On April 1st, everyone was fooling around – but not Santa Cruz! With 165 millimeter of travel, 27.5″ wheels, 65 degree steering angle and weighing in at 12.9 kilogram, the announced Santa Cruz Nomad is a deadly serious shredding machine. And its aggressive aqua-magenta color combination certainly does not lack confidence!
Only a few days later, we were on the plane to Santa Cruz to test the new Nomad – and that’s exactly what we did! After two days of extensive shredding in Demo Forest and the trails around Santa Cruz, here are our impressions of the bike.
In a brave move, the full-carbon frame of the new Nomad was uncompromisingly designed for 1×11 drivetrains, it’s not possible to mount a front shifter. Chainguides can be mounted using the ISCG05 mount.
This results in a very compact rear triangle with short 433 millimeter chainstays. Considering the naturally wider construction of the VPP suspension, that’s a very good length for a 27.5″ bike. Another positive effect: The suspension is optimized for one chainring, thus increasing the pedaling efficiency.
The VPP-rear offers 165 millimeter of travel and is available either with a RockShox Monarch Plus or a RockShox Vivid RC2. A third option, coming soon, will be the Fox Float X Shock – and at the same time the new Fox 36 fork will be an option.
Up until now, Santa Cruz wasn’t a supporter of internal cable routing – they went for the more practical but less aesthetic option. But now, with the new Nomad, both the shift cable and the Reverb Stealth cable will be routed internally. To avoid unnecessary fumbling and to the collective joy of mechanics, Santa Cruz has used a continuous carbon-tube inside the downtube. Cable in, cable out – easy as that! Another Feature: the main triangle offers enough room for a bottle holder. The frame weight comes in at 2.8 kilogram, including the Monarch Plus DebonAir shock.
The frame kit (frame + shock) is handed across the counter for 3,000 Euro ($2,999). In addition, there will be two different builds (X01/XT or XX1/XTR), both with an optional shock- (Monarch Plus DebonAir or Vivid Air) and wheels- (WTB or Enve M70 Carbon) upgrade. Final prices for Europe aren’t available yet, in the US prices for the build kits start at $6,599 and can quickly reach five-digit sums with the upgrades.
We tested the “cheaper” model with SRAM X01 drivetrain, Shimano XT brakes, 785 millimeter wide RaceFace SIXC Carbon bar and 50 millimeter stem, RockShox Reverb Stealth and – bling bling – Enve M70 Thirty 27.5″ wheels. A RockShox Pike RCT3 with 160 millimeters of travel was working at the front, at the rear we first rode with RockShox Monarch Plus DebonAir and changed to the VividAir later to experience the difference.
And then it was trail time! Uphill, the Nomad climbs unexpectedly well. With a 12.9 kilogram weight (without pedals, size M, VividAir), it has a compact and efficient pedaling position (not least due to the 74,2 seat-tube angle), the Nomad climbs without complaints. Even in steep sections, there’s always enough pressure on the front – the only limiting factor on longer climbs is the 1×11 setup. Optimizing the suspension for one chainring has come to fruition, the Monarch Plus DebonAir being surprisingly neutral. Even the later mounted VividAir was efficient enough. The only downside while going uphill was the slack steering angle of 65°: the front wheel tends to tip to the side in slow passages.
The trails were great and we were shredding – and that’s exactly what the new Nomad is made for! Don’t get fooled by its light weight and the enduro-like setup: The Santa Cruz has a real downhill-geometry. It’s no bike for relaxed touring and flowy hills. With it’s extreme geometry, reminding us more of a racy downhill bike than a comfy trail bike, it only can unfold its real potential in steep terrain or at high speeds! Fortunately, we found exactly this in Santa Cruz!
It was not only the frame geometry that made for maximum control downhill, but also the massive RaceFace Cockpit with 785 millimeter wide handlebar and short 50 millimeter stem. The rather long wheelbase (1170 millimeter) of the seemingly compact (585 millimeter top tube) bike ensures a smooth ride. The RockShox Pike masters its task with flying colors: Sensible, plush and still very defined, it takes the horror even out of the trickiest trails. The Monarch Plus DebonAir impresses with very good responsiveness, we missed only a bit of mid-travel support, when pushing the bike over jumps and through compressions – adding a volume spacer to the air chamber should help to get a more progressive spring rate. In the tested setup, the bike rode very lively and agile, only tight corners and contorted sections required some active riding. Shortening the handlebar to 760 millimeter should cause some improvement here. The propulsion from the ultra-light Enve M70 Thirty wheels is immediately noticeable after the first few trail-meters.
The Nomad is very stiff and extremely precise. Some will love that – for us, it was to much sometimes. The very stiff Enve M70 Thirty wheels contributed to this, tending to be very harsh in rough corners because they don’t flex or absorb even the smallest trail chatter, giving away a bit of traction. The chain was slamming loudly in bumpy sections too. While the look of the ENVE wheels is phenomenal, there’s only a small increase in performance or even a decrease, depending on your personal preferences. Not to mention the expensive pricepoint.
Running the VividAir, the bike gets even more downhilly – The High Volume Shock smooths out even the hardest impacts, and is more supportive in mid-travel than the Monarch Plus DebonAir. A smooth end-progression avoids harsh bottom outs. Our favorite setup is definitely a build with the VividAir – the increased performance is worth the 200 grams of extra weight. With this setup, the Nomad is more than ready for even the roughest enduro races, the most demanding trails in the alps and extensive bikepark days.
Bottom line, the new Nomad achieves the balancing act between OK climbing capabilities and pure downhill performance. This Bike could easily replace traditional bikepark bikes and even many downhill bikes! Lightweight, fast and sexy the new Santa Cruz Nomad is looking for fast and steep challenges – and can successfully master all of them with its extreme. but well balanced geometry! The only problem for many is the high pricepoint.
Text: Robin Schmitt / Aaron Steinke Foto: Gary Perkin/Santa Cruz Bicycles