Santa Cruz launches new Driver 8 mountain bike

By James Huang, technical editor | Friday, January 30, 2009 2.07am

Fresh on the heels of its new Blur XC carbon fiber cross-country racer, Santa Cruz has now released pictures and information on an upcoming long-travel model called the Driver 8.

As the name suggests, the Driver 8 sports 8in (200mm) of rear wheel travel via a long 70mm-stroke (2.75in) shock and Santa Cruz intends it as a “general duty, daily driver gravity hauler [that is] more lively and poppable and jumpable than the V-10.” Also in keeping with that theme are the 1.5in head tube, 150mm rear hub and 83mm-wide bottom bracket shell spacing, 12mm Maxle rear thru-axle, integrated ISCG05 tabs and relatively low 383mm (14.5in) bottom bracket height optimized for 165-170mm crankarms.

The frame geometry is based around a 180-203mm fork and according to Santa Cruz, 95 percent of 2.7in tires will fit.  Head tube angle is a stable 67° across the three-size range and wheelbase runs from 1087-1168mm (42.8-46.0in), all with 442mm-long (17.4in) chain stays.

Though clearly meant to hold its own at the bike park, Santa Cruz says the Driver 8 can also serve double-duty as a full-on downhill race bike for anything short of a World Cup course.  Claimed frame weight is approximately 4.8kg (10.6lb) for a medium anodized frame equipped with a RockShox Vivid 5.1 rear shock.

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Still, the Driver 8 is also meant to be pedaled uphill when necessary – albeit slowly – but Santa Cruz PR man Mike Ferrentino is quick to point out that it is not intended as a replacement for the now-defunct VP-Free but rather more of a dedicated gravity machine. 

The abbreviated seat tube still offers nearly 18cm (7in) of height adjustment – allowing it to go nearly as high as a comparable Nomad yet even lower than the current V-10 – but there is no provision for a front derailleur.  And while the Driver 8 will work with Truvativ’s new HammerSchmidt drivetrain, it probably won’t pedal that well if you fit a Hammerschmidt as the suspension is designed around a 36-40T chainring. 

As with all of Santa Cruz’s recent introductions, the Driver 8 will feature second-generation Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension architecture, which Santa Cruz says offers more usable travel throughout the range and decreased chain growth to minimize kickback.  The massive aluminum lower link sports eight angular contact cartridge bearings, an integrated grease port, and a combination of contact and labyrinth seals for increased side load capacity and extended service intervals.  The new carbon upper link is fitted with four radial contact bearings. 

Production frames will not be available until mid-May but Santa Cruz will accept frameset orders immediately and complete bike orders as of April 1.   Official pricing stands at US$2399 for a powdercoated frame equipped with a RockShox Vivid 5.1 or US$2561 with a Fox Racing Shox DHX RC4.  Anodized finish options will cost an additional US$200.

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