Santa Cruz's New Hardtail Costs Under $2,000, Does Either 29'' or 27.5+ Wheels

Mar 15, 2017
by Mike Levy  



Are today's full-suspension bikes so good that they actually take away from the ride? I'm not sure that I'd go that far, but there's a reason why less travel often equals more fun: you're closer to the edge of control. I'm talking about those split-second moments when you may or may not find yourself picking dirt out from between your teeth while laying on your back; the dirfty, slidey stuff that makes a ride so great. And hardtails are the epitome of doing more with less, although it sure is easy to forget how fun they can be in these days of carbon fiber, full-suspension wünderbikes that can cost as much a decent car and let us cash cheques that our skills can't actually cover.

Santa Cruz, a company that has plenty of those carbon fiber, full-suspension bikes priced around the cost of a gently used Honda Civic, has just added the opposite kind of animal to their stable: a new aluminum hardtail designed to do a lot of things while not costing a lot of money. Or at least not compared to a fancy Nomad, anyway. The bare frame, which is said to weigh 4.6lbs, sells for $749 USD, and complete bikes start at $1,599 and top out at $1,999 USD.


Santa Cruz Chameleon

Santa Cruz Chameleon
Santa Cruz Chameleon


The latest Chameleon is actually the seventh iteration of Santa Cruz's aluminum hardtail (feel old now?), and it's been made to run a set of 29'' wheels if that's how you roll, or 27.5+ rims and tires if you want more cushion for the push'n. Hate rear derailleurs? That's fine; you don't need to run one if you don't want. Four different sets of bolt-on dropouts let you pick from those choices, as well as everyone's favorite hub spacing that sounds like it was named after a fizzy energy drink. The bike's name sure makes sense when you think about it.

There's also a threaded bottom bracket shell, a place for a front derailleur, internal routing for your party-post that none of the complete bikes include, and you can even have it in any color you want just so long as that color is olive green. There are also two bottle cage mounts like every proper mountain bike should have.


Santa Cruz Chameleon
Santa Cruz Chameleon

Santa Cruz Chameleon
Santa Cruz Chameleon


The numbers lean towards the fun side of the hardtail spectrum rather than the nervous, scary side, with a 67.5-degree head angle with a 120mm-travel fork and a 460mm reach on the large-sized Chameleon. It's not quite as roomy and low to the ground as the Kona Honzo CR, but that will be a good thing for some riders.


Santa Cruz Chameleon


Santa Cruz Chameleon
Santa Cruz Chameleon


This being the digital release of the seventh generation Chameleon, I have no idea how it rides yet, but the bikes are already in dealers if you want to see one in the flesh. If I were to choose one, it'd likely be the 29er in olive green (surprise!) as big wheels and little travel always goes together nicely. And I'd have to add a party-post, of course, because every trouble making hardtail should have one.

How would you run your Chameleon? Big wheels or 27.5+? Geared or single-speed?


212 Comments

  • + 271
 What d'you want?
A thank you letter for making an almost-sensibly priced bike?
  • - 53
flag fatpig (Mar 15, 2017 at 4:34) (Below Threshold)
 Canadian website, use CDN pricing!
  • + 105
 @fatpig: American company, global website, we can all google conversions...
  • + 127
 @fatpig: just assume is like a bazzilion canadian pesos
  • + 5
 @fatpig: $2690.68 cad
  • + 16
 with out iscg tabs ... wtf
  • + 21
 Norco Torrent...
  • - 47
flag SlodownU (Mar 15, 2017 at 9:15) (Below Threshold)
 Why is an expensive, harsh-riding aluminum hardtail even news anymore? They stopped being special around 1999. Unless its steel, Ti, or carbon, who cares?
  • + 35
 @SlodownU: pretty compliant design according to Andrew Major over at NSMB.com; and Andrew knows hardtails. nsmb.com/articles/2017-santa-cruz-chameleon

Also, don't be a dick about your biases.
  • - 92
flag SlodownU (Mar 15, 2017 at 10:27) (Below Threshold)
 @rnayel: I reserve the right to be a dick about whatever I want. Aluminum hardtails pretty much suck compared to carbon, Ti, or Steel, and with so many good steel options out there, you'd be dumb to get this over any of them.

And I was riding aluminum and steel hardtails since probably before you were a wet spot in your daddy's pants, and there is no way aluminum is better from a ride quality perspective.
  • + 110
 @SlodownU: Bit of a c*nt aren't you?
  • + 16
 @rnayel: "Also don't be a dick about your biases"

The much needed opening statement to any discussion these days.
  • + 8
 @SlodownU: I ride a hard tail just abt every day and if i ain't on my hardtail I'm racing Bmx at my local track. I spend 99% of my time without a rear shock under me and I know I have way more fun on a bike than you. So do yourself a favor lower your dropper post so it ain't up your ass, loosen your spandex and turn off your strava and have some fun. Side note this is the first Santa-Cruz I actually am tempted to get.
  • + 11
 @SlodownU: Aluminum frame engineering and manufacturing has changed dramatically over the years. That old, default statement that steel is forgiving and aluminum is harsh just isn't true any more when talking about hardtails built for trail riding. The same qualities that made them unforgiving and harsh in the 90's also made them brittle and prone to failure. Bike companies don't like having to constantly bring in containers of warranty frames, so there has been an effort to make aluminum frames more compliant and durable. This also makes them more comfortable. I bet there are many aluminum frames out now that you wouldn't be able to distinguish the ride quality from steel if the frames were covered up. High frequency vibration might still be more noticeable on road, but that factor is mostly cancelled out by high volume tires and trail terrain.

