Talk of downhill 29ers is nothing new. Companies have experimented with the big wheels off and on for years, with varying degrees of success. The main hangup has been on the component side, though — not from the frame manufacturers. Well, 2017 turned out to be the year it all came together. Component suppliers finally have forks, wheels, and tires available that can withstand the absolutely brutal demands of World Cup downhill racing. Santa Cruz was ready and raring to go, debuting their V10 29er just ahead of the first race of the World Cup season. That first race in Lourdes, France, didn’t quite go as planned, though. After the entire Syndicate Team qualified in the top six spots, the weather turned to shit in the finals, and the riders were lucky just to make it down in one piece.
Greg Minnaar, the greatest male downhill racer of all time, quickly turned it around, winning the second race in Fort William, placing third in Leogang, second in Vallnord, and winning once again in Lenzerheide. So, can a 29er make a good downhill race bike? The answer, clearly, is yes.
While the V10 29er isn’t currently offered for sale, a quick reading of the UCI’s rules clearly state:
The bicycle must be accessible to all participants. It must be marketed (i.e. available for sale on the market).
-UCI Approval Protocol for Frames and Forks (pg. 11)
So, my guess is we’ll see at least the frame available to the public sooner than later.