Santa Cruz Chameleon R MX review: venerable yet versatile

by 17

For the past 25 years the Santa Cruz Chameleon been a tough hardtail that can run mid-travel suspension forks, hit jumps and drops, while still being comfortable and light enough for longer rides.

There are lots of bikes which have carried the same model name down through the decades, but not many that can claim to have stayed as true to their original design as the Santa Cruz Chameleon, or been as cool for as long.

  • Brand: Santa Cruz
  • Product: Chameleon R MX
  • From:
  • Price: £2,999
  • Tested by: Antony for 3 months
Mmm, raspberries and custard

Three things I loved

  • A super versatile frame thanks to agnostic geometry and swappable dropouts
  • Works well with mixed wheels
  • A lovely looking frame, particularly with this colour scheme

Three things I’d change

  • So-so brakes
  • So-so fork
  • Generally poor value for money in this build (go for frame only and build one up instead?)

Recent incarnations of the Chameleon have pitched it squarely at the “one bike to do almost anything” category, with its secret weapon being its swappable dropouts. Want a hardtail that can run two wheel sizes? Or one that can be a singlespeed? Just order an extra set of dropouts, and away you go.

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  • Frame // Santa Cruz Chameleon, alloy
  • Fork // Fox 34 Rhythm, 130mm
  • Wheels // SRAM MTH hubs, RaceFace AR Offset 30 rims, 32h
  • Front Tyre // Maxxis Minion DHF 29″x2.5, 3C, MaxxGrip, EXO, TR
  • Rear Tyre // Maxxis Aggressor, 29″x2.5WT, EXO, TR
  • Chainset // SRAM Descendant Eagle, 30T, 170mm
  • Drivetrain // SRAM NX
  • Brakes // SRAM Guide T
  • Stem // Burgtec Enduro MK3
  • Bars // Burgtec Alloy
  • Grips // Santa Cruz House 
  • Seatpost // SDG Tellis
  • Saddle // WTB Silverado Race
  • BB // SRAM DUB, threaded
  • Size Tested // M
  • Sizes Available // S, M, L, XL
  • Weight // 29.3 lbs

Geometry for our size M test bike:

  • Head angle // 65°
  • Effective seat angle // 74.3°
  • Seat tube length // 405mm
  • Head tube length // 110mm
  • Chainstay // 425mm
  • Wheelbase // 1,183mm
  • Effective top tube // 621mm
  • BB height // 315mm
  • Reach // 445mm

While you’re here…

Review Info

Brand: Santa Cruz
Product: Chameleon R MX
Price: £2,999.00
Tested: by Antony for 3 months
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Viewing 17 posts - 1 through 17 (of 17 total)
  • Santa Cruz Chameleon R MX review: venerable yet versatile
  • docgeoffyjones
    Full Member

    What is agnostic geometry?

    Full Member

    2300 for a bike with guide t brakes? SC loves to push the boundaries of bad value for money…

    Full Member

    That pricing is mental.

    Even if we accept the frame is worth £800 how can they justify £2200 for the build kit that contains SRAM NX and Guide T brakes.

    A Scandal is full GX for £1200!

    Full Member

    That does seem a bit steep. For £350 less I can configure a Solaris Max with SLX 12 speed drivetrain, deore brakes and a Fox 34 GRIP fork.

    Also, and I know it was pre COVID, I bought a Voodoo Bokor with Guide T brakes and NX drivetrain for £600, even then I think the RRP was only £900.

    I’m sure the frame and badge on the Santa Cruz is nicer but 3k nicer!

    Full Member

    Do you know what the max tyre clearance is?

    Full Member

    Tire clearence is excellent. I’m running a 29er 2.4 DHR2 in the back on a 35mm inner rim with 15mm+ clearance at the seat stays and 10mm+ at the chainstays.

    Watch Hardtail Partys review if you want better info than “Geometry is agnostic” 🙂

    Full Member

    What is agnostic geometry

    God knows.

    Full Member

    What is agnostic geometry

    God knows.


    Still loving my now ‘old school’ carbon Chameleon, although it gets less use since the lockdown purchase of a gravel bike, which filled a large chunk of the riding I was going to do on the hardtail.

    Full Member

    That is a bonkers amount of cash. You can get a Titanium frame with XT build kit for less from Sonder!

    Full Member

    crack on. does the sonder offer adjustable dropouts?
    i have this version chameleon frame as a warranty replacement for this version’s predecessor. it rides very well indeed IMV. expensive? yes, but i’ve had 4 years of riding and now a new replacement, with few questions asked. despite the old one benefiting from a slackset (9.8) this feels a bit slacker again, and rides ‘quieter’. it rides really well IMV. there are plenty of hardtails out there and if you want cheaper there are loads of options. if you want versatility (29, 27.5+, ss) this is it. a budget version might be the salsa timberjack. i’d be interested to try one.

    Full Member

    The pricing is on the steep side, but people will pay a premium for SC

    Even tho plenty of the bigger & smaller brands will give you better vfm

    Full Member

    You can say that if you just want ‘a hardtail’. Then look at what the chameleon will do and go look for other options. Salsa (if you can get one), pipedream (steel), etc.

    Full Member

    So the adjustable dropouts are where the money is at? Seems very expensive for what it is.

    Full Member

    Yep. Specialized’s Fuse alu hardtail has them and it’s a grand, frame only.

    Full Member

    Yes, they do offer adjustable dropouts and it is Titanium (they don’t call it Titaniyuk do they) which is shiny (the main thing IMO) and still less money.

    I bought the Signal Ti in XT and upgraded the wheels, still cost me less. I’ve ridden 100km loop of Salisbury plain, uplift day at BPW and everything in between. Awesome bike!

    That said, who am I to judge what bike you want to ride? No skin off my knees, each to their own etc. Just have fun riding what ever you want.

    Full Member

    2 degree steeper in the HA and the frame only price is 1300 quid vs the chameleon at 800.
    likewise though – you do you. looks like a nice bike – enjoy!

    Full Member

    I’m very late to the game but those adjustable drop outs are proper tempting.
    Any other hardtails with such feature? And where can I find one? Frame only option preferred.

Viewing 17 posts - 1 through 17 (of 17 total)

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