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

First ride: 2023 Santa Cruz Nomad - now with mixed wheels
Written by boustamohamed31

Santa Cruz has been on the move this year, updating its catalog with geometry changes and in-frame storage compartments for model after model. Next up is the venerable Nomad, the long-distance machine that has been a mainstay in the range since its introduction in 2005.

Version 6.0 of the Nomad retains its 170mm of travel front and rear, but now runs mixed wheel sizes, with a 29″ wheel up front and a 27.5″ wheel at the rear. Along with the larger front wheel, the new Nomad’s geometry is slightly lighter and longer, although the changes aren’t too wild. Once again, it’s more about refinement than drastic revisions.

Nomad 6 Details

• Wheel Size: 29″ Front / 27.5″ Rear
Stroke: 170 mm
• C & CC carbon frames
• 63.5º head angle (low)
• 77.6º seat tube angle (size L, low)
• 444 mm chains (size L, low)
• Sizes: 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 glove box to store tools and tubes inside the frame, and changes to the bike’s kinematics designed to increase the sensitivity and consistency of the suspension.

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

Frame details

The Nomad frame has all the accessories that Santa Cruz has become known for. Threaded bottom bracket, internal tube-to-tube cable routing, chainguards in the right places, full-size water bottle space, universal derailleur hanger, bottom link bearing grease holes – nothing really is missing.

There is also this glove box that has a small latch that allows access to the inside of the down tube. A neoprene tool wallet and tube bag are also included to help with organization and keep things from rattling around in the frame.

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


Compared to the previous generation, the Nomad’s head angle has been reduced by a measly .2 degrees and the reach numbers remain the same, although note that it now has a 29″ front wheel. The 472mm reach on the large size is slightly shorter than the 480 / 485mm number that many other companies have settled on, but that’s not necessarily a negative.Remember, there’s more to a chart than just one or two numbers.

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

The most significant geometry change occurs in the chainstays, with length increased by around 8mm depending on size. This was done to improve the fore/aft balance of the bike, especially since it now has compound wheels. Chain lengths grow as the frame size increases, starting at 439mm for the small and going up to 450mm for the XXL.

Suspension layout

Unsurprisingly, the Nomad retains its familiar VPP suspension arrangement controlled by the lower link. The Nomad’s initial leverage ratio has been reduced and is actually slightly less progressive than before. It’s still coil shock compatible, but the changes should help with more consistent performance throughout the travel range.

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


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

Checking the specifications

There’s no getting around the fact that Santa Cruz’s prices are on the higher end of the spectrum—this isn’t the place to look if you’re trying to stretch your dollars as far as possible. However, the parts in the various build kits are well chosen and if the bike has a GX drivetrain, it has a full GX drivetrain, not just a derailleur to make it look like it. All bikes have some version of SRAM Code brakes with 200mm rotors front and rear, and all models also get dropouts.

Interestingly, the coil-sprung build kits get Maxxis’ DoubleDown tires, and the air-sprung ones get the EXO+. Perhaps coil users are more likely to make bad rope choices?

My only real gripe with the kits is the 175mm hydraulic reverb on the oversized frames. I moaned about it a bit when the new Hightower came out, but in this case it’s even more relevant. The Nomad is essentially a DH bike with pedals – I want the seat as far from the road as possible on the steeps and I know I’m not the only one. There are also much cheaper cable actuated posts on the market that work just as well (or better) than the Reverb and have adjustable travel to boot.

Driving impressions

The previous version of the Nomad was a fun-loving, relatively soft machine, a do-it-all long-travel bike that didn’t seem to mind if the terrain wasn’t always super steep and rough. The new version still maintains most of these easy features, but the revisions it received, including that 29″ front wheel, take its capabilities to the next level.

Given how similar the Nomad’s geometry is to the Megatower’s, I wasn’t sure how much of a difference there would be between the two on the trail. They even 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 much more substantial.

To be honest, the latest Megatower didn’t really impress me and I’ve put a significant amount of time into it this season. It’s what I’d call a very good bike, but it doesn’t have that little bit of extra special sauce to push it into the Great category. That wasn’t the case with the new Nomad – after a few rides it’s currently working its way to the top of my list of favorite bikes this year.

What is so special about it? For me, it’s the way the suspension allows plowing the heels down while still maintaining enough support for pedaling or pumping through flatter sections of trail. There haven’t been any hard bottom outs with the Float X2 and I’ve sent this thing extremely deep on more than one occasion, mainly because it seems like that’s the way it wants to be ridden. I try not to use the phrase “instill confidence” more than once or twice a year as it’s become such a cliché, but in this case it’s apt. The Nomad has plenty of travel options to handle big bumps and rough terrain, with added speed that makes it an extremely addictive bike to ride.

The Nomad’s suspension does feel a bit softer up top than the Megatower, which meant I was more likely to reach for the climb switch on smoother climbs, but it remains relaxed enough while pedaling that leaving it open throughout time is quite possible.

While the Nomad’s reach values ​​may be slightly on the shorter side of the modern spectrum, this is balanced by the relaxed head angle and moderately long chainstays, which provide plenty of stability at higher speeds. Lately, my preference for a mixed wheel configuration on longer travel bikes has been growing, and that continues with the Nomad. Along with creating more clearance between the tire and the rear end, it feels easier to pick up and place the rear wheel, especially on the steeps.

I’m curious to see how the Nomad will hold up over a longer period of testing – given this extremely high price, you’d hope it would be absolutely flawless. There are still plenty of hard miles in this bike’s future, including some big enduro races and lots of laps in the bike park – I’ll report back with a final verdict and comparisons to other bikes in this category once it’s actually been through the wringer..

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