Santa Cruz Superlight review£2,550.00

Santa Cruz's Superlight is now a whole decade old, but ten years of careful evolution mean it's still a classic super agile, lightweight trail bike.

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Santa Cruz's Superlight is now a whole decade old, but ten years of careful evolution mean it's still a classic super agile, lightweight trail bike.


The simple swing-arm frame layout is unchanged from the first Superlight, with simple round tubes throughout, reinforced with throat and top tube gussets. It has a new 6069 tubeset and lowered main pivot a couple of years ago though, for a lighter, more active ride. Other neat touches include open gear cable routing between dropout and swing-arm uprights and bottle cage mounts. Be aware that Santa Cruz bikes tend to be slightly shorter than most though, and our large sample was a shade shorter than some of the medium bikes here.


What this slightly compact layout immediately does is create a very lively, chuckable character to the bike. The low weight and swift steering then take this theme and run with it. This makes the Superlight a bike that loves to be swerved, skipped and flicked along the trail, rather than just hammered head down. A slight twang from the skinny rear end adds to this springy enthusiasm too, flowing down the trail like a top quality steel or Ti hardtail. Powerful riders will occasionally find this can flick the chain from gear to gear if you're really cranking hard, but it's rarely a problem unless you've really been hitting the protein.

The simple but intuitive swing-arm suspension stiffens when you pedal hard for plenty of kick-down climbing traction and tyre feedback. Back off the power though, and the Fox shock gobbles up ground lumps perfectly well. The Reba up front certainly surprised us with what it'd tackle head on, although we wouldn't make a habit of deliberately abusing a lightweight like this. If the slight to and fro 'bob' while pedalling annoys you, then you can upgrade to a lever damped Fox Float RP3 for an extra £55, or a pressure platform equipped 5th Element Air for £110.

We can't say it wasn't a shock that the Superlight weighed a pound more than Giant's Anthem, but Santa Cruz has made a deliberate decision to 'trailify' the kit package on their ready-built Superlights rather than go purely for minimum weight. We think it's a move most riders will appreciate, especially as the Blur XC is now their dedicated racer.

The Reba is heavier than a pure race fork, but is impressively tight and controlled, with easy, comprehensive adjustment and a fantastic reliability reputation. Avid Juicy brakes are one of our favourite discs, too. Again they major in very positive feel and easy feel adjustment, with bags of power despite only a 160mm front rotor.

There's no extra mass elsewhere though, with the super bling SRAM X.0 shifter and mech delivering crisp, ergonomically adjustable shifting through the gears. Truvativ's Stylo cranks work smoothly all the way, and the Hope/Mavic wheelpack is a classic workhorse setup, complete with pimpy Santa Cruz engraved hubs.

Hope also supplies the headset, while the cockpit and seat post are a premium Thomson, Easton and WTB blend, completing a light but still sturdy and durable parts selection that represents impressive value for money.


The Superlight has been one of our favourite bikes since the dawn of full suspension time. Simple, intuitive suspension and a slightly spring loaded, effortlessly agile frame just make it a complete joy to ride. There are lighter bikes, more aggressively laid out bikes and cleverer suspension systems, but few match the fun factor of the SL. Add tough but lightweight kit that represents impressive value plus a full range of colour options, and it's a true trail classic.

This article was published by BikeRadar, the world's leading source of bike reviews, gear reviews, riding advice and route information
  • Discipline: Road, Mountain, Urban, Womens
  • Location: UK, USA, Australia
Back to top