Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV first ride review

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Santa Cruz last overhauled the Nomad back in 2017, shifting the shock lower down in the frame and using the lower rather than upper of the two counter-rotating links to drive it – something we’ve since seen the US brand do across pretty much all frames since then (with the exception of the Blur).

Now, the Nomad gets another makeover for 2021 and, while it may not appear quite as drastic on the surface, dig a little deeper and you’ll soon realise there are a significant number of changes afoot.

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV frame and suspension details

The fifth generation Nomad continues to offer up 170mm of rear wheel travel (which is matched to 170mm of fork travel up front) and still rolls on 650b wheels.

Yes, that’s right, no full-blown 29in wheels or a mullet (mixed wheel sizes) setup in sight. As you can imagine, offering the Nomad with bigger wheels would instantly tread on the toes of its enduro machine, the Megatower, but Santa Cruz still stands by the fact that the smaller wheels are more fun, agile and playful, and best suited to the intentions the Nomad was designed around.

The Iconic Head Tube Badge On The Santa Cruz Nomad Cc X01 Rsv

The iconic head tube badge that denotes great quality but a high price-tag.

Steve Behr / Immediate Media

Currently, Santa Cruz is only offering the Nomad in either its ‘C’ or ‘CC’ carbon (the ‘C’ carbon is slightly cheaper and heavier, but said to be just as strong as the more expensive ‘CC’ alternative).We’d guess there will be an alloy version to follow at some point in the future, but we’ve no news on that yet.

The 170mm of travel at the rear remains, but Santa Cruz has tweaked the way in which it’s delivered. The Nomad still employs the Vitual Pivot Point suspension platform, with the lower of the two links driving the shock, but the leverage curve and ratio have been altered and the shock stroke increased.

Santa Cruz claims that the new lower leverage ratio and longer shock stroke combine to create a more settled, damped feeling, which should help to add control on longer, rougher descents, though it was conscious to not create a bike that felt totally glued to the trail.

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There’s also a little extra progression right at the end of the travel. These changes, according to Santa Cruz, should make the Nomad feel more predictable on the trail as well as make the tuning and setup of the rear shock that bit easier.

Just like the fourth generation of the bike, the latest Nomad frame is capable of working with either an air sprung or coil sprung shock.

The Chainstay Of The Santa Cruz Nomad Cc X01 Rsv Full Suspension Mountain Bike Has Integrated Rubberised Protection

Neatly integrated rubberised protection across the chainstay and on the underside of the down tube helps to protect the carbon Nomad frame from chainslap and rock strikes

Steve Behr / Immediate Media

To protect that sleek carbon frame, the Nomad features some well-integrated rubberised protection in key, high-wear/high-risk areas. These include the driveside chainstay, underbelly of the down tube and the upper-middle part of the underside of the down tube (which is there to protect against tailgate wear should you sling your bike in the back of a pickup).

Santa Cruz also offers a lifetime warranty on all frames as standard and a lifetime bearing replacement policy. It prides itself on the fact that there’s no hard to get hold of proprietary parts, so should something happen, getting back out on the trail won’t take too long.

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Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV geometry

Like many other new model launches, the Nomad has been stretched out compared to its predecessor. Its reach has grown (from 440mm to 450mm on the medium), head angle slackened off (from 65 degrees on the old frame to 64 degrees on the new one in its high setting) and the seat angle has steepened in a bid to create a more efficient climber.

While the seat angle of the previous Nomad sat at 74.5 degrees, this fifth generation Nomad is much steeper at 78 degrees in the high setting – this slackens off slightly as the frame sizes increase up to XL, where it’s claimed to be 77.6 degrees.

The Nomad continues to use a flip chip in its rearmost shock mount, allowing you to (reasonably) easily swap between the bike’s high and low settings.

While altering between the two settings doesn’t alter the head or seat tube angle greatly (we’re talking about a claimed 0.3 degrees), the bottom bracket will shift 4mm up or down, depending on which setting you choose.

That sits it either 10 or 14mm below the wheel axles, and 344 or 340mm off the floor. This is a reasonable height for such a long-travel bike, but still some way off more extreme bikes like Whyte’s G-170 where the bottom bracket measures just over 330mm from the ground.

