When it came to my new bike,being based in Australia, I was initially faced with some very sweet alternatives, like the Aeon Isis, Marin Mt Vision and the Specialized FSR XC. In the end, brand familiarity, (light)weight obsession and a good deal from Kirrawee Cycles set my heart on the Santa Cruz Superlight. Because the heart was set, the wallet followed. After some judicious sales of various parts, bringing lunch to work, and living on boiled rice, I was finally able to finance the package.
The design is an elegantly simple, single-pivot swingarm mounted on a traditional looking 6061 Aluminium Frame. The noticeable differences between the Superlight frame and my previous Heckler is the lighter swingarm, and some serious gussets to support the claimed thinner tubing. There are also rear disc mounts – a feature of the 2000 build maybe?
The rear shock is the Fox Vanilla RC, a plussshh 4 inch travel air shock. I’m so impressed with the ability to dial in this shock to the way I want it to ride. Not
that I have done anything other than pumping it to the recommended pressure, but I like the possibility nonetheless. The same goes with the 80mm SID XC forks. Hmmm, XC racer type. SID’s, means serious, no? Well, no. The expanded SID range is apparently cheaper than they’ve ever been.
The real cost of a new frame is the irresponsible desire to put new bits on it. I resisted as much as possible but (hold me back) picked up: 1 pair XTR shifters (with odd Flight Deck nodules), 1 XTR rear mech, 1 lightweight Ti Stem, 1 pair ESP 9 Levers, 1 XT 9 Speed Cluster, 1 XT Front Mech, Control Tech Team Issue Seatpost, FSA Orbit XL Headset, 1 WTB Lazer beam Rim, 1 pair 2.1 inch IRC Mythos Tyres.
It was put together with some reasonable attention to detail – new Delta cables, end caps and a wax polish on the frame.THE RIDE
How do you convey, in one word, the thrill of speed, security of handling and total satisfaction? It felt right as soon as I hit the railway overpass bridge leading into the Nasho. Once the tyres kissed the trail, it felt even better. Maybe it was my previous experience with the design, but I felt no hesitation taking the SL to The Walls singletrack on the first ride.
I’d planned and rode this loop on my hardtail over the past few weeks in preparation for the Superlight, imagining how it would ride. I was elated with the reality. The SIDs complemented the Fox superbly, and I was surprised to feel the similarity between my Englund Cartridge’d Judy’s and the SIDs. If anything, the damping on the SID’s feels better, but there’s not that much in it. If there’s any fork upgrade worth doing, go the Englunds.
Back to the ride. The SL tracked through the rockiest sections with ease, and the light weight and suspension forced me to ride faster. The attraction of dual suspension for me isn’t just the descending, but the true-ness (sic) of riding over undulating, technical singletrack. A hypothetical ride-off on this trail with me on the SL versus me on the hardtail would result in the SL-me winning in about a minute faster and with less fatigue from the beating up of the trail.
Ok, I didnt do the Walls, but I did climb up Heartbreak as fast as the hardtail. The 12-34 is eminently sensible gearing. I’m even thinking of losing the granny ring. Up hills, the rear stayed active on ruts that normally pushed me out of the saddle.
On its second ride, I chased JohnJohn all the way through East Heathcote singletrack and didn’t miss a drop off, rut or rock. I did puncture, but that was from the silly 1.95’s I had on at the time. On its third outing, I tested its high speed, open firetrail manners in Menai. Having ridden the slightly heavier DH setup Heckler with DC118’s I lacked the supreme big hit confidence, but that is me, not the Superlight. The bike took everything I could handle, and if it could talk, it would call me a wuss for not pushing it harder.
ON THE COUCH
If there are any downsides to the Superlight, one is the frame anodizing. I’ve already picked off paint flakes without crashing. I’d hate to see how it fares after a year of riding. I need to ride it more to genuinely push its limits, but I now have a bike that is better than the rider, if you know what I mean. It calls out to me when I’m not riding to take it out and see how far I can push it. Spooky, huh?
And if retail therapy really exists, then I’m cured for life. If you’re riding around here, feel free to have a ride.
Frame: Santa Cruz Superlight 6061
Fork: Rock Shox SID XC 80mm Dual Air
Headset: FSA Orbit XL
Cranks: Shimano XT 22-32-44
Der: XTR / XT
Shifters: XTR 9 Speed
Cluster: XT 9 speed 12-34
Rims: WTB with Ritchey Logic Spokes
Tyres: IRC Mythos 2.1 Brakes: XT/ XTR
Levers: ESP 9 SL
Saddle: WTB SST
Seatpost: Control Tech Team Issue 27.2
Weight: Around 24-25 pounds or +/- 11kg
Contributed by Ray