Jenner Poulsen Reviews the Santa Cruz 5010cc

Santa Cruz 5010 Carbon C

The Santa Cruz 5010 was released back in 2013 as the next big thing. Coming from the factory with all of the latest and greatest. Some of the bells and whistles which had been distant in the past have become close in the here and now. A 24 pound carbon framed 125 millimeter trail bike with 27.5 inch wheels that was capable of taming anything you throw at it was unheard of until the 5010’s release. Fast forward a couple of years and the 5010 is still one of the biggest staples in Santa Cruz’s line-up. The 5010 is the ultimate trail bike for any rider; from the all day epic riders, to the average Joe just looking to get out for a spin around the lake.

I had the pleasure of riding the 5010 Carbon C for about a week. This 5010 was no average straight from the factory bike, however. The bike in question was in fact Chris’s, the owner of Eden Bicycles. With that being said, some minor tweaks had been made to the original specifications of the bike. Listed below is the exact specifications of our test rig.


Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 7.12.23 PM

Frame Details

The 5010 can be completely customized in any of the Aluminum, Carbon, or Carbon C frame models. The most basic aluminum model will start at $3199, the base Carbon model starts at $3599, and the base Carbon C model will start at $6399. Our test bike was built using the Carbon C frame, which just like the standard Carbon model, is molded using Santa Cruz’s technique of compacting the layers of fiber on a mandrel before the frame is put through the final molding process. This process of compacting the layers prevents the fiber from slipping or becoming misaligned in the final mold which might happen with some other un-compacted  frames that are forced into a mold. Santa Cruz also uses a technique of integrating the upper shock mount into the top tube during the initial lay up process rather than adding it on later, which also prevents misalignment. The 5010’s carbon front and rear triangles are attached with two small forged aluminum links. Moving away from the growing trend of press-fit bottom brackets, Santa Cruz uses a proven 73mm threaded bottom bracket shell. Near the bottom bracket, ISCG 05 tabs are included for the more aggressive riders that choose to attach a chain guide or bash guard. A molded chainstay guard reduces any chain slap noise and protects the frame while a rubber down tube protector helps defend against any stray rocks that may be kicked up. As with all of the Santa Cruz bicycles, cable routing is easy, clean, and uncluttered. The cables are routed on the top of the down tube, along with the dropper post cable which can be run internally through the seat tube.

Suspension Design

All of the 5010 models use a VPP suspension layout, which is a dual short link suspension design that relies on two counter-rotating links intended to provide a firm pedaling platform with a supple midstroke, and a minor ramp up at the end of the 125mm of travel. It is a fusion of a falling and rising rate suspension design, one where the positioning of the two links allows for Santa Cruz to tune a bike’s instant center, also known as the virtual pivot point (VPP). This point is what the rear axle is rotating around during its travel. What really sets Santa Cruz apart is the deep knowledge they’ve gained over the years on how to tune VPP into all the various shock, drivetrain, wheel size and travel configurations to create the perfect balance.

Santa Cruz uses angular contact bearings in the 5010 with a collet type axle retention system, a design intended to keep the bearings running smoothly for as long as possible. In addition, the lower link, the one exposed to the most possible contaminants, has two grease ports that can be used to push the old bearing grease out and new bearing grease in. This helps prevent the rust and corrosion that riding in wet, muddy conditions can cause. This improves the integrity, responsiveness, and precision that all Santa Cruz frames are well known for.

Riding the 5010 Carbon C

The 5010’s cockpit is a bit more compact than the average trail bike in this category. Compact, however, may not be a bad thing. The reach on a medium is not nearly as long as most comparable bikes with similar suspension travel and wheel size. This put me in a much more upright position on the bike; one that I was not entirely accustomed to from this category of bike. After many hours of saddle time, this position proved to be extremely comfortable on the climbs and descents.

