-by Norm Zurawski
Let’s kick off my very first product review by saying this. Product reviews are new to me. I have been jam-packed with opinions for a very, very long time. I have done book reviews for years, Yelp reviews, and assorted other reviews of things I run across in my life. But I have never sat down and written a product review for the sake of a product review. That would be my disclaimer. Be warned.
The Bike Spec(s)
This will be a review of the Santa Cruz 5010, D+ aluminum, 27.5″ mountain bike. MSRP is $2699, listed weight is 32.95 pounds. As setup, maybe it runs a tad higher than that, but you get the idea.
Product link can be found here.
I rented this bike from Cactus Adventures. I cannot say enough good things about Jennifer, Cactus Adventures, and her whole crew. I rented twice from them and they were nothing short of fantastic.
The bike was setup with an X-Fusion Hilo SL Strata Dropper post. That product link can be found here.
I will link 2 different reviews of that post here. I’ll say that for me, it was 100% solid. The trigger was better than any I have ever used before. It’s sort of like a mini joystick.
The Qualifications – More About Me
So who am I? Why should I be reviewing this bike? Probably you know who I am, but if not, my name is Norm Zurawski, real name Joe. Some of you who read this may not realize my name is actually Joe. I’ve been riding bikes pretty heavily for maybe 15 years. I run MTBNJ.com, both the team and website. In no way am I a product junkie. I am just a guy who rides bikes, riding a bike, then talking about it.
I started a travel blog this year, which can be found here. And the “about us” page on that site can be found here. I travel a lot for work, and we travel a lot for fun. That’s essentially the whole reason I rented this bike in the first place. I was here for work and turned it into fun.
I also promote races, sort of dabble in actual racing at times, but my glory days are over. I ride to have fun, and train mostly for the sake of keeping fit, and to occasionally ride faster-than-normal in some environment.
That’s about the long & short of it.
The Park – South Mountain, Phoenix, Arizona
I did a review of South Mountain, which I will embed here because I’ve just found this link embedding on the WordPress site. Here’s that post I did for this site a few weeks ago:
Ok so all of this setup, let’s talk about the bike and how well it did. I should throw out a few things that always affect one’s perception, and those would be expectations plus experience. My expectations coming into this were pretty modest. I’ve rented bikes before and they’re usually well-maintained but worn out. In this specific case, that was absolutely not the case. The bike was brand new.
My experience in this landscape was amazing. If you read any of the links about South Mountain I wrote, you’ll note that I had a great time out there. The park was fantastic. The weather was amazing. As such, my experience was marvelous. So you have a good setup coming into this, moderate expectations, a brand new bike, and a great experience.
Then again, it would be unfair of me to say that the experience had nothing to do with the bike performing flawlessly, which it did. The bike is not light, at 33+ pounds you know you’ve got some weight under you when you ride up any hill. Having said that, the thing was planted firmly to the ground and I found the 1x drivetrain to be more than enough to get up any hill that we found out there.
In riding this, I have to compare it to my Rip 9, which is the bike I have at home. Compared to that bike, this is a no-brainer. I would swap these bikes in a heartbeat. The 5010 handles better, is far smoother, corners better, and pretty much outperforms the Rip 9 in every regard. The fact that the 33+ pound bike climbs like a champ speaks volumes about the bike design.
It descended really well, which should be taken for granted but I’ll state as much for the record. The terrain we were in wasn’t especially technical, but what we did hit was easily consumed by this bike. The only thing limiting the bike was the pilot. Cornering was far better than I would have expected. All in all, the bike was an absolute joy to ride.
At an MSRP of $2699, I have to admit that I’m sitting here trying to figure out a way to replace the Rip 9 with this bike. It’s well worth checking out, and read the next section to find out more about Santa Cruz bikes.
The Discussion – Jay from Halters
As mentioned in my intro, I’m certainly no expert in any of this so I decided to talk to someone who is, Jason Fenton, a good friend of both the team and myself, and the owner of Halter’s Cycles, in Skillman, NJ. Jay has sponsored us for something like 8 years now and is a complete & total asset to the community.
Norm: What are your thoughts on the 5010?
