Share

Downhill Bikes

Santa Cruz V10CC Test

Evolved proven race winner

As one of the most successful brands of the past decade in the hands of Steve Peat, Josh Bryceland and Greg Minnaar the V10CC is an evolution of former versions.

Words: S.Jones/W.Soffe              Images: S.Jones                 Rider: Ieuan Williams

It comes as one of the most coveted, most striking and also weight watching of all downhill bikes on the market – one of the top three lightest at under 33lb with carbon wheels  – and also most pricey, with only the Trek Session frame being more money as a frame only option- £3299 for the V10CC frame and £4500 for the Session 9.9.

But its about performance. This bike has always been fast in many places, which is what matters, but it’s position along with that of Trek and Specialized is coming under fire from less expensive and high performance bikes from Germany. Does it still deliver the magic?

Suspension/chassis

Santa Cruz say the new V10 bikes “benefit a longer reach to suit evolving rider preferences” and it’s great to see Santa Cruz have finally addressed the sizing of their bikes and now offer an improved/extended range in this respect. Our large size is recommended for 5’ 8” – 5’ 11” and our test riders were around this size. Still, the V10 is one of the smallest size large bikes on the market. Greg Minnaar at roughly 6′ 2″ riding a XXL V10CC backs this up, whereas Brycleand at over 6′ is an enigma with his choice of sizing.

However, and this is important, relative to other brands the Santa Cruz sizing is accurate where others are not, and spring ratings on rider weight are also correct too. Whilst the large is quite small they’re not trying to cover a wide range of rider sizes with limited frame size offerings.

In relation to older V10’s (with more travel remember) it’s definitely evolved in places other than reach. For example, even this L (although bear in mind wheel size changes) is 43mm longer, three and a half degrees slacker and roughly 25mm lower than Peaty’s 09 World Championship winning bike. Interestingly though it’s still not as slack or as low as his 05 Orange….whatever, the V10 has most certainly moved on.

Travel wise the V10 is more a V8 nowadays with 216mm travel and two geometry settings offering 64 head angle/360mm bottom bracket or 63.5/353mm bottom bracket which Santa Cruz say is for increased stability at higher speeds. Like the Trek Session we see the higher setting as a non-feature and would prefer a lower setting instead. The bike has 157mm rear wheel spacing and overall the bike is impressively constructed and offers proven reliability and this is not to be underestimated. It also sports the Fox 40 which is the best downhill fork.

There’s good progression to the suspension and even though the static bottom bracket is slightly higher than average the nature of the linkage means that with the recommended sag of 20-25mm on the shock means it’s not far off many other downhill bikes and is lower than previous versions which is good. We were still interested to see how this translated with the suspension design when entering sections under heavy braking as many of the lower bikes we’ve found have better poise.

Componentry

There’s no messing about with the V10 when it comes to specification although you’ll notice we swapped out the Enve carbon wheels for aluminium DT’s. This is because we feel it’s slightly unnecessary, and the feel and performance of aluminium wheels on downhill bikes is still proven. In reality the fact that in the past few tests we’ve destroyed a couple of wheels was weighing on our minds too, but then many riders will certainly be thinking about cost too in a tough old business. We went for DT Swiss FR 570 build option. And they’re great.

Benchmarks in Fox 40, Sram X0DH and Guide Ultimate has to be considered here when comparing to say a Demo which comes to the Boxxer, a lesser fork, as do the Race Face Six C cranks. Santa Cruz have their own bar at 800mm.

Performance

At this point we decided to bring in a guest tester. Given the baggage we have with the V10 from riding most of the previous versions, and that we have not given it the full acclaim that many people seemed to expect, we thought a fresh perspective from Will Soffe of Bike Park Wales appropriate.

“The 2016 V10cc is the latest and greatest top-spec carbon version of the iconic downhill bike and arguably one of the most beautiful. A carefully planned mix of gloss white and red with matt black shadowing, the paint job sets off the swooping Californian carbon like a well-cut dress on a Hollywood actress.

On track, the V10cc encourages a skimming, drifting approach; ducking and weaving like a courser after a hare. Carve toward a turn and the bike feels wonderfully playful, encouraging flamboyant line-choice and pin-point corner entry. Flat turns can be taken Caterham 7 style as you shift your weight back and forth to find grip. Feedback is instant and detailed, letting you know where the grip is, how much and what it had for breakfast last Tuesday. “You’ve changed” I say, “The old V10 was a plough-bike!” This latest model has grown up and completed finishing school; a refined and sophisticated graduate of Lousa testing and lab analysis.

