Fresh on the heels of their new Carbon Fiber Nomad, Santa Cruz has unveiled two new bikes built on an entirely new suspension platform.
For riders familiar with Santa Cruz’s VPP virtual pivot point suspension designs, the APP bikes are going to look like a step back, closer to their Superlight and Heckler single-pivot full susser mountain bikes.Â The APP design adds a pair of upper links to let Santa Cruz create a custom spring curve and really design the suspension to meet today’s longer travel performance standards. The result is that the APP is a middle point between their single-pivot bikes and the VPP bikes, and it’s built on four years of R&D.
In the words of the lead engineer on this project, APP is “a kind of bogus acronym.” It means Actual Pivot Point, and since we are an acronym-averse company, those three letters represent both a totally new suspension system and the fact that we don’t take our marketing nearly as seriously as we do our engineering. The name “Actual Pivot Point” initially came about as a spoof on “Virtual Pivot Point,” and was used in joking reference to our single pivot bikes when we first began working with VPP a decade ago. When it came time to name this new suspension system we were working on, the APP moniker resurfaced, and in spite of our best efforts to come up with something else that accurately described what was going on and sounded cool, the name stuck.
Rather than just design a new suspension platform, Santa Cruz designed two new bikes to put it on.Â The 125mm travel Nickel trail bike and the 150mm travel Butcher (above) all mountain bike use APP to climb as well as they descend.
(Editors Note: Doug wrote the original post, and Tyler updated at 12:30pm EST with more pics, interview answers and info.Â Videos have been posted here.)
Check out the bikes, specs, pricing and more details after the break…
If you just like pictures, scroll down, click, enlarge, drool. If you want some knowledge, read on and you’ll get to the pretty pictures in a hot second.
APP employs a variable shock rate. At the beginning of travel, the shock rate is slightly falling, it flattens in the middle of travel, and then changes to a rising rate near bottom-out. Looking at it on a graph you would notice two things – it looks the same as a shock rate curve for a similar travel VPP bike, and it means that during the initial falling rate part of travel, the suspension is very responsive to bump forces – it uses more of the suspension for a given bump size. Basically, this feels like “more travel” than is really there. As APP suspension progresses through mid-stroke, the shock rate flattens and then changes sign to a rising rate. This translates to a gradual shift from the plush initial travel into more heavy impact resistance deeper in the stroke. As the suspension nears bottom-out, the shock rate progression helps resist bottoming, and creates superb jump landing and g-out characteristics.
Why go with a single-pivot design?Â Here’s the official word:
Not all single pivot suspensions are the same, so don’t go tarring them all with the same dismissive brush. The single pivot used on our new APP bikes is similar to that found on our highly evolved Superlight and Heckler models. It features a high (but not too high) forward (but not too forward) placement that is about the very best place you can locate a single suspension pivot. The placement creates a slight degree of anti-squat, which allows for lively pedaling response, and the high-forward positioning provides a more neutral braking reaction than other lower, more rearward, locations.
We use 15mm diameter aluminum axles in the main swingarm pivot and at the APP link/swing link pivot. Those axles roll on angular contact bearings, thread directly into their swingarm or link counterparts on one side of the bike and feature locking collet heads on the other. The links themselves are stout little chunks of forged aluminum. They don’t flex. The axle and bearing design, aside from being a whole lot more sophisticated than just about anything else on the market, is sturdy, reliable, and when the time comes, easily serviceable.
OK, well that doesn’t explain everything.Â We spoke with Mike Ferrentino, SC’s head of marketing brain washing, and asked him why develop a fancier version of a simple design.
“We wanted to create a better quality suspension performance and better bump absorption in a single pivot design that’s more affordable.Â It was impossible for us to bring the price down on the VPP system, but the APP allowed us offer a more fine tuned suspension offering than just standard single pivot at a competitive price.Â It’s still single pivot, but it’s a quantum leap in performance,” Ferrentino said.
“For example, if you set up the Heckler with lower air pressure to handle the small bumps better, it’d blow through its travel on medium and big hits…and vice versa.Â But with the Butcher, you get a suspension design that can handle small, medium and large bumps very well across the entire range of travel.”
Does this mean they’re going to move away from the simpler single pivot design on the Heckler and Superlight?Â Ferrentino says no, but the pricing on their Heckler and Superlight is going to come down a bit in the near future, and the Butcher and Nickel are sitting at just slightly higher price points than those bikes (about $150 more as of this post).
So, good news all around…if you were in the market for a long travel trail bike, your options just improved.Â If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, your options will improve shortly.
First up is the new Butcher, featuring 150mm of rear wheel travel and designed for a 140mm-160mm fork, the bike should build up to around 30lbs. The bike is named after the Butcher Ranch Trail in Downieville, California, which drops 5,000ft over 16 miles of tough, rocky singletrack and this is what the Butcher was designed for. Of course, it was designed to be able to be pedaled back up to the start as well. The Butcher is being pitched as a Heckler but with a shock ratio resembling a VPP bike and a slightly slacker head angle.
Like the color?Â This chocolate brown is going to be a new option when these bikes start shipping, and you can order it up in any of their stock paint or ano colors, too.Â For those of you who like the numbers, a medium Butcher with a 529mm axle-to-crown fork has a 6.73 lb (3.05kg) frame weight w/ shock and will measure up as follows:
Pricing for a Butcher frame plus Fox Float R shock will be $1350 in the US or Â£1299 in the UK.Â Both the Butcher and Nickel will be available starting June, and full build kits for the bikes are in progress and will likely be available around that time, too.
The Butcher has ISCG05 tabs, and technically, you can run Hammerschmidt on it.Â Ferrentino says that while it will work, because of the pivot position, granny gear pedaling tends to want to extend the rear suspension, so riders may notice more trail feel and bumps in the pedals.Â However, he also said that people have been putting Hammerschmidt on the Heckler and enjoying it, so it really depends on your riding style and preferences.Â (This design is in contrast to lower, rearward single pivot locations like Kona and Trek, which would exhibit squat characteristics when putting power to the granny)
Next up is the new Nickel, which features 125mm rear wheel travel and is designed for 130mm forks. The bike should easily be built up to well under 30lbs so should go up hill well enough, but with a relatively slack 68Âº head angle, should be a blast on the way back down. The Nickel sits between the Superlight (100mm travel) and the Heckler (150mm travel) and could be considered as a cheaper version of the Blur XC. The numbers for a medium Nickel with a 509mm axle-to-crown fork are:
Pricing for a Nickel frame plus Fox Float R shock will be the same as the Butcher, $1350 / Â£1299.Â Frame weight with shock is 6.65lbs (3.02kg)
Both bikes feature hydroformed aluminium tubing, angular contact pivot bearings for a super stiff linkage, tapered head tubes and cable routing for dropper seatposts. The Nickel has two water bottle mounts for you endurance racers.
With all the new 2×10 systems coming out, you may be wondering if these are compatible, particularly with the lower profile (narrow Q factor) systems like SRAM XX.Â Well, the short answer is probably.Â They’ll definitely work with the standard Q factor 2×10 cranksets, and because of the elevated chainstay, clearance issues should be minimal if present at all.Â Santa Cruz recommends the wider Q factor options on it’s VPP bikes because, even though the narrow ones fit, they have minimal clearance and a bent chainring can end up causing frame damage.Â As usual, your best bet is to talk to a good bike shop or wait for your rich buddies to try it first.