Santa Cruz Roadster
Price: £800 (frame, fork and carbon seatpost)
Frame: 6000 series aluminium
Fork: Kinesis carbon
Stop: Dura Ace
Go: Dura Ace
Wheels: Rolf Vector Pro, with Panaracer Stradius tyres
Trim: Ritchey stem, 3TTT bars, Easton carbon fibre seatpost, Selle Italia 125 saddle
Total weight: 18lb complete
From: Stif 0113 2251111
Thrashed round the local Dales roads for as long as we were allowed to keep it (which wasn't as long as we'd have liked).
Santa Cruz produce mountain bikes of a legendarily no nonsense quality, with trend setting designs like the Chameleon and Heckler still at the forefront of bike development years later thanks to constant evolutionary tweaks. So when we got a chance to beat the gob and trotter blues by slinging our leg over their tarmac tearing Roadster we were in like Flynn.
Think of a BMX with drop bars and you've pretty much pictured the Roadster. The main triangle is formed by a deep teardrop aero downtube, sharply sloped top tube and shrouded teardrop seat tube that wraps round the rear wheel. Then for full mtb credibility (and big drive stiffness) the chainstays are square section with more windcheeting aero profiling on the seatstays.
Typically neat Santa touches include gear cable guides right at the top of the down tube for minimum outer cable length and no chafing, CNC bridges and dropouts, plus a really neat internal seat post clamp section at the top of the teardrop seat tube. In short even before you hit the road the thing looks brutally fast.
With the tight, tiny little frame underneath you, any thoughts of a nice gentle warm up disappear as soon as the first moped or bus goes past. The Roadster is well up for the chase too, whatever gear you're turning, slap the STI shifters and it'll hurl itself down the road with astonishing enthusiasm. Despite the drive stiffness it doesnt chop and stutter all over the road like some ultra stiff rigs we've ridden, which makes application of maximum power possible even on ropey rural climbs. Handling through the Kinesis fork is fast without being snatchy and despite it's frame stiffness the bike remains planted and reassuring through rough, high speed sweepers. The only worry is slight fork flutter if you really push it, but we cornered it hard enough to slide the rear end without feeling it was the last thing we'd ever be doing.
What really surprised us is how civilised the bike is when you ease off and cruise. We've had the crap beaten out of us by big tubed aluminium road bikes, but the long Easton carbon seatpost the bike was designed around and taper legged carbon fork do a fantastic job of smoothing out road buzz and rounding the edge off unavoidable potholes. This left our backs and balls happy even after a long day in 'that' saddle.
Almost as eye catching - or should that be eye watering - was the Selle Italia 125 saddle. It's essentially what you'd be left with if you skinned a Flite of all it's leather and upholstery, leaving just a thin slice of plastic with three little holes to allow some compliance on the titanium rails. Like the Roadster itself it suprised us with how comfy it was. We occasionally caught the sharp side of the nose on our leg (so it's not a wise choice for those with thighs of thunder) but to be honset we pretty much forgot weren't using a normal saddle. In mitigation it must be said firm, narrow saddles like Flites or Brooks leather wonders are our favourites and it probably won't suit those used to plumper plum perches.
Dura Ace is the road going peer of XTR and works flawlessly, under power with the powerful dual pivot brakes leaving big smears of rubber down the road if you're not careful. Rolf's paired spoke wheels add more aero chic and comfort as well as a top "thoppa, thoppa, thoppa" helicopter noise in the right sort of cross wind. Rest of the kit is a reasonable rather than boutique mix leaving room for considerable gram shaving if you fancy it.
The Roadster goes as fast as it looks, but the surprising thing is how civilised it is while doing it. Handling is precise, but forgiving enough to be taken to the very edge of your ability without tears, and though power kick is instant it doesn't waste it by skittering all over the road. This thing actually makes road biking fun, and the fact it unsettles reactionary roadies makes it all the more amusing. Add to that a mountain bike inspired aero design to die for and it's got to be one of the ultimate hot rods for off roaders hitting the road.
For more details on this and the rest of the range check out Stif.co.uk and keep watching this space for a Superlight review soon.