S (L/H)M (L/H)L (L/H)XL (L/H)
Seat angle (degrees)77.9 / 78.277.7 / 7877.5 / 77.977.2 / 77.6
Head angle (degrees)63.7 / 6463.7 / 6463.7 / 6463.7 / 64
Chainstay (cm)42.6 / 42.543.1 / 4343.6 / 43.544.1 / 44
Seat tube (cm)3840.54346
Top tube (cm)55.258.26164.4
Head tube (cm)11.5131416.5
Bottom bracket drop (cm)1.4 / 11.4 / 11.4 / 11.4 / 1
Bottom bracket height (cm)34 / 34.434 / 34.434 / 34.434 / 34.4
Wheelbase (mm)1,186 / 1,1851,223 / 1,2221,257 / 1,2561,297
Standover (cm)70.6 / 7172.7 / 73.272.8 / 73.372.7 / 73.4
Stack (cm)60.3 / 60.161.7 / 61.562.6 / 62.364.8 / 64.6
Reach (cm)42.2 / 42.544.7 / 4547.2 / 47.549.7 / 50

Just as it did with the 5010 earlier this year, Santa Cruz has applied the same treatment to the rear centre/effective chainstay length of the Nomad. That means the Nomad’s rear centre will be proportional to the frame size, so as the frame size grows, so does the length of the rear centre.

This is done to try and better distribute rider weight between the wheels and, in practice, it seems to work well. So while my test bike has a reach of 450mm and a rear centre of 430mm, an extra-large frame has a reach of 500mm and a rear centre of 440mm.

But will lengthening and slackening the Nomad chip away at the hard-hitting, playful nature of the old bike or will it elevate it further?

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV specifications

Fox's 38 Factory Fork Is Used On The Santa Cruz Nomad Cc X01 Rsv Full Suspension Mountain Bike

This top-end build uses Fox’s 38 Factory fork, complete with the impressive GRIP2 damper.

Steve Behr / Immediate Media

The Nomad CC X01 RSV is the top-spec bike and comes with some seriously lustworthy kit.

The Fox 38 Factory fork up front has 170mm of travel and plenty of adjustment thanks to the GRIP2 damper (there’s high- and low-speed compression and rebound damping) and easy to tune air spring that you can add/remove volume spacers to to alter how it ramps up towards the end of its travel.

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As the name of the fork suggests, it is built around 38mm upper tubes so promises to be accurate and precise when the ground gets rough.

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The Shock Fender On The Santa Cruz Nomad Cc X01 Rsv Mountain Bike Helps Keep The Shock Reasonably Clean

A handy little shock fender keeps the shock reasonably clean and protects from rear wheel spray.

Steve Behr / Immediate Media

At the rear, a Fox X2 factory air shock comes with masses of adjustment too, including both high- and low-speed compression and rebound adjustment. It’s worth noting that reaching the high-speed rebound adjuster isn’t easy though, which makes tweaking it, especially when wearing gloves, hard work.

SRAM’s X01 Eagle gearing, complete with 10-52t cassette, offers smooth shifting and a very wide range to tackle the steepest of uphills. The Code RSC brakes are also from SRAM and, thanks in part to the large 200mm rotors, deliver masses of easy to control power and punch when it’s most needed.

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Santa Cruz Nomad Cc X01 Rsv Full Suspension Mountain Bike Has A X01 Eagle Drivetrain

The X01 Eagle drivetrain includes the massive 12-speed 10-52t cassette.

Steve Behr / Immediate Media Tyres come courtesy of Maxxis, with an Assegai up front and a Minion DHRII at the rear. Both tyres on this build use the EXO+ casing (you get DoubleDown casings on the coil sprung version of the Nomad) and both come with the 3C compound, but the Assegai uses the softer MaxxGrip rubber while the rear Minion DHRII is of the MaxxTerra variety.

What helps to bump the cost of this particular model up somewhat is the inclusion of Santa Cruz’s Reserve carbon wheels. These carbon hoops have a 30mm internal width and are built onto DT Swiss 350 hubs.

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The Maxxis Assegai Is An Ultra-Grippy Tyre

An ultra-grippy Maxxis Assegai front tyre might roll slowly but keeps the front wheel glued to the trail.

Steve Behr / Immediate Media

Santa Cruz provides its own carbon bars, while British brand Burgtec supplies the 40mm Enduro Mk3 stem.

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV ride impressions

I’ve only had a handful of rides aboard the new Nomad, which is why this is a first ride and not a fully scored review.

In a bid to get the broadest view possible of this bike, I took it on a number of different types of terrain, spanning steep, natural woodland trails littered with wet roots and jagged rocks, to high-speed bikepark style tracks that were packed with jumps and high-load berms.

Although my ride time aboard the new Nomad has been a little limited, I think the variation in terrain helped to highlight a number of the bike’s characteristics.

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV climbing performance

If you look at the numbers, you’ll see that the effective top-tube length on the medium bike I’m riding is just 582mm, which is the product, in part at least, of having such a steep seat angle.

This top-tube length coupled with the 40mm stem means the Nomad doesn’t offer the rider the roomiest of cockpits when seated and winching way up the hill. But at 5ft 8in, I never exactly felt cramped and had no problems with front wheel lift or wander when riding up steep pitches.

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Santa Cruz Nomad Cc X01 Rsv Full Suspension Mountain Bike Has A Burgtec'S Enduro Mk3 Stem

Burgtec’s Enduro Mk3 stem.

