I've been riding a medium 09 Santa Cruz Chameleon which I love, it climbs, it jumps, its great on the singletrack and really suits my style of skimming and hopping around the trails.... but.... I am looking to start XC racing, I would rattle around on the Chameleon, but as I have an ongoing knee problem I need something that's not quite so stiff at the back, can anyone recommend a short travel bike that handles similarly, or maybe even a steel hard tail?
Full sus that feels like my Chameleon?
Not quite as stiff at the back as a Chameleon? Thats pretty much everything, isn't it?
My old Chameleon was brilliant! Absolutely loved that bike. But riding them is... ahem... a young mans game. A day in the saddle on one of those and you know about it!
I now own an Intense 5.5 which rarely sees the light of day, as it feels like riding a sofa after getting off my hardtail. I bought an Orange P7 and its superb! You can chuck it about as much as a Chameleon. Its just as much fun, without the crippling back-pounding. Its now taken over from the Chameleon as my favourite ever bike. And praise doesn't come much higher than that.
I'd definitely explore the steel hardtail route
I have just done the same and went to a soul. I don't think I gave the soul a fair innings as went back to the chameleon after a few rides.
Really found the rear end to be dead on a soul in comparison, id recommend seeing if you could do some demo rides or borrow a bike to try.
I'm going to give the soul another go and give it a bit longer this time
Tried fatter rubber on the back of the chameleon? Run tubeless and lower pressures maybe?
What sort of XC racing? If it's short course stuff you might want to think about building up a bike specifically for that. Race bike and trail bike very different set ups.
Sounds like you need something like an Anthem with an angleset in it. Difficult to find short travel razzing bikes that are a good weight (4X bikes aside, but then they're mostly very short). For my woods razzing I use a Kona Howler with 120mm forks and a 190mm shock (instead of standard 200mm) to slacken and lower it. It was Kona's 4X bike in 2007 and was only made for 2 years. Probably not light enough for XC racing, but it has a good proper top tube length on it for longer rides.
Alu Highball with 100mm fork? Bigger wheels at decent pressure will provide a tad more comfort at the back.
Waller, what was it about the Soul that you didn't get on with. I've found other bikes have been great until you try and flick them around a bit.
I'm trying to go away from multiple bike set ups, the Santa Cruz Chameleon is pretty much ideal for me, I just need it to be a bit more compliant.
Bigger rubber etc on the back would be fine if I wanted to just keep it as a trail bike, but as I'm wanting to go racing it's not really the best solution.
The Enigma Ergo might be worth checking out, the head angle is a little steeper but most of the other numbers match up.
That looks a great razing bike Rickos.
New set of wheels? One light racing set with fast XC tyres, and another trail set with fat rubber?
Loved my Cham too and, as others have already alluded to, they are super stiff. I doubt any other bikes comes close.
I ditched the Cham for a 5-Spot. Short-ish travel (140) and a stiff rear end with very little pedal bob. Don't even notice the rear working.
Contrary to most, I sized to a Medium on the 5-Spot where as I was recommended a large. This was solely based on the fact the frame size was ended up pretty much the same as the Cham, (medium 5-Spot was half in inch longer IIRC) and I liked the short, snappiness of the Cham.
At the time I was also considering building a less burley, older style, Bottle Rocket for the same reason. May get a Bottle Rocket still. Just for giggles.
It's the eternal question - a full susser that feels like a hardtail. You'll always have compromises though, although I do believe that a traditional XC race bike (with an angleset?) may satisfy your racing demands. Anyway, most XC courses don't really demand a modern hardtail trail bikes geometry as they're generally just not gnarr enough, so why not try a 2nd hand Anthem and see how you like it.
I did the same as this a few years back. Changed my Chameleon for a Heckler which on paper should be a full sus Chameleon. It wasn't. It just felt like it was broken.
Couple of years down the line I got a Blur 4X and I'd have to say that felt the most Chameleon-like out of anything I've owned with bounce. My Five is better than the 4X was though in terms of it being slightly less of a 90% hacking around/10% long rides bike which the 4X was. Maybe a Blur TRa etc might be a good (obvious) option?
The frame felt comfortable but completely dead at the rear and the whole bike just felt sluggish.
Interestingly I had a conversation with another rider on a soul whilst doing the south downs way and asked him how he found the soul. by pure incidence he had also moved from a chameleon to a soul and had found the same thing but now he was used to it he absolutely loved it.
I tried a full suss for a while and the amount of bob and flex did my head in particularly when suffering up a hill or into the wind. Really irritated me and stopped me riding for a while as I just didn't enjoy it.
What I love about the Chameleon is the snappy feel. power you put in is power you get back out. however I hate the fact it kicks my backside on every ride.
I just want it all it seems but somewhere I need to find a compromise. Only reason I mentioned trying a few first is due to the problems I have found. It gets a bit expensive buying a frame and forks to match to then find out your not so sure about it as I have found.
I do believe it is a case of just getting on with it. The chameleon is probably an acquired taste, trouble is it gives a specific ride feel that when you try anything else your going to use it as a yard stick.
Anyhow I think im probably rambling on or at least not making sense
I gave up looking fir a full suss replacement for a chameleon and bought a Privee Shan instead It's like a low slung steel Chameleon on Acid. Can't race It though. TBH for the short if 2 hr XC races, I'd just put up with it being a bit stiff and have a bigger volume set of tyres for when its doing trail bike duties.
The problem is the power transfer makes it harsh, so I guess if you loose the harshness the power transfer goes with it!
It probably is an acquired taste, and coming from a downhill and BMX background I probably don't want the same sort of XC race bike as someone from from a more traditional background.
If i can match the angles then maybe a steel hardtail is the way to go, I might even look at a custom made one to match the geometry.
Daveyboywonder, I've just checked out the spec of the Blur TRa and it looks spot on in terms of geometry!
Try a LT Thudbuster on your Chameleon? They work well to stop the arsekicking when pedalling.
It's the eternal question - a full susser that feels like a hardtail
Don't think it exists. You need to ride the bikes differently to get the best out of them and it always takes a little time to adapt. Think it takes a while to figure out how to get the best out of any new bike really. I've not gone from an alu HT to a FS and not felt like it was broken initially.
I'd tweak the Chammy. New wheels maybe, a carbon bar and seatpost if you don't have them already. Then get another bike that complements it, N+1 is always the answer
Try big volume sturdy tyres, tubelessed at lower pressures. It's made my Sov, which is as stiff as a stiff thing, quite comfy and I reckon faster too. I just topped-up the goop last night and re-inflated them to 15 and 20 psi front and back. I'm considering cutting the centre tread of the back tyre for lower rolling resistance on roads.
I wonder if stiff steel frames like the Sov and the BFe have better vibration damping qualities than the equivalent Alu frames like the Cham and Stiffee?
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