Santa Cruz Nomad
+ Fox Float RC2 FIT
+ Fox DHX Air 5
+ DT Swiss wheels
The Nomad is the original gangster of the all-mountain movement, but rather than sitting on its haunches and cashing in on nostalgia, Santa Cruz has kept the Nomad a formidable option in this ever-growing category.
The Nomad received an update last year that shortened its chainstays and beefed up the front with hydroformed tubes. It also received integrated grease ports for maintenance and a carbon fiber upper link to trim some weight from the 160-millimeter travel chassis. Top it off with stiffer, cleverly conceived pivots and a 1.5-inch headtube, and this 7-pound frame doesn't back down from any terrain.
The bike's suspension, however, was a mite rough off the top, but the same goes for high-end sports cars. Once we got the Nomad's second-generation VPP linkage working for us, it was smooth, predictable and plush throughout its travel.
We found pedal bob to be present, but negligible and, the more we rode the bike, an easy-to-overlook trait. No suspension system is perfect, and this one rewards hard riding in technical terrain—both of which were abundant commodities in Whistler.
The Nomad didn't show any signs of bogging down in its travel, and easily took to boosting any little roller or lip. And while the suspension was not the most active, the bike was railroad-track stiff, always begging for a beating.
The bike's headtube is just 5.1 inches tall, which kept the front end low and manageable. The low 23.8-inch toptube and stubby stem on our large-sized test bike made for a quick-handling bike that remained stable at speed, thanks in part to a 45-inch wheelbase. The 67-degree head angle leaves the option to tame steep climbs with an adjustable-travel fork, and that's the spirit of the Nomad—it will go wherever riders choose to roam. Burly trail bike? Lightweight freeride? Yes.
Bottom Line: A fun, well-built, supremely versatile bike that begs to be beaten and continues to define the all-mountain category.