Tested – 2018 Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon CC

Taking a Capable Bike Further

The Nomad is a bike that needs little introduction. It has the reputation of being able to handle just about anything. It was arguably the world’s first enduro bike long before that term had any meaning in the mountain bike world. Over the years the Nomad has always been at the forefront of innovation in geometry, travel, wheel size, materials, tube shapes, etc. It’s always been a bike that you know is cutting edge when it comes to technology.

Now in its fourth iteration, the Nomad seeks to push the boundaries of all-mountain riding with a platform that is far more capable. We put the Nomad to the test on our local trails and bike parks to see how the new-generation Nomad fares against the previous ones we have known and loved.


There is very little that the Nomad can’t do when it comes to technical bits of trail and hard riding, perching it at the top of the aggressive all-mountain category. Riders who are looking to push their limits on steep, rocky trails and who want a bike that can handle the abuse won’t have to search further than the Nomad. With 170 millimeters of front and rear travel and the ability to run an air or coil shock, the Nomad is versatile enough for burly, all-mountain shredding or laps in just about any bike park.

Low and fast: The new Nomad linkage was designed to keep the center of gravity low and make the handling nimble. It was designed to mimic the feeling of the race-winning V-10.


This is the fourth version of the Nomad that Santa Cruz has created with a complete redesign. Santa Cruz focused heavily on revamping the suspension with a new lower-mounted shock that helps make the leverage curve more linear and lowers the center of gravity. This shock configuration was inspired by the success Santa Cruz has seen with its V10 downhill bike. The top-level CC frame builds get a bearing-mounted shock that reduces the rotational friction of the mount when using the suspension.

The geometry got some tweaks with a steeper 74-degree seat tube angle and adjustable 64.7–65-degree head angle. Built into the suspension linkage is a flip chip that will toggle the head angle to suit rider preference. Santa Cruz also trimmed down the seat tube length to allow for more clearance with longer dropper posts. The size large comes with a size-specific, 170-millimeter Reverb. The Nomad got a slightly longer reach and lower front end for a more aggressive and balanced position.

Our test bike uses Santa Cruz’s highest-end CC carbon fiber on the frame and rear triangle and offers internal cable routing. Santa Cruz developed a new tailgate protector built into the downtube to protect the frame during shuttle runs. Retail price on our test bike is $9400. Santa Cruz offers an alloy and lower-end C carbon version to hit more affordable price points.


Santa Cruz now makes its own carbon wheels, dubbed “Reserve.” Our test bike came stock with the Reserve 30 that uses a 30-millimeter internal rim width built on Industry Nine hubs. The Reserves are stiff and sturdy, adding to the overall burliness of the Nomad. The 170-millimeter Reverb complemented the shorter seat tube and allowed for a little extra clearance when getting rowdy on steep sections of trail.


Moving out: The refined geometry of the Nomad is comfortable, with plenty of room for adjustment. The 50-millimeter stem and 800-millimeter-wide bars made the fit more aggressive. Most of our test riders opted for a slightly narrower set of 780-millimeter bars. We put the stack height halfway down and felt comfortable there for the duration of our testing.

Suspension setup: Dialing in the suspension took a few rides, especially the shock. We set up the Lyrik fork at 20-percent sag with two bottomless tokens for more support on big hits. In the Super Deluxe air, we started at 25-percent sag with four clicks of low-speed compression and six clicks of high-speed rebound. We struggled to use all the travel and increased the sag to 30 percent, which solved the issue. With no air tokens installed in the shock, this setup provided a comfortable balance of pedaling support and progressiveness.

Climbing: For a bike with 170 millimeters of travel, the Nomad felt surprisingly efficient. The steep, 74-degree seat tube angle allowed us to shift our body weight forward over the bars to push up steep sections of trail. The wider 2.5-inch tires offered plenty of traction but weren’t the fastest-rolling treads that we have ridden.

Cornering: The lower-mounted shock might be a bit polarizing in terms of aesthetics, but it changes the center of gravity, making the Nomad one of the best-cornering bikes that we have ridden. Through tight switchbacks and high-speed turns, the Nomad could be confidently leaned over, feeling balanced and planted without having to slow down.

Descending: The Nomad holds nothing back when pointed down the mountain and offers a certain level of stability that confidently plows over technical terrain. The VPP suspension was active with a well-balanced level of progressiveness that didn’t feel too harsh on big hits. Off the top of the travel, the suspension was smooth and soaked up small bumps with ease.

This long-travel beast was easy to throw around and direct, even at high speeds, creating a playful and nimble platform that could tackle just about anything. With its stiff frame and wheels, the Nomad confidently plowed over rocks, roots and chatter.

Braking: This was our first experience with the SRAM Code brakes, which use a quad-piston caliper for some serious braking power. The steeper the trail, the more the Codes showed their ability to control the Nomad. There wasn’t quite the range of modulation that we have seen from other brakes, but the stopping power is some of the strongest we have seen in recent memory.


During our testing we rode the Nomad with both a Super Deluxe air and coil to get a feel for both shock options. The Super Deluxe air was plenty capable on technical all-mountain trails. Slapping the coil on gave us more small-bump compliance, and the suspension was more than capable of handling runs in the bike park. Depending on what type of riding you are planning to do, each shock offers a different ride, making the Nomad a little more versatile.


The Nomad Carbon CC is a bike that comes fully loaded, and the price tag reflects that. There isn’t much that we would upgrade or change about the build kit, even if we had a blank check. Santa Cruz does offer the Nomad in lower-end alloy and less-expensive carbon builds that have the same geometry and suspension design. If you are looking for something to confidently conquer gnarly and technical trails, the Nomad is more than ready to go all out.

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