Santa Cruz Driver 8 £4349

VP Free replacement

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

The new Driver 8 is Santa Cruz’s latest long-travel bike, replacing the VP Free. Like its predecessor, it features 203mm (8in) of travel and uses the great Virtual Pivot Point system.

Ride & handling: Lively ride inspires jumping

We half expected the Driver to feel like a shorter travel Santa Cruz V10, so we were surprised to find it felt just as plush, but also very active with a sprightly, almost light ride.

It’s happy at high speeds, and great through the rough, but what the Driver wants to do is fly – gapping root sections, whipping it on the jumps and grabbing air on every section of trail possible. It’s a bike that could easily be raced, but it can also do much more.

The slightly steeper head angle (than the V10) would normally make a bike twitchier, but instead it adds to this feel, with the fairly long rear end compensating for the angle well.

The leverage ratio is different to that of the V10 as well, achieving an ultra plush ride. And although it felt great with a RockShox Boxxer fork on board, we feel the Driver would really come in to its own with RockShox’s single-crown Totem fitted up front instead.

If shredding Shore, nailing drops, riding uplift days and upsetting your mates at races is your bag, the Driver will serve you well. It’s certainly on our most wanted list.

Frame: Freeride and downhill-friendly design

At a glance, the Driver could be confused with the V10, but steeper angles and a few other differences set it apart. Up front is a 1.5in head tube that can take fully sized 1.5in, tapered 1.5-1.125in or regular 1.125in steerer tubes.

The top tube has the same curved dip as the V10, but meets with the seatmast, providing a steeper seat angle. An extended seat tube gives you the capacity to raise and drop the saddle by 7in. The bottom bracket is a sturdy 83mm shell with an ISCG mount that’s ready for a chainguide or Hammerschmidt system.

Out back, a 150mm rear end keeps things stable and a Maxle lever makes for speedy wheel removal. The Driver also has a shock protector that protects it from back wheel spray.

Equipment: Pick your own – our build was perfect for thrashing

Our test bike was built more like a downhill steed, with a 2010 Boxxer Team fork and a bevy of tough kit – perfect for thrashing on our chairlift-accessed testing ground. The Boxxer fork suffered from bushing and lubrication problems, but the Fox DHX RC4 shock felt excellent.

The wheels are the strong and fairly light Syncros FRs, decked out with super-sticky Syncros tyres and loaded with absolutely massive 203mm Hope floating disc rotors.

Stopping the wheels are Hope’s ultra powerful Moto V2 brakes hanging from a Syncros bar and stem. SRAM X.0 provided us with flawless shifting and both the e.thirteen SRS chainguide and Truvativ cranks were perfect.

Cost of a frame with RockShox Vivid 5.1 shock is £2,399. Build kits start from £3,989. Price as tested is £4,349.

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