Field Test: Nomad de Santa Cruz 2021 – The same but different


PINKBIKE FIELD TESTNomade from Santa Cruz

Words by Mike Kazimer, photograph by Tom Richards

This is the fifth generation of the Nomad, a bike that has been a mainstay of the Santa Cruz lineup since its introduction in 2005. Like the previous version, the latest iteration has 170mm of front and rear travel and full-size wheels. 27.5 inches. It got a few geometry and frame updates for 2021, but they’re more subtle than drastic. What’s up? Let’s start with the geometry first. The head angle is now at 63.7 or 64 degrees depending on the position of the flip chip, about a degree looser than before. The reach has increased and is now at 472mm for the large size in the down position, an increase of 16mm.

Nomad details
• Travel: 170 mm at the rear / 170 mm at the front
• Wheel size: 27.5 ”
• Head angle: 63.7 or 64 °
• Seat tube angle: 77.5 °
• Range: 472 mm (lrg)
• Chainstay length: 436 mm (size L)
• Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
• Weight: 32.6 lbs / 14.8 kg
• Prix: 7 399 USD

With the longer, looser boxes checked, Santa Cruz dramatically increased the angle of the seat tube – it now measures 77.5 degrees in the down position, creating a much more upright riding position and an effective top tube that is shorter than version 4.0.

When the new 5010 came out earlier this year, it had size-specific chainstay lengths, and that trend continues on the Nomad. The length increases by 5mm for each size, ranging from 426mm on the small to 441mm on the XL.

Moving on to the details of the frame, the most noticeable change is the addition of another swingarm post, which means there is now support between the seatstays and chainstays on both sides of the bike. Changes to the bike’s kinematics are less noticeable – the lever curve is straighter, for a more consistent feel as the bike travels. It is still compatible with air and coil shocks, and Santa Cruz offers models with both options.

Other details include the internal cable routing done the right way, a threaded bottom bracket shell, zerk grease holes on the linkage to keep the bearings working properly, and two paint jobs, one wild and one the other softer. There is a lifetime warranty on the bearings and on the frame itself.

Prices for full versions range from $ 4,499 to $ 8,699, and a CC frame and damper only are priced at $ 3,399 USD. The version I tested was the $ 7,399 XT Reserve, which had a Shimano XT 12-speed drivetrain, XT 4-piston brakes, Reserve carbon wheels, a Fox 38 Performance Elite fork and a RockShox Super Deluxe Select + shock. All of these goodies added up to 32.6 pounds on my scale.


The Nomad’s climbing performance puts it neck and neck with the Propain Spindrift – both bikes feel quick and efficient, and do a great job of hiding the amount of displacement available for descents. The head angle is looser than the previous version, but the other geometry changes, especially the tilt of the seat angle, go a long way to masking this. In fact, I would say it’s easier and more enjoyable to pedal than ever.

For runners who like technical climbs but don’t want to skimp on travel, the Nomad could be a good option. He seems to have an innate ability to weave his way through tricky sections of trail, and he never felt bulky or unwieldy. There’s a lot of traction to get the rear wheel to grip the ground, and the lack of unwanted shock movement means I never had to use the climb switch.

The Nomad seems to mellow a bit over the years, transforming into a smooth-mannered all-rounder, as opposed to a purely gravity-driven bike that’s only happy if you blast the track as fast as you can. possible. Don’t get me wrong – there is a time and place for these long, fast machines, but it was quite refreshing to take out the Nomad and not have to work so hard to have fun.

There is an agility in its handling that makes it well suited for pulling off all the little bonus jumps, but when the going gets rough and noisy it’s always possible to lower your heels and plow.

My first lap on the Nomad ride was after a heavy rainstorm, which can be a recipe for scary levels of slippage, but I didn’t have any issues finding traction. The shock setting is perfectly matched to the motorcycles intentions – it’s nice and responsive on top, with a smooth ramp to avoid tough dips.

Who is the ideal candidate for the Nomad? I would say it’s the rider who likes technical climbs and descents, someone would choose handling over sheer speed. Compared to the Norco Shore, the other 27.5-inch bike in this field test, the Nomad is an entirely different beast. The Nomad can nibble for miles without a fuss and remains attractive even on softer terrain. The Shore, on the other hand, is a more demanding hike, which requires a steady diet of gnar to keep him happy.


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