Jay: The latest 5010 has been our most popular bike in the Santa Cruz lineup. We’ve had the best response from demos when ridden in plus (27.5 x 2.6”) version. (This bike is also sold with 2.4” tires) It seems to be the sweet spot for suspension travel, weight and durability for New Jersey trails. They make an alloy version and a high end / lighter (cc) version, but the C frame, S+ build (gx eagle 🦅 12 speed) is the most popular build kit . The 5010 offers the current trend of longer reach, shorter stem, slacker HTA and wider bar. Coming to this bike from a bike purchased a decade ago, everything is different. Many riders demo a new bike and have never ridden 1x, plus tires, tubeless tires, dropper post or a dual suspension bike that doesn’t bounce uncontrollably under pedaling power. Basically they are blown away with a huge leap of technology.
Norm: Do you think this is a do-everything bike for NJ or is it better at some parks than others?
Jay: It really isn’t enough bike for DH parks and it isn’t ideal for XC racing, but as an one-bike-does-all, it’s a winner. Those who lean more toward XC racing might prefer the Tallboy or Blur, while the more park focused rider would go for the Bronson or even the Nomad. It’s also important to note that Santa Cruz overbuilds their bikes. The warranty count is the lowest of any brand I’ve ever sold. The frames aren’t the lightest, but they are tough or the toughest I’ve seen. They offer a lifetime warranty on Pivot bearings as well. This shouldn’t be overlooked as this gets expensive in a hurry.
Norm: What do you think about the Blur as a race bike?
Jay: It is perfect as such, but after riding modern trail bikes, it feels so XC specific that it almost feels nervous on the techy stuff. If considering the Blur, I’d go for the TR version as it goes from the 32mm fork up to the 34 and bumps up the fork travel if only slightly.
Norm: What does the Bronson offer that the 5010 doesn’t?
Jay: Personally, I actually chose the Bronson as I’ve been eager to spend more time on more technical trails and some park riding. The problem with the Bronson is that It leaves me wanting a little more XC oriented bike for trails like Six Mile Run. The Bronson is just enough for most of the DH parks locally which is a lot to offer on a bike that I’ve also ridden on 4 hour XC rides. I’ve been riding carbon wheels on these bikes which helps to overcome the weight and sluggish feel of a 30 lb bike. While I have the Enve wheels, I have to recommend the Santa Cruz house brand Reserve wheels. Again, not the lightest made, but they offer a True NO questions asked warranty. One of my shop guys rides the Sourlands all the time and he’s actually on his 3rd rear rim. SC replaced 2 so far with zero hassle or cost. At $600 for the rim only cost, it’s awesome to see them up the ante on warranty service.
Norm: Where does the Hightower fit in the Santa Cruz fleet?
Jay: I rode the Hightower just before I had the new Bronson and I loved it. I rode it in 27 plus which they no longer offer stock (but they still fit on the new bikes). They now only sell it in 29er, which is sort of bummer as in our region it was a strong seller. The HT fits in the middle of their offered travel range. It is favored by all around riders, vs XC or park riders. I look at it as the 29er brother to the 5010 in a lot of ways. My one complaint of this bike was the constant pedal strikes in the rocks. I often over-filled the rear shock to stand the bike up a little so to lessen pedal strikes.
Norm: So if you could buy only 2 of these bikes for New Jersey, which 2 would you pick?
Jay: If I was to have a quiver, I’d grab the Tallboy in 29er and the Bronson in 27 plus (or maybe the Nomad).
Norm: What if you could only buy 1?
Jay: If i was going to try and do it all with one, it would be the 5010 or the Hightower.
Norm: Anything else we should know about Santa Cruz and the line of bikes?
Jay: Santa Cruz is run by mountain bike people first and foremost. They do offer a drop bar bike, but that isn’t their bread and butter. I’ve been out to Santa Cruz and ridden with those guys. The trails that they ride out their front door are insane. They ride a ton and they totally rip. They want cool bikes that work well and can take a beating. Their bikes are constantly evolving to create a crazy spectrum of bikes. I’m confident that they are on top of the latest trends and they really offer something for everyone.
Norm: Do you have any demos that people can try?
Jay: We have demos in the 5010, Bronson, Julianna and the Tallboy, we will likely get a few more by spring. Santa Cruz comes around at least once a year with their big demo fleet. Keep an eye out for those days posted online here.