Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 Reserve first ride review£7,599.00

Fourth generation Nomad gets a complete redesign for 2018 and sports some very special wheels

The Nomad was most recently overhauled back in 2014, where it first made the move to 650b wheels. While the bike saw some geometry changes along with the addition of bigger wheels, its silhouette didn't change drastically. Things are quite different for the latest Nomad though, where Santa Cruz claims "the Nomad four is a marked departure from the rest of our trail bikes."

I headed out to Sospel, France to see the new bike and get a feel for its trail manners in person on some of the Maritime Alps' most demanding trails.

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 Reserve spec overview

  • Frame (inc travel): Carbon CC with 170mm of travel
  • Fork (inc travel): RockShox Lyrik RCT3 with 170mm of travel
  • Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe RCT coil or Super Deluxe RCT Air
  • Drivetrain: SRAM X01 Eagle 12-speed
  • Wheelset: Santa Cruz Reserve carbon rimes on Industry9 Torch Classic hubs (though this bike usually comes with DT Swiss 350 hubs)
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF 3C EXO TR 27.5x2.5in (fr), Maxxis Minion DHF 3C DD TR 27.5x2.4in (r) — though will ship with a Minion DHR II EXO TR
  • Brakes: SRAM Code RSC (180mm rotors)
  • Bar/stem: Santa Cruz AM carbon 35 800mm/Race Face Aeffect 35 50mm
  • Seatpost/saddle: RockShox Reverb Stealth 150mm drop/WTB Silverado Pro
  • Bike weight (without pedals): Nomad XX1 Reserve (L) (air): 13.39kg / Nomad XX1 Reserve (L) (coil): 13.88kg
  • Stack: 611mm (medium bike in high setting)
  • Reach: 440mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,192mm
  • Head angle: 65 degrees (high setting)
  • Seat angle: 74.5 degrees (high setting)

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 Reserve frame

It’s worth clearing things up early on, this isn’t a 29er. Odd maybe, considering the Syndicate’s push to get a big wheeled V10 for the rigours of World Cup racing.

“For us, we would like to make a longer travel 29er, I don’t think we want to do something quite this big, not a 170, I think we feel this is sufficiently stable and has enough traction,” says Josh Kissner, Santa Cruz Product Manager.

Still, those with a keen eye will have spotted Josh Bryceland, Mark Scott and other Santa Cruz riders sporting what looks to be a revised Hightower at the most recent EWS round in Ireland.

Anyway, back to the Nomad.

Santa Cruz keeps the travel balanced front to rear, with both ends sporting 170mm, upping it by 5mm over the previous model. When it comes to the big differences between old versus new, they’re pretty easy to spot for the most part.

A split in the seat tube allows the rear shcok to sit low in the frame and ensured the Santa Cruz engineers were able to get the Nomad's suspension performance closer to that of the V10
A split in the seat tube allows the rear shcok to sit low in the frame and ensured the Santa Cruz engineers were able to get the Nomad's suspension performance closer to that of the V10

Though the new Nomad continues to use the proven Virtual Pivot Point suspension platform, the shock is now mounted much lower in the frame and driven from the lower link as opposed to the upper link, as is the norm with the other trail bikes in the Santa Cruz line up.

The only other bike to operate like this is the V10. Why? Kissner continues: “The number one thing we wanted to work on was the suspension performance.” He also says Santa Cruz “made it more like the V10”. That means the new leverage curve is very similar to that of its World Cup winning downhill bike, as Kissner elaborates: “It’s basically a straight line and quite progressive. The goal being high leverage at the beginning so it really swallows small bumps, and then supportive in the middle, which is really important on longer travel bikes."

To get the shock where it needed to be in the frame, the Nomad now sports a shock tunnel in the seat tube. Santa Cruz has ensured there’s enough room in there so punters can fit pretty much any damper (providing it’s of the new metric variety and 230x60mm), including the rather bulbous, but highly tunable, Fox Float X2.

Interestingly, Santa Cruz is offering the higher-end Nomads (anything above $5,500) with the choice of a coil or air sprung shock, claiming the shock curve will work with both, but provide a different ride feel — more on that later.