At 4.6 lbs and being designed for trail riding, I'm betting the Chameleon is pretty smooth, even fairly flexy, being long enough for 29". I can almost make the dropouts touch each other with the rear wheel out on some 29" aluminum frames. Things have changed since 1999.
  • - 71
flag SlodownU (Mar 15, 2017 at 12:09) (Below Threshold)
 @harrisonwright: Ha, good one. Bit of a twat, aren't you? Go back to having a circle-jerk with the rest of the over-sensitive mollies on here.
  • - 58
flag SlodownU (Mar 15, 2017 at 12:11) (Below Threshold)
 @rumblefish255: Oh, you know you have more fun than me, do you? Sounds like I'm not the only one with something up my ass, I have a feeling yours is made out of rubber though. Why are all of you hardtail boys such sensitive bitches? Do you get this insulted when someone makes fun of your mom?
  • - 29
flag rumblefish255 (Mar 15, 2017 at 12:31) (Below Threshold)
 @SlodownU: you are a special kind of stupid aren't you? and yes i do have more fun on a bike than you do. you just need to learn what riding is actually all about. I actually feel sorry for you either you a grouchy old dude that has completely lost the point of riding a bike. or you are just a stupid really bored troll with nothing better to do than troll pinkbike. And while you are making stupid jokes and trying to put down what looks to be a fun bike and those who enjoy it, and whatever else you troll on the internet. I will be sending My ALUMINUM hard-tail down trails you wouldn't dream to ride on your cushy full suspension bike!!!!
  • + 10
 @mecabeat: Aluminum engineering and manufacturing has changed more with hydro forming and butted tubes, but so has steel. Ride for ride, steel is still superior, for many reasons beyond high frequency vibrations, which is why you see most of the hard-core hardtail guys on steel. You still have way more flexibility to tune a ride with steel vs aluminum. If I'm not xc racing, I'm riding a steel bike with some slack angles.
  • + 17
 @SlodownU: oh and as far as being offended when someone makes fun of my mom. No i actually am not. I'm just thankful she is still alive to be made fun of. After battling cancer twice in her life and surviving i'm just glad she is here.
  • + 17
 That's what I was thinking! "Costs under $2000..." Well yeah, it fukkin well better cost under $2k for an aluminum hardtail.
  • - 30
flag SlodownU (Mar 15, 2017 at 14:14) (Below Threshold)
 @rumblefish255: Pack your bags everyone, we're going on a guilt trip now!
  • + 16
 @SlodownU: Four replies defending yourself. Yep. It's everyone else who's oversensitive.
  • + 51
 Back when I was in college - a few years ago... okay fine, it was a decade ago - I was against a wall with a major paper deadline. My dad jokingly bet me that if I could pull off an A, he would buy me a Chameleon frame! Never underestimate a broke college kid's motivation! Well, I pulled off that A and my dad made good on his promise. I was the proud owner of a battleship gray Chameleon. I rode the snot out of that thing and then passed it down to my dad when I finally got the funds for a Blur LT. Seemed fitting. He still rides it with me to this day.
  • + 49
 So your old man put you through college, bought you a bike, and all you have him in return is a bike that you admittedly rode the snot out of? Cmon, step up to the plate and get him a new rig!
  • + 30
 @onemind123: Hey now! I paid for college and worked between semesters! You are right though, I'd love to get him on something with rear suspension.
  • + 10
 Wow, cool Dad!
  • + 35
 I love a good hardtail, but i feel SC is screwing people on this, as that's some super cheap parts, and looks cheap, but is also going against a bunch of great british steel hardtails, and i'd like see how this stacks up against Cotic's solarisMAX, as it's a similar bike but is overall a couple hundred cheaper.
  • + 53
 Steel is real.
  • + 89
 In Canada get a Chromag and never look back.
  • + 8
 @ratedgg13: the new Primer looks really nice.
  • + 13
 @ratedgg13: I agree chromag makes some of the best hard tails out there, but a complete Chromag wide angle is $3500 cad. It falls into the same overpriced category as Santa Cruz.
  • + 15
 A Dartmoor frame is 250EUR...
  • + 4
 @BoneDog: I would far rather skimp on the components (fork included) and have a nice frame (like a Chromag) rather than something like the Chameleon. A few second hand purchases help.
  • + 10
 The SolarisMax has 442mm chainstays. There's a little over an inch between them. And the solaris has a 68* head angle, which is even steeper than this one (and some people are complaining about). I think a better comparison is the honzo AL, which is the deal of the century at $500US with even more aggressive geometry and likely similar build and weight.
  • + 6
 Why not pit it against a comparable British ALU bike, and actually do an apples-to-apples comparison, not two different frame materials?
  • + 4
 Finally a 44/56 head tube from SC! Why doesn't the Nomad have one?

