Are you a Tallboy in a Blur? Or a Nomad looking for a Chameleon?
SC don’t do model years but they do refresh their models every few years and sometimes introduce some brand new Santa Cruz mountain bikes.
Understanding the Santa Cruz mountain bike range
Before you go for a proper look at them, it’s easy to think that choosing a Santa Cruz will be an easy task. They don’t feel like a big brand. They feel like they mainly make trail bikes. Really good trail bikes.
But once you delve into researching the California company you appreciate they’re bigger than that. After all, there’s rarely a time when you go out on a ride and you don’t see someone on a Santa Cruz.
There are a total of 11 different Santa Cruz mountain bikes. They range from long travel World Cup Downhill rigs through to XC endurance hardtails via several iterations of the modern trail bike. It’s the trail bike genre that arguably needs the most explaining. With both wheel sizes available (plus, er.. Plus size) and travel ranges from 100mm to 170mm, picking the best Santa Cruz for you is tricky. But we’re here to help.
We’re going to deal with the hardtail first, then we’ll get on to the full suspension models ordered in increasing amount of travel.
Carbon C versus Carbon CC
A quick word on the two types of carbon that Santa Cruz make mountain bikes from. Carbon C is the cheaper. Carbon CC is the more expensive one. Basically Carbon CC weighs a bit less (there’s not much in it admittedly) but is just as strong and stiff as Carbon C.
Hardtail Santa Cruz mountain bikes
There are three Santa Cruz hardtails. And one of them – the Santa Cruz Jackal – is a dirtjump/slopestyle bike, so that’s easy to dismiss straight away. Well, unless that’s what you wanted of course! The real choice of SC hardtail is between the Santa Cruz Chameleon and ther Santa Cruz Highball.
The Santa Cruz Jackal is the playbike. The dirtjump bike. The pump track bike. The slopestyle trick bike. Overbuilt aluminium frame running on 26in wheels (remember them?) for wheel strength and park pumping ability. Typically paired with a burly ‘n’ bolt-thru short travel suspension fork. Don’t be tempted to get one of these as a trail riding mountain bike. They’re simply the wrong shape and geometry for riding trails. Price: £669 (frame only).
The Santa Cruz Chameleon has been in the SC range pretty much since the get-go. The latest Chameleon is still an aluminium hardtail designed around relatively short travel fork (120mm) and based around the traditional short chainstay and not-slack head angle vibe but it now accepts either 29in wheels or 27.5+ wheels. Price: from £1,699 to £2,349.
The Santa Cruz Highball has just been rejigged for 2018. It’s a carbon hardtail that only accepts 29in wheels and is defiantly designed around XC-tastic 100m travel suspension forks. It’s so XC that you’ll struggle to fit a dropper seat post in it due to speccing of a skinny 27.2mm seat tube. The ride has be de-tuned for comfort slightly but this is still an unashamed XC thrasher for raceheads and endurance bods. Prices: from £2,699 to £4,299.
Full suspension Santa Cruz mountain bikes
First off, shall we just discount the Santa Cruz v10 Downhill race bike? Chances are you aren’t looking for a DH bike. And if you are, there it is. Enjoy. Right then, non-DH Santa Cruz full suspension models. There are seven of them. Travel ranges from 100mm up to 170mm. They could all be classified as trail bikes. It very much depends on the rider, and the trail.
The bikes all use a variation on the VPP floating/virtual pivot pivot twin-link suspension layout, with most using a conventional swingarm and seat tube except one (Nomad) that uses an interrupted seat tube with rear shock passing through it.
The Santa Cruz Blur has just been revised and has been reborn as a 29er XC-endurance bike. Santa Cruz’s lightest VPP bike ever. But don’t just think of think as a lycra-loving race bike. On the right sort of terrain and with a pilot who likes all things trad, the Blur looks to be a barrel of laughs. A mere 100mm of rear travel. 69° head angle. 29in wheels only. Stiff as a board. Carbon only. Price: from £3,699 to £7,899.
