The release of the new Santa Cruz Nomad created quite a stir when it was introduced earlier this season. The long awaited revamp of the classic all mountain bike turned many heads. Designed to conquer the most brutal Enduro World Series circuits, the Nomad is aggressive, using the latest in technology and geometry. Santa Cruz’s Nomad rolls on 27.5” wheels, and makes the ride plush with 165mm of VPP suspension travel. The frame has been designed around Santa Cruz’s top of the line carbon, their “Carbon C” material, but is now available in the standard Carbon model at a reduced price. As usual, Santa Cruz offers two different color schemes with the frame. If you are a rider that doesn’t mind a little extra attention, the Aqua Blue and Magenta color scheme is perfect. If you are a rider that appreciates a bit more of a subtle scheme, the Stealth Black and Gloss Black is a good choice.
My Nomad Build
I decided to go a slightly different route with my Nomad. Rather than buying a complete bike, I went with the custom frame-up build option which we do a lot of at Eden Bicycles. I purchased the Stealth Black and Gloss Black Nomad Carbon C frame, and the brand new 2015 FOX FLOAT 36 FiT RC2 160, which won Pinkbike’s 2015 suspension product of the year award. From there I installed the Chris King Black/White Inset 3 Headset, and SRAM bottom bracket. I had a set of 2015 ENVE M70Thirty wheels laced to DT Swiss 240 hubs that I was dying to put on the Nomad. After riding a completely black on black bike the season before, I was needing to change it up a bit, I needed a bit of color. I ordered some custom Neon Green/Highlighter Blue decals from ENVE, and spent about 3 hours installing those onto my wheelset. I went with Schwalbe’s Hans Damf 27.5 x 2.35 make for a perfect all around any weather tire. As I am a huge fan of the way the FOX Racing Shox products feel, especially on such a big travel bike, I switched the RockShox Monarch RC3 Plus DebonAir for a 2015 FOX FLOAT X CTD. I had ridden and raced on the FLOAT X the season before, and I am very comfortable on that shock. I opted to go for the SRAM X01 11 speed drivetrain. At that time the 2015 Shimano XTR Di2 had not been officially released, which I will soon be upgrading to. I am running the Shimano XTR hydraulic disc brakes, with 203mm IceTech Freeza rotors on the front and rear. I am a believer in the saying “It’s all in the details,” so I Put a few extra touches into some of the smaller details on the frame. Grips are really a matter of personal taste, and for myself I like the ODI brand TLD or Ruffian grips. I am currently using the Ruffian grips with one blue, and one green to match the wheels and accents. I ordered some custom color matched decals from Slik Graphics in Sweden to support some of the brands that I ride, and we support at Eden.
Riding the Nomad
I ride and race downhill bikes. I am accustomed to bikes with six to eight inches of suspension travel, and an extremely “slack” geometry. Last year for example, I raced on a Giant Trance Advanced SX, the six inch travel enduro bike. Giant’s Maestro suspension is unlike any other design on the market, and performs superbly well while climbing and on many downhill courses. Everybody who had ridden with me while I had my Trance has heard me say “This is the fastest bike I’ve ever ridden,” and this was completely true! All of it was true until my third ride on my Nomad. I purchased my Nomad after test riding a 5010 Carbon C bike that we had in the store, and after being satisfied with the ride of the 5010 I knew I wanted a bit more. Now, I will admit, initially I did not like everything about my Nomad. My first ride was at a downhill orientated trail that would test only the some of the downhill capabilities of it. After going home tired, and a bit under-impressed. I have always taken a few rides to get used to a bike, and comfortable on it. I realized soon after I got home that I had just barely breached the surface of the Nomad’s capabilities, and I needed to put more into the bike to get more out, unlike the Trance which was a bike that was easy and fun to ride no matter from the get-go.
I took the Nomad out two days after that ride. I pushed myself a bit harder than I was originally comfortable pushing on such a new and unfamiliar bike. At a much faster speed, the Nomad seemed to open up, as if I had been able to unlock the bike’s full potential. The Nomad is extremely comfortable at such a high speed, and over extremely rough terrain. The rock garden section of this trail (which I have ridden literally hundreds of times before) was always a process of picking my line over the loose rock and debris on the Trance. On the Nomad, I actually forgot to pick a line and just plowed right through everything. The Nomad was planted throughout the entire rock garden, and aside from two small rock drop sections it kept at least both wheels on the ground. Santa Cruz’s VPP suspension has dominated the 2014 Downhill World Series, and World Cup, and after riding the Nomad at full speed I can see why. I am reminded every time I get on my bike that it has been engineered and designed to excel at downhill courses, and yet I am constantly surprised by how well the Nomad climbs.
I rode my Nomad a few weeks back at the Tamarancho trails, which admittedly had some more climbing than I was originally expecting. I was astounded with how well the Nomad climbed over such steep, technical terrain. With no lock-out on my fork one would expect a tough, inefficient climb. However, with a frame weight of a heavy Cross-Country race bike, and the geometry of an enduro machine the Nomad excels at most climbs that other bikes in its class.
As a side note, the Nomad CC is the cleanest looking all-mountain bike that I have seen. The shift and dropper post cables are both run internally through the frame, and are kept rattle free by rubber grommets inside the frame. Santa Cruz is one of the few companies that mold small carbon tubes into the frame which makes internal cable routing easy and simple. Internal cable routing also extends the life of all cables, and protects the housings.
Now with several months of solid riding on the Nomad under my belt, I can confidently say that it is the fastest all-mountain bike that I have ever ridden. There are plenty of fast bikes out there though, just like the Giant Trance. You can tell a bike is truly special when it can scare you with abilities above your own, and put a massive smile on your face while riding the same trail.
Pink Bikes Review
“Santa Cruz has hit a home run with the new Nomad, blending big hit capabilities with excellent pedaling performance to create a bike that raises the bar in the all-mountain category. Of course, with our test bike ringing in at nearly $10k you would expect this type of top tier performance, but a good portion of that expense comes from the carbon wheels, which aren’t a necessity to enjoy the Nomad’s impeccable trail manners. The Nomad is a bike that would have been a daydream only a few years ago, when the technology didn’t exist to create a 28 pound bike with 165mm of travel. Luckily, those dreams have come true, and the reality is even better than anyone could have imagined. This is a bike from the future, except that it’s available now. – Mike Kazimer: Pinkbike.com”