

Continue to Page 2 for more on the Santa Cruz 5010 Carbon and full photo gallery »

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Olympics, Tour de France, MTB world champs, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and kids Cora and Tommy in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.

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  • roger says:

    A bike not named Enduro to go with my enduro fork, enduro wheels, enduro tires, enduro cranks, enduro seatpost, enduro saddle, enduro handlebars, enduro helmet, enduro hydration pack, enduro shoes, enduro gloves, and enduro gogles…I can finally Enduro!

  • roger says:

    Carbon wheels makes all the difference! Test the lower end model of this bike where most racer’s budget and reality.

    • Bikethrasher says:

      I rode the cheapest version of the 5010 in Fruita and smoked the time I set a week earlier on a $10,000 dollar Ibis Mojo HDR with Enve Wheels and XX1 by over 3 minutes on my 22 mile test loop. This bike Rips regardless of the parts. The suspension isn’t perfect, but No suspension is. I also wish the top tube on the LG was 24.5 inches. But aside from that it’s the best Trail bike I’ve ever ridden.

      • Joe Millionare says:

        Three minutes faster on a 22 mile loop? Big deal. That’s like one less pee break.

        • Bikethrasher says:

          I didn’t take any breaks. I do the same loop and go flat out. 3 minutes is a Huge difference. I posted 2 Top 10s and 12 PRs on the 5010. I’ve ridden over 25 demo bikes on this loop and I’m faster on the 5010 than any other.
          The Ibis SLR can’t compete with this bike. The 5.7 even with more travel isn’t as plush. Both are really good bikes but they are lacking.

      • DevinsDad says:

        I can see beating your HDR time. I had an HD 160 with 26″ wheels. Incredilbe bike but not for 22 mile xc rips. I built a Ripley with everything on it (enve, xx1, etc) and it is so fast it’s crazy. I’d like to hear if you road a Ripley on your loop. At 6’3″ tall, I don’t notice any gyroscopic issues wit the wagon wheels, especially enve’s so I am sold on the 29er wheels in this travel range.

        • Bikethrasher says:

          The biggest challenge with bikes these days is that for the most part they are all Really damned good. The hard part is finding the one that works best for you and the terrain you ride.
          I expected the HDR with its 130mm of travel. To have the snap and climbing Prowes of the SLR. I also expected, with it’s extremely stiff frame and 66.5 degree head angle with a Pike on the front to just Destroy the descents. Unfortunately the other three bikes I was riding at the time. My Trusty TRc an Ibis SLR and an Enduro 9. Left me under underwhelmed with the HDR.
          The Ripley looks really good it’s been getting great reviews. So I defiantly want to ride it. Who knows maybe it could be the bike that changes my view of 9ers.

  • tim says:

    Not that I don’t love reading about 10k bikes like this one, but I would much rather read about price points around $ 3,500. This is a better price point for what I think wold be at least a small majority of your readership. Additionally, I would have liked to see a Turner bike included in this shoot out.

  • mr.habanero says:

    Not all carbon wheels break the bank. You can get the utmost rad carbon wheels from LB!

  • David says:

    Test the Ventana Zeus please!

  • Ian says:

    One can look at this bike the other way. It tries to be everything but masters little. This trail category was well covered by the old time favorites 26″ bikes. I’m not sure if you stack this bike against Pivot 5.7 carbon or ibis slr – that it will win. Racer crowd will want 29s and enduro guys are looking at more stout 27 inches like mach6 or NorCo range.. What’s the market for it?

    • Codypup says:

      I think the market is people who like nice mountain bikes, which is a lot bigger market than the people who actually race enduros and who actually ride terrain that would justify the Bronson or something like that. The 5010 with a 140-150 Pike or Fox 34 is probably more than enough for any enduro held in North America.

  • Brooks says:

    For 10K I’ll buy two bikes and renovate my garage to fit them in.

  • Alex Bo B'Alex says:

    I agree with Tim. There needs to be a Turner Flux, burner, or even a czar.

  • Tad says:

    How well is the VPP sorted? Is it a little soft in the mid stroke (that’s what she said). I don’t have much time on VPP, but heard that criticism a lot in the past.

  • Padrote says:

    Propers for the BDP reference

  • guitarjohn21 says:

    10K Weight weenie trail bike?
    I guess they know their market. 125mm wouldn’t cut it even on my local trail rides, though. Why not a 150mm talas? The 2014 fox is super plush compared to earlier models, can be lowered to 120mm, and weighs the same.

  • Bob Stimson says:

    I’ll just stick with my TRC…

  • johnny D says:

    I have a 5010 I built for half that money-xt, mavic crossroc, and x fusion 34 up front. Im coming off a pivot mach 5 and turners before that. This bike kills them all for my type of riding. (xc,trail,all mountain) Faaast, with very light inputs required and a smooth “finger tippy” feel to it. Great technical descender Doesnt have the snap of dw but sits high in its travel on the climbs.Very very good. I love it and would take it anywhere.

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