Santa Cruz Superlight 29 D XC review£2,724.00

Single-pivot singletrack speedster

BikeRadar score3.5/5

A direct descendant of Santa Cruz’s original single-pivot Tazmon, the Superlight shares all the simple, durable, communicative suspension charms of the original chassis. The more we rode it, the more it proved itself. It’s a real grower.

Ride & handling: Enjoyable and fast big-wheeler with boutique kudos

The Superlight's 29in wheels restore much of the small-bump subtlety and smoothness that single-pivot suspension designs typically lose when pedalled hard on the flat. The bike still has the characteristic rear wheel ‘dig-in’ that single-pivots are famous for, which means it stiffens under power and relaxes into a smoother flow when you’re freewheeling, giving a totally intuitive feel. 

The dig-in does sometimes comes at the expense of sudden slip, but there’s loads of direct feedback through the soles of your shoes to allow you to balance torque against traction. With the Fox shock under the top tube, the lockout is in easy reach, but we never touched the ProPedal lever except on long, late-in-the-day fire road climbs. 

There’s more bounce and wallow into the deeper part of the stroke than the best linkage bikes, which you’ll notice when thundering on rolling trails. Yet the Superlight does a fine job of letting you go faster for longer across rough terrain than a hardtail, and with very little penalty in mechanical complexity or weight. Its sheer simplicity and intuitive eagerness to communicate meant it was liked by every tester who rode it. 

While it’s a naturally fast and encouraging ride, it can get carried away. At 71 degrees even with a 120mm fork, the head angle is pretty steep – a 100mm fork will put it to a precipitous 72 degrees. The heavily dropped top tube also allows noticeable flex in the front end, so it can shunt outwards and overrun corners if you go in too hot. While we never got it to jump gears (just grind them) under power, the long swingarm with quick-release axle twists noticeably when you’re working hard through corners or up climbs. 

It’s not the stiffest or smartest frame, but the combination of its big-wheeled smoothness, constant feedback and ‘boutique’ prestige makes the Superlight an enjoyable and responsive way to add speed to your cross-country singletrack sessions.

Frame & equipment: Light, durable and affordable frame with sensible build options

In a world (do the deep-voiced Hollywood guy here, it helps) where complex, multi-bearing, patent-dodging linkages rule, a single pivot is a welcome sight. Especially when the pivot in question is a super-durable and easily adjustable collet setup, as it is here. 100mm isn’t enough wheel movement for most linkage setups to make a big difference in actual dynamics anyway.

The 2.5kg (5.6lb) frame is light enough that even with heavy UST tubeless tyres and basic Shimano-Deore-based build kit, the Superlight never drags its heels out of corners and on climbs. The simple design also keeps it affordable for a frame name with real bragging rights – it’s £1,199.

The range of upgradeable complete bikes keeps it in sight of mass-market options when it comes to spec (we tested the D XC build with upgraded Fox Float CTD FIT fork), a conventional bottom bracket and front mech keep parts choice wide, and it’s rigged for dropper seatposts.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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: 45
  • 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 than 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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