Bike: 2010 Santa Cruz Nomad with Fox DHX 5.0 Air (aluminum frame, custom build)
Intended Use: All-Mountain, Freeride
Size Tested: Medium
Bike / Frame Weight: 31 lbs. / 6.97 lbs.
Test Locations: Crested Butte and Taylor Park, Colorado, all-day epics; Grand Junction, Colorado, Lunch Loop Freeride-y tech and jump trails; Crested Butte Mountain Resort Lift-Served DH trails
Days Ridden: ~30
Tester Info: 5’11”, 165 lbs., 32″ inseam. Charge hard on the uphill and downhill. Prefer steep, techy climbs that test line choice and bike handling ability and similar downhills with some buff, drifty corners in the mix.
The Nomad, according to Santa Cruz: With longer legs than most trail bikes and a lot less bulk than most freeride bikes, the Nomad sits in a class of it’s own. On one hand you’ve got a light but strong aluminum frame and 160mm of VPP travel. And on the other hand there’s an ISCG05 chainguide mount built into the frame and a beefy 1.5” headtube. It’s a big country trail bike that rolls up or down with ease. It’s a flyweight freeride bike that dances circles around heavier rigs but is still burly enough to tackle serious terrain. Wherever you want to go, the Nomad is good for it.
I put the nicest build I have ever put on a bike on the Nomad. I won’t say no expense was spared, but very few were, and this bike came out beautiful. I was building my dream bike—a bike capable of all-day epics as well as sending big gap jumps and most things in between.
- ENVE All Mountain/Chris King Wheels (with Fun Bolts in rear hub)
- 2011 XTR brakes
- XTR Trail Pedals
- RockShox Lyrik Solo Air Fork and Reverb Seatpost
- RaceFace SixC bars
- Continental Trail King 2.4 UST tires
- Blackspire Stinger Chainguide
- XT, XO, or better-level parts everywhere else.
Everything the lightest available that can still handle a full-on thrashing.
I’d had my eye on the Santa Cruz Nomad for quite some time. I’d seen friends pedal XC rides as well as send 35-foot stepdowns on this bike, and given that plus the score of great reviews and Santa Cruz’s own marketing writeup, I was sold before I ever threw a leg over it.
When the Nomad arrived on my doorstep, I was waiting with a slew of the finest bike components I have ever owned, ready to build up the sickest trail weapon I could imagine. After I figured out how to rig up my ENVE wheels tubeless (I have the model prior to ENVE’s tubeless-ready offerings), the build came out at about 31.5 pounds.
It is pretty common knowledge that Santa Cruz bikes tend to run on the small side, and the Nomad is true to this notion, sporting a 22.8″ top tube on the medium frame. This is perfect for me, as I tend to like my bikes just a hair on the small side for flickability. I am right on the cusp of a medium and large by Santa Cruz’s recommendations, and many friends encouraged me to upsize to the large. But I was happy with my choice, especially considering the riding I like to do and what the bike was intended for: charging in the über-tech.
One of my first rides on the Nomad was perhaps the finest test I could imagine for a long-travel all-mountain bike. The ride began with a long fire-road pedal up to a brutally technical singletrack climb that topped out on a steep, sometimes jibby, sometimes ultra-technical descent into a high-alpine traverse. The route concluded with a buttery-smooth, fast, and hard-cornering descent on hardly discernible backcountry singletrack. Rides like this, to me, represent the purpose of a bike like the Nomad: The rider looks for their bike to climb proficiently, but still have the durability and, well, balls to get them home safely over challenging routes.
From the truck, we ascended along smooth, dusty Jeep roads, and the Nomad sat high in its travel with ProPedal adjustment of the Fox DHX 5.0 Air Shock in the “on” position. For science, I turned the ProPedal off, and suspension feedback from pedal input was still negligible on smooth terrain. The bike pedaled efficiently, and it quickly put the boring part of the ride behind me. Very pleasing.