Santa Cruz V10 Carbon Downhill MTB: Reviewed

Final review of the Santa Cruz V10 Carbon downhill bike.

After a good three months of swapping parts around and playing with different settings (and loving every minute of it), I am finally ready to share my final review of the Santa Cruz V10 Carbon downhill bike. Having tried three different rear shocks and playing with both Fox 40 and Boxxer WC forks, I came to my final ideal build kit that I really think makes the bike run oh-so-fast and oh-so-well! Pictured above is one iteration of a good build that works amazingly well, even for a place like Mountain Creek (where most of the pics for this article were taken).

The Mountain Creek Build:

  • V10C medium frame set with Cane Creek DBair.
  • Cane Creek Angelset (0 change)
  • Truvativ Noir 40 seatpost
  • WTB Silverado (Syndicate)
  • 2012 RockShox BoXXer WC
  • Mavic Deemax / Easton Havoc 150 wheelset
  • Maxxis High Roller II / Muddy Mary tires
  • Sram XO DH crank 165mm
  • Sram XO shifter
  • Sram XO short cage Type 2 rear derailleur
  • Sram Red 11-25 cassette
  • Sram XO chainguide
  • Avid XO Trail brakes F/R 200/180 mm
  • Loaded Pedals
  • Easton Havoc carbon bars
  • Answer ONE stem
  • Loaded Precision bar grips
  • All Ti upgraded parts
  • Final Weight: 33 lbs

Gone are the days where DH bike weights exceed 44 lbs; the V10C is an excellent example of how a bike can be made very strong and yet lightweight. When I compare my experience on the V10C to my Banshee Legend II (which I also loved), the V10C is better in just about every way.

One thing that I noticed almost immediately is that the V10C gives you the feeling that you’re sitting in the bike rather than on the bike. That sensation is thanks to the combination of the low bottom bracket and extra bit of sag that also comes with the 10.5 inches of rear travel. Once I decided that zero fork offset from the already slack 65 headtube angle was just about right for my type of riding, I was good to go.

I had the opportunity to test the V10C with three rear shocks: the RockShox Vivid Air, the Cane Creek Double Barrel, and the Cane Creek DBair. Of the three shocks, I enjoyed the DBair the most. For one thing, you cannot beat the weight. Since it was the lightest of the three (15 grams less that Vivid Air) and the most adjustable, the DBair was a clear winner.

Up front I am still at odds about which fork I prefer the most. In the photo I have the RockShox BoXXer WC, but I do flip flop between that and the Fox 40 FIT RC2. They both work great… the main difference is that the 40 feels more laterally stiff. That being said, the BoXXer still held up great in the rock gardens of Mountain Creek.

In case you’re wondering, here are my settings for my bike, based on my weight (200 lbs):

Front fork, RockShox BoXXer WC:

  • Crown height of 0.350″
  • Air pressure: 80 psi
  • Bottom out: 1.5 turns in
  • LSC 7 clicks in
  • HSC 11 clicks in
  • Beginning stroke rebound 8 clicks in
  • Ending stroke rebound 11 clicks in

Rear shock, Cane Creek DBAir setting (10.5″ travel)

  • Air can spacers: 4 (3 mm ones)
  • Air pressure: 190psi
  • HSC 3.25 turns in
  • LSC 14 clicks
  • HSR 3.4 turns in
  • LSR 14 clicks in

The settings above are great for anyone from 170-200 lbs, allowing the bike to ride very neutral. Just don’t tell anyone! 😉

In the drivetrain department I have been running XO for a while; I recently received the newer Type 2 derailleur, which made it on the bike a week before my big Mountain Creek trip. I did notice a bit of improvement in the reduction of chain slap noises, but I also noticed an almost stiff link kind of feel to the system when the clutch lets itself out. The Type 2 derailleur has a large amount of internal drag (within the clutch) to keep the chainline tight, which to some will feel a bit odd at first. The carbon XO cranks are still running great–granted they are showing some signs of wear, as the rocks do get to them, but they are still in one piece.

Speaking of carbon, I am running exclusively carbon bars from now on (unless testing other products): the vibration reduction is a big plus! Yes they are pricy, but I think the benefit is well worth the extra coin. I’ve found that whenever I have carbon up front I can ride longer with less fatigue. The Loaded Precision Grips also contribute to the reduction in hand shock when riding. Surprisingly, the Loaded Grips are still holding out very well.

Out on the Trail

As a whole unit, without picking out any one part or going over tuning numbers and such, the V10 Carbon works superbly on everything: big hits, massive suspension-rocking boulder trails, fast G-out berms, wall rides… it dominates them all! I can’t really say anything bad about the bike (other than the retail price… see below).

At first I did find it a bit of a challenge to get used to the bike, and it took a little while to get the suspension settings correct. Believe me, if you don’t have this bike set up properly, you will not like it at all as it can almost feel too active in the back. After I got the suspension tuned correctly, both front and rear, and after I’d chosen the tires correctly, along with the right pressure (29psi R 28psi F), the bike woke up and really acted as if it was an extension of my body!

Body position was key to riding the V10C fast, along with brake control. All suspension suffers a bit of lockup when you’re on the brakes and hitting bumps, so the key thing to remember is to brake before turns and bigger features if you can help it. When on the brakes I found keeping my chin just behind the stem with bent arms and legs in a semi-relaxed but readied stance was key to fast control, which this bike definitely offers.

After the initial shock of the roughness of the terrain at Mountain Creek, I started to set up lines further up the slope. The V10C was able to follow those lines with ease. The 65 head angle, Muddy Mary tires, perfect-tracking rear end, and low bottom bracket contributed to the cruise-missile performance.

The V10C soaked the bigger hits up very well, keeping in mind that the low bottom bracket dictates you must keep the pedals at the 3 and 9 position or you’re going to eat it. I found that on the jumps with smooth landing transitions, I almost didn’t feel a thing.

When you do have to get on the pedals, if your shock is tuned well enough, you could almost pass this DH rig off as an AM bike. The V10 pedals very well, and the faster your speed, the less bob you feel. So for those of you who are thinking of racing, seriously give the V10C some thought. I have noticed that many of the newer circuits include pedal-ly sections that could make or break your run time.

Bottom Line

For those who are looking for a nimble, responsive, yet somewhat forgiving downhill bike, try the V10C!

This bike is not for everyone. At a price tag (as built) well into the $8,000 range, the cost will limit some people. But if you can afford it, go for it! It is superb piece of machinery, and a joy to ride!

I would again like to thank the folks at Easton, Mavic, SRAM, WTB, Loaded, Spank, Cane Creek and of course Santa Cruz for making this bike build possible!

Any questions or comments are welcome!

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