Here we go. We’re back at it with another Santa Cruz bike launch. This time we have the all-new 5010. The 5010 has historically been the jibby, playful, poppy 27.5” Santa Cruz trail bike. For this year, it sees the MX treatment as well as a few geometry and suspension updates. Does it stay true to its roots or is it something completely different? Stick around to find out.
What’s new with the Santa Cruz 5010
Let’s start with the biggest changes. The Santa Cruz 5010 is now a mixed wheel size bike with a 29” front wheel and 27.5” rear wheel. With a few exceptions or small and extra-small frames, Santa Cruz only has the V10 remaining with 27.5” wheels options front and back — every other 27.5” bike has gone MX. The geometry has changed ever so slightly for the 5th generation. The 5010 is about a half-degree slacker than the Gen 4. The reach stays nearly the same, but the wheelbase grows by about 15mm in each size. Each size is now paired to a size-specific chainstay length for a better fit and feel across the board.
The travel numbers stay the same from the previous generation to this one. It still has 130mm of rear wheel travel and 140mm up front. The suspension curves have seen some revisions, however with Santa Cruz leaning in favor of traction and control over outright efficiency. There’s less anti-squat for better traction and bump absorption as well as a straighter, yet still very progressive leverage curve.
The 5010 sees the addition of the glovebox and the rear travel sag window just like the Hightower. Oh, and did I mention it comes in both carbon and aluminum frame options? Praise be. Although the alloy frames won’t be available just yet. So how does it ride? That’s what we all care about really — let’s get into it.
Santa Cruz 5010 Review
Let’s start this off by saying, if you’re looking for the fastest climbing trail bike around, this probably isn’t it. But, if you’re looking for a good climber that’s plenty efficient, yet still provides a ton of traction and control for the most technical climbs, you’re in the right place.
Santa Cruz has been on a heater with suspension improvements recently. It’s no surprise that they’re not out to set records for the most efficient, fastest climbing bikes on the trails. Rather, they’ve been designing bikes that climb well in all terrain and not just smooth roads. Traction, body position, and control over your bike go a long way in making a bike what I’d call a good climber. Efficiency isn’t the only component in making a fast climber.
Almost every new bike Santa Cruz has designed recently, they’ve lowered the anti-squat values. Generally speaking, this gives you a little more pedal bob under accelerating forces, but in turn, the back wheel stays on the ground better and you get less feedback through the pedals. Out on the trail, this is beneficial in a few ways. If you’re climbing things other than perfectly graded fire roads, a little traction, and control can go a long way in keeping you moving uphill quickly and easily. Sure, you do give up a bit of that ultra-snappy response when you get on the pedals. Personally, I think I’d rather have the traction, but to each their own.
The 5010 is an excellent technical climber and a good smooth climber. On the smoothest climbs, it might not be light enough or efficient enough to hang with some of the faster bikes like the Element, Spur, Ripley, and Tallboy. But, I think it would smoke the competition on any tight, twisty, bumpy, rocky, and rooty climb.
Size-specific chainstays — these are becoming more common, but they’re still a little tough to come by. They happen to be one of my favorite things in geometry innovations. They help every rider has a good and balanced fit on their bike regardless of their height and frame size. For example, at 6’2” and on an XL frame, I’m not falling off the back of my bike because the chainstays are too short. Conversely, a shorter rider on a small frame doesn’t have a terribly long rear triangle that becomes unwieldy and unmanageable.
On the climbs, the size-specific chainstays help you keep your weight centered on the bike for better traction and control. You’re able to equally distribute your weight between both wheels. The front end doesn’t feel too light and the rear isn’t slipping out with every pedal stroke.
With the conversion to MX wheels, the frame is obviously a bit longer now. While the wheelbase has grown by roughly 15mm in each size, I don’t feel like it’s gotten to the point where it feels too big on technical climbs. It still has the maneuverability and agility of a nimble little trail bike. I think the smaller rear wheel has a bit to do with it. It feels like it spins up quicker and is easier to pull through an uphill switchback or rocky technical section.
Overall on the climbs, the Santa Cruz 5010 is the kind of bike that thrives in technical and bumpy terrain while holding its own in smoother terrain. I wouldn’t hesitate to take it on big pedal days, especially if those days involved a lot of rough climbs. While it might lose in an all-out efficiency battle, I wouldn’t call it a poor climber by any means.
Spoiler alert, if you’re the type of rider whose favorite thing is to dive in and out of corners while trying to peel tires off, you’re going to love the Santa Cruz 5010. On the other hand, if you’re the type of rider who hates corners because they’re hard, you’ll probably love the 5010 too — if only for the simple fact it will make cornering more enjoyable. Basically, it’s the best cornering bike you’ll ride.