I would go for a PP Shan GT over this!
  • + 2
 @togood2die: we dont make any good aluminium frames that we want to test thats why. Why would we when we have so many amaze balls steel frames out there that destroy everything in their path Wink .
On a differant note, I remember going with my mate to buy his 1st gen Chamleon when they first came out. 1999 or 2000? Came from this tiny shop that was also a post office near Wembury, Plymouth.
  • + 1
 @fartymarty: agreed man, but that's why you go with the hardtail in the first place. less expensive than a full squish and get nicer parts.
  • + 1
 @ilovedust: Whyte? I would still go steel though.
  • + 7
 @ashjay I totally agree with you on that one. I just bought a Stanton Slackline next gen which is Reynolds 853 steel, 66 degree head angle, weighs 5.4 lbs and is a beuatiful design. The frame was $975 Canadian including shipping. British designed steel frames are the best thing going as far as I can see. Ragley, Cotic, On-one, Stanton... take your pick... and then there are the titanium Stantons - amazing!
  • + 2
 @togood2die: it was the first frame which came to mind which i knew that the manufacturer said it could take 29er and 27.5+ wheels.
  • + 6
 I have been looking at a lot of hardtails lately and this isn't bad. Regarding steel, I don't mind a hardtail mtb being aluminum, especially if I am running plus size tires - or even 2.6 tires. Those steel bikes are heavy and some of the rear-ends have been reviewed as being too flexy laterally. fwiw - I bought this chameleon, only have a single ride on it and liked it even more than I thought I would.
  • - 1
 Seriously. $900 and it's not even steel? No thanks. I know exactly where that profit margin is going, right into SC's pocket.
  • + 16
 @fartymarty: You know that the Chameleon frame is a nice frame... don't you? They've always been put together very nicely. Killer welds. Some folks prefer aluminum... or just can't afford or justify a $4000 hardtail.

For me personally... I can get the chameleon for 1/3rd the price of the chromag.

I've always like the feel of a quality aluminum hard tail. I think Santa Cruz has a great idea here with getting into this price bracket. Not everyone can afford $3-8k for a bike. In fact... most people can't. So this is a great business move. Make a good bike at a good price. My only beef is the reach. I have gorilla arms.
  • + 7
 @onemanarmy:

Also, Diamondback is putting out good AM hardtails in their Mason 27.5+ line.
People may scoff, but they're doing good work these days.
  • + 2
 @sandwich: Before comparing hardtail geometry tables you should check if the numbers account for SAG or not. Unfortunately a lot of brands don't specify if their measurements are static or sagged. Cotic's are sagged and I have a feeling that Santa Cruz' aren't. The actual head angles might be closer than you think.
  • + 1
 @sandwich: Isn't the Honzo AL also 68*? Or is Kona's geometry measured at sag?

The Chameleon 29's HA is actually marginally slacker than the Nimble 9, which I thought was generally regarded as one of the more aggressive HT 29ers. I not very familiar with the category, though. What are some HT 29ers with slacker HA?
  • + 3
 @dlxah: Last Fastforward... slack, long and steel
  • + 2
 @dlxah: pretty sure Kona's geo is unsagged.
  • + 2
 @mugglesman: those Stantons look sweet. The Sherpa would be near the top of my list for a 29er if only the bb were lower (50 mm drop with sagged geometry, about 20-30 mm higher than other options).
  • - 1
 Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton Stanton
  • + 1
 @togood2die: I have one, it's OK!
  • + 2
 @DMal: Yeah, I guess the Sherpa is more geared towards bikepacking and trekking. I'm vehemently anti29er though so it wasn't even on my radar... This Slackline is my first non 26er and that was a big step haha. Growing up as a BMXer I used to scoff at mountain bikes... until I rode my buddy's titanium Kona in about '93 with a Marzocchi fork. I was smitten... When I went to University in '94 I bought a steel hardtail Norco with my first student loan cheque. The bike was stolen the next year but I have owned a steel hardtail of some description ever since, including a Dekerf Team - such an amazing frame. Once you go steel an aluminum frame will never feel quite right.
  • + 1
 @onemanarmy: I just roughly priced out a Chromag - £650 frame (rootdown - taiwanese not canadian), £420 wheels, £400 forks, £300 drive, £200 other bits = £1970 (C$3100). Plus you would be building it with some used parts (was thinking forks + bars, stem etc) so as you say its a decent price from SC for a new bike.

I have nothing against the Chameleon, ive just always been a steel hardtail kinda guy.

My new bike is costing in the region of £2800 and thats not including all the stuff I am using from another bike... total replacement cost is about £4k which is silly money and thats with a fairly sensible build (ie no carbon or flashy stuff).

