Since 2005 the Nomad has positioned itself as a bike made to be tough. Featuring the largest amount of travel in their single-crown lineup, it is a burly bike made to enhance confidence in the wild, far flung corners of the globe. The new Nomad 5 from Santa Cruz is no exception.
The Nomad derives it’s existence from it’s namesake. Made for the nomadic existence of seeking far-off peaks and trails you think may exist. Made to take on the perilous steeps, and eat the chunky, rooty undergrowth till your hearts content.
The Nomad hasn’t evolved much, but what it has done is keep itself current and evolve with the current riding trends. The Headangle has slackened out to 64 degrees, and the chainstay lengthened from 430 to 436m on the size large. Most notably, Santa Cruz is now supplying proportional chainstays as the sizes grow which is a nice touch to keep all sizes balanced as they were intended, I feel this should a given on most bikes these days.
Bikes in general are becoming far more customisable, and the Nomad 5 receives a flipchip in the link that slackens the headangle out to 63.7 degrees and gives you an extra 4mm of BB Drop. These aren’t drastic changes, but it gives you the option should the desire arise. During our test we rode the first day in the high setting, however once we changed the chip it was a matter of set and forget. Especially on the steep, rough trails we were riding it was a no brainer to let her stretch her legs as their is no way you can really get too rowdy for the Nomad 5. The chip itself was a straight forward operation at the top of a climb on the trail, so it really is an easy thing to change and get the most out of your trail. We managed ours in the pouring rain with numb fingers so it should be a breeze for most.
Bikes take a hammering; we give them death day in day out and we need to look after them to prolong their life. Santa Cruz takes a little stress out of the equation with sealed bearings, downtube shuttle guards, lower link grease ports and also offering free lifetime warranty on bearing replacements. So why not take a little care and make your favourite bike go that much further all for free.
The most notable geometry change is the seat angle, which has gone from 74.5 to a progressive 78 degrees, which gives the 472mm reach in the Large an extremely efficient pedalling platform to winch yourself up hills. These bikes were never made to carry speed along your local XC loop, but point them up a steep fire road and they will have you up their with grins to spare.
Riding the Nomad
Coming off a winter of strict 29er diet, it was incredibly refreshing to get back on a 27.5. Their is debate as to whether their is still a market for the smaller diameter, but after a healthy dose I’ll happily park one in my garage. There is just something about the small wheels that makes everything a little bit easier. Jumps are sent higher and further, corners are hit harder and the trails becomes one big playground.
A 170mm bike instantly conjures connotations of a big heavy brute of a thing, but a dosing of Santa Cruz’s carbon goodies keeps the weight at a moderate 15kgs, which is pretty handsome for a bike made to go hell for leather down something you wouldn’t dare.
We spent the majority of our time riding in the rain and slop on the seriously good trails of Craigieburn. If you haven’t yet managed to spend some time there please get acquainted. A loamy carpet of beech leaves entwined with sniper roots make for an incredibly fun day out, especially with a dosing of rain. The Nomad was in it’s element. Three days of camping in the rain, riding some rugged trails and it didn’t skip a beat. Alot of the success of the Nomad is it’s great build spec. XT Drivetrain is flawless and dependable, while the matching 4-pot brakes are bulletproof and could pull up a runaway train.
Having 170mm of travel feels pretty darn good. Bottom outs go unnoticed, if ever reached in fact. I bottomed mine out a couple times, but the travel has such a deep, endless feeling it is never noticed and all in complete comfort. There is no getting round that this is a big bike, the front end is reasonably high, and it feels a little out of place on slower, awkward corners but it’s not really where this intended. Go climb a mountain and point it down the otherside and watch the grin grow. It’s a bike that epitomises mountain biking and its rawest and purest form