Who says freeride is dead? Not Santa Cruz, and to prove it they've created a new Nomad, one that's bigger, badder, and more gravity oriented than ever before. Okay, so maybe they're not using the term “freeride,” but with 170mm of travel, a 64.6-degree head angle (in the low setting) and a new rear suspension layout inspired by the V10, this is about as close as you can get to a pedal-able downhill bike.
Given the success of the previous Nomad, Santa Cruz could have taken the easy road and just tweaked the geometry a little bit and slapped on a new paint job, but they made the conscious decision to push version 4.0 into new territory.
Santa Cruz Nomad Details
• Intended use: shredding the gnar
• Wheel size: 27.5"
• Rear wheel travel: 170mm
• 64.6º or 65º head angle
• Carbon frame, C or CC options
• Metric shock sizing
• Boost hub spacing
• MSRP: $4,499 - $9,399 USD ($8,399 as shown)
• Weight: 30lb / 13.6kg (size large)
• Available: June 15
After all, the 150mm Bronson has the all-mountain side of things pretty well covered, and don't forget that the 29”-wheeled Hightower and its upcoming longer travel sibling — in short, something needed to be done to make sure the Nomad didn't get lost in the crowd.
Prices start at $4,499 USD for the Nomad C R, which comes with a 170mm RockShox Yari up front, SRAM Guide R brakes, and a SRAM NX 11-speed drivetrain. At the other end of the scale is the $9,399 USD Nomad CC XX1 Reserve, which gets Santa Cruz's highest end carbon wheels, an XX1 Eagle drivetrain, Code RSC brakes, and a RockShox Lyric RCT3.
The bike pictured above is the $8,399 Nomad CC X01 Reserve; highlights include a 12-speed SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, Code RSC brakes, Reserve carbon wheels with DT Swiss 350 hubs, and a Lyrik RCT3 fork.
The rear suspension layout is the most immediately apparent difference between the new Nomad and its predecessor, with the shock situated low in the frame where it passes through a split in the seat tube. As you'd expect, it's still a VPP design, with two large counter-rotating links that control the 170mm of travel.
Even with that split seat tube design, Santa Cruz still managed to internally route the dropper post housing (it runs through a tube molded inside the non-driveside of the frame), and to fit dropper posts with appropriate amounts of travel – 150mm on a size medium, and 170mm on the large and extra-large sizes.
In addition to a downtube protector near the bottom bracket, there's also a guard to help prevent frame damage from shuttling.
A tiny bolt-on fender helps keep mud away from the shock.
The Nomad is designed to play well with both coil and air-sprung shocks; riders can choose from a RockShox Super Deluxe Coil RCT, or a Super Deluxe Air RCT. There's a small integrated fender bolted onto the frame to help keep some of the mud and grit that this bike will undoubtedly be subjected to at bay. Other frame niceties include a guard on the underside of the down tube to prevent the frame scuffs and dings that all-too-often accompany a day of shuttling, and there's even enough room to carry a full-size water bottle inside the front triangle.
The Nomad is debuting with a full carbon frame, but there is an alloy model on the way that should be available in the fall at a more budget friendly pricepoint.
The previous generation Nomad was a trail-smashing beast in its own right, which meant that there wasn't any need to go too wild when it came time to revise the geometry numbers, although the reach has been lengthened by 22mm — a size large now measures 460mm. A few millimeters were trimmed off the chainstay length, which is now 430mm, and thanks to a flip chip on the lower link the bike's head angle can be set at either 64.6º with a 339mm BB height, or 65º with a 344mm BB height.
Along with the new bike, Santa Cruz is also launching their own line of carbon wheels, called “Reserve.” Rather than re-labeling an existing rim profile, Santa Cruz set out to develop their own unique design, drawing on their in-house expertise and carbon testing facilities.
The result is a rim shape that has a slight protrusion above each spoke hole, external reinforcement that's intended to help keep spokes from pulling through the rim, one of the modes of failure that Santa Cruz found with other carbon wheels. The rim and spoke holes are asymmetric in order to even out the spoke tension between the drive and non-driveside as much as possible, and they're laced up with 28 spokes using a 3-cross pattern. There will be two 27.5” internal rim widths available — 27 and 30mm, and the 29” wheels will be available with an internal width of 25, 27, or 30mm.
The Reserve wheels will add $1,200 USD to the MSRP of a complete bike, and they'll also be available as aftermarket items this fall. Laced up with Industry Nine hubs, a complete wheelset will retail for $1,899 USD, or $1,599 with DT Swiss 350 hubs.
Just like Santa Cruz's frames and bearings, the Reserve wheels come with a lifetime warranty. When a damaged wheel is received at Santa Cruz's California facility, they promise a 24-hour turnaround, an impressively quick time frame that should help keep the amount of time off the bike to a minimum.
