Photos by Mike Thomas
The 5010 that Santa Cruz launched in 2013 quickly became a favorite as a short-travel trail bike. What it lacked in slackness and travel length it made up for in fun, and underneath that playful demeanor was actually a fairly capable bike for what it was. But when the latest Nomad was released with a slick new linkage orientation and modernized geometry, we knew it was only a matter of time before the 5010 received similar updates.
Those updates are here, and Santa Cruz invited us to ride the new bike on the rugged, rocky trails around the small Sierra town of Downieville, CA. I tested the 5010 on Mills Peak, a trail purpose-built by the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship. Mills Peak is fast and flowy, but it's also strewn with rocks begging to take the wind out of your sails with a flat or a severe case of arm pump. Our shuttle took us twice to the bottom of a three-mile climb from which we accessed the five-mile Mills Peak descent, which drops 2,800 feet.
The new Bronson and 5010 have both been 'Nomadernized' with many of the features that debuted on the long-travel rig. The Reach on the 5010 has been stretched by 20-30 millimeters depending on size, and chainstay length on all sizes has been chopped by a centimeter. The head angle has been raked out from 68 degrees to 67. Santa Cruz preserved the seated pedaling position on the new bike by steepening the seat-tube angle by nearly a degree, compensating for the stretched and slackened front end.
Sizing flexibility is always a good thing, but it's especially important for Santa Cruz since the same frames are used by its sister brand Juliana. Santa Cruz believes that mountain-bike sizing should be based on reach, not standover height. To that end, the seat tube height has been decreased, and standover height on the small and extra-large frames has been reduced by 10 and 15 millimeters respectively. The lower seat tube allows for the use of 150-millimeter dropper posts, and, consistent with the flexibility theme, the frame is compatible with side-swing front derailleurs.
By the Numbers
Moving the upper link to the top tube allowed Santa Cruz to lower the standover and achieve a stronger and stiffer mounting. The lower link has been raised and tucked in above the bottom bracket, which was a necessary step towards shortening the chainstays in addition to widening the rear axle spacing to 148 millimeters. Rear wheel travel has been bumped up 5 millimeters to match the front at 130, and Santa Cruz claims that the revised suspension tune features higher initial leverage than the previous version, increasing small-bump sensitivity and improving traction. The extra-volume Fox EVOL can is claimed to decrease the wallowy feel in the midstroke that Santa Cruz admits was present with the previous linkage.
Mills Peak is really the perfect trail for this bike. There are plenty of undulations and rocks on the trail to pop and flick the 5010 off, and while the speeds can get quite high, the trail never gets steep. In the rockier top sections, the 5010 proved itself capable of handling choppy, chunky hits, though it doesn't so much handle them as it does ask you to handle it through them: The travel isn't as supple as on a longer travel bike that might point and shoot through the technical bits, so the 5010 demands an active riding style through rugged terrain, seeking out small transitions that can be pumped for speed. The slackened head angle makes the new 5010 more composed than the previous version when white knuckling through gnarly bits, but that's not the right strategy on this bike.
The 5010 will come in the light blue colorway shown in the other photos here as well as in black. The white frame I’m on in these photos is not a production color, but Santa Cruz didn’t have any extra-large test bikes with stock paint.
The 5010's wheelbase has increased by 25-36 millimeters depending on size, but I felt like it cornered at least as well as the previous version, locking in and blasting out of turns enthusiastically. If you enjoy playing around on micro terrain that bigger bikes bulldoze, you'll love the 5010: Every small root, rock, or bump becomes something to pop off or pump for speed. In many ways the 5010 feels like an oversized, technologically advanced BMX bike.
VPP has always provided an excellent pedaling platform, and the adjustments to the pivot positioning on the new 5010 haven't changed that. On fire-road climbs the 'Trail' setting on the Fox (EVOL) air shock was the sweet spot and on singletrack I left it wide open in 'Descend' mode. The change to a 67-degree head angle hasn't slowed the bike down going uphill: I never had any issue keeping the front end under control, and I had no problem navigating tight rocks and corners despite the lengthened wheelbase.
This is the End
I was initially worried that applying more aggressive geometry to the 5010 would dampen the bike's happy-go-lucky disposition, but fear not: The new 5010 is just as poppy and playful as it was originally. It’s more balanced than before, and not just because the front and rear travel numbers are now identical: The slacker front end, longer wheelbase and improved suspension tune have made the bike rideable at trail speeds that the old version was capable of getting to, but couldn’t quite handle, and that confidence has come with very little, if any, sacrifice of climbing performance.
Carbon-framed 5010s will be available September 14th, and aluminum versions are expected in the spring. Pricing ranges from $3599 to $8099 for complete carbon builds, and $3000 will buy you a carbon CC-level frame with a Fox Float shock.