For me I would always put my money in the frame and upgrade everything else with time except the drivetrain which a disposable part(s) anyway.
  • + 1
 @ashyjay... Rob Halford loves you.
  • + 30
 That color shceme is terrible.
  • + 32
 Hey man, you don't want to be cutting into Nomad sales.
  • + 7
 A new set of decals would change everything... Wink
  • + 4
 @HerrDoctorSloth: Too much of a PITA. They're under the clear coat.
  • + 13
 I like it. Not every bike has to be matte black and some hi viz color.
  • - 1
 @polarflux: why would it? It's a COMPLETELY different market.
  • + 2
 @hpiguy: put stickers over top
  • + 1
 @onemanarmy: I could referenced any other MTB in the line. Some people really want the utility truck, others can be moved beyond the price point.
  • + 2
 @onemanarmy: Agreed. First thing I thought when I saw this (aside from it being nearly a Kona Honzo, which is another rad hardtail I like) was that I LOVE this color scheme.

Wish they would have saved it for the new Hightower colors later this year--don't dig either of the Hightower colors right now. But, meh..you win some, you lose some.
  • + 24
 On a $2k hardtail, with a low-mid level parts spec, there should be room in SC's profit margin to include a dropper post. Just sayin'.
  • + 20
 There's a dropper post purple cranks and hubs on the bike at the top of the article. They tell you the bikes under $2,000 and tease you with a picture of a decked-out bike. Reality is it's a low in build. I believe this is called bait-and-switch pinkbike is famous for it
  • + 2
 It has internal routing and honestly I'd rather choose my own.
  • + 4
 @DrPete: Word. Get a frame you like with decent components that you can ride on. Add your upgrades as you go.
  • + 21
 so you get a aluminum hard tail with great geometry, tubeless wheels, a fox fork, and 11 speed for $2k and you still bitch about the bike? some people are never happy!!
  • + 5
 So, i just bought my wife a giant stance 1. It came with a fox 34 grip, nx drivetrain, shimano brakes, maxxis tires and it came with a dropper post. Out the door it was $2100.

This is expensive for a hardtail. That being said I've been looking at getting a surly karate monkey for general hooning around. This is $50 more for the frame and the rear dropouts are way better.

I think getting a frame, finding some takeoff fox 32s, some take off wheels and a $300 xt drivetrain would be the best way to do it.
  • - 4
flag NeilsElbek (Mar 15, 2017 at 10:29) (Below Threshold)
 @UtahBikeMike: isn't the stance a 27.5 full suspension? That's apples to oranges!!
  • + 14
 $1100 CAD for asian alu. It's a nice frame, don't get me wrong, but a Kona Big Honzo is 599 CAD. I know this has adjustable dropouts, but man, 500 bucks more for those dropouts seems like a lot. You can get a hand built chromag made with fancy tubing for 1600CAD and you get to choose your own paint!
  • + 12
 at the moment thinking of buying Honzo CR and this appears. This one really looks fantastic ) choice got more complicated
  • + 1
 threaded BB, different dropouts, 120 to 140 mm forks allowed... Sounds good to me. I just bought an aluminium Honzo, which is fantastic, but this chameleon is a serious option. You should wait for the "first ride" rewiew =D
  • + 2
 Get a look at the chainstay yoke on the SC and it will make your choice a lot easier.
  • + 3
 I'm sure this bike is great, but I bought the honzo cr dl 6 months back and the bikes a beast. I rarely even ride my trek slash anymore. I'd definitely pick up the honzo.
  • + 3
 Only thing that would really make me think about the Chameleon is the threaded bb. Otherwise, for the money I'm going Honzo all day--love mine, such a fun aluminum hardtail!
  • + 8
 I still ride my single speed 2000 Chameleon that I built 18 years ago haha.... Originally built it as a DS / Dirt Jump / Downhill rig because I was in college, broke and rather than working extra hours I was building trails in Bootleg Canyon.

In the last couple weeks just scrapped the blown Manitou X-Vert forks for some '00 Marzocchi Z1 CR's... threw on some RaceFace Atlas cranks got some new pads for the V-brakes.

It still shreds haha
  • + 2
 Right on - I still roll my 2001 fully rigid SS lizard daily. That doesn't sound right, but it's true.
  • + 12
 Steel for hardtail only. Dont like aluminium
  • + 5
 20 years ago a hardtail of this component group would be in the $400 price range. I believe gas was about a dollar a gallon then gas is now about 2:20 a gallon. I think this bikes price should be $840. Not 2000 I don't see the value.
  • + 14
 Pretty sure that 1997 $400 hardtail would be garbage compared to this bike. 400 bucks in 1997 is around 620 bucks in today's money, and you can also buy a garbage hardtail for $620 today.
  • + 7
 @samimerilohi: Yup. I bought one of those bikes, a $600 (CAD) GT Outpost. And while I still have the bike, the components were indeed shit. RST pogo stick fork, no disc mounts, dept store grade shimano drivetrain, shit rubber and wheels that would go out of true every ride. I still have it. I still love it. But in now way can you compare this Chameleon to that kind of bike. This is a pretty good spec for the price.
  • + 4
 In '97 a Bontrager Privateer running half LX and half XT M737 and a horrible Indy shock ran about $1000 brand new, so I think the price is actually reasonable. But, I'd take the privateer with an upgraded fork over this all day long...
  • + 2
 I had that hardtail 29 years ago. It was a turd. There were also $3000 hardtails around at the time.
  • + 3
 @DrPete: to be completely Fair 29 years ago all bikes were turds compared to what we have today
  • + 2
 Not an apples to apples comparison. If you're gonna complain about that why not complain about $9000 mtbs over $6500 motorcycles???

