With so many amazing bikes in the SC lineup it’s hard to choose just one. Over the past year I’ve owned the Santa Cruz 5010, Bronson, and Hightower. This is my interpretation and comparison of each.
Warning; all of my opinions are based on personal preference with a nod towards racing, so take them with a grain of salt. A little bit about me; I’ve been riding for about five years, log about 225 days in the saddle annually, and am a consistent top five pro rider in the PNW enduros.
All bikes were/are set up similarly, here are the important specs:
5010 V2: Pike at 140, Fox Float, Maxxis Minion tires, I9 wheels, 1×11 X01 drivetrain, carbon bar and crank
Bronson V2: Lyrik at 160, Fox Float X, Maxxis Minion tires, I9 wheels, 1×11 X01 drivetrain, carbon bar and crank
Hightower: Lyrik at 160, Monarch Plus RC3, Maxxis Minion tires, I9 wheels, 1×11 X01 drivetrain, carbon bar and crank
I’ll start with the 5010. I find this bike to be the most fun to ride, hands down. It makes me want to pop off of everything the trail has to offer and always leaves a smile on my face. The 130mm rear travel has its limits, but it’s more than capable for 95% of the riding I do. Actually, it’s capable of handling everything I ride, but when it gets super freaky the bike can’t quite hold the same pace as the other two. With that said it’s easy to jump, manual, corner, and wants to pop off of everything. I race this bike at places like Hood River and Bend and find it perfect.
Next up, the Bronson. I find this bike a bit dull for whatever reason. After spending months and hundreds of miles on the 5010 I just could never quite get along with the Bronson that well. I did appreciate the extra travel a handful of times on trails like Thrillium and Predator, but I didn’t feel that it outweighed the dullness factor. However, if Enduro racing is your jam then this would be a better one bike quiver over the 5010. When the going gets rough it definitely stays more composed than the 5010, allowing you to push it harder and go faster. It’s not a turd by any means when it’s time to mash on the pedals, but not as quick as the 5010. The only reason I would choose the Bronson over the 5010 would be for racing purposes. Each time I rolled the Bronson out of the garage my heart longed for the 5010. I raced this bike at Yacolt and Bellingham and it was great.
The Hightower. If I could have only had one bike this would be the one. I find it almost as playful and fun as the 5010, yet I would say that it descends just as well as the Bronson, probably even better. I’m sure having the Monarch Plus and wagon wheels help, but it feels like it has much more travel than the number (135mm) would suggest. One important note, I did over fork this bike with a 160 Lyrik. This is quite the increase in travel compared to the 140 pike that comes stock, but I find the bike to be well balanced. My only caveat with this bike is that I feel it doesn’t corner as well as the other two, but I think this has more to do with it being my first full suspension 29er than anything else. I feel slower in tight trails and it requires more effort, but this does not outweigh any of the other points I’ve made above. I still find it a superior bike to the other two. Again, I would choose to race this bike everywhere.
Hey man, this is a great comparison of 3 headlined bikes! I’m hoping you can pass along some advice to a local guy that needs it. I live here in Hood River and am looking for a new bike. I’ve seen a ton of stuff on the Hightower LT and it being so similar in climbing performance to the regular that its kind of a no-brainer. Have you had a chance to spend any time with that one yet? There are two things that have me interested in a Hightower & LT. They have enough travel to, hopefully, be forgiving some a semi-novice rider while also not limiting me a ton if I do an uplift day or hit the rocky stuff east of here and also climbing like a champ (bike has to climb well). The other is that I’m 6-4 190lbs and they make an XXL. I haven’t demo’d anything yet but from what I’ve read that’s a big deal. The one piece stuck in the back of my mind tho is that 5010 playfulness. I want to have fun and popoff of stuff (as best as my limited skills can) and really enjoy Post Canyon a lot (I will ride elsewhere of course but Post is home). However, I also wonder about that 5010 just being too small for me in the XL. Planning some demo’s but I’m not experienced enough to probably have a good enough feel for whats right/wrong. Any advice or bikes that I should focus on instead?
(I’ll buy you beers at the finger fyi sometime and chat bikes!)
Hey Steve, glad you found the review helpful! I haven’t been on the Hightower LT yet, but I should be getting one any day now. I hope to have a review up in a couple months once I get some time on it.
I think the regular Hightower with a 150mm fork would be a great choice for you. That would be my ideal bike for Post and I think it would suffice for the occasional day at a bike park. The 5010 was still one of the most fun bikes I’ve been on, but it’s nowhere near as capable in terms of descending as the HT was.
As for the LT, I can’t comment on that yet. I’m hoping it doesn’t give up much in the fun department to the HT, we’ll see!
Hope that helps!