The 2021 Santa Cruz Nomad 5 is the underdog of this group test. It is the only bike that rolls exclusively on small 27.5″ wheels. Simply writing the bike off because of that wouldn’t do it justice – it still makes for an exciting option for some riders.

For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best enduro bike 2021 – 13 models in review

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV | 170/170 mm (f/r) | 14.62 kg in size L | € 8,999
Manufacturer’s website

“We just see that there is still a lot of demand for 27.5″ bikes and we want to serve it.” With these words, Santa Cruz justify the further development of their long-running Nomad. For the new season, the bike offers a whopping 170 mm front and rear travel, relying on the well-known lower link suspension system and fundamentally revised geometry with a tailored chainstay length for every frame size. Typical Santa Cruz features such as the completely internal cable routing and the extensive frame protectors have remained, keeping the frame nice and quiet and free of paint chips. The Nomad is available as an air and coil version and, depending which you choose, comes with lighter EXO+ or thicker Doubledown tires respectively. The geometry can also be adjusted in two positions with the help of a flip chip in the shock mount. Furthermore, the bike has a threaded bottom bracket for easy maintenance, the bearings of the rear linkage are all in the rocker arms instead of the carbon frame and the SRAM UDH derailleur hanger can be quickly and easily replaced if necessary.

The components of the Santa Cruz Nomad X01 Reserve – Well thought out, durable and consistent

In times when the bikes of some manufacturers cost well over € 10,000, the new flagship Nomad almost seems a deal at € 8,999, especially when you consider that you get a lifetime guarantee on the frame, bearings and carbon wheels. There’s nothing wrong with the components on the X2 air shock build apart from the tires, which may be too puncture prone for some riders. Both variants feature a precise X01 drivetrain, reliable CODE RSC brakes with 200 mm rotors and a 175 mm dropper post. We would recommend having the wide handlebar cut down to 780 mm before you leave the shop.

Instead of another flip chip at the rear, Santa Cruz rely on different chainstay lengths for every frame size. However, we would occasionally have liked the option of shorter chainstays for even livelier handling, especially with the traditionally playful Nomad. According to Santa Cruz, this is difficult to achieve with SRAMs UDH derailleur hanger.
Not only has the geometry changed, but Santa Cruz have also revised the frame shape. The new Nomad has more defined lines than its predecessor.
In our opinion, there is only one sensible setting for the flip chip on the rear end: low! In that position, you’ll feel more integrated with the bike and have more grip through corners.

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV

€ 8,999


Fork FOX 38 Factory GRIP2 170 mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT X2 Factory 170 mm
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth 175 mm
Brakes SRAM Code RSC 200/200 mm
Drivetrain SRAM X01 Eagle 32/10-52
Stem Burgtec Enduro Mk3 40 mm
Handlebar Santa Cruz AM Carbon 800 mm
Wheelset Santa Cruz Reserve 30 Carbon
Tires MAXXIS Assegai MaxxGrip EXO+/MAXXIS Minion DHR II MaxxTerra EXO+ 2.5"/2.4"

Technical Data

Size S M L XL
Weight 14.62 kg
Wheelsize 27.5"

The suspension of the Nomad is clearly designed for maximum downhill fun. It offers tons of traction and enormous reserves. However, it is worth closing the compression lever to calm things down on the climbs.
During development, the team at Santa Cruz didn’t only consider the bike’s handling characteristics but also how easy it is to service. The threaded BSA bottom bracket is easy to replace and all bearings are located in the aluminium rocker arms instead of the carbon frame. This will spare the nerves of home mechanics.

The geometry of the 2021 Santa Cruz Nomad 5 – Longer and slacker

With the new Nomad, Santa Cruz have focused on balance, adapting the chainstay length for every frame size. However, the US brand doesn’t use a different rear end for each size, instead adapting the chainstay length via the position of the pivot points on the main frame. The new Nomad is longer and slacker than its predecessor. The reach has grown to 472 mm (size L in the low setting) and the head angle is now 63.7°. On paper, the 77.5° seat tube angle should offer good climbing characteristics. The chainstay length is 436 mm in size large.

