Since the Nomad had its extensive overhaul last year we’ve been gagging to get a ride in on the new bigger wheeled, bigger travel version of Santa Cruz’s slacked out trail bike to see just how these changes translate out on the trail.
Frame and equipment: gravity-biased angles and decent spec
We opted to ride the cheaper Carbon C frame. Santa Cruz says you get the same strength and stiffness as with the higher grade CC carbon layup, at the cost of an extra 250-280g.
The carbon rear triangle is attached to the mainframe via two forged links, which dictate the path of the rear wheel as it moves through its 165mm (6.5in) of travel, controlled by a RockShox Monarch Plus shock.
Santa cruz’s cheaper carbon blend is heavier but feels good on the trail:
Santa Cruz’s cheaper carbon blend is heavier but feels good on the trail
The bike is designed to use a single chainring only, underlining its gravity riding bias. The geometry tells a similar story, with a slack 64.9-degree head angle, short 433mm chainstays and low 340mm BB.
We rode the 2015 Nomad C. For 2016 the bike is almost identical but comes with SRAM’s cheaper GX 11-speed transmission, trimming its pricetag.
The spec is solid – as it should be at this eye-watering price – with predictable control from the front and rear suspension units, grippy tyres that are set up tubeless, and a bar that’s wide enough for just about everyone.
Ride and handling: a well-composed bruiser
Punch at the pedals and the Nomad springs into action, seeming much lighter on the trail than its weight and travel might have you believe. Things feel sprightly and taut as you get up to speed, with next to no pedal bob when cranking hard.
Thanks in part to the 74.3-degree seat angle, the Nomad offers a good position from which to attack – rather than endure – technical climbs. The medium frame gave our 5ft 8in test pilot enough breathing room when seated, although as current trail/enduro bike standards go, the 584.2mm effective top tube isn’t particularly stretched out. Still, we had no issues with the sizing.
Batter into a rough section hard and things remain composed enough for you to stick your line with confidence:
Batter into a rough section hard and things remain composed enough for you to stick your line with confidence
On the rough, steep, technical trails where we spent most of our test time, we were impressed with the Nomad’s balanced suspension and the amount of grip on offer. Batter into a rough section hard and – thanks to that low slung, slack geometry – things remain composed and controlled enough for you to stick your line with confidence while the suspension just gets on with the job at hand.
When you do get the chance to get airborne, the Nomad isn’t easy to fluster and is more than at home taking on the bigger booters out there. There’s enough progression and support at the rear to ensure you can really work the bike through turns or up take-offs as hard as you dare, then deal with the landings, even if you’ve overshot slightly.