Back on line after an extended period of being pumped full of Malware over the last few months, hence zero summer blogging so far. A shout out to the stylish Dirty Design Authority and Web Guru, the Dirty Hawk, for not only squeezing all that filthy Eastern Bloc web juice out of us, but also unleashing a full upgrade on the site, which should be loading faster than the Rodfather attempting to outrun being served with another paternity summons.
Speaking of upgrades… Yes, the title of this post is interchangeable because it has both a functional role, and an accurate description of what the latest version of the Santa Cruz Nomad feels like in the flesh and when you mount up on number six. Please join me in welcoming back the inspirational model of this very website – An extremely fitting homecoming as we approach 10 years of Dirtiness:
Alarmingly though, this wasn’t the bike I was originally supposed to end up on. Indeed, next on the procurement list was naturally the Megatower 2, released earlier on in the year, and given my froth on its OG version, surely it was going to be a straightforward trigger pull on the upgrade.
But something stopped me… Was it cosmic interference? An inkling that something even more alluring was in the mix? Disappointment at the lack of an MX version which I had yearned for, #mulletlyfe? Or more likely just straight up apathy on account of me becoming a corporate bitch robot once again?
Any which way you want to take it, you can imagine my feral delight when my lack of action was rewarded, as I awoke to a tsunami of WhatsApp messages and Gram bangs heralding the arrival of the 6th iteration of the namesake of this very blog. Yes, I acknowledge that at first pass, there is sweet fuck all difference in reality between the MT2 and the Nomad 6, and yes, it’s highly notable that they share the same front triangle even – But fuck all that, this just felt CORRECT as my logical next machine. Fuelled by this emotional irrationality, I could barely type the order text fast enough*.
*Noting of course that this was preceded by 6 months of first world hand wringing over which size to get in the Santa Cruz range, which may have cost me some friends and any tiny vestiges of respect that were floating out there for me, as I was reduced to a puzzling pikey asking anyone who would open my uninvited messages to opine on whether I should go Large or Medium.
The 90 minutes of nightly worship at my Joe Graney shrine had not only answered my Mullet Lyfe prayers, but also delivered what I estimate to be the most stunning iteration of the Nomad to date. We’ve come a long way since the dawg first took a shit:
Discerning and astute readers may notice a couple of immediate things here that are as shocking for you as they are for me. First up, this is my first FULL build kit Santa Cruz… Ever. Yes, weird to say that out loud, but ever since the late 90’s I’ve always been a ‘frame, build and fuck the economics of it’ unit.
This plunge back into the mainstream of being spoon fed by a product manager was both a symptom of being too lazy to organise the hand jobs needed for acquiring the build kit I aspired to during the middle of the supply chain fuelled Bikepocalypse, but also because when I looked at the build kit, I had to mumble a begrudging acknowledgement that they had pretty much nailed the set up, and aside from one big elephant in the room, there was nothing I would really change. Noting of course I’ve gone with the ‘X01 AXS Reserve Coil Carbon CC build‘, AKA the ‘Oh you’re one of those cunts’ option, so in theory there really shouldn’t be anything to complain about, but more on that below.
And yes, just to round out this confession – Its a full SRAM build… Yes, that hangs on the tongue like you’ve blown a battery, possibly because the bike now has 2 of them on board. As an extremely long term Fox/Shimano wannabe athlete, signing my surrender papers in Tokyo Bay was a galling prospect, but here we are in an uncomfortable new wireless world.
Initial Set up
To illustrate the point on the build kit being unusually on point, I’ve hardly changed a thing out of the box. Naturally I fucked off the stock spring as it’s pretty much mandatory for a DHX2 to have an orange SLS spring, especially when it matches the colour scheme. Outside of this, I swapped the seat for personal preference, added XTR Trail pedals and the exquisite Santa Cruz bottle cage and was ready to roll.
I couldn’t even fault the grips, which I thought would be the first thing to go… But nah, the SC ones are surprisingly good. Bar swap out for a One Up? Not at this point, enjoying the stock SC bars too. Even the Maxxis tires were the perfect combo of the Assegai with MaxxGrip upfront and the DHR2 with MaxxTerra on the back. Fuck me, it’s almost like the people speccing these bikes actually ride them (Video evidence indicates they ride them a fuck of a lot harder than we do).
Given this is angling towards being a Fuck Off Dream build, and because I’m one of those cunts, the only indulgence (contextual LOL) in terms of a change was swapping the Cane Creek headset out for a Chris King unit, because OCD.
Might as well do this properly then, so it was straight off to Vegas for one of the few places in NZ where you can do the debut of such a beautiful machine justice (Cue Rotorua vs Queenstown handbag wars). Tweaking, pumping, measuring and fettling was done and the Creator was ready to shreddy:
A couple of runs to refine suspension settings and shake things down were quickly dispatched, but it was on the first run down Tuteata, in my top 3 for hottest trails to hit, and I suddenly realised what I had in my hands. Barrelling into the section after the climbing trail intersection, where one surfs across the face of the hillside, the Nomad 6 picked up speed in a mesmerising and intoxicating manner.
