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

First ride: 2023 Santa Cruz Nomad - Now with mixed wheels
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Santa Cruz has been on a roll this year, updating its catalog with geometry changes and frame storage compartments for model after model. Next up is the venerable Nomad, the long-travel machine that has been a mainstay in the lineup since its introduction in 2005.

The 6.0 version of the Nomad keeps its 170mm of front and rear travel, but now has mixed-size wheels, with a 29″ front and 27.5″ rear. Along with the larger front wheel, the new Nomad’s geometry has been made a little slacker and longer, though the changes aren’t too sharp. Once again, these are more about refinements than drastic revisions.

Nomad 6 Details

• Wheel size: 29″ front / 27.5″ rear
• Travel: 170mm
• C&CC carbon frames
• 63.5º head angle (low)
• 77.6º seat tube angle (size L, low)
• 444mm chainstays (size L, low)
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
• Weight: 33.5 lbs / 15.2 kg (size L, X01 AXS RSV)
• Price: $5,649 – $11,199 USD

There’s also a glove box for storing tools and tubes inside the frame, and adjustments to the bike’s kinematics designed to increase suspension sensitivity and consistency.

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’s frame has all the accessories that Santa Cruz has become known for. A threaded bottom bracket, tube-in-tube internal cable routing, chain slam protection in all the right places, room for a full-size water bottle, universal derailleur hanger, grease ports for the lower arm bearings : really nothing is missing.

There’s also that glove box, which has a little latch that allows access to the inside of the down tube. Also included are a neoprene tool pouch and tube bag to help with organization and keep things from shifting around inside the frame.

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


Compared to the previous generation, the Nomad’s head angle has slackened by just 0.2 degrees, and the reach numbers remain the same, though keep in mind that it now has a 29” front wheel. The 472mm reach of a size large is a bit shorter than the 480/485mm number many other companies have set, but that’s not necessarily a negative. Remember, there is more to how a bike rides than one or two numbers on a graph.

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

The most substantial geometry change is in the chainstays: the length has increased by about 8mm depending on the size. This was done to improve the fore/aft balance of the bike, especially since it now has mixed wheels. Chainstay length grows as frame size increases, starting at 439mm for the small and going all the way up to 450mm for the XXL.

suspension design

Not surprisingly, the Nomad retains its familiar lower link-driven VPP suspension design. Nomad’s initial leverage ratio has been reduced and is actually slightly less progressive than before. It is still compatible with coil-over shocks, but the changes should help achieve more consistent performance throughout the range of travel.

The anti-squat has also been decreased, which Santa Cruz says was done to reduce suspension harshness and improve climbing traction.


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

Specification check

There’s no getting around the fact that Santa Cruz 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. That said, the parts in the various build kits are well selected, and if a bike has a GX drivetrain, it has a full GX drivetrain, not just a derailleur to make it look like that. All bikes have some version of SRAM’s Code brakes with 200mm rotors front and rear, and all models also have crash protectors.

Interestingly, the build kits with coil shocks have Maxxis DoubleDown casing tires, and the ones with air shocks have EXO+. Maybe coil users are more prone to making poor line decisions?

My only real gripe with the kits is the 175mm hydraulic reverb on the oversized frames. I complained 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 as far back as possible on steep inclines, and I know I’m not alone. There are also many less expensive cable actuated posts on the market that perform as well (or better) than the Reverb and have adjustable travel to boot.

travel impressions

the previous version The Nomad was a fun-loving, relatively mild-mannered machine, a long-haul, do-it-all bike that didn’t seem to mind if the terrain wasn’t always very steep and rough. The new version still retains most of those simple traits, but the revisions it has received, including the 29” front wheel, take its capabilities to the next level.

Considering how similar Nomad’s geometry numbers are to Megatower’s, I wasn’t sure how much of a difference there would be between the two down the road. They even share the same front triangle, so it all comes down to the Nomad’s smaller rear wheel and slightly different kinematics. It turns out that all the subtle alterations add up to something much more substantial.

Honestly, the newest Megatower hasn’t really wowed me, and I’ve spent a significant amount of time on it this season. It’s what I would consider a very good bike, but it doesn’t have a bit more special sauce to push it into the Grand category. That has not been the case with the new Nomad – after a handful of rides, it is currently working its way to the top of my list of favorite bikes this year.

What’s so special about it? For me, it’s the way the suspension allows you to plow with your heels down while maintaining enough support to pedal or pump through flatter sections of trail. There hasn’t been any hard bottoming with the Float X2, and I’ve sent this thing deeper on more than one occasion, mostly because it seems like that’s how it wants you to ride it. I try not to use the phrase ‘confidence inspiring’ more than once or twice a year as it has become a cliché, but in this case it is appropriate. The Nomad has plenty of travel to tackle big bumps and rough terrain, with an extra dash of speed that makes it a very addictive bike to ride.

The Nomad’s suspension feels a bit softer at the top than the Megatower, which meant I was more likely to hit the uphill switch on smoother climbs, but it stays quiet enough while pedaling than leaving it wide open. all the time is totally doable.

While the Nomad’s range numbers may be on the slightly shorter side of the modern spectrum, that’s balanced by the slack head angle and moderately long chainstays that provide plenty of stability at higher speeds. My preference for a mixed wheel setup on longer travel bikes has been on the rise lately, and that continues with the Nomad. As well as creating more space between the tire and the rear end, it feels easier to lift and position the rear wheel, especially on steep inclines.

I’m curious how the Nomad will hold up over a longer term test period; considering that sky-high price, I’d expect it to be absolutely flawless. There are plenty of tougher miles in the future for this bike, including a couple of big enduro races and plenty 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 really gone through the wringer. .

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