Compare bike to bike.
  • + 0
 @properp: kinda my point.
  • + 1
 @properp: funny thing is my autocorrect turned that into 29. I meant 20. Smile
  • + 2
 @robwhynot: idk if I've just had good luck but the 600 dollar hardtail I had was pretty much bombproof. I've done d.h on it and granted, the fork was shit but the wheelset was still true and straight as an arrow. Even being well over 10 years old. Wasn't bad for being a cheap hardtail. But they definitely shouldn't be speced with shitty forks. They should just be rigid.
  • + 1
 @DrPete: Well... in 2001 I built a $3000 hard tail. That same hard tail would cost me $600 today...

Sooo.......

Seems like your point was to not have a point? 20 years ago you didn't have that hardtail...
  • + 1
 @onemanarmy: I had the $400 hardtail that was supposedly just like this $2k Chameleon. Now granted I only rode the previous generation of chameleon, but to compare them in any way other than to say they're both hardtails is just ridiculous.
  • + 2
 @DrPete: I was gonna say, I don't remember suspension forks in 1988. I believe the original P. Turner designed Rockshox with the pink decals came out in '89 or '90 and man were they crappy!
  • + 2
 @teamtoad: Yeah, it was 20 yrs ago. I put a Rock Shox Judy on it as an upgrade. Smile Hahaha.
  • + 1
 @DrPete: Yeah, I figured 29 years ago was an error. I don't think suspension had made it to the masses until '89 or '90 and the original Rockshox/Manitou were so lame compared to what we have now! Those original Rockshox with the pink decals - man we have come a long way!
  • + 1
 @DrPete: oops - double post error
  • + 0
 In 97 a had a steel Kona with project 2 forks and slx parts for £500.
  • + 5
 I used to really like Santa Cruz bikes when Rob Roskopp and Rich Novak were involved. Now they seem more like a status symbol. They are almost as common as a trek or specialized at my local trails anymore.
  • + 4
 My thoughts as well. R&R did a great job of building the name and selling off to a bike industry whale corp.
  • + 4
 The aggressive hard tail market that was originally brought to the forefront by the Honzo is a crowded one. Santa Cruz has built their rep on doing high end and unfortunately for many over the last ten years high cost bikes. This wasn't always the case as they used to beat just about everyone for value and options in the late 90's early 00's. I said a few years back that they would A. get rid of all of their alloy options and/or B. relegate them to just their "lower" end models (hard tails and single-pivots). I said this prior to their buy out. Since then, they did finish off their single-pivots, but added alloy versions of their biggest sellers. I firmly believe that this was done primarily for their European/overseas market and the same goes for this bike. The competition regarding tangible value against this version of the Chameleon is high and many bikes exceed it, including the aforementioned Honzo. However, SC still has that name recognition cache that will sell their bikes. No longer for me though, in fact I just gave away and old banner of theirs I found during my move. I miss the SC of yore, but there are many small companies that are knocking it out, punching way above their size for cutting edge and value. Banshee and Canfield come to mind. Evil on the higher end of it. Party.
  • + 6
 Just to be that guy, this could be built with much nicer components for the same price.