Size S M L XL
Seat tube 380 mm 405 mm 430 mm 460 mm
Top tube 552 mm 582 mm 610 mm 644 mm
Head tube 115 mm 130 mm 140 mm 165 mm
Head angle 63.7° 63.7° 63.7° 63.7°
Seat angle 77.9° 77.7° 77.5° 77.2°
Chainstays 426 mm 431 mm 436 mm 441 mm
BB Drop 14 mm 14 mm 14 mm 14 mm
Wheelbase 1,186 mm 1,223 mm 1,257 mm 1,298 mm
Reach 422 mm 447 mm 472 mm 497 mm
Stack 603 mm 617 mm 626 mm 648 mm
Helmet SCOTT Stego | Glasses SCOTT Shield | Hip bag SCOTT Trail FR | Jersey Good Times – Tan Lines
Shorts SCOTT Trail Vertic | Knee pads SCOTT Soldier | Shoes FiveTen Kestrel

Sprint up the climbs? No thank you! The Nomad prefers taking the uphills easy!

The 2021 Santa Cruz Nomad offers a comfortable riding position right from the start. Though the seat tube angle feels a bit slacker than stated, you’re placed centrally on the bike. The suspension is clearly tuned for traction and the chain doesn’t do much to counteract this. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to use the compression lever on longer climbs. Those who like tackling technical ascents will find the small wheels to be at a disadvantage. They don’t roll over obstacles as easily and get hung up more frequently, which demands more of the rider.

Why do some riders still prefer small wheels? They appeal most to riders who are looking for particularly playful handling and high agility. The latter is particularly noticeable with the Nomad – physics just can’t be ignored. The bike is very quick and direct as it changes direction. Left, right, left, right – things can’t go around the corner fast enough for the Nomad.

Direct, fun, controlled – The Nomad is loads of fun downhill!

But if you suspect that automatically also makes the bike very playful, you’re wrong. The new Nomad is hungry for speed and sticks to the ground. It is very balanced and intuitive to ride and is a master of control. However, this comes at the cost of the lively character that its predecessor had. Manuals require a lot of power and if you want to catch air, it’s best to use speed to your advantage and preload the suspension as you approach the lip or obstacle you want to pop off. That’s not to say the Nomad is sedate, but it is very controlled and it requires steep terrain and high speed to unleash its potential. It offers a lot of traction and also lots of reserves. The bike performs best for full-throttle bike park action with big jumps and monster berms.

How does the Santa Cruz Nomad compare to the competition?

Santa Cruz Nomad or Propain Spindrift Mullet? Both bikes are super exciting options for riders who like blasting through corners as fast as possible. Although the Nomad offers less travel, it offers more traction and control than the Propain, which is less composed at high speed despite the large front wheel. The Santa Cruz also scores with a higher quality and quieter frame, but you pay for it too.

Tuning tips: the air shock version also deserves robust tires

Riding Characteristics



  1. sluggish
  2. efficient


  1. cumbersome
  2. playful


  1. nervous
  2. confident


  1. demanding
  2. balanced


  1. harsh
  2. plush

Fun Factor

  1. planted
  2. poppy

Value for money

  1. terrible
  2. very good

Intended Use










The brand new Santa Cruz Nomad 5 is for those who are constantly out to push themselves in the bike park, hitting the biggest jumps and railing berms at Mach 10. It offers high cornering speeds and quick direction changes, triumphing with its terrific suspension. But it’s not the super playful 27.5″ bike par excellence. If you are looking for a versatile all-rounder, you’ll be better off with a 29er like the Megatower.


  • very agile when quickly changing direction
  • excellent suspension, offering lots of traction and reserves
  • well-thought-out frame


  • limited all-round capabilities
  • climbing is only a means to an end
  • not a super playful bike

You can find out more about at

The test field

For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best enduro bike 2021 – 13 models in review

All bikes in test: Canyon Strive CFR (Click for review) | COMMENCAL Meta AM 29 Öhlins (Click for review) | GIANT Reign Advanced Pro 0 (Click for review) | Ibis Ripmo V2 (Click for review) | Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy Pro (Click for review) | Propain Spindrift CF Mix Custom (Click for review) | Rocky Mountain Altitude Carbon 90 Rally Edition (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Megatower CC X01 Coil RSV (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV | Specialized Enduro Expert (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper EVO (Click for review) | Transition Sentinel XT (Click for review) | Trek Slash 9.8 XT (Click for review)

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Words: Photos: Christoph Bayer, Valentin Rühl, Markus Frühmann