RockShox shocks

Just like the V10 downhill bike, the new Nomad's shock is actuated by the lower of the two links in the VPP system
Just like the V10 downhill bike, the new Nomad's shock is actuated by the lower of the two links in the VPP system

The shocks available are the latest offerings from RockShox and include the Super Deluxe Coil RCT or the Super Deluxe Air RCT, which both allow you to fine tune the low speed compression. The high-end shocks also get cartridge bearings in the uppermost eyelet to counteract rotation and keep things feeling as smooth as possible as the bike moves through its travel.

With the shock now more exposed to rear wheel spray and debris, Santa Cruz has made a small fender to help keep off the worst of it, which is a nice touch if half your year is spent ploughing through mud.

In a bid to keep things as versatile as possible, the new bike continues to use flip chips down in the lower link, which offer a high and low position. When questioned on why Santa Cruz doesn’t just fix the geometry in one position, Kissner says, “there’s no huge downside to it” and it’s not something that adds much in terms of cost.

The flip chip at the rear-most shock mount allows you to slacken the Nomad out when things get really steep and rough
The flip chip at the rear-most shock mount allows you to slacken the Nomad out when things get really steep and rough

In the high setting, the bottom bracket has 10mm of drop and sits a claimed 344mm off the floor, which is good going for a bike with this sort of travel. The low setting drops the bottom bracket by 5mm and slackens the head angle by 0.4 degrees, taking it from 65 to 64.6 degrees.

Santa Cruz has worked on frame sizing too, considerably lengthening the new Nomad compared to the frame it replaces and addressing an issue we’ve raised in the past.

Reach on my medium test bike is 440mm (the old medium Nomad had a reach of just 415mm) in the high setting, but loses 4mm in the low setting, while the chainstays are kept relatively short at 430mm.

Other points to note include the grease ports in the links to help keep things running smoothly along with a threaded bottom bracket, space for a bottle cage and some revised downtube protection.

It's happy to get airbourne too
It's happy to get airbourne too

Santa Cruz has now improved its underbelly protection, using a thick plastic bolt-on guard to fend off any potential carbon damaging rock strikes. Interestingly, it's also added an additional down tube guard which sits in-between the lower guard and head tube junction.

This unusual bit of protection might not be totally relevant to some of us, but for those that sling their bike in the back of a pickup truck with the front wheel hanging over the tail gate, it should help keep any nasty scuffs and scrapes at bay.

While the revised 2018 Lyrik fork will accept a 2.8in front tyre, the new Nomad’s back end wont’ quite accept plus sized rubber, but there’s enough room to fit a 2.6in tyre thanks in part to the heavy shaping on the seatstays.

A bigger, bolt-on plastic guard now shields the precious carbon underbelly of the Nomad against potentially damaging rock strikes
A bigger, bolt-on plastic guard now shields the precious carbon underbelly of the Nomad against potentially damaging rock strikes

There’s also a new post-mount rear brake mount, which’ll let you bolt the caliper straight onto the frame and is designed to fit a 180mm rotor.

Currently, the Nomad is only available in carbon, but as with the rest of the range, it comes in cheaper C or more expensive CC offerings. Santa Cruz did tell us that an aluminium version of the Nomad is due to hit the shops in August though. 

Impressively, Santa Cruz offers the new, longer Nomad in sizes ranging from extra-small through to extra-large. The carbon CC frame is available separately with the choice of coil or air shock for £3,199/ $TBC.

The pricier bikes in the lineup come with the option to spec a coil or air sprung RockShox Super Deluxe RCT rear shock
The pricier bikes in the lineup come with the option to spec a coil or air sprung RockShox Super Deluxe RCT rear shock

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 Reserve kit

If you’re wondering what the word ‘Reserve’ refers to in the bike's title, it’s to do with the new own brand wheels that some of the Nomads will be touting.

Just as we’re seeing from a few other brands recently, Santa Cruz decided it was time to take control of how the wheels on its bikes felt so went right ahead and made its own.

An asymmetrical rim profile and spoke holes help with getting an even tension throughout

I make it sound rather simple, but of course it was far from that. In fact, the Reserve wheels took three years to come to fruition. But why step away from ENVE, a brand Santa Cruz has been synonymous with for a number of years now? “We thought we could do something better,” says Kissner. He continues, “There were two problems we saw with the existing products. One, they break too much and two, they have a harsh ride.”

Santa Cruz's goal was pretty straight forward; make stronger, more comfortable wheels that will help eke out as much traction as possible. Making them as light as possible wasn’t the highest ranking priority though.

My test bike was sporting the Reserve 30s, which as you might have guessed, have an inner rim width of 30mm. Santa Cruz will release five rims in all, including a 27 and 25mm option.

