Santa Cruz unleashes fifth generation Nomad for 2021

Santa Cruz has revamped its long travel, big hitter, the Nomad, but sticks with 650b wheels

Santa Cruz Nomad C R full-suspension mountain bike

Back in 2017, the Nomad was one of the first trail/enduro bikes that Santa Cruz applied its now de rigueur suspension layout, whereby the lower of the two counter-rotating links drives the rear shock.


For 2021, Santa Cruz has revamped the Nomad once again, this time unleashing the all-new fifth generation bike to the world with carbon frames, proportionally sized chainstays and longer, slacker geometry figures. Here’s how it shapes up…

Five things you need to know about the new Santa Cruz Nomad

  • The new Nomad is designed around 650b wheels
  • Chainstays are now proportionally sized, meaning as frame sizing increasing, so does the chainstay length
  • Travel remains the same at 170mm (front and rear) and the Nomad is said to be compatible with air or coil shocks
  • Currently only available in Santa Cruz’s ‘C’ or ‘CC’ carbon with no alloy options. All frames get a lifetime warranty as standard
  • Sizes range from small to extra-large, and reach numbers have increased, seat angles steepened and head angles slackened off

New Santa Cruz Nomad frame and geometry

On the surface, the new bike doesn’t look a whole lot different to its predecessor, but dig into the detail and you’ll see it’s been subject to a number of subtle changes for 2021.

While most Santa Cruz bike news revolves around how the US brand has shifted the shock lower in the frame and how the shock in question is driven by the lower of the two links, the Nomad already received that treatment back in 2017. In fact, we were big fans of that bike when we reviewed the Nomad CC XX1 Reserve. So, what exactly has changed?

Santa Cruz Nomad
The shock is driven by the lower of the two links, and both coil and air spring suspension is available depending on model.
Santa Cruz

For a start, it’s still built around 650b wheels – if you’re after more of an enduro-themed machine there’s the Santa Cruz Megatower – and Santa Cruz very much considers this to the more fun of the two wheelsizes, as well as the most versatile.

That said, the Nomad’s dimensions have been stretched in some areas, slackened in others and steepened where needed – whether that means it’s playful nature has been muted in favour of more high-speed stability is yet to be seen, though.

That equates to longer reach figures across all sizes (the medium frame grows from a reach of 440mm to 450mm in the high setting), while the head angle has slackened by 1-degree.

All frames now sport a 64-degree head angle in the high setting and while a 1-degree change isn’t exactly massive, the change to the effective seat-tube angle is a little more dramatic.

Santa Cruz Nomad
Santa Cruz’s 2021 Nomad sees geometry slackened and lengthened, and a change to chainstay length.
Santa Cruz

Whereas the fourth generation of the bike sported a seat-tube angle of just over 74 degrees, the latest Nomad is far steeper at around 78 degrees, which should make for a more efficient climber. This slackens off slightly as the frame size grows, so while it’s claimed to be 78.2 degrees on the size small in the high setting, the extra-large seat-tube angle is 77.6 degrees in the same setting.

Santa Cruz is sticking with the use of a flip chip, which is situated down on the rearmost shock mount. It’s straightforward enough to change and will gives you just 0.3 degrees at the headset (which puts it at a claimed 63.7 degrees in the low setting) and the same at the seat-tube angle (altering the medium’s from 78 to 77.7 degrees.)

Swapping the ovalised flip chip also changes the bottom bracket height and drop by 4mm. That means you’ve either got 10 or 14mm of drop and it’ll sit at either 344mm or 340mm off of the ground, according to Santa Cruz.One of the biggest changes to the frame is how Santa Cruz has adjusted the rear centre/effective chainstay lengths (centre of bottom bracket axle to centre of rear wheel axle) of each frame.

Just like it did with its 5010 earlier this year, the new Nomad’s chainstay length will be proportional to the frame size – so, as the frame size increases, the chainstay length increases too, helping to put the rider in a better position between the wheels.

Santa Cruz explains how this is achieved: “both main pivots points (where links connect to front triangle) move on each size, but kinematics do not change because the distance and position of all the links in relation to one another do not change”.

So, while the medium Nomad sports a reach of 450mm and a rear centre of 430mm, the extra-large has a reach of 500mm and a longer rear centre of 440mm.

Santa Cruz offers a lifetime warranty on its frames and operates a lifetime bearing replacement program.