However when scything through chop, deep in the travel, the bike begins to feel rather more of a handful than my benchmark XL Trek Session. Add to this a tendency to wallow in its travel and the bike becomes one that has to be ridden tactically rather than smashed and railed. Laced with Fox 40 and X2 shock, a similarly suspended Session is less inspiring when dicking about, but more purposeful when you put your race face on.

Hit steep stuff and the V10 feels nimble but makes mountains out of molehills on rough corners, whereas the Session’s reassuring stability maintains momentum even through holes Jules Verne would be interested in. The Santa Cruz is noticeably noisy too; extra chainstay protection is needed.

As a piece of Californian exotica this bike is a work of art and one which is clearly capable of winning at the highest level in the right hands. But is it the whole package? Is she the stable, marrying type or just an exciting one-night stand? Whilst the V10 is feather-light and a great looker, with a superbly tuned carbon layup and fabulous handling on flat turns, as a race bike the suspension isn’t as predictable or confidence inspiring as some of its stablemates. Other bikes can outshine this one on steep, rough racetracks.”

 

Feeling

Interesting words from Soffe. Whilst it’s crucial to distinguish between ‘feeling’ and actual speed there is an undoubted pace to the V10 that needs no stopwatch to discern. Out of the gate and across the flat the V10 picks up and drives into the first point of contact pretty forthright with its intentions. Up front the 40 is taking the first hits with excellent damping and when you try to get your rhythm going with the first combinations of skipping roots and hitting berms the V10 is very much a bike that allows for impressive power generation from the ground. Part suspension dynamic, part lightweight, its an energising ride.

There’s an element of compromise at work on the V10 which Santa Cruz have been clever to identify. Its to do with gradients and the percentages involved with many downhill tracks. There’s almost certainly an angle of ground and length of track where the V10 simply excels. Pass that point, where the ground tips steeply the V10 begins to loose the poise and pace, becoming a game of weight management in a chassis where steering and centre of mass is fluctuating much more than say a Demo or Glory. There are better steep track bikes.

The V10 hoovers up the terrain smoothly enough and the progression is subtle yet supportive to get that drive out of the ground. Its still the nervy bike, it always has been and its also quite short up front for a large – in fact there are very few bikes shorter on the front centre which again adds to the weight distribution issue on steeper grounds. Even the front centre of the extra large V10 is similar to many size large downhill bikes.

Limitations

This bike has been around long enough for the product men behind its impressive curves to tackle the noise issues that it has. It rattles and its highly distracting. With Canyon, Trek and Specialized making very quiet bikes Santa Cruz should have addressed this years ago. For £7399 it also has to offer something different, maybe a performance advantage?

Verdict

The V10 doesn’t have quite the poise offered by some other bikes. Its not something that’s so noticeable on shorter tracks but certainly is over longer and steeper ones. The introduction of XL and XXL sizes stabilizes matters to a degree and is a welcome introduction for taller riders. We accept the place of fitness and adaption to the shape and action of the V10, but head to head with a few other bikes such as the Demo, Session and Glory its not quite there, although make no mistake each of those has flaws. For example the V10 has a lot of chassis movement where the Demo simply gets on with it. To counter that, many say the V10 is a more lively, playful bike than the latter.… and they are quite correct.

What else has the V10 got? Well it certainly has speed and looks, an inherent ability to use the terrain to gain power and momentum as it sweeps through the terrain, delivering a beautiful transition through the shock stroke. It has good chassis flex/stiffness characteristics, the greatest range of sizes of any production DH bike (although not the largest size which the Canyon has) and is one of the lightest downhill bikes available.

Many will now be comparing direct sales bikes. In that respect Canyon and YT offer bikes with equally good component packages at almost half the price. However the former has yet to have its reliability proven and the latter is short on sizing. On performance alone however we’d give the nod to both the German bikes over the V10CC.

Still, it’s very easy to see why people love the V10CC. It has charisma, heritage and a quality construction, and in fact a superb flex/stiffness balance to its bones. But more than these qualities on many tracks the bike has a has a genuine pace to it.

It might not be outstanding, but it’s very good.

V10CC from £7399

 

Share

Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.

production