First Impressions: Santa Cruz Nomad
Gear editor Ryan Palmer flies south to see how a recent makeover has changed Santa Cruz's revered all-mountain bike
Photos by: Gary Perkin
Santa Cruz Nomad
Complete bike from $6,600
With all the advancements being made in mountain bikes, buying a thoroughbred downhill rig is becoming harder and harder to justify. Modern all-mountain bikes are nearly as capable, but can actually be pedaled back uphill too. The original Santa Cruz Nomad was one of those first bikes to prove that long travel and uphill could shake hands and get along. It was a versatile bike, too. Some folks ran a coil shock and 2.5 tires, while others preferred lightweight air shocks and rubber. The Nomad was just fine either way.
Bike technology has come a long way since its last redesign, so a couple years ago the engineers at Santa Cruz set out to build a new Nomad from the ground up to meet the demands of a new type of racing. The model’s heritage fits perfectly into the enduro racing format, but there were some things that needed to change to keep it at the forefront.
A recessed, super-short lower link allows the bike’s 650b wheels to the sit inside short 17-inch chainstays. The link’s forward placement stole real estate away from the front derailleur, which, thanks to the SRAM 1 x 11 drivetrain, worked out just fine. Sorry granny-gear lovers, there’s no room for front shifting on the new Nomad.
While the rear end of the bike stays tucked in, the front is stretched by an inch. A size large Nomad gets a 24-inch toptube, which is nicely suited for shorter stems. This, combined with the slack 65-degree head angle, locates the wheel a bit farther forward, allowing for an aggressive riding position without getting weight too far over the hub. In addition, steepening the seat tube angle brings weight forward to reduce shock squat while climbing. Other refinements include an upper link mount that penetrates the toptube rather than sitting on a perch, and internal cable routing for the shifter and seat post.
Santa Cruz invited us to experience the new Nomad on the loose and dusty trails of the coastal mountains outside Mantecillo, Chile, just before the first Enduro World Series race a few hours south. We gladly hopped on a plane and headed for the southern hemisphere to ride bikes and watch water twirl in the opposite direction.
The trails we rode were steep, rutted and littered with sharp rock looming under a thick coat of dust and deep sand, a result of a rain-free summer. Despite the lack of traction, and zero visibility when following other riders, the Nomad gave me the confidence to let go of the brakes, slide through corners and mob over rocks and across ruts. The changes in geometry and fit made me feel at home on the bike instantly. After a few days of riding new terrain on the Nomad, I’m definitely a fan. I’ll be bringing my test bike home for the opportunity to ride it on more familiar terra firma. Look out for a full review in the July issue of Bike.