Santa Cruz’s new Nomad is a bike for the steepest terrain

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The latest addition to Santa Cruz’s product portfolio, is a fifth iteration of the Nomad. (Photo: Sam Needham/Santa Cruz/Supplied)
The latest addition to Santa Cruz’s product portfolio, is a fifth iteration of the Nomad. (Photo: Sam Needham/Santa Cruz/Supplied)
  • In a world of 29” wheels the Nomad remains 27.5”.
  • Designed to excel in the steepest and tightest terrain.
  • Its responsiveness and ability will appeal to the most talented descenders.


The South African mountain bike market is dominated by 29er racing bikes.

Although there are steep and technically challenging trails available for exploration, if you are willing to journey a bit, local demand is almost exclusively for 29er bikes with 100-120mm of suspension travel.

Santa Cruz defined the 29er trail capable racing bike with its Tallboy, originally launched in 2013. At a time when designers were struggling to achieve proper geometry and package 29er wheels in the same frame, the Tallboy proved what was possible.

Beyond its wildly successful Tallboy range, Santa Cruz focusses on bikes that confidently launch the heaviest drops and lands the biggest jumps.

The latest addition to its product portfolio, is a fifth iteration of the Nomad. In a world where most new bikes roll 29” wheels, the Nomad has remained committed to the smaller and more agile 27.5” wheel size.

With 170mm of suspension travel, the Nomad is very forgiving of bad line choice in technical terrain. It appeals to a very targeted mountain biker, with adequate skills to utilize the bike’s immense capabilities on trails of consequence.

Santa Cruz also has the Megatower in its range, with the same proven VPP lower-link suspension system, 160mm of travel and the rolling benefit of larger 29” wheels.

Keeping the 27.5” format relevant

Why would you want a new Nomad instead of a Megatower? Does that former’s 10mm of additional suspension trump the latter’s larger wheel size?

The appeal of a long-travel enduro bike such as the Nomad, with its 27.5” wheels, is agility.

In desperately tight corners, skilled riders can affect swifter changes in direction. For those riders planning on hitting every jump they encounter, the smaller wheel size is also slightly less susceptible to sidewind induced deflection, when in the air.

Shorter riders might also feel a touch more comfortable on a 27.5” long-travel bike, as opposed to a 29er.

A notable technical feature of the new Nomad is its proportional rear triangle ratio. That means the chainstay length increases as you go up in frame size, allowing for a more harmonized geometry and superior trail feedback.

Santa Cruz’s Nomad is also an interesting reference point for calculating how much mountain bike frame design has evolved.

A decade ago, the Nomad’s core geometry numbers included a 67° head angle and 405mm of reach, on a size large. The 2021 model year version, has a 64° head angle and 475mm of reach, making it a lot more stable and confidence inspiring, on treacherously steep descents.

The local market for a 170mm mountain bike, rolling 27.5” wheels, is inarguably niche. Most of the legacy long-travel mountain bike models, have transitioned to a 29er configuration.

For those who value the attributes of a 27.5” bike and have the requisite riding ability, Santa Cruz’s latest Nomad will be a choice solution.   

In a world where most new bikes roll 29” wheels, t
In a world where most new bikes roll 29” wheels, the Nomad has remained committed to the smaller and more agile 27.5” wheel size. (Photo: Santa Cruz/Supplied)

ALSO READ: Conquer any canyon with this new German 150mm 29er

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