Santa Cruz Bicycles Nomad C  2015 Mountain Bike Review

Santa Cruz Bicycles Nomad C 2015

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Santa Cruz Bicycles 434,221

At A Glance

Out of the box this is one seriously nice looking bit of kit, although it comes with a fairly chunky price tag. You would be forgiven for thinking this is just another re-launch of a bike with the bigger wheels treatment. However, given the hype surrounding the launch of this new bike I was keen to test the real differences.

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Santa Cruz may have kept the name and travel of the bike’s predecessor but that’s where the buck stops. The Nomad C appears to have been a carefully considered bike that capitalizes on the latest technologies within the mountain biking world and adds some nice touches such as internal cable routing through continuous carbon tubes within the frame. This makes cable and hose routing a dream, when maintenance or building demands it and gives a very tidy looking frame.

With a slack 65 degree head angle and V10 Style upper link the bias is certainly on the gravity side of town, but with reasonably steep seat tube of 74.2 degrees and a top tube length of 584.2mm this makes for reasonably pedal efficient riding position on the climbs.

With no front derailleur restricting the design, the choice to go with a 1x only drivetrain allows for some pretty compact chainstays. This also allows the lower link to be recessed and tucked away into the frame, rather than hung off the frame. This recessed position helps keep it out of harms way and incidentally helps to reduce the amount of mud that collects on the lower link. Additionally, the lower link has a nifty grease port to help keep those axles lubed, which should be of interest to riders living in a muddy riding environment.

The bottom bracket is threaded rather than push fit, which many prefer as it requires no special tools to install a standard bottom bracket. Provided you grease the BB cups when installing and ensure they are tightened properly this system doesn’t seem to creak or groan like some carbon BB set-ups.

The rear shock options at present include RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair or Rockshox Vivid R2C. The Monarch is the sensible option if you plan to use this bike as an ‘All Mountain’ general shredding rig with a 160mm fork up front, but if you prefer the idea of bikepark or lift assisted riding then the Vivid paired with a 180mm fork is a no-brainer offering a plusher ride and better big hit control (see: Hucking in the MTB dictionary). Our test bike was fitted with the latter!

On The Trail

As an owner of the previous generation Nomad, I was eager to see for myself if some of the quirks had been remedied. Additionally, my old Nomad never seemed quite right in terms of fit, I felt I was always looking for an size in-between the small and medium.

Our test bike came supplied with a 70mm Easton Havoc stem and 35mm Havoc DH Bar, with a width of 800mm I felt this was a bit too wide for my stance but chose to ride the bike as supplied regardless. The front suspension featured the Rockshox Pike RCT3 160 Fork with 25% sag and no ‘Bottomless Tokens’. On the rear there was the Rockshox Vivid Air R2C shock with 30% sag, 3 clicks low speed compression, 5 clicks ending stroke rebound, 6 clicks beginning stroke rebound. Drivetrain was SRAM XO1 11-speed with a 34 tooth chainring, not ideal for all day epics, but with a choice of chainring sizes this is not really an issue for the individual buyer.

First stop was my secret local test track built with the local crew! It’s a typical UK trail set in natural woodland and has everything from tricky little compressions, tight corkscrew berms to hucks, with some nice off-camber sections to test the skills and bike. Ultimately, unless you live near a chairlift the reality of is this bike is that it will need to do just about everything really well to justify the price tag, so this was as good a place to start as any.

A couple of runs in and it became apparent this bike likes to be ridden aggressively and ragged rather than coasted gently down the trail. Coasting the bike seemed to make it feel a bit dead, but push it hard and it felt nice and lively without seeming out of control. The wide bars were a bit of an issue for me as I’m only 5’6”, so it was time for a quick pit stop. Once I swapped this out for my 35mm stem and 750mm bar usual cockpit set-up I felt nicely centered on the bike and more comfortable. I’m sure the 800mm bars have their place in The Alps, but for out of the saddle climbs and my size I found them uncomfortable.

I headed out for a longer ride and up some of the bigger hills with longer descents, made up of mostly natural terrain. The Vivid shock worked surprisingly well going up some long steady climbs considering the market this shock is aimed at. The Virtual Pivot Point linkage positioning did seem to make the bike climb very well, particularly when seated, and it was easy to forget the slack geometry and 165mm of travel.

For out of the saddle efforts or short sharp sprints the bike still seemed to go forward without any wallowing or weight shift bobbing. Adding a few more clicks of low speed compression made a substantial difference to the damping and, in turn, to the hill climbing. Despite the pedal efficiency the Monarch Plus Debonair would probably be my preferred choice for my usual endure style rides, providing an even better climbing platform with a small sacrifice on big hit taming.

Stand over height has been improved and with a 31.6 seat tube diameter the Nomad can be run with a 150mm dropper post, which is great when descending as it gets the saddle right out of the way. Point the bike downhill and it inspires confidence and it’s pretty quiet too, helped by the XO1 drivetrain and custom chain slap guards. Put a few pedal strokes in and it will keep rolling along quite effortlessly whilst retaining a lively poppy feel when boosting off mounds or jumps. Rail a rut or bermed corner and it will offer a decent amount of mid-stroke support, without sitting you up. I found myself hanging off the back a bit more and pulling manuals over obstacles or hunting for nuggets to launch off.

One word to best describe this bike? Priceybutf**kinggoodfuntoride.

Geometry

Santa Cruz Nomad C

Seat tube: 419.1mm
Effective top tube: 584.2mm
Head tube: 100mm
Chain stay: 433.1mm
Wheelbase: 1169.8mm
BB Height: 340mm
Head angle: 65˚
Seat Angle: 74.2˚
Reach: 415mm
Weight w/o pedals: 28lbs

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This review was in Issue 31 of IMB.

For more information visit Santa Cruz Bicycles

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By Chloe Griggs
Chloe Griggs is a ridiculously talented rider who puts the boys to shame when the going gets steep. She loves to spend the summers riding as many alpine trails as possible but is equally happy to be spinning the pedals on her local trails near home. She adds a touch of feminine class to the test team but that strictly depends on how many glasses of white wine she has had…

Tried this? What did you think?