This review has been republished as part of our Headline Bikes test, where we put eight trend-setting mountain bikes for 2023 through their paces. Read more about the bikes setting the trend for the year ahead. The Santa Cruz Nomad C GX AXS RSV is designed to tackle everything from big bike-park lines to enduro racing. This latest sixth-generation version of the Nomad is slack, rugged and ready to rip. With a mullet-wheel setup, the gravity-focused bike is intended to be more versatile than previous incarnations. Changes to the suspension kinematics and geometry are intended to deliver a balance between long-travel bike stability and the kind of agility Nomad riders have come to expect.
Santa Cruz Nomad C GX AXS RSV Coil frame
The carbon frame is available in Santa Cruz’s C or CC construction. Available in carbon fibre only – with the choice of Santa Cruz’s C or lighter CC construction – each frame size has a specific layup that influences its stiffness. A Glovebox storage port is built into the down tube, containing two tool bags.
Maxxis provides an Assegai for the front and a Minion at the rear. The new mullet wheel setup (29in front, 27.5in rear) improves rollover and traction. This is combined with lower anti-squat, to minimise harshness over square-edged hits (at the sacrifice of a little pedalling efficiency) and a lower starting leverage rate. This is intended to better support body-weight movements and maintain geometry stability.
Santa Cruz Nomad C GX AXS RSV Coil geometry
All sizes share the same 63.8-degree head angle. In the ‘low’ setting, our large frame has a 472mm reach, 77.6-degree effective seat tube angle, 343mm bottom bracket height and 444mm (size-specific) chainstays. A flip chip on the lower link of the VPP suspension enables you to steepen the head angle by 0.3 degrees and the seat tube angle by between 0.2 and 0.3 degrees. You can also add 3mm to the bottom bracket height and reach, and lop 1mm off the rear centre.
|Hi / Lo||Hi / Lo||Hi / Lo||Hi / Lo||Hi / Lo|
|Seat angle (degrees)||77.2 / 77||77.4 / 77.2||77.9 / 77.6||77.8 / 77.5||77.7 / 77.5|
|Head angle (degrees)||63.8 / 63.5||63.8 / 63.5||63.8 / 63.5||63.8 / 63.5||63.8 / 63.5|
|Rear centre (mm)||439 / 440||440 / 441||443 / 444||446 / 447||450 / 451|
|Seat tube (mm)||380 / 380||405 / 405||430 / 430||460 / 460||500 / 500|
|Top tube (mm)||570 / 571||594 / 594||612 / 613||637 / 638||666 / 667|
|Head tube (mm)||90 / 90||100 / 100||115 / 115||135 / 135||150 / 150|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||27 / 30||27 / 30||27 / 30||27 / 30||27 / 30|
|Bottom bracket height (mm)||346 / 343||346 / 343||346 / 343||346 / 343||346 / 343|
|Wheelbase (mm)||1,209 / 1,209||1,239 / 1,240||1,269 / 1,270||1,301 / 1,302||1,336 / 1,337|
|Standover (mm)||709 / 705||716 / 713||723 / 719||722 / 717||725 / 720|
|Stack (mm)||616 / 618||625 / 627||638 / 640||656 / 658||670 / 672|
|Reach (mm)||430 / 427||455 / 452||475 / 472||495 / 492||520 / 517|
Santa Cruz Nomad C GX AXS RSV Coil specifications
The RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ Coil shock came with a 450lb/in spring. The GX AXS RSV Coil is one of the pricier builds in the new Nomad range, coming with SRAM’s GX Eagle AXS wireless shifting and Santa Cruz’s Reserve carbon wheels. You also get a Fox 36 Performance Elite fork and a RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ Coil shock. SRAM Code R brakes control your speed, while DoubleDown-casing Maxxis rubber is there to ward off punctures.
