If you head over to the Santa Cruz website you’ll notice that both APP bikes the Nickel and the Butcher are, well, they aren’t there anymore. It’s a hard sell really, when the alloy Santa Cruz VPP bikes are getting so affordable that anyone would want a link actuated single pivot bike. Anyway riding to work today in some of the most depressing weather we’ve had in Wellington for a while I remembered that Leif and I filmed a video review for the now defunct Butcher on Makara Peak’s Leaping Lizard trail. This morning I dug up the footage and whipped out this edit; here it is for your viewing pleasure. Oh and the whole long term review is here as well, though it won’t be much help unless you’re looking for a second hand one.
Santa Cruz Butcher
Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub. It’s been about six months since we received our first long term test bike, the Santa Cruz Butcher, and about three since we posted a progress update on our website. We’re now nearing the end of our test and will soon be stripping it down and returning it to whence it came. Six months is a bloody decent chunk of time to have a test bike, and we’re thankful to New Zealand distributor Hyperformance Hardware for stepping up and providing us with this bike.
First, a little background.
The APP bikes (the Butcher and the Nickel) were launched late last year. As we’ve mentioned previously, APP is an attempt to fuse the simplicity and relative affordability of single-pivot bikes with the performance of Santa Cruz’s high-end VPP bikes. To achieve this, a set of linkages has been added to what is otherwise a pretty basic single-pivot design. These linkages drive the shock, creating a leverage ratio very similar to the VPP bikes: a falling rate in the early travel, a more linear rate mid-travel, and a rising rate in the final stages of travel. The result is a suspension performance that seems to be more effective in both the little bumps and larger hits—supple, bottomless, and with little wallow in the middle.
At the three month point we were mostly pleased with the Butcher’s performance. Another three later and not much has changed. The Butcher climbs well for a 150 mm single-pivot bike, and energy from our limbs of luncheon seemed to be efficiently converted into forward motion with little associated bob. Plus, the nice supple initial shock stroke ensures fantastic traction up and over rough terrain. The APP suspension also does an admirable, though not exceptional job of smoothing out the trail when descending, soaking up most of the bumps and lumps you’re likely to encounter. However, like many single-pivot designs it seems to struggle to iron out fast, square-edged hits quite as well as some multi-link bikes. It’s difficult to say whether this is further complicated under braking, or just more apparent through braking bumps. Either way, carrying speed through the rough into tight corners requires a deft touch on the brakes and good line choice.
The riding position on the Butcher felt comfortable from day one, but those of you who have read the three month report will know that I wasn’t feeling as confident descending on it as I have on other similar bikes. Initially I put this down to some minor geometry measurements (bottom bracket height and chainstay length). I tweaked a few variables to try to ascertain exactly what the contributing factors were. The changes I have made include a longer travel fork (from the 150 mm RockShox Revelation to a 160 mm Fox 36), a slightly longer stem and a change of tyres (from Schwalbe Fat Alberts to Maxxis High Rollers). These changes definitely helped and my preferred setup is now the Revelation—which seems to balance best with the rear while keeping the bike relatively low—with a 70 mm stem and the High Rollers. Despite these improvements, I’m still not hitting familiar trails with the same confidence I normally would. For lack of any other explanation I’m going to stick to my original hypothesis; the Butcher would better suit me if the bottom bracket was a little lower (it’s currently 13.8 inches), and the chainstays fractionally shorter than their 17.1 inches. But all the Butcher’s other measurements and angles (head angle 67.5 degrees, seat tube 72 degrees) seem to be pretty spot on.
I like what Santa Cruz have endeavoured to do with the APP bikes. They’ve aimed to develop a premium performing product at a relatively affordable price point, and the Butcher is a well thought out and crafted bike. After getting to know the Butcher, I will be a little sad to see it go. However, I won’t be heartbroken. Although it was always good fun to ride, there was never anything particularly special about the ride and with so many good bikes on the market today, it takes something very special to stand out from the crowd. LEIF ROY