It’s been a long time coming but finally it’s here. And yes, you were right…the next bike in the revamped Santa Cruz line up had to be a new long travel Hightower. But was it going to be a new LT Bronson 29er? or a Nomad 29er? That may be up to you to decide but I’m in the Nomad camp for sure.
You may have heard rumours of a top secret press camp in the top of the South Island leading up to the NZ Enduro, and yes there was such an event. Sadly yours truly couldn’t attend and we will speak of this sadness never again, but Santa Cruz global brand guru Seb Kemp took pity on me and invited myself and fanboy Dirty Nomad down for a days riding on the new Tower. Only problem was…all the Nelson trails were closed due to the fire risk so we headed for the only trail left open in the area.
We took internationally renowned photographer and trail designer Jeff Carter with us to capture events as they unfolded, but Gary “the Godfather-of-making-average -joes-look-rad” Perkin was there with camera, so Jeff was left to shred a Megatower of his own with us on the crazy rock strewn slopes of the new Cable Bay Adventure Park.
Intro over… let us look at the bike. Looks just like a Bronson with big wheels. Does it ride like one? I don’t know…for some odd reason I haven’t ridden the new Bronson yet.
Sorry, let’s get on with it. It’s a 160mm front and rear 29er with the new V10 style linkage. My large had a reach of 470 (10mm more than the Bronson and Nomad) and a headangle of 65 degrees with a flipchip to drop the BB and get it to 64.7 degrees with talk of extending the fork to 170mm for a 64 degree HA bringing the BB back to its original height. On that note, running the bike in the lower flipchip setting will give a more progressive shock rate and firmer end ramp/bottom out resistance.
What excited me more than this super trendy new reach was a steeper seat tube of 76.6 degrees and the addition of a rear axle chip to bring the rear wheel back 10mm to lengthen the short 435mm chainstays. I never got to try this feature as I was struggling to stay on the bike in the extreme gnar of Cable Bays single grade 5 trail and the only thing that could have helped me there was a quick stem cell injection and blood infusion from a younger and better rider. The seat tube is a short 430mm so no problems upsizing to a longer frame still running a 170mm dropper and the bike is also running a reduced fork offset crown.
There’s an XXL model , so you can go ultra trendy with a 515mm reach as long as your legs are spidery enough to accommodate a 500mm seat tube.
Heard enough? I’ll let you peruse the geo chart at your own leisure, but if your head is hurting let’s compare it to the trendiest bikes in NZ right now..The Tranny Sentinel and Yeti SB150, pretty similar if not the same numbers.
It’s time to talk about the ride itself.
Holy Smoke…It’s like a more playful Nomad with bigger wheels and a longer wheelbase to save more bacon than the SPCA at a pig farm. Incredible small bump compliance with a strong mid stroke and bottomless end ramp… I just couldn’t push this beast hard enough. Cranking pedals on the pinch climbs it took off like a Tesla at the drag strip. Cornering in the loose off camber shale it held its grip like a goat on K2…. Ok, you’ve heard enough drivel, hopefully Santa Cruz have skim read this far, are now sending me a long term review bike and are patting themselves on the back.
Now the truth. I can’t really tell you much. I rode that one trail at my limit of control four times until we had to call it a day…I was just hanging on. The bike was taking me for a ride. But here’s what I can tell you.
I had a few pedals up the fire road in both high and low settings with air and coil shocks. It pedals pretty good. Better than the Nomad which is real good. I ran the airshock at recommended sag and it felt like a good trail bike, plenty of pop. I dropped some air, still no bottom out and was very composed, dealing with the steep rocky off camber G-outs way better.
The coil option was noticeably calmer and inspired way more confidence but I have no idea how it will fare in punchy trails, berms and jumps etc, as there was little of this trail type for me to assess.
Rolling speed was insane and I had a few pucker up moments as I bounce over ledges, drifted alongside loose shale edges and avoided rolling rocks from the shredders ahead of me, but I stayed on the bike helped by the long reach, lazy head and extended wheelbase… stable it is.
I like it. It looks great. Modern geometry without any extremes. Light and stiff it seems. The two adjusting chips are a fantastic option to fine tune the ride. No flaws, great finishing… any Santa Cruz fan will want to own one. A dark liquorice off- black for the bogans and a fruity sea foam green for the metro folk.
Yes, it’s a Nomad 29er…shorter travel for more pop with bigger wheels to compensate. Longer for more stability, adding in the geo and wheelbase chip for even more. Ye it should handle big terrain even better than its big 27.5 brother.
Is it one bike to rule the mall? It could be. 160mm front and rear isn’t crazy, with an air shock , a lightweight build and one of the best pedalling suspension designs in the business….I think it’s going to surprise a few riders.
For full info check out the Santa Cruz website