Photos by Dan Barham
Words by Seb Kemp
Santa Cruz has given birth to more new bikes this year than seems possible for the little-big company. My count is nine completely new bikes and a handful of revisions to existing models. Plus there's the Juliana line, which adds another five bikes to the tally.
This is incredibly impressive growth, but with so much bulb-flash it's easy to miss some things, with some models sliding under the radar. One of those being the 125-millimeter travel Solo…I mean 5010.
Yeah, before we move on to talk about this fun, little undercover hero of a bike let's talk about that name.
When the bike was released in June the bike was called Solo and we were presented an opportunity to watch Steve Peat 'go solo'. However, another bicycle manufacturer took issue with this name as they had a similarly-named bicycle. The end result? Santa Cruz had to take one on the chin, and be terribly good sports about it, as was proven by the fun little news blast that finished with the line, "Why “Go Solo” when you can “Go Intergalactic”. Take it away boys…"
The result? Not much. It's just a name and what is left behind is the same bike, still pumping the same blood it always did.
Back in June, while on assignment for an upcoming story on Scotland's varied and tasty mountain biking experience, we had a chance for a bit of a solo session on the 5010. Here's what we thought.
While Santa Cruz's Bronson was the big story of 2013 the 5010 shouldn't be overlooked. Cut from very much the same cloth as the bigger-travel Bronson the frame is stiff, stout and strong. In fact, they look almost indistinguishable. This results in a very capable, playful bike which shouldn't be confused with some other 125-millimeter travel fairies. The 5010 is a very spirited bike indeed.
The geometry might seem a little more conservative than the Bronson (68-degrees as opposed to 67-degrees on the Bronson) but there's more to the matrix than that one number. The 5010 is a lower machine, its bottom bracket being lower, the rear center being shorter and the standover height being lower. This does make the 5010 feel very lithe and quick. Rider input is immediate and direct, making it feel like an extension of your movements rather than a machine to be manipulated. This is probably supplemented by the shorter-travel nature of the bike. Although some riders might want the full damage control of a six-inch travel bike, most riders would probably benefit from having a little less suspension motion between them and the bike and a little more control through the geometry. The 5010's (nearly) five inches is plenty enough for most applications, but sometimes the rough and tumble nature of the chassis does get you into more trouble than you would expect on such a bike. Often a great feeling, occasionally a little too much edge work for some.
With the bike's go-go-GO attitude the fork choice has to be questioned. On 5010 models a Fox Float 32 has being specced. While this helps keep the weight down (the carbon frames weigh just 5 pounds) and in line with what most people will use this bike for (light trail and XC duties) this wimpy little fork soon gets outridden. But this is no fault of the fork or Santa Cruz, it's all the 5010. It's too damn proficient at having fun.
The bottom line is this, if like many people you are considering buying the Bronson but are on a waiting list or second guessing needing so much bike, then look carefully at the 5010. Lean, low and keen to let loose, this is the sleeper bike from Santa Cruz in 2013.