The mountain bike industry has always been a pretty dynamic place, with constant innovation and change that make trying to anoint a "standard" in any category — from wheel size to bottom bracket to suspension design — an exercise in already-outdated futility. We think this reflects two elements of the community at the industry's heart: a demand for quality and a rebellious streak that sometimes bucks trends just to buck. Santa Cruz's Superlight R Complete Mountain Bike embodies both of these qualities, maintaining the proven tradition of alloy and a single-pivot suspension while adopting progressive wheel diameters and variable shock leverage ratios across sizes.
The aluminum frame and 100mm of single-pivot travel need no introduction, as the important lines to write about them have already been scrawled across singletrack the world over these past few decades. Though there are shinier materials and suspension models out there, that shininess also carries some downfalls if a bit of trail furniture or an errant branch ever scribbles its own signature on you and your frame. Unlike some of the latest wonder frames, a lump or two won't compromise the Superlight's structural integrity. 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 insistence on tried and true for the frame and suspension doesn't necessarily carry over to the rest of the bike. Certain properties of travel and kit loadout change with the size, dialing Superlight to its rider's specific needs. As alluded to above, the shock rate in sizes small and medium has been tweaked in order to ensure that lightweight riders aren't limited in their tuning options. The wheels are also mutable, with 27.5in wheels ensuring 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 R's build kit also demonstrates Santa Cruz's penchant for adopting new technology when it's actually recommended by on-trail benefits. Suspension duties fall on the shoulders of RockShox and FOX Racing Shox, adding adjustability to the Superlight's speed-centric travel. The Shimano component spec keeps things all-Japanese across the brakes and drivetrain, but SRAM surfaces in the hubs, which are laced to WTB rims for a now-obligatory tubeless-ready setup whose utilitarianism matches that of the aluminum frame and simple, durable suspension.