Take a look at the rim and there are a couple of things that really stand out. “The main thing you’ll notice is the external reinforcements around the spokes. What we found testing competitors was that sometimes you’ll break a wheel by yanking a spoke through the rim,” Kissner explains enthusiastically.

Santa Cruz claims these external isolated reinforcements can be made in a more consistent manner compared to those that are hidden within the rim cavity, which helps improve reliability and durability. Being able to visibly see these bulges means when the rim gets drilled, it’s easier to drill them accurately. It also means they’re able to pick up on any misaligned holes more easily when they pass through quality control.

The low profile asymmetrical rim profile, lighter DT Swiss Comp Race spokes laced three cross and 28 spokes per wheel help balance stiffness with comfort
The low profile asymmetrical rim profile, lighter DT Swiss Comp Race spokes laced three cross and 28 spokes per wheel help balance stiffness with comfort

Another benefit is, according to Kissner, “They create a smooth inner wall. I’m not an engineer but what they tell me with carbon is that you want a super smooth and consistent shape,” something Santa Cruz claims you can’t always guarantee if the reinforcements are in the cavity of the rim. 

Cast an eye lengthways down the rim and you’ll spot that the spokes are offset. 

An asymmetrical rim profile and spoke holes help with getting an even tension throughout, plus better/even overall spoke triangulation/bracing.

“With the offset spoke holes we have perfectly even tension and angle, which makes for an equal wheel, both in stiffness and tension” and ultimately, says Kissner, better durability, which is part of the reason why Santa Cruz is offering a lifetime warranty on the wheels. Pretty impressive.

Rim depth varies dependent upon rim width and Santa Cruz claims its carbon layup allows for more radial flex, which makes them more comfortable when you do plough in trail chunder. They’re also laced three-cross with lighter DT Race Comp butted spokes to help bolster comfort further.

Santa Cruz is now a stranger to working with carbon and was sure to do its homework before setting about making its own wheels. Santa Cruz is that confident in what it's made that it's offering lifetime warranties on the new wheels
Santa Cruz is now a stranger to working with carbon and was sure to do its homework before setting about making its own wheels. Santa Cruz is that confident in what it's made that it's offering lifetime warranties on the new wheels

Sapim Secure Lock alloy nipples anchor the spokes to the rim while at the centre, dependent upon the model of bike, sit either Industry9 Torch Classics or DT Swiss 350 hubs.

Alongside its own wheels, Santa Cruz provides its own bar and grips too.

Interestingly, there’s not a single Nomad in the new line-up to include Fox dampers as everything is catered for by RockShox. My test bike included the Lyrik RCT3 (2017 — not the updated 2018 model as they weren’t available at the time of the press camp) and Super Deluxe Coil RCT rear shock, though I did switch this out to try the air equivalent on day three.

SRAM provides gearing in the shape of its 12-speed X01 Eagle transmission as well as its freshly revised Code RSC brakes married up with 180mm rotors, which deliver some serious stopping power.

SRAM's new Code brakes paired with 180mm rotors deliver plenty of power and control and I had no issues with fade even on really long brake dragging descents
SRAM's new Code brakes paired with 180mm rotors deliver plenty of power and control and I had no issues with fade even on really long brake dragging descents

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 Reserve ride impression

In the past, I’d have always opted for a large Santa Cruz. Though I’m only 5ft 8in, they’ve always tended to come up a little short. Thanks to the Nomad’s revised geometry, I was more than happy aboard a medium as a result of its 440mm reach and 596mm effective top tube length.

Due to the trails I was riding, the general consensus was that it’d be better to leave the bike in the high setting, mainly because of the amount of pedal clanging rocks that littered the trails.

As the speeds crept up, the Nomad never felt out of its depth and felt planted when it needed to, but playful when the opportunity arose
As the speeds crept up, the Nomad never felt out of its depth and felt planted when it needed to, but playful when the opportunity arose

Set up was pretty straight forward, and at 68kg with my riding kit and pack on I managed to get 30 percent sag on the coil shock out back. This felt just about right when I actually got out onto the trail.

Get it pedalling and despite the amount of travel on tap, the Nomad felt happy enough sitting and spinning up the short climbs I faced early on, with just a small amount of bob when seated. As I was uplifting throughout the trip it’d be hard to draw any firm conclusions on climbing ability just yet, but as you’d expect from a bike like this, the focus here is very much biased towards its downhill performance, so that’s what I’ll concentrate on for now.

