Dirt magazine has been given exclusive access to Santa Cruz’s testing session for their all–new Carbon V10.4 downhill frame. Steve Jones is our man on the ground, and here is what he had to tell us:

Photos:Gary Perkin/SantaCruzBicycles.

6th May. Lousa, Portugal. 8.30am

The entire Santa Cruz Syndicate team are here in Portugal to begin testing on the new carbon V10 bikes. Company owner/founder Rob Roskopp is here, Chief Engineer Joe Graney, Product Manager Josh Kissner. Yup the full Syndicate…Team Manager Kathy Sessler, spanner men Doug Hadfield, Rick Clarkson, Peaty, Minnaar and Bryceland, photo man Gary Perkin, and Sram BlackBox manager John Cancellier. Not only that but Cedric Gracia is providing his inimitable presence. It’s only breakfast time but the place is buzzing. It’s no wonder really, the bikes look amazing.

Up ahead is Lousa downhill track on which they have been conducting the first testing. That’s after a few hectic days. Rick and Doug have been building the bikes flat out and they are now one day into riding. First thoughts from Steve Peat, “It looks amazing and it’s awesome. For sure I will be riding it at Maribor. Didn’t know how they could make the V10 better than it was but this is my new race bike for sure.”

Greg Minnaar is equally upbeat. “It’s a bit longer than the bike I rode last year, it’s definitely different, it outperforms on physical tests, subtle but different. More than anything it’s been the whole process. The bike has been in the pipeline for two years, the first carbon XC that was such a nice change from aluminium, then the Blur LT which was also amazing. They’ve brought V10 out after a lot of testing. I’ve ridden all those shorter travel bikes, so knowing the process it is what I expected and it’s definitely an improvement.”

And Bryceland, he’s just got up. “Carbon. It has been tricky knowing whether to use 8.5″ travel or the 10″ setting. Top and bottom of this track are quite different. Top section is rad with short setting, but the bottom is faster so you are more tired, I couldn’t get that part as fast as with the longer setting. Then swapped around then I couldn’t get top section quite right, but bottom was way quicker. Been timing and I am now on the longer setting.”

After massive anticipation the new downhill bike looks very much on its way to full production. I asked Rob Roskopp how long they had been waiting to get ridden. “Made up medium first and got lab testing done in March. We had to do away with any doubts, they are well over–built. Greg rode in Santa Cruz last week.”

Visually it’s very different, loads lower than previous. Sleeker and no doubt faster. The weight difference is obviously up there on the list of changes.

It can be swapped between 8.5″ and 10″ and a range of settings and geometry. Headtube in 10″ setting can go between 64 and 66 degrees and IN half degree increments. IN THE 8.5″ setting 63 and 65 degrees. It’s a full degree slacker. But you can do whatever you want.

“The front triangle has 125mm headtube with 1.5″, about the same as last year’s custom frames for the Syndicate. The team have very unique set ups, each thought they were on frames totally different but really they were the same. Production wise large is longer. Reach and stack is what people discuss mostly – about 20mm longer on large than it was, and the medium is longer as well” says Joe Graney

Why with adjustability? “People have difficulty knowing the advantage of a ten–inch bike. Different people have different preferences depending on where they ride. You need the adjustability of adjustable travel.”

Bottom bracket has stayed the same between last years. 14.75″ in long travel, and in 8.5″ mode its 14″

Top link. BMC (bulk moulding compound) carbon link. The previous had a foam centre, this process is now the same on other bikes. Directional material inside. Solid carbon link now.
Lower link. Bearing is now housed inside lower link. Rubber lip seal, double seal bearing and larger diameter axle. Same style as all VPP bikes now.


Tweaked shock rate slightly, now running 9.5″ x 3.0″ shock, which was what they were racing on aluminium bikes last year. Things might change on testing but they will be pretty invisible. Major difference is that in the 8.5″ setting it now feels like there’s not as much suppleness on the beginning of the stroke compared to the longer bike.

900g less than what they raced on last year. Production weights to be determined.

Standover way lower. “Way the hell down”.


Half inch of carbon up front. “We couldn’t break it in test lab. Casing a jump? Forget it, the jump will break first!”

The swingarm is identical to the Driver 8. Maxle rear end. The crucial point is that it’s made of aluminium.

Santa Cruz are keen to point out that this is not an official bike launch as such. Joe Graney continues the story before we head off up the hill. “We’ve still got some way to go. It’s not signed off yet. If it was all done the guys would just go and be racing it. That’s why we are all here to work through things and get some quality testing done. Everyone seems pretty stoked though even after just a day.”

This is an important bike for Santa Cruz. It comes at a key time when a few other companies have been lowering the weight. It’s crazy how many new bikes have been coming out of Santa Cruz recently. Just before we head onto hill I grabbed Roskopp again and asked him how the riders were feeling. “Changing direction appears to be different, it’s quicker. The bike is more predictable at the front end. The guys have been commenting on how much easier it feels to be manualling through sections, changing lines quickly. Stiffness and weight. Some of the guys said I was like a kid in a candy shop when they first arrived. We’ve launched a lot of stuff in last six weeks, but it is great to be here going through performance stuff with the riders.”

Finally how come the move to carbon? “We are all impatient and want to improve stuff. The learning curve in carbon has become extremely quick. Carbon wheels, weight and stiffness improvements. I’m all into performance. I can’t see myself riding aluminium again. But I’m lucky and can choose, the carbon is just that much better.”

OK, more later on the day’s testing. Check out full spec sheet to follow.

Steven Jones

Photos: Gary Perkin/Santa Cruz Bicycles

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