The Nomad has been Santa Cruz’s flagship all mountain, long travel enduro bike for a good few years now, around 15 to be precise, and today sees the launch of the latest iteration – the Nomad V5.
Still rolling on 27.5 wheels, the V5 is a 170mm big mountain trail monster, designed to be pedalled to the top and take on the biggest, burliest descents you can find. At the heart of the Nomad is a brand new full carbon frame delivering that 170mm of travel via the now familiar VPP lower link system.
As with other bikes in the Santa Cruz range, the Nomad V5 is available in both C and CC frames. Both are full carbon but the CC is slightly lighter yet offers the same strength and durability, albeit for slightly more money.
While the silhouette of the V5 may look similar to the previous version, the frame has been fully redesigned with new features and an improved leverage curve. The V5 features fully internal cable routing, including the rear brake which was external on the V4. One of the biggest changes though is the move to twin swingarm uprights. Where the previous version only had an upright on the non-drive side, the V5 has them on both.
Nomad V5 Geometry
The Nomad V5 has also seen a pretty big overhaul of its geometry from the previous version as well and continues with the flip chip on the lower shock mount letting you swap between low and high settings. And while it’s had the now stereotypical ‘longer, lower, slacker’ treatment, it’s not just the descending prowess that has been addressed.
The V5 has a much steeper seat angle than its predecessor for an improved seated position and pedalling comfort. Our size large test bike comes in at 77.9 in high and 77.5 in low, which for me seems to be around the sweet spot.
And while the seat tube angles have increased, as you’d expect, head tube angles have decreased by a full degree. The front end of the V5 now sits at 64 degrees in high mode and a super slack 63.7 in low.
Reach measurements have also been increased across the board to give added stability and confidence in the steeps. Our large test bike has grown 15mm and now features a reach of 475mm in high and 472mm in low.
Another key feature of the updated geo is the chainstay measurements. For the first time (OK, a couple of other bikes had longer chain stays on the XXL models!) Santa Cruz has introduced size specific CS lengths. These start at 426mm on the size small up to 441mm on the XL, with size our L coming in at 436mm.
Nomad V5 – The Build
The new Nomad comes in a range of different build specs, along with frame only options, ranging in price from £4,499 up to £7,799. It’s available with an air or coil shock at each of the price points and there are also options for carbon or alloy wheels.
Our test bike is the Nomad C XT RSV build with a Super Deluxe Select+ air shock that features Santa Cruz Reserve carbon wheels and comes in at £7,099. You can have the same spec but with a coil shock for the same price or go for alloy wheels (keeping the rest of the build the same) for £6,099.
The C in the tile denotes that it is the slightly heavier, but slightly cheaper, frame on our test, but it is still full carbon. Protecting that frame is a custom moulded rubber chainstay protector which is also designed to keep things quiet in rough terrain, and under the BB area is another moulded protector to protect from rock strikes. Further up the downtube you’ll find another frame protector designed to protect the bike when stowed over a pickup tailgate for shuttle runs.
With this being the XT build, as you’d expect, it features a full Shimano XT 12 speed drivetrain. With 170mm cranks, 32 tooth chainring and 51 tooth cassette, there’s plenty of range for sprinting into descents then winching up the steepest of climbs. Braking is also taken care of by Shimano with a set of XT 4 piston brakes clamping onto big 203mm IceTech rotors front and rear.
Suspension is a mix of the two big players with Fox handling the fork and RockShox taking care of the rear. Up front is a properly chunky Fox 38 Float Performance Elite that benefits from the top end Grip 2 Damper offering loads of adjustment. This is paired out back with a RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ to deliver the 170mm of travel.
The XT RSV build comes specced with Santa Cruz’s own brand carbon wheels utilising the Reserve 30 rims. These feature a 30mm internal width and have also seen improvements to the layup and profile of the rims for increased strength. And those carbon hoops are laced to a set of DT Swiss 350 hubs featuring their Ratchet System 18.
Wrapping those wheels is aggressive rubber from Maxxis. Then rear tyre is a Minion DHRII 27.5 x 2.4 in Maxxis’ Exo+ casing and 3C compound. Up front is a Greg Minnaar certified 27.5 x 2.5 Assegai, again in Exo+ casing, but this time featuring Maxxis’ super sticky MaxxGRIPP compound.
Finishing kit is a mix of high end parts with an own brand Santa Cruz carbon riser bar held in place with Burgtec Enduro MK3 40mm stem. Rounding out the build is a RockShox Reverb 175mm with a WTB Silverado Ti railed saddle atop, and the final contact point is a set of Santa Cruz Palmdale grips. And all this top drawer kit adds up to weight of 32.4 lbs.
