[R]eviewed // Santa Cruz V10.8

The V10.8 is truly the Ferrari of mountain bikes. While the silhouette looks very similar to its predecessor models, there are a bunch of perfectly executed changes to the new bike which grab your attention up close. We take a deep dive into what makes one of the most winningest bikes on the world cup circuit tick…

Review // Blake Nielsen  Photos // Matt Staggs

What were your first impressions of the V10 when it arrived and you had a chance to take a close look at its frame?

With more geometry adjustment than you can poke a stick at, all individual from each other and of which blend into the lines of the frame perfectly, there are no Frankenstein looking compromises being made to tailor the bike’s setup to your needs. The finish of the paintwork is absolutely flawless too, as you’d expect from a Santacruz, but it doesn’t have to get a mention because I feel like it is the best in the bike industry. 

Hit us with the bike’s key details?

The V10.8 is boasting 208mm of rear wheel travel, it is available as a mullet for frame sizes S, M and L, while XL comes as a full 29’er setup. Santacruz only make the V10 in their “CC” top tier carbon layup and with more geometry adjustment than you can poke a stick at I won’t delve into the geometry too much, it is obviously pure bred for pointing down any hill you can find and ripping it to shreds! 

Tell us a bit about the adjustability that the bike boasts and what settings you opted for initially?

Santacruz went all out in the geometry adjustments that they included within the V10.8! Not only that, but for all of the adjustments, the change out parts are included with the purchase of the bike which is refreshing to see. Starting with the reach adjustment via the interchangeable drop in (not press-fit, making for an easy DIY change) headset cups. Offering an -8mm/middle/+8mm adjustment, each of these positions completely changes the capabilities and attitude of the bike, but it doesn’t stop there. Moving to the rear dropouts of the frame we have a similar adjustment for the chainstay length, with 3 different inserts you can have +5mm/middle/-5mm worth of adjustment. Once again, altering the attitude of the bike, we aren’t talking about the miniscule changes that some companies like to claim as geometry adjustment. On top of the length adjustments, there are 3 different inserts which alter the position of the lower shock bolt, which fine tunes the bottom bracket height and headtube angle.

My initial setup was mid length for reach, short chainstay and middle shock position. I have chopped and changed between several different combos now and love to pick apart the different feelings from each setup.  

What is the weight of the bike like?

Our size medium test bike sits right on 17.1kg, ready to roll on the trail. The feeling of such a featherweight DH weapon still boggles my mind when I get it out for a session. I still vividly remember the first DH bikes I used to ride being 25kg and hardly being able to pick them up haha! How far we have come. 

It’s been a minute since you’ve ridden a DH bike so were you pretty excited to throw a leg over the V10 and how did your first day out on the trails go?

Jumping back on a modern DH bike after a hiatus from them for a few years requires a complete recalibration of your perception of speed. All your braking points change, speed through rougher sections of trail differ compared to our beloved enduro bikes and the feeling of stability gives you a confidence that you forgot was possible. “Trail noise” is nearly non-existent, it is so much easier to link in consecutive chunky sections of trail it almost feels like cheating. Until the confidence and speed start to pick up, it is scary how capable the modern day downhill bike is, but so damn raw and exciting at the same time. 

Did it take long to get used to how the bike handles and how you ‘need’ to ride it?

That’s a tricky one, obviously riding so many different bikes within a short period of time I can get a base line of comfort and confidence in a bike within a very short period of time, and the V10 was no different. I can also find a point, just below where a certain bike’s “limit” may be just as quickly depending on where I’m riding, that wasn’t the case here though.  The V10.8 is such a thoroughbred that the limit certainly lies within the rider, not the bike. This is due to many factors such as; geometry, suspension kinematics, the stiffness of the bike overall and the list goes on.

Does the bike offer more ‘grip’ than you are used to?

Downhill bikes do offer a very unique feeling of being glued to the ground that is very hard to replicate on an enduro or trail bike. That’s not to say that they feel heavy or are hard to move around, but there certainly is a much more planted feel, especially at higher speeds. That does equate to a feeling of traction and grip, which takes some getting used too.  You can certainly push a lot harder through flat corners and off camber sections, trusting that the bike isn’t going to push out from underneath you. 

How did the bike’s Fox Factory suspension perform?