S (L/H)M (L/H)L (L/H)XL (L/H)
Seat angle (degrees)77.9 / 78.277.7 / 7877.5 / 77.977.2 / 77.6
Head angle (degrees)63.7 / 6463.7 / 6463.7 / 6463.7 / 64
Chainstay (cm)42.6 / 42.543.1 / 4343.6 / 43.544.1 / 44
Seat tube (cm)3840.54346
Top tube (cm)55.258.26164.4
Head tube (cm)11.5131416.5
Bottom bracket drop (cm)1.4 / 11.4 / 11.4 / 11.4 / 1
Bottom bracket height (cm)34 / 34.434 / 34.434 / 34.434 / 34.4
Wheelbase (mm)1,186 / 1,1851,223 / 1,2221,257 / 1,2561,297
Standover (cm)70.6 / 7172.7 / 73.272.8 / 73.372.7 / 73.4
Stack (cm)60.3 / 60.161.7 / 61.562.6 / 62.364.8 / 64.6
Reach (cm)42.2 / 42.544.7 / 4547.2 / 47.549.7 / 50

New Santa Cruz Nomad suspension

The Nomad continues to pump out 170mm of travel at the front and rear, but Santa Cruz has made some changes. Just looking at the old and new frames side by side you’ll spot some differences, including the repositioned upper link that now sits a little closer to the seat tube.

The Nomad continues to employ a Virtual Pivot System, which uses a pair of counter-rotating links to manage how the travel is delivered.

These tweaks are all part of altering the Nomad’s leverage curve which, according to Santa Cruz, is still nicely progressive, capable of working with either air sprung or coil sprung shocks. It’s also moved to a longer stroke shock.

But why have they made these changes? Josh Kissner, senior product manager at Santa Cruz Bicycles explains: “The longer stroke/lower leverage ratio provides a bit more of a damped, settled feeling. We wanted to add a bit of control for long, chunky descents without going overboard and making something that feels glued to the ground.

“The other advantage is it makes it a little easier for larger riders to use a coil shock – not requiring a massive spring rate. The changes to the leverage curve itself are relatively minor, mainly just adding a little bit of extra progression right at the end of the travel. This softens the blow of the largest impacts and allows the rider to set the suspension up a little bit softer if they choose to.”

Santa Cruz also says the leverage curve changes help to create a more predictable feel as well as make shock setup and tuning easier.

New Santa Cruz Nomad range overview and pricing

The new Nomad will (at first, at least) be available in six different builds: four made using the slightly cheaper ‘C’ carbon and the two priciest options the ‘CC’ carbon.

Due to the bike’s intentions, Santa Cruz has specced all Nomads with either the RockShox ZEB (on the cheapest ‘C R’ build) or Fox’s highly acclaimed 38 in its various guises. All forks boast 170mm of travel.

Each of the Nomad builds will use either SRAM’s Code brakes with 200mm rotors or Shimano’s XT brakes with four-piston calipers.

Santa Cruz Nomad
Bikes get either SRAM Code or Shimano XT brakes.
Santa Cruz

Maxxis tyres come as standard – Assegai 3C MaxxTerra up front, DHR II 3C MaxxTerra at the rear – but the casing varies depending on the bike’s shock. If the bike is equipped with a coil shock it’ll be specced with DoubleDown casing tyres – four of the six builds have the option to switch to a coil shock.

If the bike uses an air-sprung shock, it’ll have EXO+ casing tyres, which will help contribute to a lighter overall weight, but might lead to more flats because we can’t imagine they’ll be ridden less aggressively.

All Nomads will sport a 40mm stem as standard, with some of the higher-end offerings using Burgtec’s latest Enduro Mk3 stem.

Finally, the Nomad C XT RSV and Nomad CC X01 RSV are the only two in the line-up that are available with Santa Cruz’s carbon Reserve wheels, which have a 30mm internal width.

Santa Cruz Nomad C R

Santa Cruz Nomad C R
The Santa Cruz Nomad C R gets a RockShox ZEB fork and Super Deluxe Select rear shock.
Santa Cruz
  • Frame: Carbon C 27.5in, 170mm
  • Fork: RockShox ZEB, 170mm
  • Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select
  • Drivetrain: SRAM NX Eagle
  • Price: £4,499

Santa Cruz Nomad C S

Santa Cruz Nomad C S
The Santa Cruz Nomad C S gets a Fox 38 Performance fork and RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ rear shock.
Santa Cruz
  • Frame: Carbon C 27.5, 170mm
  • Fork: Fox 38 Performance, 170mm
  • Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select+
  • Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle
  • Price: £5,399

Santa Cruz Nomad C XT

  • Frame: Carbon C 27.5, 170mm
  • Fork: Fox 38 Performance Elite, 170mm
  • Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select+/Super Deluxe Select+ Coil
  • Drivetrain: Shimano XT
  • Price: £6,099

Santa Cruz Nomad C XT RSV

  • Frame: Carbon C 27.5, 170mm
  • Fork: Fox Performance Elite, 170mm
  • Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select+/Super Deluxe Select+ Coil
  • Drivetrain: Shimano XT
  • Price: £7,099

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01

  • Frame: Carbon CC 27.5, 170mm
  • Fork: Fox 38 Factory, 170mm
  • Shock: Fox Float X2 Factory/DH X2 Factory Coil
  • Drivetrain: SRAM X01 Eagle
  • Price: £6,599

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV

  • Frame: Carbon CC 27.5, 170mm
  • Fork: Fox 38 Factory, 170mm
  • Shock: Fox Float X2 Factory/DH X2 Factory Coil
  • Drivetrain: SRAM X01 Eagle
  • Price: £7,799