The Review | Santa Cruz Nomad C X01, Premium on a budget
If you had to describe the definitive bike that heralded in the new school geometry found in a modern enduro bike, the Santa Cruz Nomad would be high on the list. The first batch of Nomads to hit the market sold out on name alone, low mean and aggressive, they always feature in the top three “What bike should I buy” choices. Until recently the all-singing and dancing ENVE’ed up Nomad CC commanded a very high price, making it obtainable for only the most solvent of riders, however the new cheaper C version claims a similar performance at a much more affordable price point. The Nomad C, with it’s premium heritage is now available for a more wallet friendly £4599 (approx. €6440) pitching it strongly against the direct sales brands.
We tested the Santa Cruz Nomad C XO1 in our 2015 Enduro Bike Group test which you can read in Issue #017 and were super impressed, our only quibble was the high price, but since we published Santa Cruz have been more aggressive with their pricing and slashed over €1000 from the sticker. Using a lower modulus carbon than the top end CC, Santa Cruz have shaved the price while maintaining the same strength, but to do so they have had to use more material, thus increasing the weight around 250-280g. It’s fair to say that Santa Cruz are one of the most experienced companies when it comes to working black magic with carbon, so it’s no surprise to see the C version sharing the same one piece layup and internal routing tubes found on the premium CC models.
Looking at the Nomad C there is nothing to suggest a budget construction, the finish of the frame is flawless, resplendent in murdered-out black. The stance of the bike is mean and aggressive, low slung and taught, it looks ready to burst forwards. The aggressive overtones do not end there. As soon as you sit on the bike, it sinks confidently into its 165mm of VPP travel. The stroke of the Rockshox Monarch DebonAir RC3 shock feels longer than the numbers would suggest and the action is smooth and sensitive through the initial travel. The wide Race Face Respond 785mm bars and long top tube throw you into an attacking position immediately, like injecting adrenalin right into your confidence core. This is a wolf in wolf’s clothing and no mistake.
This Nomad C model is now certainly more affordable than the top of the line CC, but the weight of 13.69 kg is nothing exceptional at this price point. There have been no worrying cutbacks in the suspension department – that’s for sure, as the 160mm Rockshox Pike RCT3 and matching Rockshox Monarch Plus DebonAir shock are both proven performers. Only the Shimano SLX brakes, budget Race Face cranks, and the overly long and basic 60mm Race Face Turbine stem indicate that compromises have been made, adding weight to a bike at this price point. The WTB i23 wheelset did not excite the testers, but did hold up well to abuse.
We have to mention that the sizing is still really small, with a 437.8mm reach in size Large. We would certainly advise riders on the borderlines of sizes to size up, as with a bike of this capability and intent we would look to immediately stick the 60mm stem on eBay and fit a 40-50mm, reducing the already compact reach. The 65° head angle indicate that this is a bike that likes to flirt with gravity, and the bottom bracket sits crazy low at a ground-threatening 340mm.
The 1195.4mm wheelbase and slack angles should suggest a lethargic nature but hidden under the stealth-bomber looks is a bike of refined manners. The Nomad is actually a very neat and effective climber, picking its way effectively over tough passages and technical climbs. The VPP suspension stiffens up under pedal load, reducing bob and producing eager forward propulsion. On very loose climbs this can cause the back end to break traction a little earlier than expected, but for long fire road hauls and big mountain routes the Nomad is an ‘all day’ ride weapon. The central climbing position maintains traction on the front wheel and the suspension is punchy, supportive, and taut, never feeling wallowy when putting down the gas. The low BB did result in some pedal strikes, but we would happily suffer the occasional rock strike in exchange for the amazingly stable cornering.
So the Nomad is a surprisingly good climber, however if you are a rider that lives for the climbs the Bronson or Tall Boy do it better, the Nomad is a bike that lives for the descents. When the trail turns downwards, the Nomad throws those refined manners out of the window and becomes a spitting, feral animal. The VPP suspension certainly feels like it is packing more punch than 165mm, the bottomless stroke simply gobbles up big hits with ease. The low and compact riding position allows you to flick the Nomad through tight turns with ferocity, and it can take crazy direct lines that would normally be terrifying. Over big rock gardens and roots the Nomad is unflustered, and soaks up the hits while you concentrate on holding the line. In more bike park terrain the low BB allows you to load up the bike in turns and explode out, and the compact frame is eager to pop and scrub and is not shy of some air time. We found that under really hard braking on steep terrain you can feel the rear of the bike stiffen a little, but it still deals with big hit well and remains composed and stable.
We were very impressed with the Nomad C’s adaptability, happy and efficient enough to potter around easy trails and all-day hill riding epics, while aggressive enough to take on the toughest downhill trails. The aggressive, low-slung frame supercharges your confidence and it’s easy to unleash on the trail, it’s the kind of bike that will instantly improve your riding on the descents, and still climbs like a mountain goat. The Nomad C version offers all the performance of the CC (albeit a little heavier) in a much more affordable price tag and has a price that puts it not far above the direct sales brands. If you are the sort of rider who wants to get to the top quickly but get to the bottom even quicker, the Nomad deserves it’s formidable reputation.
For more information check out the Santa Cruz website
Words and photos: Trev Worsey