After the exciting introduction of the 150mm Santa Cruz Bronson, it looked as though the US company were content with an already packed line-up. So when they announced a further addition to their range we were struggling to work out the gap they were trying to fill. Step in the 5010 (previously called the Solo), a 5in travel, 27.5in wheel trail bike developed from what Santa Cruz say they learned while creating the Bronson.
Ride & handling: Rare balance of fun and efficiency, just watch those pedals
The VPP rear end of the Santa Cruz 5010 is particularly efficient, resisting bob admirably in all situations. Fox's CTD rear shock allows for further efficiency gains at the flick of a switch (in Trail mode), the trade-off being the usual drop in small bump compliance. With Climb mode enabled the rear end of the bike demonstrates its immense stiffness. For the majority of riders, the most limiting factors on this bike's uphill ability will be their lungs and legs.
The linkage combines both a rising and falling rate action to provide impressive traction and control without a penalty on your pedalling. As with all VPP bikes, it's sensitive to set up. We experimented with pressures a little mid-ride before getting things dialled. Soon we were comfortably getting the full travel of the bike, feeding inspiring traction through all contact points without feeling any harsh bottoming or aggressive ramp-up.
Up front, the 130mm Fox 32 Float CTD fork did a great job of pairing with the rear of the bike. Its relatively skinny chassis never felt overwhelmed, although steering accuracy was certainly aided by ENVE's superlight and stiff 27.5in carbon hoops.
The fork did tend to dive a little too much for our liking in the Descend setting, occasionally making the bike feel steeper than its 68-degree head angle would suggest. We preferred the front end in Trail mode, the extra low-speed compression keeping the angles as intended.
Stiff, light and extremely bright
The 5010's geometry results in an agile, keen feel, with great overall balance and a real talent when it comes to changing direction quickly. We had to be conscious of that bottom bracket height, though – our test pedals came away with a few scars. We see this as a trait rather than a problem, as it's simply the price to pay once you realise the agility and handling potential of the 5010.
Riders looking for a revolutionary 650b ride might want to close this page now – the '27.5in wheel' element of the 5010 became apparent after a few hours in the saddle, but isn't something most riders will pick up on immediately.
Expect the ride of a 26in-wheeled bike, plus a little more stability and roll-over. It's always easy to pop the front of the bike and generally play around, too – there's no doubt that the 5010 is more fun than a 29er in this respect.
The impressive suspension action delivered through the light and tight chassis means the last thing on your mind is the size of the wheels. The 5010 just gets on with it.
It's the perfect companion for exploring the unknown, and manages to shine regardless of whether gravity is on your side or not. If you haven't had a chance to check out the 5010's promotional video then perhaps you should. For us, it encaptures what the bike is all about…
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Frame & equipment: Tight and light, with proven suspension and superb detailing
Riders familiar with Santa Cruz's current line-up will inevitably be drawing comparisons between the 5010 and the current Blur TRC. Some of the figures are close, yes, but not the same – this isn't simply a Blur TRC with 27.5in hoops.
Compared with the Bronson, the 5010 is stanced lower and shorter. The head angle is also one degree steeper, with slightly shorter chainstays and a bottom bracket drop of half an inch.
The 142mm rear end of the 5010 holds its derailleur hanger in place using a fuss-free single bolt; that's just one of many small but practical touches that make this bike very friendly to work on.
Another relief for the home mechanic comes in the form of the alloy pivot hardware. Designed with muck in mind, it features an innovative sealing system that promises durability in the toughest of environments.
Bucking the press-fit trend, the 5010 sticks to a 73mm threaded bottom bracket. ISCG 05 tabs are standard and each frame gets two bottle mounts regardless of the size. Along with a nifty snap-on chainstay protector, Santa Cruz have also added rubberised down tube protection – it's nothing that will fight off rock strikes but should keep things looking pretty should you take a rough uplift.
The Fox CTD shock offers useful and convenient compression adjustment, but the 5010 climbs well in any setting
Our test bike came with all the options ticked. That meant a Shimano XTR single drivetrain (not pictured), matching stoppers from the XTR line, and ENVE's extravagant but superb 650b carbon hoops. An Easton Havoc carbon bars was also in place, providing ample width with comfortable angles.
We didn't have scales to hand but Santa Cruz claim a figure of just over 25lb (11kg) for the test build. Familiar traction was provided by Maxxis' fast rolling Ardent tyres.
The 5010 Carbon is available in various build kits. Prices start at £4,399/US$4,199 but start ticking off those extras and the figure can almost double. Four sizes are on offer, ranging from S to XL. An aluminium version of the 5010 is also available now – full alu builds start at £3,599/US$3,299 while a frameset is £1,799 – saving £800 over the carbon frame's retail price.
This is the bike that should have potential Bronson customers scratching their heads – trying to choose between the two could be tricky. Still, it sounds like a pretty good problem to have to us…