Steve Behr / Immediate Media While seated, the rear suspension remains fairly calm, with very little in the way of suspension bob as you push at the pedals, making the going easy enough. I was soon lapping around my favourite trails and surprised at the pace I could pedal a 170mm big-hitter around.

It does help having that massive 52t bailout cog on the SRAM cassette for when you really do start blowing, though. At no point did I feel the need to use the shock’s low-speed compression lever to firm up the shock while climbing as things always felt efficient enough.

Of course, the Nomad isn’t designed to excel uphill, but I never felt like I was held back by it. Okay, that cockpit isn’t the roomiest, but thanks to the short seat tubes, if I was really having an issue with it I could size up to a large frame and get a bit more room to play with.

But the risk of sizing up is that although the Nomad would feel more stable and planted at speed, it would lose some of its agility and all-important fun factor, which is seems to ooze in the right setting, but more on that later.

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV descending performance

When it came to setup, it didn’t take a lot to get the Nomad feeling balanced. Surprisingly, though, I found myself running the Fox 38 compression dials fully open, the low-speed rebound dial fully open, and just a couple of clicks of high-speed rebound damping to keep the fork feeling controlled when things started coming thick and fast.

At 68kg with riding kit, I’m not exactly heavy, but I’d have appreciated a little in the way of useful adjustment. At the rear, I had to play around a little more with the settings to find the sweet-spot, but I’m currently running 14 clicks (from fully closed) of low-speed compression, nine clicks high-speed compression, nine clicks of low-speed rebound and two clicks of high-speed rebound.

This gave me a predictable feel with the sensitivity to maintain traction, but enough support for popping and hopping when I needed to.

Cyclist Riding The Santa Cruz Nomad Cc X01 Rsv Full Suspension Mountain Bike Downhill

The stretched out geometry helps to keep the Nomad composed and stable when tackling steep, rough terrain.

Steve Behr / Immediate Media

On steeper natural trails, I was impressed by how the Nomad handled. It certainly helps to promote a confident stance on the bike and doesn’t get out of its depth easily.

Both the fork and shock remain sensitive and manage to keep the tyres glued to the trail with impressive amounts of traction, even in slippery situations. And while the back end of the bike is supple, get into the shock’s mid-stroke and it remains nicely supportive and composed, helping to maintain that confident ride dynamic.

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As the trails roughen, though, there’s a little more feedback through the bars when compared to other similar bikes, and I ended up dropping my tyre pressures in an attempt to try and dull this sensation somewhat.

Hit a set of linked corners at pace and the Nomad feels like a rocket ship gathering momentum

There were definitely times when it felt like the Reserve carbon wheels weren’t quite as comfy or forgiving as others can be, leading to more in the way of vibration and chatter making its way to the handlebar.

That said, they felt better when really belting in rough sections where you’re skipping over the bumps rather than rattling through them. The well-controlled suspension helps here and if you’re happy to commit to a section, you’ll be rewarded with masses of momentum as you’re spat out of the other side.

On longer runs your hands can feel like they’re fatiguing quicker than they might with a more forgiving setup in place.

But despite not being the comfiest wheels (though I’ll need to try some of my alloy wheels back to back to properly confirm this), their accuracy and stiffness help to create an electrifying feel through the bike when you load it up and swing from one turn to the next.

Hit a set of linked corners at pace and the Nomad feels like a rocket ship gathering momentum. It’s also reassuring to know that they’ll take quite a pasting too. After some questionable line choices on some higher speed, rocky trails, and despite them making some nasty sounds, both tyres have remained inflated and the rims unscathed.

Cyclist In Mid Air While Jumping The The Santa Cruz Nomad Cc X01 Rsv Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The new Nomad is designed to be fun and agile, and I can confirm that it is both.

Steve Behr / Immediate Media

Head onto jump riddled bikepark style tracks and you’re in for a treat. The Nomad feels nimble and reactive when you want to pick it up and skip it from line to line or get creative in the air.

There’s enough progression at the rear to soak up really heavy landings too, which is useful if you do end up going a little deep.

Overall, while the Nomad feels more capable downhill than its predecessor, it still feels easy enough to throw around and have fun on. The new geometry feels well-balanced and the suspension well-tuned.

I’m just not totally sure on the Reserve wheels, but I’ll be spending more time on the bike over the coming months so I can fill you in once I’ve done more testing. If you’re not a fan of the wheels, there is the cheaper option with essentially the same spec but with alloy rather than carbon wheels.

Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV bottom line

I was a big fan of the fourth generation Nomad. It wasn’t a massive bike by any stretch but it was ridiculously fun and great to ride. Santa Cruz has done a great job with the new frame, making it feel even more capable and comfortable at speed but still agile enough to be thrown around on the trails, retaining the hooligan nature that the old bike oozed.

It’s a blast to ride and doesn’t feel too taxing when being pedalled back uphill either.


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