The Santa Cruz Tallboy was one of the very first 29er full sussers that worked as a trail bike for regular riders. With the arrival of the similar remit Blur we wouldn’t be surprised to see this model phased out or wholly revamped into a different sort of bike. Having said that, the ace up the sleeve for the Tallboy is not the extra 10mm of rear travel, it’s the ability to run 27.5+ wheels in there (as well as the more usual 29in wheels). Still well worth considering if you think the new Blur is going to be too much of a handful for your tastes/trails. Alloy or carbon models. Price: from £2,699 to £6,599.
The Santa Cruz 5010 was launched as the Solo but copyright conflict from another bike company forced the model to take on the name 5010 (‘Solo’ written in numbers, geddit?) The 5010 is perhaps the cult offering in SC’s range. When everyone went hook, liner and sinker for the similarly timed Santa Cruz Bronson, there were a few folk who preferred the less travel, lighter, more ‘friendly’ 5010 concept. 130mm travel bike designed solely for 27.5in wheels. Alloy or carbon models. Price: from £2,649 to £6,599.
The Santa Cruz Hightower sort of replaced the old Tallboy LT but added the ability to run either 29in wheels or 27.5+ wheels. The Hightower is the point where the SC range leaves behind a strong focus on light weight XC behaviour and starts to prioritise ‘big mountain’ riding and durability. 135mm of rear travel. Carbon only. These days the regular Hightower has been usurped in sales and interest by the Hightower LT (below) and we’d not be surprised to see it discontinued at some point. Price: from £3,999 to £6,599.
The Santa Cruz Hightower LT is to all intents and purposes the new Hightower really. Literally, it is half the old Hightower; only the 150mm-delivering swingarm is new on the Hightower LT. The move makes the Hightower 29er-specific (sorry to all you 27.5+ fans!) but it now makes much more sense as a hard riding trail bike or enduro race bike. The head angle is slacker and makes for a more capable and stable speed wagon wheeler. Carbon only. Price: from £3,949 to £6,699.
The Santa Cruz Bronson is almost certainly the biggest selling SC in the UK. They’re everywhere! And with good reason. Not only do they just look… right. They are also fantastic and thrilling to ride. A down-the-line 150mm travel mountain bike
rolling ripping on 27.5in wheels with a ride quality that is very much rally car rather than limousine. Despite packing that much travel and offering suspension feel designed for speed, the Bronson is more than light enough to ride all day long. A modern classic. Alloy or carbon. Price: from £3,299 to £6,699.
The Santa Cruz Nomad pushes the accepted limits of what can be considered and actually used as a trail bike. Make no mistake though, you don’t need a shuttle or uplift to ride a Nomad. It may well pack 170mm of rear travel but it still weighs the same as mountain bikes we were all perfectly happy to pedal around on a few years back. The Nomad is squarely aimed at riders whose terrain involves seating climbing and stood up descents, and not much in between. It’s an alpine bike but one that works in any country where the climbs are steady, the descents are steep and there’s little in the way of contouring tracks. Alloy or carbon. Price: from £3,599 to £6,799.
What about women’s Santa Cruz mountain bikes?
Santa Cruz do things a bit differently. They have a brand devoted to their women’s bikes (Juliana bikes) but they also state that they don’t believe in women specific geometry on bikes. So what the flip are Juliana Bikes all about then, you may well ask.
Well, aside from different names, different fonts and different paint jobs, Juliana bikes’ main thang is that they’re available in smaller sizes and come specced with female friendly saddles, smaller diameter grips and lighter tuned suspension damping. They’re not so much ‘female-specific’ as ‘small-human-specific’.
If you’re not a small or light woman, feel free to get a Santa Cruz rather than a Juliana.
There are four Juliana models: Strega, Roubion, Furtado and Joplin.
The Juliana Trega is the female Santa Cruz Nomad.
The Juliana Roubion is the female Santa Cruz Bronson.
The Juliana Furtado is the female Santa Cruz 5010.
The Juliana Joplin is the female Santa Cruz Tallboy, but unlike the Tallboy the Joplin can be run with with 29in or 27.5+ wheels.