Santos SCC03 review£1,790.00

Fresh cross-country ride

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We weren’t looking for love, but the Santos SCC03 found us anyway. Santos, for the uninitiated, are a major Dutch bike brand who specialise in long-distance tourers and utility bikes. As fate would have it we’ve found that the SCC03 is a mountain bike we’d travel miles just to ride.

The SCC03’s geometry is relatively standard and the frame construction isn’t anything new… so why does it work so well? We scratched our heads briefly, but gave up trying to work it out and instead revelled in the feeling of riding a bike that makes riding off-road a feel like a simple pleasure.

Ride & handling: Ticks all the boxes

From the first pedal stroke the Santos felt somehow different from our other hardtails. We got through the ‘getting to know you’ period and went directly to immediate best friend in about 10 miles.

The overall package felt tight, direct and lacked the nervousness that can make some other light and flighty bikes a chore.

The Santos is imbued with a natural eagerness to roll. Spin up the stiff frame and it wants to run and run, and it instilled that desire in us too.

On the bumpy stuff, the rear end mutes more trail noise than any other alloy hardtail frame we’ve ridden. 

If you’re serious about covering off-road miles fast, yet with as much comfort and control as a hardtail can dish out, the SCC03 ticks all the boxes.

the xc racer’s favourite combo: try a sram xo grip shift with ergon’s one-piece grip and bar end: the xc racer’s favourite combo: try a sram xo grip shift with ergon’s one-piece grip and bar end
the xc racer’s favourite combo: try a sram xo grip shift with ergon’s one-piece grip and bar end: the xc racer’s favourite combo: try a sram xo grip shift with ergon’s one-piece grip and bar end

Frame: Guaranteed to get people talking

We specced our SCC03 from the Dutch-only Santos website, which is currently the only way to get one of these Dutch rockets (an English language site is in the works). We chose from a choice of 24 colours, and when the bike arrived it was beautifully assembled with cables pre-stretched, hoses trimmed and everything dialled to perfection.

More people stopped us to ask about the SCC03’s frame than any other bike we’ve ridden. It’s most similar to the best old Cannondale frames, with large diameter triple-butted thinwall alloy tubes that have been welded and then had the joints filled, filed and sanded to leave it with some of the smoothest lines we’ve seen on an alloy frame – so smooth that people think it’s carbon.

The frame itself is a compact design with a radically sloping top tube, which gives it an angular, racy look and offers plenty of standover clearance for emergency stops. Santos are detail obsessive, and the frame is bristling with neat touches like hoop brake hose guides, Crud Catcher mounts and integrated headset.

Equipment: Pick your own components online

You can choose your own finishing kit from a selection offered on Santos's website. Please note that the Fox F100 forks on our test bike are not one of the available options.

truvativ’s firex crank  performs well as do  santos’ own chainrings: truvativ’s firex crank  performs well as do  santos’ own chainrings
truvativ’s firex crank performs well as do santos’ own chainrings: truvativ’s firex crank performs well as do santos’ own chainrings

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 44
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster tfhan the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK
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