Setting up the Nomad V5
Getting the Nomad ready to go was nice and easy. It arrived in a box pretty much fully built with just the bars to be attached and the front wheel putting on. Even the wheels were pre-tubelessed. That just left the suspension to set up.
Going off Fox’s settings, I ended with just under 90psi in the fork which gave me just the over 20% sag I was looking for. High and low speed compressions were set as per Fox’s set up guide. After an initial ride though I backed off the low speed compression to gain some sensitivity and grip from the initial part of the stroke, and also added a couple clicks of rebound to speed things up slightly.
Setting up the shock was just as easy, if not easier, than the fork. With the Super Deluxe Select+ it’s just a case of setting pressures for your required sag – which for my 86kg weight ended up at 220 psi to get me 30% sag – and then adjusting your rebound. There’s no separate high and low speed compression adjuster to worry about so set up is relatively quick and easy.
The initial ride on the Nomad was done with the flip chip in the high setting, which is how it came out of the box. After that first ride though I swapped it to low and haven’t looked back.
The Ride – Climbing
Jumping on the Nomad for the first time the pedalling position immediately felt good. The steep seat angle puts you in a good position over the pedals and gives a good weight distribution between the saddle and hands for long stints in the saddle.
I’ve spent a lot of time on a Megatower this year, which is a bike with similar intentions and geo, and the steeper seat angle on the Nomad is a welcome change. While there’s nothing wrong with the Megatower, the 77.6 of the Nomad V5 feels just right for me.
While a 170mm bike is never going to be the fastest bike uphill, the Nomad pedals really well. The VPP suspension does a great job of eliminating pedal bob while still remaining active enough to soak up small trail chatter and add grip. On steep and loose climbs, the steep seat angle and long front end allow you to stay seated and in the centre of the bike, adding grip to both tyres. Then when you do have to muscle your way up or over an obstacle it’s easily done with a shift in body weight.
The Ride – Descending
So the Nomad V5 climbs well, but any 170mm travel bike is really going to be bought for its descending capabilities, and the Nomad doesn’t disappoint. Get a bit of gravity on your side, get off the brakes and the Nomad just wants to go. Even with 170mm of travel underneath you, the smaller wheels make it feel more engaging and nimble than a long travel 29er, but no less capable.
The Nomad likes to go fast and the more you push the more it gives. The rear end does a good job of soaking up small trail chatter yet retains a good amount of support for pushing hard on big, rough tracks. Combined with the chunky, well damped fork, it lets you smash your way through anything – pick a line, off the brakes and hold on.
The well damped, stiff and supportive front end keeps you on track while the rear end soaks it all up, while still remaining supportive and poppy enough to load it up for popping off lips and and gapping over anything that gets in the way. And the faster you go, the better it gets.
But the Nomad isn’t just about straight lines, it feels seriously good in turns. Whether it’s fast built corners or steep and tight rutted turns, the slack head angle and sorted geometry let you commit – weight the front, lean in, get off the brakes, and the bike whips round, with plenty of support from the rear end to really push into the turn, finding the limits of grip and then going past. The Nomad really likes turns and the ruttier, the better.
And this also carries over to steep track confidence, with the ‘not too long’ front end allowing you to weight the front for traction, but leaving enough room for shifting your body weight to snap the bike round. Inside lines and drifting turns are par for the course with the Nomad.
And as you’d expect from a 170mm travel bike, jumps and drops are also no issue. The Nomad is easy to get in the air and move around, and the front and rear both do a good job of heavier landings.
Three things that could be Improved:
- While the XT 4 pot brakes are a solid choice, with good power and modulation, I did have some issues with inconsistent bite points.
- On a bike with these intentions, a longer dropper would be nice to really get he saddle out of the way, and I could easily have run a 200m drop.
- The carbon bar was quite stiff and I personally a higher rise to give me more options for tweaking the cockpit
Three Things I Loved:
- Great geometry and comfortable seated / climbing position
- Top end component spec
- Fast, fun and nimble descending. The geometry and suspension make a bike that is engaging and fun to ride, with plenty of travel for being silly, without feeling disconnected from the trail.
The Nomad V5 is billed as an all mountain, do anything, ride everywhere bike and it pretty much does what it says on the tin. While lockdown and various other travel restrictions have stopped me from riding any actual mountain, it’s ridden everything else possible from steep secret ruts, local DH tracks to chunky rock trails, and taken it all. It pedals really well and is comfortable to sit and spin on even the longest of climbs, but it shines on the descents.
Whether smashing through rock gardens, slithering down off piste ruts or hooking turns in the woods, the Nomad feels at home on all of them. Yes, 170mm is a lot of bike but that just lets you get away with more, and it manages to still feel nimble, and engaging and fun to ride. And did I mention how good it is in the turns…
|Tested:||by Ross for 3 weeks|
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