Santa Cruz Nickel D review

Singletrack ripper

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £2,588.00 RRP | USD $4,104.00
Santa Cruz Nickel D

Our review

Heavy, but tight tracking, confident handling trail ripper for those after a premium name
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Santa Cruz’s APP suspension design adds a linkage for stable pedalling and stiffness but still keeps things relatively affordable for a premium brand. The mid-travel Nickel is a tough, tight tracking and purposeful pedalling machine. Overall weight and confident geometry focus its natural hunting ground onto down slopes and more technical trails than climbs though.


Ride & handling: Rock-solid pedalling manners and characterful confident performance

Even in standard ‘D’ level trim it’s clear that the Nickel isn’t going to take any nonsense. The geometry is slack enough to inject some real swagger and high-speed stability into the steering. The short chainstays mean the back end whips through really quickly once it snaps free with a shove of the hips or tap of the rear brake.

The frame stiffness means plenty of feedback for pushing the tyres to the edge and back even with a quick-release fork up front. There’s more space under the bottom bracket than on Santa Cruz’s similarly angled Blur TRc too, so while it’s not as insanely surefooted through fast sweeping corners there’s much less chance of stubbing your cranks/toes when pedalling through broken ground.

The modified shock rate compared to the lighter, non-linkage Superlight means the Nickel takes fair sized knocks without wincing either and it’s not a bike that naturally backs down in the face of fierce geology. The APP pedalling manners are excellent, with a much more stable, purposeful feel and less bounce than a simple swingarm bike. The chunky frame weight and relatively basic kit does mean there’s some mass to get moving, particularly on climbs.

Frame & equipment: Tight feeling, tough and user-serviceable chassis with workhorse kit list

At over 7lb for the frame with shock the Nickel is certainly no featherweight for a 125mm-travel bike, and its 150mm Butcher brother isn’t actually any heavier. Tapered head tube, collet pivot bearings – which are easy to dismantle, clean and regrease – and chunky tubes throughout mean it’s an impressively tough and tight chassis though. The conventional bottom bracket keeps things simple, and there’s generous standover height and reasonable tyre room. 

While the frame alone costs £1,399 (US$1,350) with a Fox Float RL shock, Santa Cruz also offer a selection of complete bike builds. The D kit featured here is based around a super-reliable and smooth Shimano SLX/Deore transmission and hubset that suits the tough, no-nonsense ride well. 

Maxxis Crossmark tyres add speed to the Mavic XM 199 rims, although we’d be tempted to go chunkier to maximise the hard hitting potential of the bike. We can also see a lot of Nickels getting short stem, wide bar cockpits to really bring them to life (as stock, the bike comes with a 685mm bar and 90mm stem).

This bike was tested as part of What Mountain Bike magazine’s Bike of the Year shootout. You can read the full feature in this month’s mag, in shops now, and available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Trail Bike of the Year preview

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The testers reflect on this year’s crop of bikes

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Product Specifications


Name Nickel D (12)
Brand Santa Cruz

Bottom Bracket Shimano Hollowtech II
Seatpost Easton EA30
Front Wheel Mavic XM 119 rim, Shimano M525 QR hub
Tyres Maxxis Crossmark, 2.1in
Wheelbase (in) 44.6
Top Tube (in) 24
Standover Height (in) 29
Seat Tube (in) 18.5
Chainstays (in) 16.7
Brake Levers Avid Elixir 1, 160mm rotors
Weight (lb) 28.92
Weight (kg) 13.11
Stem Easton EA30, 90mm
Seat Angle 72.5
Brakes Avid Elixir 1, 160mm rotors
Saddle WTB Volt Sport
Rear Derailleur Shimano SLX
Headset Type Cane Creek 10
Head Angle 68
Handlebar Easton EA30, low riser, 685mm
Grips/Tape Lizard Skin Charger
Front Derailleur Shimano Deore
Frame Material Custom
Fork Fox 32 Float RL, taper, QR, 130mm
Cranks Shimano Deore, 42/32/24T
Chain KMC X10, 10spd
Cassette Shimano HG 62, 11-36T
Rear Wheel Mavic XM 119 rim, Shimano M525 QR hub