The Downhiller's Santa Cruz 5010

The Downhiller's Santa Cruz 5010

Written by Isaac Boyden, on May 10, 2024

Santa Cruz is a name familiar to enthusiasts and casual riders alike, boasting a lineup that's sure to be familiar to most riders. If you were to interview everyone you know, from the occasional rider to the avid enthusiast, asking them to name a Santa Cruz model, the resounding answer would likely be the Hightower. It's no surprise, considering the Hightower stands as Santa Cruz’s undisputed best-seller, outselling the combined numbers of their second and third-best-selling models. Despite the Hightower's popularity, Santa Cruz might just recommend another bike for the all-around riders: the 5010. It's a curious twist. They say most riders would be the happiest on this bike. So when the time came for me to invest in a new bike, I heeded Santa Cruz's advice and opted for the 5010, stepping down in travel from my previous trail bike despite wanting a rock-chomping bike. So how do short travel and mullet wheels fair for someone who has previously only owned 29ers? 

Isaac pushing his Santa Cruz 5010 uphill.

Before building this 5010, I spend the previous 15 months on a Santa Cruz Hightower. And while I absolutely loved that bike, the sound of something that could handle terrain like the Hightower, while having a little bit more pop and snap to it on smoother trails down here in the valley sounded enticing. So I set out to build what I am going to call a “Jib-duro” bike, (enter more classifications the bike industry loves to make but nobody wants or needs). With an over-forked setup, boasting 150mm of front travel, coupled with Cushcore, beefy brakes, and robust tires, this bike is engineered to conquer any challenge. Yet, the mullet wheel setup ensures it remains agile, compact, and playful. For someone like me who enjoys both lift days at the resorts and flowing trails in the valley, this setup felt like the perfect compromise. 

Descending 

Descending on this bike is an absolute blast. It's suspension is set with a notably progressive leverage curve, allowing it to sit comfortably in its mid-stroke without plunging too deeply into its travel and offering plenty of bottom-out resistance. This progressive nature translates into exceptional traction, arguably some of the best I've experienced on a smaller trail bike. Moreover, the bike's more progressive leverage makes it feel like it possesses more than the specified 130mm of travel. With mullet wheels and a shorter wheelbase, navigating tight trees, corners, and jumps becomes second nature. While it may not be the most stable or lightning-fast descender, it never fails to bring a smile to your face.


The mullet wheel can let you drift and get squirrely to an extent on steep terrain, swinging the bike out from under you. While it might induce a hint of nervousness, it undeniably enhances the bike's fun factor. It's evident that this isn't an enduro beast when pushed to its limits, but it handles rough rocks, steep inclines, and rugged terrain admirably without compromising safety. However compared to bigger enduro bikes, you do have to be a little bit more on your toes on this bike. The smaller rear wheel is awesome for popping little side hits and makes pumping rollers on the rear wheel a breeze. Tight, techie desert trails are an absolute blast, with traction to spare, but the smaller travel, wheelbase and poppiness for tighter, janky southern trails. 

Climbing 

Climbing on this bike is almost a paradox. It is equally good and bad in climbing. I know that doesn't make sense, let me explain. In tight and techie climbs, this bike excels. With plenty of traction for slippery rocks or roots, the small wheelbase lets you get around tight trees or features. So steep trees and desert rock climbing are ideal on this bike, with the traction of a bigger 150mm bike but the wheelbase of a smaller bike. 

However on smoother, lengthier climbs, the bike's performance falters somewhat. The suspension tune leans towards plushness. The suspension tune on this bike is more plush than a Hightower or Tallboy and has some decent pedal bob. Additionally, the mullet wheelset lacks the efficiency of a 29” wheel on smoother ascents, with less momentum and rollover capability. The rear shock does have a climb switch, which helps a little, but it is still a little soft. The other issue with the mullet is the BB height. Where the 5010 is so good on technical climbs because of traction, it can also be its downfall. The low BB of this bike with the 27.5 rear wheel makes crank strikes fairly common. On tech climbs in the desert, I have already smacked cranks four times and even on the 165mm cranks I was using. But as long as you’re timing your cranks on tech, this is the perfect desert bike. 

Santa Cruz 5010

The Bike 

Frameset

Santa Cruz 5010, 130mm rear travel, VPP, size LG 

Fork

RockShox Lyrik Ultimate Charger 3 RC2, 29", 150 mm, 15 x 110 mm, 44 mm Offset, Gloss Black, D1

Shock

Rockshox Super Deluxe Ultimate, 210 x 50 

Drivetrain

SRAM X01/GX mechanical 

Crankset

SRAM GX - Lunar Grey, 165mm

Gearing

SRAM 32t chainring,  SRAM GX 10-52t cassette

Chain

SRAM PC-X01 Eagle - Silver

Wheelset

Raceface ARC 30 - MX, red Muc-off tubeless valves, Industry Nine 1/1 hubs - Black Ano

Tires

Maxxis DHR II 275 x 2.4WT, EXO+ MaxxTerra casing; Maxxis Assegai 29x2.5WT, EXO+ MaxxGrip, CushCore Trail Tire Inserts  

Brakes

SRAM Maven Ultimate Expert special edition kit, 180mm HS2 Rear, 200mm HS2 front, Red Anno Ti rotor bolts 

Handlebar

WHISKY No.9 Mountain Carbon Handlebar - 35.0, 20mm Rise, 760mm

Stem

Race Face Turbine R 35 stem - Red anodized, 40mm

Grips

Deity Lockjaw - black

Saddle

Syncros Savona 

Seatpost

OneUp V3 Dropper - Black ano, 31.6mm, 210mm

Accessories

Race Face Dropper Lever - Red lever; CaneCreek 40 Headset; Chris King Threadfit - Red Ano 

Front of Santa Cruz 5010
In essence, the Santa Cruz 5010 excels in technical descents but faces minor challenges on smoother climbs. Despite this, its versatility and playful handling make it an appealing choice for adventurous riders.

2 comments

  • Yes! I absolutely love this bike. Overforking mine to 150mm on the fork took a little bit of the “pedalablity” away, but I have an XC bike in the garage too so it feels perfect. Glad you like yours!

    Isaac Boyden - Contender Bicycles on

  • Most honest review of this bike. I take it to the bike park, and it is a blast. The squirr-lyness absolutely adds to the fun factor. The bit about the crank strikes is spot on too. I love this bike, and its one of my favorites in my rotation.

    Ashley on

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