Now, in its eighth generation, the popular downhill bike’s geometry and suspension kinematics have been highly refined, yet still offer customization without complex packaging. Although there’s been a heavy influence from the Syndicate team, Santa Cruz is adamant that the bike can still cater to bike park enthusiasts whose idea of fun may not always be going as fast as possible.
• Frame material: CC carbon
• Wheel size: Mixed (size SM-LG), 29 (size XL)
• Travel: 208mm
• Head tube angle: 62.7, 62.9, or 63°
• Reach: 419, 454, 474, 499 (+/- 5mm)
• Chainstay: 445, 450, 456, 461 (+/- 5mm)
• Weight: N/A
• Pricing: $6,799 – $8,599 / Frame only: $3,799 USD
Fully-guided internal cable routing, fenders, integrated fork bumpers and plenty of geometry adjustments look to make a very well thought out 8th generation V10.
Two elements of the frame were made clear from the start though: the carbon construction and the continuation of the VPP suspension. An all-new front triangle was apparent by the split-tube seat mast, which does bring a structural element to the design – there’s more on that and the suspension later down the page.
Included in that new front triangle is an adjustable reach headset cup that comes stock with the frame. There are also two more adjustments to be found on the V10.8 – a chainstay length adjustment at the rear axle, along with a sliding brake mount, and a lower link geometry adjustment.
Other less-apparent, but still highly respectable items are the integrated fork bumpers, downtube protectors, rear fender, and fully guided internal cable routing that features additional external guides at the lower pivots.
If you were following along with Santa Cruz’s video series that covered the development of the V10.8, you might have heard their exploration around a virtual high pivot, but through timed testing and qualitative feedback, they decided to stick with their traditional Virtual Pivot Point suspension (VPP). There’s also a slight drop in travel from 215 to 208mm.
Visually, not a lot has changed, however, listening to the team rider’s first impressions on the new bike, those tiny tweaks were highly welcomed – less pedal kickback and more support were notable attributes.
We got in touch with Kiran MacKinnon, one of the engineers at Santa Cruz, often called “the human dyno”, to ask if he could relate what the suspension looks like on the drawing board to what riders are feeling on the trail.
Matt: What are the major differences between the new bike and the previous generation encompassing the suspension kinematics, frame construction, and geometry? How do those changes translate on the trail?
Kiran MacKinnon: The V10.8 frame is entirely new, and all areas mentioned are designed around new goals. Leverage, anti-squat, and anti-rise were all heavily scrutinized to achieve what we think is the best balance of traction and support. The frame construction differences are mostly a result of packaging the new linkage and achieving reduced frame stiffness goals. Geometry was updated but not massively changed… Reach per size was increased, but otherwise, it was relatively small tweaks to address team preferences from over the years. We think everything combined translates to a bike that is more predictable and comfortable at the limit.
Matt: In the first episode of the bike’s development video series, you (and Greg) mention how the previous bike generated speed and cornered exceptionally well. What can you attribute that to?
Kiran MacKinnon: I think this goes back to our goals when it comes to leverage, frame stiffness, and axle path… where the line is drawn between comfort and performance on each.
Matt: How did you maintain those positive characteristics of the previous bike while making other changes?
Kiran MacKinnon: That part was challenging, mostly because there’s a lot of comfort in familiarity from a racer’s perspective. The whole team was pretty happy with V10.7, so there was an emphasis on not losing the bike’s character. There were a few easy wins when it came to anti-squat and anti-rise for sensitivity, but for things like leverage, geo, and stiffness, we tried to only make changes that we thought brought a higher quality experience, and tried to stay away from too many trade-offs. Lots of small changes equated to a larger change in quality than in character, at least that was the hope.
Matt: Moving on to the second video in the series, Jackson’s first takeaway was how much smoother the new bike was. What do you think he means by that? Is there more small bump compliance, less brake squat, and/or lower chain feedback?
Kiran MacKinnon: A large part of that sensitivity is due to a flatter, lower starting leverage paired with significantly reduced anti-squat and pedal kickback. Reduced frame stiffness aids in the grippy feel, and lower anti-rise helps keep things working under braking.
