We're normally loathe to describe a bike as "value-oriented," because a tag like that calls to mind glossy, box store specials for $250 designed to do nothing but roll in a nominally straight line. That description hardly applies to anything rolling off of Santa Cruz's venerable drawing board, so when we say the Superlight D Complete Mountain Bike is a value racer, we mean literally that. It's built, spec'd, and dialed to fire through punchy sections, eat up trail furniture, and flow through sweeping singletrack — all at a price that leaves room for entry fees. There are flashier, more expensive rigs out there, but six-inch travel and carbon wheels can be nothing more than an expensive distraction to the sometime racer, sometime recreationalist who is looking for a bike that trains, plays, and races without requiring a second mortgage.
The aluminum frame and 100mm of single-pivot travel are a no-nonsense solution to the non-problems of weight, durability, and reliable suspension. Though there are shinier materials and suspension models out there, that shininess also carries some downfalls if they take a hit. Unlike some of the latest wonder frames, a lump or two won't compromise the Superlight's structural integrity, and the simple, stiff suspension and rear triangle minimize the number of load bearing joints and extraneous pivot points — target areas for the trail gremlins who work to irreparably consign over-engineered suspension designs to the dustbin just in time for the new, improved model's release.
Santa Cruz's adherence to tradition doesn't hamstring R&D, though, as the single-pivot design featured here has a refined pivot location. It's placed slightly above and forward of the middle chainring, which affords a more efficient balance of pedaling efficiency and bump compliance than previous iterations of the bombproof suspension design. The shock rate in sizes small and medium has also been tweaked in order to ensure that lightweight riders aren't limited in their tuning options, and the wheel size graduates across the line's size range. 27.5in wheels ensure size-appropriate handling and standover for sizes small and medium, while 29in wheels give sizes large and x-large a higher angle of attack for speed over obstacles.
The Superlight D returns for the new model year with few changes to the build kit. It's still powered by a Shimano drivetrain comprising the workhorse SLX and Deore labels. The shifting is admittedly not on par with, say, Di2. Nor is it as light and with the gee-golly newness factor of a one-by setup. But scraping the rear derailleur off on a passing rock won't set you back a few hundred dollars, and the double gearing represents a much faster top-end for sprints and fast fire road transfers, leaving the $10,000 bike club members to labor along in your wake with nothing but their beloved tech sheets to console them.