Normally I start with suspension, but we may as well dive into this cornering thing right off the bat. The handling on the 5010 is some of the best I’ve ridden in the last few years. It has that quick and nimble feeling that you’d expect from a short-travel trail bike with none of the squirreliness that those often come with. I think it’s due to a few factors including the bigger front wheel, improved suspension design, and those size-specific chainstays. The bigger front wheel and slightly slacker front end, keep things a little more stable as you’re tearing through corners at stupid speeds. The bigger front wheel tends to track a bit straighter line while also providing better traction. It helps give you a bit of confidence to come into corners just a bit faster. But here’s where the magic lies, the bike isn’t so long and slack that it takes a herculean effort to whip it around a tight berm. That smaller rear wheel provides enough agility to keep the handling quick. Secondly, the linearly progressive suspension curve provides ample traction and a consistent feel throughout the entire stroke. The suspension ramps up as you pump through a corner, but it does it in a smooth and predictable way. You don’t blow through the middle and run into a wall of progression right as you hit the apex of the corner. Lastly, the size-specific chainstays help you stay centered on the bike. You don’t feel like you’re too far forward or backward. Instead of having to constantly shift your weight front and back to maintain a good position on the bike, you’re able to squat into it, right where you’re standing. All these factors make for a bike that corners better than most regardless of the corner being smooth and bermed or flat and bumpy. P.S. If you’re going to hit corners the way this bike wants to, a heavier tire casing or tire insert like Tannus will be extremely helpful. While the EXO casing tires stocked on the 5010 feel supple and nice, they fold and tear very easily at 5010 cornering speeds. My first set lasted about an hour.
As I mentioned briefly before, the suspension design on the 5010 is consistent and predictable. It handles bumps far better than you’d expect out of a 130mm trail bike. Even with the smaller back wheel, it doesn’t get hung up in the chatter and it handles bigger hits with some decent composure. The bike that kept coming to mind while riding the 5010 was the Yeti SB130. They are both surprisingly stout and capable in terrain where 130mm of travel seems like too little. I will say, they feel very different in how that tackle that terrain, but their capabilities are similar. Where the Yeti’s suspension feels firm, stiff, and fast, the 5010’s feels more plush and forgiving. I found myself riding the 5010 the same way I’d ride my Megatower. I didn’t feel the need to tiptoe around all the bumps and rocks. It does surprisingly well when you put your heels down and plow.
I like where the 5010’s geometry sits for the category. At just under 65° in the low setting, it’s slack enough to go ride steep and rough trails without being too worried about your own wellbeing. I feel that if it was much sacker or longer, though, it would lose some of the magic that makes it so fun to ride in a huge range of terrain. It’s as fun on blues and greens as it is on black diamond trails.
Overall it’s one of, if not the best handling descenders I’ve ridden in years. It’s no slouch on the rough and rugged trails while giving up absolutely nothing on the easier trails.
Santa Cruz 5010: Comparisons
I briefly compared these two bikes earlier but it makes sense to dive in a little deeper. Their geometry is pretty similar as well as their travel numbers. I think they’re pretty evenly matched in capability. The SB130 might be a little better option for pushing the limits of a short-travel trail bike, especially with the Lunch Ride edition available. Even though the geo is a tiny bit steeper and shorter, I think it can get away with harder terrain when you consider it has 10mm more travel up front with a burlier fork. The 29” setup tends to handle rough trails a bit better. The 5010 is much more fun and playful than the 130, though. The suspension is more plush and forgiving as well. I don’t think it’s too far behind in terms of capability either.
I rode these two bikes back to back to get a feel for how they would compare out on the trail. The Hightower understandably feels a bit more stable in the rough, especially at speed. It has more travel and two big wheels after all. The capability gap between these two is surprisingly small, however. The 5010 is certainly the more fun option. Even though the geometry is close, the smaller back wheel makes a bit of a difference in keeping things fun and lively. I’d go with the Hightower if I wanted a bit more confidence and speed on tough trails and I’d go with the 5010 if I cared more about destroying every corner in sight.
Who is the Santa Cruz 5010 for?
I like the 5010 for two types of riders. The first group is the group I fall in. I tend to ride longer-travel bikes on steeper and rougher trails, but I can appreciate the way a short-travel bike changes how you ride. I like the way they help you see the trail differently. Like I said before if you like hitting corners quickly, finding side hits and natural trail gaps, you’re going to like the 5010. Yet it’s an easy bike for me to feel comfortable on after riding my big bike for a few days. It rides a lot like a more playful and fun version of a bigger bike — so much so, that I’ve started calling it the Mini-tower. If you’re into pushing the limits of a short travel trail bike (looking at the folks who put a coil shock on every 120mm bike they own) you’ll be happy on the 5010. I think we will see a lot of people putting longer travel and burlier forks on these, although I don’t think that’s really needed. Out of the box, it’s ready to shred.
The second group I can see enjoying the 5010 is the group of more casual riders who aren’t always looking to ride on the ragged edge. It offers enough confidence and comfort without making you pay the price on easier terrain. It’s versatile in the terrain and type of trails it can handle. If you want to go for a big pedal day, it’s a great bike. If you want to take it to the park and hit some DH laps with your buddies, it’s a great option too. It’s got you covered just about everywhere. I like to think of it as the more playful and fun “go everywhere and do everything” bike.
Santa Cruz 5010: The bottom line
Wake up. Smack Berms. Peel Tires. Repeat.