I felt immediately at home throwing the Nomad into turns
I felt immediately at home throwing the Nomad into turns

The similarities drawn between this and the V10 certainly do go beyond what’s on paper. The supple initial stroke out back helped the bike feel planted on the loose, pebble dashed surface where grip is, at times, pretty hard to come by. There’s definitely an air of downhill bike here, but with a far more playful edge to it when you do decide to throw it about.

On flatter trails, where I needed to work the terrain a little more to maintain speed, I never felt like things felt too soggy or energy sapping. Load the pedals on the back side of an undulation or hard through the corners and the Nomad responds.

As I progressed to more demanding trails where the terrain became rougher, the bike never felt out of its depth, even pummelling into age old uneven, steep steppy sections where the hits were coming thick and fast and picking a smooth line simply wasn’t an option.

Rocky, steep and rough. The Maritime Alps offer some seriously good terrain to really get to grips with a bike like the Nomad
Rocky, steep and rough. The Maritime Alps offer some seriously good terrain to really get to grips with a bike like the Nomad

There’s a wider margin of error with the latest Nomad that’ll let you take some questionable lines without hindering pace too much or bucking you about in the process. In fact, as the week rolled on, I found myself searching for more support in the Lyrik, adding more low speed compression to help keep the bike balanced on the rough, steep trails I was pummelling down.

In hindsight, I wish I’d have added a third bottomless token to the air spring. That said, there’s a very good chance this’ll be remedied with the revised Lyrik which will get the new air spring and updated damper. Still, it was hard not to feel like the back end of the Nomad was out classing the front, if only by a small amount.

In terms of shape, things felt confident at pace and through the turns. Even in the high setting, there’s enough bottom bracket drop to avoid any of that nasty ‘perched on the bike’ feel, which in turn makes for a balanced bike when drifting loose corners or tackling the super-tight switchbacks that surround Sospel. I’m keen to try the lower setting on my local trails in the future though.

I was able to switch shocks out for the final day in Molini, Italy. Although I didn’t ride the same track for a more consistent back-to-back test, I was able to get an idea of how the two compare.

If coil isn't your thing, there's always the option of an air shock instead. Both feel quite different on the trail but if you're going to buy the bike, I'd recommend trying both before deciding
If coil isn't your thing, there's always the option of an air shock instead. Both feel quite different on the trail but if you're going to buy the bike, I'd recommend trying both before deciding

While the coil shock feels a little more racey and more supportive, the air equivalent set up with 30 percent sag certainly felt comfier on certain sections of trail. There wasn’t the same level of support through the mid-stroke, with the air shock sitting deeper into its travel, but there was still enough progression there to prevent any nasty bottom out clunks and an impressive level of grip on tap when confronted with particularly sketchy turns.

When I get the Nomad here I’ll be sure to investigate this further and intend to vary spring rates as well, riding them back-to-back on my familiar test trails to give you the full lowdown in the very near future.

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 Reserve pricing and availability

The Nomad range starts with the Nomad CR at £4,299 / $4,499, which comes with a RockShox Yari RC fork, Super Deluxe R shock and SRAM NX group.

The range then continues with RockShox Lyrik forks (all RCT3, save for the second cheapest model, the CS, which gets a Lyrik RC) and Super Deluxe shocks of both air and coil variants, as well as the most popular 11- and 12-speed groupsets from Shimano and SRAM.

The range tops out at £7,999 / $9,399 with the Nomad CC XX1 Reserve, in both air and coil versions, with Santa Cruz’s own Reserve 30 carbon hoops.

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 Reserve early verdict

The latest Nomad certainly straddles the line between trail and downhill bike, offering grip when it’s needed but maintaining a playful engaging ride when the trail mellows out.

Whether its slapping it through some dirty loose turns or hammering into an ugly boulder field, my first impression of the new bike is incredibly promising.

Rob Weaver

Technical Editor-in-Chief, UK
Rob started riding mountain bikes seriously in 1993 racing cross-country, though he quickly moved to downhill where he competed all over the world. He now spends most of his time riding trail bikes up and down hills. Occasionally he'll jump into an enduro race.
  • Age: 34
  • Height: 172cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Natural trails where the loam fills my shoes on each and every turn
  • Beer of Choice: Guinness

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