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Carbon fiber has been a cycling industry buzzword for quite some time. This year, however, carbon has been living in the very large shadow of 27.5-inch wheels. And delivering truth to this is Santa Cruz's full embrace of this new standard. With trail bikes like the 125mm travel 5010 Carbon SPX AM Complete Mountain Bike, Santa Cruz is taking an aggressive stance on mountain biking's most aggressive platform.

The SPX AM build dresses Santa Cruz's carbon frame with Shimano XT components, DT Swiss/WTB wheels, and FOX suspension in order to keep the price reasonable without killing the 5010's all-mountain sense of purpose. One of the biggest contributors to this is the rolling stock. Sure, within the gravity/park sect, stiff, nimble, and strong 26in wheels will continue to shine. Likewise, though, when the trail favors high-speed, flowing singletrack the 29er rules supreme. But, any riding between those extremes will see the 27.5-inch 5010 Carbon's ability to dominate.

A quick look at the geometry makes this perfectly clear. The 5010's chainstay length is only a quarter-of-an-inch longer than the Blur TRc, yet it's three-quarters-of-an-inch shorter than the Tallboy LT. Another key number is its bottom bracket height — the 5010 is .04-inches higher than the TRc and a quarter-inch lower than the Tallboy LT. This means that aboard the 5010, you'll enjoy that 'seated within' felling of two-niners, while retaining the nimbleness that would otherwise be lost to long wheelbases, high-center of gravity, and flex'y wheels.

In fact, the 5010's wheelbase is a full-inch shorter than the Tallboy, and it has a trail-worthy 68 degree head tube angle. That's should be enough numbers to expose the playful, yet composed nature of the 5010. But, just as essential to that balance is Santa Cruz's carbon mastery. The 5010 Carbon uses a one-piece layup and curing process for the triangles, as opposed to assembling joints, which would require bonding, wrapping, or rivets. And, because this process allows continuous interlocking fibers to wrap between tubes, the resulting structure efficiently distributes loads and absorbs impact energy. All the while, this process eliminates any excess material. As you might imagine, each size's dedicated tooling makes this is a costly process. However, this allows Santa Cruz to control the outside shape, the inside shape, and to compact the fibers during the layup for the to each frame size.

From the Small to the X-large frame, structure is optimized for intended rider weight and forces. Additionally, placing material where it's needed most results in a strong and nimble chassis for the VPP suspension to work its magic. And speaking of the VPP suspension on the 5010, it's the second generation and features upper- and lower-links that flatten shock rate in order to provide active motion early in the axle path. This allows the rear wheel to easily move up and back as you ride over a bump. The link design also balances downward pedaling force with the pulling force of the chain. This effectively neutralizes them, while also preventing pedal-bob or squatting during acceleration. This keeps speed up, however, VPP also assists in keeping that speed in check. The VPP design also prevents brake-induced lock-out, effectively keeping the suspension supple over braking bumps.

And whether you're rolling over rock gardens, clawing up rooted and rocky climbs, or negotiating steep descents, VPP suspension remains active and responsive. Key to this are its linkages and hardware. A carbon fiber upper-link not only shaves weight, but it also enhances lateral stiffness. At the bottom end of things, an alloy lower-link features easily-serviceable grease ports that are positioned in order to avoid damage and to ensure a long bearing life.

The pivots are oversized, with 15mm locking axle-pins. Additionally, they run on intricately-sealed bearings with one-way purging seals that are intended to last the life of the frame. Even better, this design won't either creak or loosen. And for the people who want every lightweight feature addressed, Santa Cruz topped it off with anodized aluminum hardware where it's applicable. Managing the 5010's 125mm of travel is the lightweight and reliable FLOAT CTD with the smooth and durable Kashima coating.

The easy-to-adjust three position lever provides platform options to maximize efficiency while either climbing, traversing, or descending. At the front of the 5010, a 130mm travel FLOAT 32 Factory has CTD dampening, as well, to keep tuning intuitive. For drivetrain duty Shimano's venerable XT bits ensure fast shifts and reliability.

This kit includes a 3x10 layout with XT cranks, shifters, derailleurs, and cassette. It also includes XT brakes with an 180mm front and 160mm rear rotor that slow the WTB Frequency i23 rims that have been laced to DT Swiss 350 hubs. Casing the wheels are Maxxis High Roller 2 EXO Tubeless tires. This kit also includes a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post with the actuation line hidden within the 5010's frame. On top of the post sits a WTB Volt Team saddle. And to complete the SPX AM build, Santa Cruz included a TruVativ AKA stem along with Easton Havoc handlebars.

The Santa Cruz 5010 Carbon SPX AM Complete Mountain Bike is available in four sizes from Small to X-large and in the colors Gloss Orange/white and Matte Black/green.

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Making 27.5" Feel Easy

  • Familiarity:I've put it through the wringer

"26", 27.5", 29", starting to feel a bit crowded in the MTB wheel size format." This was my thought when deciding to upgrade my rig before my disposable income goes kaput. I had a Blur LTc and while I loved the feel of the frame and the suspension was the perfect amount, the smaller wheelsize made things a little squirrely for some reason (I'm all legs - 33.5" inseam at 5'11" - might be part of it). When I saw that SC made the Solo (now the 5010, clever) with a very similar geometry as the Blur with the 27.5" wheelsize, it seemed to make enough sense for me.

(-side note- no 29er for me, for a do it all bike I don't like to get that tactical with my descents)

And I was right. This is a very capable do it all bike, especially in this particular build. The rolling resistance of the wheel size feels easy and it takes much less energy to maintain speed. Climbing comes very easily here with the three ring crankset and the fact that the Solo/5010's best quality is the rolling resistance on the small stuff when climbing. Descending feels almost as much at home as it is a harmonious blend of stability and nimbleness due to the Blur's geometry being instilled.

The build is fantastic as well with Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes, a RockShox Reverb seat dropper, Fox Float front and back and a nice wide Easton bar. Liked the tires (HighRoller 2s) and don't love the wheels for the weight, but gives me something to upgrade and can't afford that ENVE goodness yet.

Enough with the gushing, time for the down-points. Not many here as it feels like nitpicking, but while there is not much that the Solo/5010 doesn't do, I feel that there is no real bright spots either other than that rolling resistance I mentioned earlier. I also don't see the need for the triple crankset as I'm not using the granny or the biggest gears much.

Overall, a great do everything bike for those who loves the new 27.5 wheel size.