Matt: Nina says the bike rides higher in the travel. Would it be correct to say then that the 8th generation V10 has a more linear leverage rate?
Kiran MacKinnon: Yeah, the new bike has a straighter (more linear) leverage curve that is also less progressive. Most of the ride height improvement is due to the bike’s lower starting leverage ratio.
Matt: I often hear the phrase, “It’s an easy bike to ride.” Laurie says nearly those exact words after a first lap. What would you associate that quality with?
Kiran MacKinnon: I think it’s just a matter of refinement… Taking the good from the old bike’s recipe and giving it some extra sauce. Not doing anything too weird or goofy just for the sake of making the bike seem reinvented.
Matt:Where do you draw the line between a bike having too much support versus enough small bump compliance? How much of that is reliant on the rear shock?
Kiran MacKinnon: It’s always a balance. When working on linkages, I’m constantly trying to get the bike’s travel to feel consistent from top to bottom. No peaks or valleys in terms of support or feedback. Doing this correctly helps a lot to reduce compromise when finding the balance of support and activity with shock tuning/setup. I think everyone has a preference when it comes to this topic, but I think a well-executed linkage gives the rider the ability to draw their own line with shock setup and have a quality experience.
Matt: Jackson, Nina, and Laurie are all mentioned the increased support, grip, and control during the setup in Queenstown. They’re all elite-level athletes though. How do those changes transpire for average riders and is there a compromise there to give the team riders what they need?
Kiran MacKinnon: This plays pretty well into my previous comment. Especially when the bike’s use case is clear, I think it’s possible to make a linkage that feels high quality and also accommodates different support vs activity preferences.
Matt:Talking purely in terms of timed testing, does that mean, in theory, that the fastest bike might not always be the most comfortable bike?
Kiran MacKinnon: That’s where things get blurry depending on what comfort means to you… I do think the bike that makes the rider feel most comfortable when pushing the pace is always the fastest bike. However, I don’t think the squishiest bike is usually the fastest.
Matt: Finally, is the new split-tube seat mast all about identifying the bike as the newest version, or is there more at play there?
Kiran MacKinnon: The split helps support the longer seat mast due to the linkage/shock being pushed further forward in the frame for better kinematics.
We mentioned the frame components that allow for the geometry changes, but what exactly are those numbers? For starters, there are four frame sizes; SM, MD, LG, and XL. All frames run exclusively on MX wheels, except the XL, which rolls on a full 29er chassis.
The Syndicate team had been using offset headset cups in the previous frame to dial in the reach for some time, whereas the new frame captures its own cup system to offer a zero or 5mm fore and aft adjustment. Starting with the smallest frame in the neutral position, those reach numbers are listed at 419, 454, 474, and 499mm.
Similarly, there’s a chainstay adjustment at the rear axle that allows for the same amount of movement. Each frame has a tailored rear center starting at 445, moving up to 450, 456, and 461 for the XL. A sliding brake mount means that you don’t need to carry alternates if you want to switch that chainstay length and is one less part to lose.
Depending on the track steepness, riders may want to modify the BB height and head angle. Santa Cruz has carried over the flip-chip adjustment on the lower link to do just that, except there are now three head angle positions of 62.7, 62.9, or 63 degrees.
Pricing, Specs, and Availability
Santa Cruz is offering the V10 in two build options, the $6,799 DH S and the $8,599 DH X01, both with the CC carbon frame.
As for the build kits, the main differences lie in the drivetrain, brakes, and suspension components. The DH S build includes a Fox 40 Performance Elite fork and Performance DHX2 shock, SRAM Code Stealth Bronze brakes, GX DH shifting and Descendant cranks.
On the higher end DH X01 build, the suspension steps up to the Factory Kashima level at both ends, Code Stealth Silver brakes, and the X01 DH drivetrain.
Both kits come with Reserve 30HD alloy wheels, OneUp Components alloy bar and direct mount stem, and Maxxis Assegai tires.