nukeproof.com/products/scout-275-comp-2016
  • + 6
 Most people on this site or more into the designer name than the actual quality of the ride.
  • + 5
 @properp: You said it. Compare this to what you get with YT or another "value" brand. Feeling like SC is becoming the Apple of mountain bikes. They figure they can increase margins because of their brand name.
  • + 4
 @WaterBear: Yeti already has that covered man. I like their bikes and ride one, but probably not paying that much for another one.
  • + 6
 Steel is heavy! thats why Kona just switched all of the Honzo's to Aluminum frames. I read the old steel frames weighed 8lbs!!! and now 5lbs for a HT thats a lot of weight.
  • + 3
 Exactly. You can do a decent aluminum frame for 2/3rds the weight and less money.
  • + 2
 iirc the old (non-fat) Rocky Mountain Blizzards weighed in nice 'n light (4.5# or less?), used Reynolds 853, geo way ahead of its time. (and sweet maple leaf paint jobs on top of all that Smile
  • + 1
 @WoodenCrow: No doubt - I had one of those! Granted that the Blizzard was a cross country oriented bike, the claimed weights of some of the modern steel all mountain hardtails seem quite high.
  • + 1
 @WoodenCrow: basically you just described my favorite bike of all time, Rocky blizzard, every time I ride one, even with the older geo I still can't get the smile of my face
  • + 3
 They didn't switch all of their Honzos to aluminum dude--they still offer a steel frame, along with the AL, Carbon and even a Ti option. But yes, the steel Honzo frame is a tank. Virtually indestructible though, as I beat on one for many a winter ride and it shows no signs of giving up any time soon. Great ride!
  • + 6
 Don't give a toss about this bike, what's wrong with aluminium HT's though ?? My Whyte 901 frame has dealt with all I've put before it and I'm sure it will for years to come
  • + 5
 Anyone else think a 650+ on the rear and 29 front would be the way to go? More squish at the back, plenty of corner bite up front, perhaps slacken it a touch. Looks great.
  • + 0
 Ive had A boring amount of discussion on this with my friends On a full suspension would be best of both worlds
  • + 1
 I thought it would look more moto... Not so sure how it would actually ride...
  • + 4
 I think it's a bad idea to have more traction in the rear.
  • + 1
 @Legbacon: its a balance though right, hardtails will always have a forward bias for grip because you've the fork upfront keeping everything where it needs to be, the rear just skips around and gets lose behind you - adding compliance at the rear would be a good thing in my eyes - would love to try it
  • + 5
 Fork Compatibility up to 140mm according to Santa Cruz's site. I could imagine that riding pretty well with one. Even like the color for some reason.
  • + 6
 Call me when ya do 26. Yep I just said that
  • + 8
 I think they did something like five generations of the Chameleon with 26" wheels. I have one hanging in my garage right now. Awesome bikes. Find a used frame on ebay and build it up!
  • + 3
 if 26 bikes were out selling 29er, i bet they will surely be making more 26 bikes, so i guess people that loves 26 bikes should be buying more 26 bikes. "26 are more fun" i hear this a lot at trail heads and forums. and yet fewer people are buying them, surely there are a lot of bargain prices 26 bikes available now,
  • + 2
 @Zuman: I've heard good things about 26"+
  • + 1
 yeah the older 26 chameleons were well suited to morph into skatepark & dirt jump shredders. my local skatepark only has 5' transitions, not sure how well a 650 chameleon is going to do in those. it seems like the term "chameleon" has just turned off some of it's colors?
  • + 3
 @Zuman: bargain prices, but with "old" geo (long seat tube, steep head tube, short top tube)...
  • + 4
 If you're writing an article about a sub-$2k bike, at least use an accurate picture for the thumbnail and title picture, not one decked out in custom components...
  • + 2
 @drivereight jestep agrees with my logic, I bought a plus HT for that reason, wanted to ride more in nastier conditions and didn't want to put the wear and tear on FS. I like SC (have a Bronson) but I got a Salsa Timberjack GX1.
  • + 2
 Sort of ridiculous they post a picture decked out in Hope and Fox Float Kashima Coat and say it's under 2000, then you scroll don. Not to mention, this looks exactly like the Kona Unit, which I picked up new for $800. Aside from a fork I added, that bike is bombproof.
  • + 3
 Seat tube length size large; 450 mm. Perfect, should have been the standard length for large bikes so that all of us stubby legged people can run droppers longer than 125 mm. Too bad they dont include one then.
  • + 2
 Raleigh makes the Tokul 3 which does have some lower end components but it costs $999. However it's still pretty capable!
www.youtube.com/watch?v=aR2oLA9mSXw

Additionally, there's also the Tokul 4130 which is better spec'd than the Tokul 3 but comes in at the same price of the entry level D+ Chameleon. The one big advantage of the Tokul 4130 is the dropper post.

Either way plus size hardtails are dope.
  • + 1
 Every one of Santa Cruz's current bikes is offered in both alloy and carbon options. I'd bet a carbon version will follow if there's initial success with this one. This is probably to test the waters with a proof-of-concept on the geometry, the versatile drop-out system, and the market for such a bike. A lighter carbon version would be an awesome all-around trail bike
  • + 3
 The V10, Nomad, and Hightowers aren't available in aluminum yet.
  • + 2
 @sixstringsteve: Yeah, you're totally right. What I meant was Santa Cruz is heavily focused in carbon fiber, with all bikes available in carbon. Many also in alloy, but all of them in carbon says something about SC's preference for carbon. So I would be surprised if this specific bike went the opposite direction and was only available in alloy in upcoming versions. Point also is, I want one in carbon
  • + 1
 See my above response for details, but I believe it's the opposite. I seriously doubt a carbon version of this bike will arrive anytime soon if ever as the Chameleon has always been a lower cost bike in their line up. The new Cham and the alloy TB, 5010 and Bronson are there primarily to have price point bikes for overseas markets. Conspiracy theorist? Maybe, but SC's addition of those alloy models followed their buyout by Pon and they made the statement specifically that they wanted to vastly expand their Euro market presence.
  • + 3
 I like ... and I also recon most riders would be more interested in a frame only option to be built up to their own spec, that is what I would do!
  • + 1
 Crap... I have 2015 chameleon (v.6 650b) and now I have to buy this one. Thanks Santa Cruz! ????

They checked all the boxes with this new version that I wanted out of mine. Room for 27+, boost spacing, and to leave the rest alone! The chameleon is one of the most fun bikes out there!

And for those that doubt the need for a plus sized hardtail, yes, aluminum still beats the crap out of you and doesn't flex as much as steel. So you want that extra cusion (at least I do).

