You know the cliché: jack of all trades, master of none. Bikes bearing this descriptor are typically capable of a slew of different types of riding, but won’t be exceptional in any regard other than in their versatility. Being unexceptional equates to blending in–like oh, I dunno…a Chameleon?
I think the mountain bike market wasn’t quite sure what to do with the previous Chameleon. Here was a hardtail made of a material that very few–if any–hardtail buyers actively sought. Carbon was lighter and fancier, and therefore sought by the fancy lycra folks. Steel was stronger and had a smoother ride, and was therefore sought by the more aggressive or more soulful steel-is-real sector. For the most part, people bought (and still buy) aluminum hardtails because they were affordable. With its boutique badge, the Chameleon didn’t compete price-wise.
But plus tires have given all hardtails new purpose, and especially aluminum ones. Steel may still be real, but I’d argue that the importance of frame flex in a hardtail has an inverse relationship with tire size. Bigger rubber tilts the logic in favor of the lighter material.
Buyers will have no shortage of options with the new Chameleon, thanks to swappable dropouts that allow the frame to toggle between geared, 148-spaced 27.5 plus or 29er wheels and singlespeed 142 versions of the same sizes. The dropouts also allow for an adjustable rear center, with a range of 415 to 430 millimeters.
Both the 27.5+ and 29-inch versions come complete with a 120-millimeter fork, which gives the bike a 67.5 (27.5+) or 67.3 head angle (29). Reach measurements are lengthy, with the large stretching riders out at 457 or 460 millimeters depending on wheel selection.
Santa Cruz Chameleon Specs
- Trail Bike Geometry–67.5 degree head angle, 120mm travel fork
- 27.5+ or 29, geared or single speed complete
- Internal dropper routing
- Two water bottle Mounts
- Frame weight: 4.6 lbs
- 6000-series aluminum
- Low direct FD mount
- Threaded 73mm BB
Two build kits will be available for each wheel size. The $1,600 ‘D’ kits include a RockShox Recon Silver RL fork, SRAM NX 11-speed drivetrain and Level brakes, RaceFace Ride cockpit, proper Maxxis trail tires and Novatec/Race Face or WTB wheels. For $2,000, the ‘R’ kit upgrades to a Fox Rhythm fork and Level T brakes. The Chameleon is also available as a frame for $750.
Full geometry and build details at santacruzbicycles.com.