Santa Cruz Nomad C GX AXS RSV Coil ride impressions
The Nomad was given a thorough workout at the bike park and on some gnarly trails. I put the Nomad through its paces at Bike Park Wales and around the wilder off-piste trails of the UK’s South West region. For my 75kg weight, I set the forks up with 88psi, two volume spacers and high- and-low speed compression fully open. Low-speed rebound was at nine clicks from closed and high-speed rebound at six clicks from closed. The rear shock came fitted with a 450lb/in spring. Rebound damping was set to 15 clicks from closed, and hydraulic bottom-out was set to position three of five. I ran tyre pressures at 25psi rear and 21psi front. The only difficulty I found setting up the bike was reaching the shock’s rebound dial tucked away in the lower linkage.
Santa Cruz Nomad GX AXS RSC Coil climbing performance
The tyre choice contributes to climbing being a big effort. Getting the Nomad GX AXS RSV Coil to the top of the hill isn’t a breeze, but that’s not because of poor pedalling performance or geometry, quite the opposite in fact. Those aspects of the bike are good for a variety of climbs. However, the Maxxis MaxxGrip DoubleDown tyres stick to the floor like glue, adding resistance when winching up. The steep effective seat tube angle enables you to drive a strong pedal stroke, which can be needed when the climbs reach double-figure percentages.
However, at those gradients the longer 443mm chainstays and moderate 472mm reach meant my body weight was well balanced between the wheels. Rear-wheel traction and front-wheel tracking were impressive, without having to move around the bike. On mellower climbs, the seated position was comfortable without loading the hands. It’s a relaxed position that should enable you to pedal for repeated climbs without aches or pains in your upper body. I flicked the climb switch for most climbs to help keep the bike’s more efficient climbing geometry. The Nomad doesn’t suffer from poor pedalling when seated, but its bobs a little when out of the saddle, and the climb switch just keeps the suspension more taught.
Santa Cruz Nomad GX AXS RSV Coil descending performance
Rough descents are the Nomad’s bread and butter. On the flip side, the tyres are brilliant when gravity is on your side. The Nomad, as you’d expect, shines more the gnarlier the terrain gets. Steep, rough and loose is where it’s most happy, and the 170mm of travel is excellent at smoothing out the bumps and maintaining momentum. The suspension helps those sticky tyres eke out even more grip by having minimal breakaway force. This helps the Nomad settle into its travel and thunder along whatever you put in front of it without a second thought, or consideration for your safety.
It needs some gradient to really come alive. But that’s not to say it can’t handle more flowing terrain, and the suspension isn’t so plush that you can’t push and pop your way down the trail. It’s versatile for a long-travel bike. The coil shock helps prop the suspension up in its mid-stroke, and gives a supportive platform to push against when pumping through jump lines to maintain speed.
Stability and speed combine to underline the Nomad’s versatility. It also gives a stable and predictable feel when railing high-speed berms that helps prevent the shock blowing through its travel and changing bike geometry mid-turn. Through high-speed turns, its wheelbase is stable enough to hit them at full chat. This is great for the bike park laps where this bike is likely to spend most of its time. Handling-wise, the Nomad is quick on its wheels. It can be dropped easily into turns and flicked from side to side. You’re not going to feel sluggish on the Nomad, considering its intensions. Still though, it’s got stability bred in with its slack head tube and 170mm travel.
In the rough, the bike remains composed. Big square-edge hits are absorbed without transferring too much sting to the hands and feet. This means the bike isn’t too fatiguing on the trail.
Santa Cruz Nomad GX AXS RSV Coil bottom line
The sixth-generation Nomad is a compelling choice. If you’re spending most of your riding time hunting thrills turned up to 11, then the Nomad will be a good companion. Whether that’s steep lines, the rowdiest rocks or pro jump lines, it’ll have your back. While nothing is groundbreaking in terms of tech and geometry, years of refinement have made the Nomad a worthy bike. It shows that getting the essentials dialled is just as important as unique design features. The price may be prohibitive for some, but the new Nomad will be a confident and competent companion on any trail it encounters.