2004 Santa Cruz VPFree Mountain Bike Review


At Interbike, the Outdoor Demo is always the best time of the show. You get to ride the latest bikes from every manufacturer and quickly weed out the contenders from the pretenders. Santa Cruz has long been a contender in the high-end bike market. They have also been on the cutting-edge of suspension design since acquiring the rights to the Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension design.

First introduced for the DH market in the V10, then pushed to the trailbike market with the Blur–everyone wondered when they would enter the freeride market with a VPP design. Well, for 2004 Santa Cruz has stepped things up by offering the new VPFree design.

The exact specs on the VPFree were unavailable at the Demo, but will be provided as soon as they are available. The VPFree boasts 8-inches of cushy, super-plush rear travel provided by the Progressive 5th Element shock and VPP design.

VPP designs utilize the negative travel of the shock to help keep the rear wheel planted on the ground. This increases the overall plush feel of the bike and improves both braking and acceleration.

Santa Cruz VPFree Review

The VPFree is a DH bike at heart. So, that said, this bike was by far and I mean by far, the best descender of any bike tested. Honestly, this bike is about the best descending bike I’ve ever ridden. I’ve ridden a number of DH rigs and for everything but the gnarliest DH courses, most of them feel too sluggish for everyday riding. The VPFree descends with the confidence of a DH rig, but is lightweight enough to ride uphill.

Set up with a Marzocchi Super T, the overall ride was plush, smooth and accurate. Cornering was razor-sharp even though all angles are pretty slack. I’m guessing this is due to a calculated head angle and short wheelbase. This bike was easy to throw around and inspired confidence in technical, rocky sections.

The only real drawback I saw with this bike was its climbing ability. It climbs, but don’t expect to win any hill climbs with your buddies! Compared to other 7-inch bikes (Norco Shore, Cannondale Gemini, etc.), this bike is slow and numb on climbs. The bike is built beefy, so weight is 40 lbs. at least and with DH tires and tubes, the rolling weight adds to the fun.

Considering the amazing downhill abilities of this bike, I think most VPFree riders will soon forget about the pain and suffering of the climb once the trail teeters downhill. I know I did!

The Bottom Line on the Santa Cruz VPFree

I was very impressed with this bike overall, but disappointed with its sluggish climbing abilities. Honestly, this bike pedals uphill like a pig, but once the trails point downhill, you’ll be smiling from ear to ear. Four-foot rock drops feel like pillows and rock gardens don’t phase this suspension design.

If you like the feel of the V10, but want a more versatile design, this bike will outperform any other 7-inch bike on the planet! The VPFree allows you to descend faster with more confidence than any other bike I’ve ever ridden… you just have to get it to the top of the hill.

Buy Now: Find the Latest Santa Cruz Bikes at CompetitiveCyclist.com

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.


  1. The Santa Cruz VPFree has been eliminated from the current Santa Cruz lineup. I’ve ridden the Santa Cruz Nomad and it offers slightly less travel, but more versatility than the VPFree. That’s what I’d go with if I were looking for a VPFree.

  2. This bike does not pedal uphill well, but the thing is – it does pedal uphill. WHat bike this big, what bike that can compete with the bug guns downhill can you seriously even consider trying to pedal it back up again? With a full length seat tube (unlike its new replacement I might add) and VPP I have managed some lung bleeding climbs that I did not expact to manage. It does not make it easy but it makes it possible, which when added to its phenomenal downhill perfomance makes this a very versatile bike.

    Do not compare it to the nomad, for it weighs too much and does not climb well enough. Look at it – 200mm triple clamp forks, 150mm rear spacing, bolt through front and rear – compare this to the the big huckers, to the DH racers and you will be very pleased.

    So here we have a bike that can take all the punishment of any other bike. A bike that can smooth out even the toughest of DH courses but that you can ride to the tracks on aswell (for those of us who cant drive!)

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