3 Nomad Questions With Jack Russell, Santa Cruz Bicycles' Senior Industrial Designer Mike Kazimer - Who do you see as being the ideal rider for the new Nomad? Jack Russell - I don't really know what to call it, but the bike was built for people who want to ride gnarly descents where you can't shuttle. It was not built as an enduro race bike or any kind of race bike for that matter. It's more of a mountain bike that you will never feel like is holding you back in the "I would do this on my downhill bike, but not on this trail bike" kind of way. It's a bike for trails where you can't stop once you drop in, it's a bike that solves the problem of "Should I bring my trail bike or DH bike on this trip?" I think a lot of people will think of it as a park bike, but personally, when I think park bike, I think of a short travel DH bike that can't pedal up hills. This one can pedal. Adventure-duro maybe?Kazimer - Given the popularity of the previous Nomad, when this project started, was their one main goal you were trying to achieve?Russell - When we began this project we looked at where the N3 was and what people used it for when it came out, and what people use it for now and how riding has changed in the last few years. Also, we looked at what the Bronson was being used for. We made a deliberate decision to push the N4 closer to a DH bike and not go down the path of making it an enduro race bike. This is a different path than the N3 took, but we think this is an underserved market and the Bronson can do most of what the N3 could do.Kazimer - What was the reason for deviating from the suspension layout seen on the Nomad 3? What's the benefit of the new configuration? Russell - The main reason for the lower link mounted shock on the N4 is to give it a similar leverage ratio as the V10. To get that leverage ratio you have to attach the shock to the lower link. We have had years and years of experience with the V10 leverage rate and have been tweaking and improving it with the Syndicate. We knew the most uncompromised way to make this "full DH bike feeling trail bike" work was to give it a V10 leverage ratio.
New vs. old - the fourth and third generations of the Santa Cruz Nomad.
The V10/N4 leverage ratio is a linearly-progressive line that works great with a coil or air, depending on how you want to the bike to feel and is always predictable, which is great for dialing in the tune. With all that leverage ratio stuff happening, we were able to give the bike the correct amount of anti-squat so you can still pedal it up a hill.
Rather than going through the whole rigamarole that typically accompanies a new bike launch — traveling to a far away destination, and then trying to get accustomed to a strange bike on unfamiliar trails — Santa Cruz sent a new Nomad to my stomping grounds in Bellingham, Washington. So far I've been able to get in a bunch of solid rides aboard the new rig, several of those on the steep and loamy trails close to my house, and the rest on the sharp, dusty, and loose terrain outside of Pemberton, BC. In other words, plenty of time to formulate some initial impressions about the new Nomad's handling.
The new Nomad's focus may be almost entirely on going downhill, but the fact that both the air and coil shock options have a lockout feature means that with the flip of a lever it's possible to turn it into a manageable climber. No, it's not the bike to grab if you regularly seek out extra-technical climbs full of slow speed maneuvers — the slack head angle and long wheelbase make those type of ascents more challenging than they would be on a shorter travel bike with steeper geo numbers — but the Nomad has no trouble cruising up steep logging roads en-route to the day's descent. That 30 pound weight is very reasonable considering the burly build kit, although the Nomad's climbing manners are still more steady than sprightly; it doesn't exactly strain at the reins when faced with a big climb.
Even without the lockout lever engaged the Nomad's rear suspension remains fairly calm, unless you're standing up and really putting the power down, at which point there's a little extra rear end movement, but it's anything out of the ordinary, especially for a bike with this much travel. In short, the new Nomad can climb, but its subdued handling mirrors how I imagine Floyd Mayweather feels between fights, twiddling his thumbs while he waits for smashing time to commence.
There was one small snafu that happened after only a few shuttle runs on the Nomad — I cracked the rear rim. Yes, that brand new Santa Cruz Reserve carbon rim met its untimely demise when I came up a foot short on a stepdown, smacking the rear wheel squarely into one of the cedar logs that formed the backside of the landing. Time to make use of that lifetime warranty and 24-hour turnaround... The incident was fully user error, and I'm sure that there would have been some sort of damage even if I'd been on an aluminum rim. Santa Cruz has since sent out a replacement, and I'll be putting this one to the test over the coming months in order to see how it holds up.
The previous Nomad was an excellent descender, but version 4.0 has an entirely different feel — it's about as close to a downhill bike as you can get without a dual crown fork. The bike's weight feels centered around the bottom bracket, and the lengthened front center combined with the shorter chainstays makes it easy to pull up into a manual, or arc turns down steep, loose chutes. That 170mm of plush travel goes a long way towards smoothing out the roughest of trails — you'd be hard-pressed to find a track the Nomad can't handle. The rear end feels very composed throughout the entirety of its travel, free from any unexpected harshness or abrupt ramp up.
So far my time on the Nomad has been split between the air shock and the coil shock, and while they both work very well, at this point I prefer the feel of the air-sprung RockShox Super Deluxe Air RCT. It makes the bike feel more energetic and eager, with a little more ramp-up towards the end of the travel. If I was focused solely on plowing through rough, rocky sections of trail, I'd lean towards the coil option, but for more varied terrain, and especially when it comes to hitting jumps, the air shock is the way to go.
Should you rush out to buy a Nomad? Honestly, unless you're lucky enough to have relatively easy access to trails that are worthy of a 170mm mini-downhill bike, probably not. Yes, it's wickedly fun, but this is a bike that needs room to run — taking it on mellow flow trails is like forcing a mountain lion to live indoors. It's even a bit much for most enduro races — this is a bike that's made for seeking out the burliest descents, not sprinting against the clock.
On the other hand, for riders who are fortunate to live in close proximity to long, gnarly trails, the Nomad should be a formidable weapon. We're going to keep putting the miles in on it, miles that will include plenty of time in the Whistler Bike Park, in order to see how it holds up. Stay tuned for a follow-up report once the pummeling is over.