First ride: 2023 Santa Cruz Nomad – now with assorted wheels

Santa Cruz has been on a roll this year, updating its catalog with geometry changes and in-frame storage compartments for model after model. Then there is the venerable Nomad, the long-travel machine that has been a mainstay in the lineup since its introduction in 2005.

Version 6.0 of the Nomad kept its 170 mm of front and rear travel, but now moves to a mixed wheel size, with 29″ wheels up front and 27.5″ rear. With the larger front wheel, the geometry of the new Nomad has been made a touch slack and tall, though the changes aren’t too wild. Once again, it’s more about refinement rather than drastic modifications.

nomad 6 description

• Wheel Size: 29″ Front / 27.5″ Rear
• Travel: 170mm
• C and CC carbon frame
• 63.5º Head Angle (Low)
• 77.6º Seat Tube Angle (Size L, Low)
• 444mm chainstay (size L, lower)
• Size: S, M, L, XL, XXL
• Weight: 33.5 lb / 15.2 kg (Size L, X01 AXS RSV)
• Price: $5,649 – $11,199 USD

There’s also a glovebox to hide tools and tubes inside the frame, and changes to the bike’s kinematics designed to increase the suspension’s sensitivity and stability.

There are 10 different build options, with prices ranging from $5,649 for the R Kit to USD 11,109 for the XO1 Reserve build.

frame details

Nomad’s frame has all the stuff Santa Cruz is known for. A threaded bottom bracket, tube-in-tube internal cable routing, chainslap protection in the right places, room for a full-size water bottle, a universal derailleur hanger, grease ports for the lower link bearings—not really missing anything Is.

That’s also the glovebox, which has a small latch that allows access to the inside of the downtube. A neoprene tool wallet and tube purse are also included to help with organization and keep things from rattle inside the frame.

There are two frame color options, Gloss Gypsum, which is a white/purple/grey, and matte black, depending on the lighting. The frame uses a 230 x 65 mm shock, and is compatible with air or coil options.


Compared to the previous generation, the Nomad’s head angle has been reduced by .2-degrees, and the reach number remains the same, though keep in mind that it now has a 29” front wheel. The sizable 472mm reach is slightly less than the 480/485mm number that many other companies have settled on, but it’s not necessarily a negative. Remember, there’s a lot more to how a bike performs than a number or two on the chart.

There’s also a new XXL option in the mix with a 520mm reach for all taller riders.

The most significant geometry change occurs in the chainstay – the length has been increased by about 8 mm depending on size. This was done to improve the front/rear balance of the bike, especially since it now has composite wheels. Chainstay length increases as frame size gets larger, starting at 439mm for the smaller and going up to 450mm for the XXL.

suspension layout

Not surprisingly, the Nomad retains its familiar lower-link powered VPP suspension layout. Nomad’s initial leverage ratio has shrunk, and it’s actually a little less progressive than it was before. It’s still coil shock compatible, but the changes should help for more consistent performance across the entire travel range.

Anti-squat has also been reduced, which Santa Cruz says was done to reduce suspension stiffness and improve climbing traction.


R-Kit $5,649
S-Kit $6,799
GX AXS-Kit $8,499
GX AXS-Kit Reserve $9,799
X01-Kit (CC) $9,299
X01 AXS-Kit Reserve $11,199

specific test

There’s no getting around the fact that Santa Cruz prices are on the high end of the spectrum—this isn’t the place to look if you’re trying to stretch your dollar as much as possible. That said, the parts are well-chosen in the various build kits, and if a bike has a GX drivetrain, it has a full GX drivetrain, not just a derailleur to make it seem like it. All bikes have some variant of SRAM’s code brakes with 200mm rotors at the front and rear, and all models also get bash guards.

Interestingly, the build kit with coil shock gets doubledown casing tires from Maxxis, and the one with air shock gets EXO+. Maybe coil users are more likely to make poor line choices?

My only real gripe with the kit is the 175mm hydraulic reverb on the sizeable large frame. I raved about this a bit when the new Hightower came out, but in this case it’s even more relevant. The Nomad is essentially a pedalable DH bike – I want the seat to be as far apart as possible, and I know I’m not alone. There are also far less expensive cable-actuated posts on the market that work just fine (or better) than reverb and have adjustable travel, to boot.

ride print

previous version The Nomad was a fun, relatively mild-mannered machine, a long-travel, all-around bike that didn’t seem like it if the terrain wasn’t always super steep and rough. The new version still retains most of those handy traits, but the modifications it receives, including the addition of a 29” front wheel, take its capabilities to the next level.

Given that the Nomad’s geometry number is similar to the Megatower’s, I wasn’t sure how much of a difference there would be between the two on the trail. They also share the same front triangle, so it really comes down to the Nomad’s smaller rear wheel and slightly different kinematics. As it turns out, all the subtle changes add up to something more substantial.

In all honesty, the latest Megatower hasn’t really blown me away, and I’ve spent a significant amount of riding time on it this season. This is what I consider to be a very good bike, but it doesn’t have a little extra bit of special sauce to push it into the great category. Not so with the new Nomad – after a few rides it is currently hitting the top of my list of favorite bikes this year.

What’s so special about it? For me, this suspension allows for heel-down plowing, while maintaining enough support for pedaling or pumping through flatter sections of the trail. There’s been no hard bottom exterior with the Float X2, and I’ve sent this thing extra-deep on more than one occasion, mainly because it looks like the way it’s supposed to ride. I try not to use the phrase ‘confidence inspiring’ more than once or twice a year because it has become such a cliché, but in this case it is an apt one. The Nomad has plenty of travel to tackle big hits and bumpy terrain, with an extra dash of speed that makes it a highly addictive bike to ride.

The Nomad’s suspension feels a bit softer from above than the Megatower’s, which meant it was more likely for me to reach for the climb switch on smooth climbs, but it remains quiet enough when pedaling to leave it open all the time completely. possible from.

While the Nomad’s reach numbers may be on the slightly smaller side of the modern spectrum, that’s balanced by the slack head angle and moderately long range that provides great stability at high speeds. Lately, my preference for mixed-wheel configurations on long-travel bikes has been increasing, and that continues with the Nomad. Along with creating more rubber-to-rear-end clearance, the rear wheel feels easier to lift and place, especially in steep places.

I’m curious about how the Nomad will last over the long-term trial period – given that sky-high price tag you’d expect it to be absolutely flawless. This bike has more difficult miles in the future, including some big enduro races and a lot of bike park laps – I’ll report back with a final verdict and it’s really worth the ringer once compared to other bikes in this category. will be through.

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