The 5010 crushed my expectations, with many of the trails ridden pointing upwards. More than likely aided by its lightweight frame, and components the 5010 turned out to be an impressively nimble climber. The VPP suspension design’s bob-free performance also deserves accolades, since it allowed me to run the Fox CTD rear shock fully open in most instances, only switching it to Trail mode for extended dirt road sections. Even in the open position, standing up out of the saddle to climb was rewarded by quick acceleration and no undue suspension movement. The 5010 was quick up short, tricky sections of trail without any problem, but it does take a little more finesse to make it through longer, more technical climbs, the type with multiple stair steps in a row, where traction must be maintained on the rear wheel to avoid spinning out. It seemed like the bike’s shorter wheelbase was the culprit here – it lacks the trail spanning length that can help provide more grip in this type of situation. Once I adapted my riding technique and started carrying more speed into these extended technical sections it became easier to successfully power my way through.

I spent two days testing only the downhill and technical terrain capabilities of the 5010. It only takes a couple of minutes of weaving your way through a section of high speed tight corners for it to become crystal clear that somewhere deep down inside the carbon frame is the heart and soul of a slalom bike. The bike is happiest when the rider is drifting through corners and putting all of the power back into the pedals on the way out. The low bottom bracket and short chainstays definitely add to the playful attitude of the 5010. Direction changes are lightning fast. Thanks to the aggressive frame geometry, it couldn’t have been easier to get the rear wheel exactly where I wanted it. The 5010 isn’t a one trick pony, and I found that it was just as capable on chewed up, rock strewn trails, exhibiting excellent stability and precise handling even when riding at high speeds through choppy rock gardens. The 5010 reminded me of my Nomad which I had ridden on the same trails previously. The ENVE wheels deserve some credit here, perfectly complementing the stiffness of the 5010’s carbon frame to create an extremely stable and planted package. While the 5010 doesn’t have the feel of a long travel, bump gobbling machine such as the Nomad (and that’s not its intended purpose), it was much more composed when pushed hard than I would have expected a bike with 125mm of travel to be. The rear suspension remained supportive and active even when taking in the biggest ruts, and it never bottomed out harshly. The bike’s short reach, which I mentioned earlier, didn’t seem to hinder its downhill performance, but with the recent push for bikes with longer top tubes and short stems, I did find myself wondering how a slightly longer front center would affect the bike’s handling.

Component Check

RockShox Revelation RCT3 Fork: The longer travel Revelation fork that we put on the bike complimented the bike extremely well, and felt as if it were meant for the bike. The slight weight penalty was well worth the extra stiffness and travel in the downhill sections.

Shimano XTR M9000: The long awaited Shimano XTR 11 speed drivetrain performed incredibly. We had our test rig set up with the 2×11 drivetrain, which I felt matched the bike perfectly. I found myself using the lower front ring only on the steepest of climbs, and the larger ring providing a capable ratio for most riding. The new redesigned shifters took some getting used to, but were a pleasant addition.

ENVE M60/Forty Wheels: Laced to DT Swiss 240s, our 5010 is rolling on one of the best performing, and reliable wheelsets on the market. ENVE’s reputation precedes them, as they are known in the bike industry as creating some of the best carbon components on the market. As mentioned earlier, these wheels compliment the stuff frame and create a planted bike over the roughest of trail sections. We set up our wheels tubeless with a Maxxis Ardent in the front and a Continental Mountain King on the rear.

The Final Take

The 5010 encapsulates the definition of a “trail bike.” It’s fun and light, but still maintains enough brawn to remain composed even when aimed at menacing terrain that would push other trail bikes out of their comfort zone. Although we tested the top tier model, ringing in at nearly 11 thousand dollars, Santa Cruz offers a build kit for nearly every budget, letting customers select a bike that best suits their needs. The 5010’s trail manners place it solidly into the upper echelon of exceptional mountain bikes.

 – Jenner Poulsen

Jenners Ride Can be seen here


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