Santa Cruz Nomad: His & Hers Review

We’ve always been impressed with Santa Cruz. The company boasts some of the best bikes in the industry and maintains a stellar reputation and mystique worthy of a boutique brand. Last year two MTBVT staffers got their hands on one of the most praised SC whips: the Nomad Carbon C.

Having put it through the paces for a year now we figured a review of the sexy beasts was long overdue.

For the Ladies – Ridden & Written by Danielle 

Overview: As I pedaled my tried and true 35 pound 2009 KHS Velvet achingly up Perry Hill in Waterbury, VT, this summer trying to keep up and catch my breath, I daydreamed about the perfect bike. Light with slack geometry, it would have the capacity to climb smoothly up the rowdiest of hills. I would never again need to manually lower my seat for descents. I’d carve effortlessly through gnarly downhill terrain maintaining balance and exhibiting improved prowess. And the bike would be a beauty with vibrant fresh colors fit for a women, but not designed exclusively for the female physique.

I started putting my bike together using the Santa Cruz bike builder and slowly it began to take shape. But I found myself settling for a creation just short of my fantasy. When I awoke on April Fool’s Day, opened up my computer and navigated to the Santa Cruz page, the bike had magically transformed. There it was in all its aqua blue and magenta glory – the new Nomad Carbon C – Santa Cruz’s self-proclaimed answer to the ever-growing downhill oriented Enduro racing scene.

Full carbon frame and swingarm
165mm (6.5″) VPP™ suspension
27.5″ wheels
Forged upper and lower links
Double sealed pivots for long bearing life
Single grease port on lower link for swift and easy maintenance
Angular contact bearings maximize stiffness
Collet axle pivots lock in place without pinch bolts
Molded rubber swingarm and downtube protection
Internal carbon tubes ensure precise and hassle-free routing of derailleur and seat post cables
Recessed lower link protected from rock strikes
Stealth and external seatpost cable routing
142mm rear axle spacing
Threaded BB for creak-free riding and easy installation
ISCG-05 tabs for chainguide compatibility

Santa Cruz's Nomad stock with a kit providing quality performance and candy colored hints to match. Be prepared for the double takes.
The Nomad built with a kit that provides quality performance and candy colored hints to match. Be prepared for the double takes.


Verdict: I’ll admit I was a bit concerned when testing out the 27.5” wheels and the one-by drivetrain considering my girlish stature and antipathy towards climbing, but I was pleasantly surprised at how effortlessly and fluidly I could travel up and down the single track and tight turns. The easy to adjust options for rebound speed and stiffness on both the Rockshox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork and the Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair shock make it simple for MTB tech luddites like myself. The shock adjustment options lend to a chameleon-like character that matches the terrain and riding style I choose. I haven’t perfected the art of lowering the Rockshox Reverb Stealth seat post without feeling a tad unstable when heading downhill at speed, but have enjoyed the quick response when heading back up. Although I’m not the type to look for attention, I couldn’t resist the mesmeric color option – many thanks to the modern man’s preference towards an Easter egg palette.

Danielle navigating some of Vermont's notorious technical bits.
Danielle navigating some of Vermont’s menacing trail features.

For the Men – Ridden & Written by Donny 

This bike stands out. I’ve never ridden a bike that got so many looks, sparked so many conversations and made so many people drool.

At $9200 for the fully equipped model, it aint cheap, but it doesn’t look it either.

This nomad came with a RockShox Pike RCT3 up front, and a monarch in the back. Both have worked flawlessly so far. This is the second Pike I have put through it’s paces (the first for a little over a year now), and let’s just say, this fork is flawless. You basically set the psi to your weight, adjust the rebound/compression to your liking and forget about it. It just works.

The monarch was much the same, but I found I ran it about 10 Psi heavier. It just felt a little too bobby on the climbs if I didn’t.

This bike is a slack, low, long, lean racing machine! You think it might take a bit to get use to a 65deg. Head tube angle, but it doesn’t. I think the light weight of this bike(28 pounds) has something to do with this.

This Nomad came with the XX1 drivetrain, XTR brakes, and RaceFace carbon SIXC cranks kit. The only thing missing from all the bells and whistles was the ENVE wheel package…and that’s ok. It’s nice that Santa Cruz gives it’s customers some options. Most of us mortals are ok to not lay down the extra $2000 for the wheel upgrade. A couple other notable items, all nomads come with 150mm RockShox reverbs! Thank god! 150mm of travel gives you more than enough travel to never worry about adjusting your seatpost clamp again. I’ve ridden a 125mm for years and always wanted more. Yay!!! Second thing, the Santa Cruz Carbon Bar. SO FREAKIN WIDE! I took 1/4″ off either side. Still pretty wide, but it’s growing on me.

Sram XX1 cassette delivers precision shifting.
Sram XX1 cassette delivers precision shifting.


OK, back to the drivetrain. The XX1 worked perfectly. My only complaint would be that you can’t use the front trigger on the shifter both ways like a Shimano shifter. XTR Brakes. I’m a huge Shimano brake fan and was super pumped to try these out. They are the prettiest brakes you’ve ever seen! Carbon levers! Smoked chrome finish! Light as a feather! The only problem that I had with these brakes is they feel more like Avid in the way they modulate, than Shimano. I’ve always loved that all or nothing feel of Shimano. Many of my ridding buddies love the feel of Avids….Who’s to say? The RaceFace cranks are exactly what most RaceFace products are. Light, stiff, durable and sexy.

Sleek and sturdy. Enter Race Face's SIXC cranks.
Sleek and sturdy. Enter, RaceFace SIXC cranks.

The climb:

So 65deg HTA huh? Not a problem. Put the fork and shock in the firm or climb settings and pedal your heart out. Does it climb like a 29r? Nope, but it’s plenty good for probably 90% of riders. Like I said earlier, a pinch more psi helps a lot in the back and the 28 pound weight is a pleasure to push around all day.

The downhill:
Where have you been all my life?!?! This thing screams when you let it loose down the trail. Not joking. It rides like an ultra light DH bike. While riding the Nomad, I never hesitated to hit any of the drops or large jumps that I normally on my DH bike.


Innovation: 2/2
Function: 2/2
Aesthetics: 2/2
Features: 2/2
Quality/Price: 2/2
Overall Rating: 10/10

one-by only design keeps the chain close and bike light
the internal cable routing and forged aluminum upper and lower link design gives this bike a very sleek look and is easy to clean

Super low bottom bracket = pedal strike mania!! We figure we can get use to that though.
A little bit on the steep side monetarily, but you get what you pay for… right?
The aqua blue and magenta option increases the incidence of ogling on the trail and in lift lines, but you can always dim your lights by opting for the stealth black option.

Final thoughts:
The Nomad truly blurs the lines between DH and trail bike. We’d be perfectly happy pedaling this bike all day and ripping the decents at top speeds. Santa Cruz product managers seem to have their fingers on the pulse of what serious riders are after. The fact that you can pick your fork, shock, drivetrain, color, etc… is a breath of fresh air. XX1 drivetrain with Shimano Brakes?? Thank you! Now that this bike has blended trail bike/All Mountain/Enduro into one, the question is, will it also make the DH bike obsolete for most? We will see…..

Donny putting the Nomad in its comfort zone.
Donny putting the Nomad in its comfort zone.


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