I was a big fan of the Fox 40 and DHX2 combo on the V10, my initial setup on each came directly from the Santacruz website, within the webpage for the V10.8 there is a shock setup section. Santacruz do a fantastic job of helping the end user get well acquainted with their bike and although I did play around a bunch with the setup, I ended up basically back at the recommended settings. The Fox 40 blows my mind, it seems impossibly light when holding the fork by itself given the sheer size of the lowers and stanchions. I have always been a fan of a bit more flex through DH suspension, having spent a large amount of time on a pair of Manitou Dorado’s back in the day, the 40’s do feel amazing on trail though. The DHX2 coil shock is a no brainer, in the V10 it ticks all the boxes for what you want out of a suspension package for a DH bike.

Now that you’ve spent quite a bit of time test riding the bike how would you describe its personality?

This is going to sound a bit weird but hear me out. I mean this in the best possible way, but the V10.8 has borderline personality disorder.  It’s no secret that it is more than capable of being a thoroughbred race bike, thanks to its adjustability and its trail attitude in certain setups it would make for a rad bike park shredder or freeride weapon. It’s easy to get wrapped up thinking that this bike might have just been made as a tool for the Syndicate to hunt for World Cup (or whatever we are calling it this year) podiums, but that’s not the case at all. It is such a fun bike to go and session jumps with as well, plus everything in between! 

Based off comments on our YouTube channel a lot of people are wondering how the ‘ride’ of the V10 is compared to a regular modern enduro style bike?

I thought this would be an easy one to put into words, but DH bikes are a very unique experience that almost has to be felt firsthand to understand. Descending on a DH bike compared to an Enduro bike almost feels like you’re moving at half speed, the bike takes away so much of the trail chatter that it would make the trail feel unrecognizable compared to being on an Enduro bike. You feel like you have more time to make line choices and more leeway if the line choices don’t go to plan. With those combined, you find yourself pushing the trail speed more and more.

Another question we’ve been asked quite a few times is how does the (ultra modern) V10 ride compared to the DH bikes of 10+ years ago that you grew up racing?  

There is no comparison in the performance of the bikes, however you do get a certain feeling of nostalgia being back on a DH bike. The modern DH bikes are so much more capable, but equally feel so much safer and predictable compared to the bikes they were derived from. It is particularly cool to look at the lineage of the V10 model too. Santacruz have always believed in the VPP linkage system and continued through each iteration of the bike with basically the same silhouette, yet making huge leaps with the design and ride with each version. I really like that design philosophy rather than chopping and changing the whole frame layout every few years, it’s very Porsche 911 like in that respect.

Out on the trail, every single aspect of your riding is enhanced on the modern bikes, I’m so glad that DH bikes seem to be making a resurgence, it is such a raw experience.  

How does this bike ‘pedal’ given that it’s got so much travel?

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the V10.8 pedals. The combination of the VPP linkage system and the Fox Factory suspension makes for a pretty damn good pedalling platform considering how plush and supple the bike is when the going gets rough. We are talking about an all out DH bike, so I wouldn’t go climbing hills unnecessarily on the V10, but on trail the pedal bob when accelerating out of corners or out of a start gate is as minimal as you’d hope for from 208mm of rear travel. 

Was there anything that you didn’t like about how the V10 rode or its stock parts spec?

My test bike was the DH X01 build, the top spec option for the new model and I have been absolutely stoked with the bike straight out of the box. The Fox Factory suspension has never ending adjustment as we mentioned earlier and work faultlessly run after run. A SRAM 7spd DH groupset takes care of the drivetrain, combined with an E-13 chain device. SRAM Code Silver Stealth brakes and big beefy HS2 rotors will take care of your slowing capabilities. A trick wheelset comprised of Reserve HD30 alloy rims and Industry Nine 1/1 hubs, wrapped in stick Maxxis Assegai tyres which keep you glued to the ground. All rounded out with a One Up bar and stem combo, carbon Burgtec seat post and DH specific Fizik Alpaca X5 saddle.

It makes for a bling and lightweight build overall, without compromising anywhere on strength or reliability, I have loved every minute on board this V10.8 to be totally honest. 

Obviously the V10 has been developed primarily for racing but does it still make for a good rig for people that just want to ride bike parks or do shuttle laps with their buddies?

With so much adjustment, the V10.8 really is capable to be setup for anything you could want from a 200+mm travel bike. While the suspension characteristics may have been tuned for more racer focused wants and needs, everything else about the bike simply makes it an absolute blast to point down any hill and press send. With the growth of shuttle-able trail centres and shuttle companies it’s any wonder that DH bikes are making a comeback locally and the V10.8 is the absolute cream of the crop!


Frame: Full carbon front and rear end, premium ‘CC’ layup.

Sizes: S-XL

Travel: 208mm

Wheel size: Mullet however size XL’s come stock as dual 29”

Weight: 16.5Kg

Price: Frame $5899, completes from $9999

Browse: www.santacruzbicycles.com