And how would I build it?? 27+ single speed with a nifty uppy-downy post please!
  • + 1
 Under 2K you say!!! That's an awesome deal. Been on the fence about getting a fat bike but I just can't seem to pull the trigger after seeing how awesome and how fast these Plus sized bikes have been rolling out. This Santa Cruz would be pleasantly welcomed into my already SC stable tup
  • + 5
 This bikes excites me about as much as an unflushed terd.
  • + 4
 If only SC would do a carbon frame hardtail, with adjustable drop outs to run single speed, and keep the threaded BB...
  • + 5
 It's called the Canfield EPO
  • + 2
 @ratedgg13: yeah? how do you run it SS?
  • + 2
 Hard Eddy or Ibis Tran
  • + 1
 @mripper: Hard Eddy is no longer made by Intense, and has XC geo anyway. Ibis tranny also has XC geo.
  • + 2
 @mripper: hard eddy and tranny should not be in same sentence on a bike site. just saying
  • + 1
 Great to see the Chameleon living on, my 2005 Chameleon has been a 26" 2x9 , 1x9 , single speed and now I am running it
1x10 with 27.5 wheels and 140mm fork. nearly all the rebuild have been with parts from other bikes that we getting upgrades still great to ride .
  • + 3
 Though it's not my main bike anymore, I still ride my Chameleon from 1999, 18 years of riding and the frame is still solid and still a shit loads of fun to ride!
  • + 1
 Great to see a new, looks like a multi purpose frame. Price wise (frame only 749 USD, and likely over 500 GBP) I think it is still way too much for an aluminium hardtail.
"And on that bombshell" I totally lack the excitement over this one.
  • + 0
 When I was bike shopping a year ago I was 90% certain that I was getting a Chameleon after riding hard tail for the last 20 years or so. As cool,better and good as I knew the chameleon would be I decided that maybe a should try a fully instead. Best decision ever, I love my full squish but its is super fun to dust off the old hard tail and go for a rip, but I wouldn't pay over 2 grand for the entry level hard tail build, it's just too much for a second bike that you won't ride as much once the novelty wares off and then back pain wares in..
  • + 0
 The parts on it really aren't that cheap, most bikes with multiple models usually have the cheapest model with the same parts as this and they're made by good companies, just not top of the line like you would see in a more pricy British steel hardtail. They have to make compromises to keep the rig under $2000 but the compromises they made aren't bad at all. If you want a hardtail decked out with Hope, Guide Ultimates, Eagle Drivetrain, Carbon wheel set and components, go for one of the more pricy options out there.
  • + 3
 I was expecting the Article to said "Santacruz builds the first ever hardtail"
  • + 2
 "Interchangeable dropouts for gears (with 148mm x 12mm axle) or single speed (with 142mm x 12mm axle)"

So no gears with 142mm hub?
  • + 1
 You could try, but the frame is designed for a boost chainline, so it might not work that great with a 142mm hub and gears.
  • + 2
 How about a big 29er HT comparison test? Grab a bunch and rank them on price, ride, weight, etc.
  • + 2
 I thought this bike looked pretty sweet and reasonably priced. According to the comments I am wrong.
  • + 1
 Santa Cruz? Under 2k?? It must be made of plastic.

On a serious note, all those Shropshire kids will dump the carbon sc bikes now as they are officially a budget brand now.
  • + 3
 So bare frame went from $399 to $749....deplorable!
  • + 1
 My GT Ruckus 3.0 frame cost me USD$90 and put all the components from my old bike, and last year I put it 27.5 wheels for nearly USD $150...
  • + 3
 commencal raping you guys with their hardtail prices / build, big time.
  • + 0
 My bike has similar rear dropouts, I'm worried about them. Never anything I like 100% when it comes to bikes, that's when you have to make your own, but are incapable I guess.
  • + 4
 No steel, no want
  • + 1
 surely smaller wheels would make more sense for a burly little bike like this, considering it looks like its more for fun than speed.
  • + 2
 I was disappointed to see that they made the new chameleon with wagon wheels. I have a 26" version (second generation?) that I still love to ride. I think there was one generation with 27.5, so there might be some used ones out there.
  • + 5
 But plus size wheels make a lot of sense for a hardtail, it gives a bit more cushioning and compliance over the rough stuff.
Besides looking at the geo numbers and the fork travel its more designed as a jack of all trades rather than a pure 'fun bike' (although I bet it is a riot to ride). Something that can attack a trail centre and carve natural singletrack but is still happy putting in big miles up and down. 29/27+ makes a lot of sense for that sort of bike, besides 29ers and plus bikes are fun to ride, despite what some may claim...
  • + 3
 @Attilauk: I agree, in today's market it probably makes more sense to do 27.5+, but the original Chameleon was capable of shredding trails and also hitting dirt jumps, which is what made it such a sick bike, and which is why I bought one. I don't see anyone showing up to their local dirt jump spot with balloon tires or a 29er and expect to actually shred the jumps (other than the occasional ironic fat bike hitting jumps just because they can).
  • + 2
 @srjacobs: They probably went this route with the Chameleon because they are still making the Jackal, according to their website.

I bought a Chameleon back in the early 2000's, and slapped a Marzocchi Z150 & DeeMax wheels on her....it was my 1st freeride / DH bike, haha. It was a riot Smile
  • + 2
 @dukesofhazzard: To be fair, they had the Jackal in the lineup back then also. The Jackal is a great dirt jumper for sure, but the whole point of the original Chameleon was that it could shred the jumps AND hit the trails. Try raising your seat post and going for a 20 mile XC ride on a Jackal, haha... Not quite the same.

