Chameleons are animals of many colors which change frequently to blend in with their surroundings, and the 2022 Chameleon from Santa Cruz plays well on its namesake. Even the word “hardtail” can mean different things depending on what kind of rider you’re talking to.
Over the years, the Chameleon has stood out as a versatile bike, lining up for dual slalom races and 24 hour marathon events. It’s always been a bike for riders with all sorts of backgrounds and their version of an ideal setup: from dirt jumping to bike packing, the eighth generation Chameleon adapts. For someone with a BMX background, it could be a big wheeled jump bike, or for a a gravel biker, maybe a bike with front suspension and a slack head angle is all they could ever want.
Further refinements of the Chameleon see revised bolt-on dropout options to plug in either a 27.5” or 29” rear wheel, without mucking up the more aggressive geometry. The alloy frame stands alone for 2022 as the carbon version see retirement, but all three build kits are available with a choice of either wheel size.
As you may have guessed, the Chameleon gets the longer, slacker treatment - almost 2.5-degrees has been knocked off of the head tube angle and to make it more capable, the whole bike has been lengthened, without losing touch of its all-around appetite. Geometry
Best set to 130 mm of travel, the fork sits at an angle of 65º and the seat angle is in the realm of 74.4º, depending on the size. Growing roughly by 10 mm, the chainstays are adjustable from 425 to 437-millimeters and the four frame sizes span a reach of 420 to 490 mm, in increments of 25 mm. Like other Santa Cruz models that have seen a refresh, the headtube grows by about 10 mm on each frame size too.
With a lifetime warranty, the multi-discipline frame covers all the fine details for any adventure, such as, three downtube bottle bolts, internal cable routing in the front triangle, an IS headset, 180 mm brake mount, and uses SRAM’s Universal Derailleur Hanger. The updated Chameleon sees the swing and set style dropout get replaced by sliding dropouts to make single-speed setups headache-free, if you like to do things the hard way.
Pricing starts at $2,399 USD for the D kit with a RockShox Recon RL and SRAM SX drivetrain. In the middle sits the $2,949 R kit with a Fox 34 Rhythm and NX drivetrain and topping out the builds is the S kit, which will land you a Fox 34 Performance and a SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain for $3,749.
Swanee Ravonison’s Patinated Aluminum Pariah
Rat rod, patinated - whatever you want to call it, Swanee created the distressed look by applying diluted Hematite with a brush. The process takes time and can be stopped by washing the frame with water. Only after it dries does the full effect come to life. It's a skill she practices while restoring and transforming 80s and 90's era bikes into single speeds in her bicycle shop/grocery store in France.
Her Chameleon build is aimed at bikepacking and therefore she chose narrower bars and a lighter, rigid fork with cargo mounting points. The big volume, tan wall tires accentuate the frame details and keep things comfortable without suspension. Like an ever changing chameleons, Swanee has parts on hand to transform the bike into a confident descender.
Sven Busse’s Barmeleon
You'd think that Sven might be a resident of California with his punk themed paint job, but as the owner of a bar next to a skatepark, in north-west Germany, the watering hole attracts a diverse crowd. The first thing that popped into his head when he thought about a theme for the bike was the song "Monkey Panic"
by the metal band, Orange Goblin. To transfer his idea onto the frame, Sven requested the skills of the same graffiti artist, ProPhret, that painted his bar.
As a fan of UK shredder, Craig Evans, and old school BMXer, Mike Escamilla, you can bet that Sven will be ripping through single track and sessioning jumps around his local parks.
Myia Antone’s Medicine Finder
Myia caught the mountain biking bug through the isolation of Covid-19 and found herself doing some soul searching on solo rides. She's already shredding Squamish rock slabs and reaching places, both physically and spiritually. Biking and plant harvesting share similarities, she says; it takes time to grow, strengthen your roots, and you end up getting a bit dirty.
Myia is giving back to her community, offering land-based education and language revitalization for Indigenous Women Outdoors""Today, I am finding new ways to do old things. My ancestors have been harvesting from these lands and waters since time out of mind. I follow in their footsteps, but sometimes my feet just happen to be on pedals. My bike brings me to hidden patches of wild strawberries and devil’s club galore. I bring my backpack for snacks, bike tools and space to fill with plants to take home... We have so much to share with the outdoor community, and it is finally time to listen."
Eric Ackermann’s Pink Space Goblin loc
Just because Eric's nickname is "Baby Legs", doesn't mean he's new to mountain biking. He's been part of the Santa Cruz Bikes warranty team for eleven years! With a hobby for illustrating and digital art, he knew the loudest contrast would be custom pink decals against the yellow frame - straight out of a comic book.
Eric seeks out burritos on his mixed-wheeled Chameleon and has stock parts for now. He plans to simply things by converting to a single-speed setup to take his dogs along for the ride and wants to build another bike for his wife.
Mike Hill’s Tool Carrying Tool
Mike is core. Thanks to his dad, Mike is a lifelong lover of anything with two wheels. He operates his own BMX company called Deathpack. Based in the UK, he welds the frames himself and sees the Chameleon as a utility vehicle, but can certainly send that too. Loaded with digging tools, he's a fan of fat, micro knobby tires with lots of pressure for rolling fast and direct feedback.
If you look close, you can see the rattle can camo sprayed over the rims and the panier racks that he built himself. That color theme continues in a leaf stencil over top of the exposed aluminum. The stem is maxed out on the top of the steer tube and of course runs flat pedals and a cushy BMX seat - is there any other way?