I still have my 2004 Chameleon hanging in the garage... I still ride it at the pump track, too!
  • + 1
 @srjacobs: exactly. the best part of the "chameleon" name was its versatility to be a dj or skatepark shredder. the new big wheel version just doesn't make any sense for its original vision. i guess i'm not going to cry, i can understand the new market, but your skatepark better have some fairly big transitions in order to shred those big wheels.
  • + 1
 Can we start going back to taller stacks? A 110mm head tube on an XL bike with a 120mm fork is silly. Pretty much guarantees a stack of spacers and a 30mm+ tall bar.
  • + 1
 This would make a great versatile xc/trail/bike packing rig if one were to buy two wheel sets in both 27.5+ and 29. A quick swap for completely different rides!
  • + 1
 also a nice way to store an extra wheelset if you have a hightower or other swappable primary ride.
  • + 0
 After riding one, it doesn't feel special. It is a good AM hardtail, but doesn't especially shine in comparison to the Kona Explosif, which has very similar components, with the exception of the steel frame and 27.5 wheels.
  • + 3
 The Explosif is such a sweet bike..I'd pick that over this. Steel!
  • + 3
 Forget the HT, I want to know if a new Nomad will be released soon!
  • + 4
 Fuck! I want it.
  • + 0
 Love SC bikes (I ride a Tallboy LtC). I got their ad copy about the bike in my e-mail box this morning;

"the moniker Chameleon has never rang more true"

I hope the bike is better than the grammar.
  • + 2
 A little bit of hope in the bike industry is reborn in me.
  • + 2
 better spec'd hardtails out there for that cash.
  • + 2
 I'm actually stoked to see this! nice job, SC
  • - 1
 For hardtails aluminium is crap; steel is real!!!!! Also that geometry is kind of obsolete, especially the HT angle which is much too steep for a hardtail. Forget that joke and buy a true bike...
  • + 1
 After riding the production privee Shan gt 29 hardtail I kinda have to agree with you, that head angle will be up around 70 when you're riding this bike and steel is great for aggressive hardtails. But maybe enough people still want trail centre bikes and I'm sure it would be great for that.
  • + 1
 I would put a fox 36 on it
That should make it a real bike right?
  • + 4
 I like aluminum. Aluminum is also real... or is it some imaginary material. Am I seeing things or is that a functional bicycle in front of me? Man... I need to go make sure I really did put those endlinks on my car and didn't accidentally put marshmellows on my car.... damn.
  • + 2
 @willf28: This new Chameleon has the same head angle as the Shan GT 29 (67.5 w/ 120mm fork, 66.5 w/ 140mm fork), or was that your point?
  • + 1
 @dlxah: Still too slack. I've put a 2 degree angleset on my honzo Ti and it climbs great and descends like a demon. HA is now 65 degrees with 130mm fox 34.
  • + 1
 @MattInNZ: That sounds like a sick bike! You should post up some pictures. I'd love to see it.
  • + 1
 @dlxah: www.btr-fabrications.com/products/ranger-frame
Yea, of course it all depends what trails you mainly ride. but the PP was still the best feeling hardtail ive rode, think it was the combo of big wheels and great steel feel but it was on flattish stuff.
I haven't riden a btr but I think they have the geo nailed, if you like going down really steep stuff that is.
  • + 1
 Not slack enough. I've got a 2deg angle-set on my Honzo Ti (so about 65deg HA) and its mint.
  • + 3
 chameleons for life
  • + 2
 26" and even 27.5" wheels seem to be disappearing from HT specs.
  • + 1
 Hey Mike can you share any info about the xxl Hightower yet? I know that you know that I know you know.
  • + 2
 Hardtail is lyfe! Just picked up a 2010 TransAM it friggin rips!
  • + 1
 Nothing shows adaptability like showing contrasting a picture of a skatepark and some woods.....
  • + 1
 couple years behind kona honzo imho
  • + 2
 Looks like a fun bike
  • + 1
 So it's a Salsa Timberjack with a nicer fork and uglier paint?
  • + 2
 That's R1 version, the D1 has the same fork but NX instead of Salsa's GX. I have the Salsa and it's fun, got it for $1300.
  • + 1
 Timber jack does seem like best bang for your buck 29er / 27.5 hardtail.
  • + 1
 The name has never been more appropriate I guess.
  • + 1
 Does this improve the Stache? Maybe in price?
  • + 2
 Just say no
  • + 2
 Yes, I want!
  • + 1
 beauutiful
  • - 2
 Why would anyone plus size a hardtail? Get a full suspension bike would make better sense.
  • + 2
 Snow, still a few pounds lighter than a FS and you don't have to service the rear end which saves about a thousand dollars as well as maintenance.
  • + 1
 @jestep: If im getting a bike just for snow im buying a Wozo
  • - 2
 Guys if you like agresive HT bikes check Ghost asket al 29er,very nice bike
  • - 3
 And no 26, but hey it's affordable.
  • - 3
 Trek did this two years ago with the stache but thanks for playing.
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