Suddenly it dawned on me not only had I never ridden that fast along here, but it felt like the bike was doing it with ease and still had more in it’s tank. Out of it’s artisanal box, the Nomad 6 was bringing the kind of stoke and fun that you normally expect from this brand and model, but much like the feeling I got from riding the Blur 4, you can straight away feel the development and advances that have gone into this rig oozing out of its beautiful carbon pores.
These are extremely early days mind you, in a summer thoroughly fisted by exceedingly shit weather, but some immediate points that have jumped out at me so far:
- The climbing – Ignoring the 52T first gear for a moment, it’s the geo and climbing position of this Nomad that has it feeling like the best climbing big SC bike I’ve ever ridden. Sure, the seat angle isn’t Privateer steep for example, but this bike is so comfortable to settle in and head up on. Hides it’s weight extremely well too.
- The front end height – Initially this was noticeable, and with a good 15mm more than what I was coming off on the Megatower, I thought it was going to require some trail side removal of spacers. But the more I’ve ridden it, the nicer it feels and unlike the Megatower, I don’t feel that I need to make the same effort to weight the front wheel.
- The Fox 38 – Exceedingly glad I didn’t do the parts swap gig here, as I would have missed out on the 38, which is my first. As Rodfather says, you can really feel those extra 2mm’s in girth, and this fork belongs on this bike. Don’t fall into the 36 trap here, you’ll be missing out. It’s enhanced ability to hold a line fits perfectly with the Nomad 6’s attitude that it’s never meet gnar it didn’t want to plow
- The general hotness – Fuck it’s a glorious bike in the flesh, finish and colour wise. I’m sure everyone will end up on the black ones, because black singlets and Troy Lee helmets etc (you know who you are), but the gypsum in person should really earn the paint department the most tacky ‘Employee of the year; trophies that can be found, as it’s a total stunner.
- It loves the rowdiness – Well, as you might expect being a 170mm travel mullet bike with the most contemporary gnar eating features you can currently throw at a bike… But, a week down in the upper South Island scaring the fucking shit out of myself on their Grade 5/6 trails and those corners (where a small rut attempts to impersonate a catch berm) gave me an initial appreciation for how much this bike likes to do shit that you might not. Noteworthy in this of course was how much I appreciated the taller front end and smaller back wheel, giving me more confidence to tackle terrain I hadn’t seen for far too long:
A few things on the radar
Firstly, and gloriously feeding into my SRAMphobia, the chain snapped after a mere 106km’s of riding… Which hasn’t happened since the last time I encountered a SRAM chain. I’m yet to meet one that hasn’t snapped at the mere thought of a crank turning. Cue Japanese sniggering in the background.
This leads me to my next point… Well, it’s a two in one actually – But a GX chain on a build this level? Yes, I praised the Product Management team above, and I get it that you have to fit into a metric and range on a spreadsheet, but come on guys, I want the FULL good shit here. Yes, I’ve swallowed my cassette pride as well, but don’t limit yourself team – Be unashamed and make it a legit DREAM build option at the top end. Economics be damned, if it’s the X01 build kit, then make that apply to everything otherwise it’s actually really the GX/X01 build in reality with the former accounting for the shifter, chain and cassette.
I’m loath to mention or complain about pricing of bikes, given my allergic reaction to this any time I see it on line… But it would be inauthentic to say that the cost of the latest Nomad didn’t raise an eyebrow this time and a bit of hard swallowing. Yes, this may be the dentist/banker/’whatever vocation is being vilified currently on line by people who don’t have the skills to do those jobs’ build kit option, but we do now live in an age where paying twice the price of a mid level eBike for an acoustic bike does give on pause for thought. Bottom line – It will be interesting to see how many of the current wave of elite acoustic bikes we see in the forests given their visceral price rises.
And just to keep the theme rolling, I’m sure, based on history, that it’s only a matter of hours before the Reverb shits the bed, so that’s firmly on my radar. When it does, the thing I want to solve is the current no mans land of a 175mm dropper that’s too high, but working out what can fit in the seat post tunnel based on the space that there is to work with. I suspect I end up with a shimmed down One Up in there, but not sure that I’ll have a lot of luck getting close to a 200mm drop, stay tuned on that one.
My only regret so far? That I haven’t spent nearly enough time on this bike and notably, have somehow failed to get it to Queenstown where it will be right at home in it’s natural habitat. Indeed, records indicate I’m the only person with an MTB to not get coated in Queenstown dust this summer
A mere 183km’s at time of writing, and only 2 Enduro races, is barely enough to get properly acquainted or refine the set up to where it needs to be, so a concerted effort is required before this season which is impersonating summer fucks off.
Ultimately though, I recognise, much like the Megatower, the Nomad 6 isn’t a bike one purchases for the local terrain I have access to. This is definitely the bike I wanted, as opposed to needed, and it’s whole reason for existing is to remind me to go to places where it loves to be, and where I should be more than I currently am.
Best example? I should have been at the front of the virtual queue to slam a Stone King Rally entry in for this year… But in a brutal display of massacring ones life priorities, I weirdly surmised that “Work would be really busy” for the first half of the year and I wouldn’t be able to pay appropriate homage to the Stone King, so deferred. What… a… cunt. I didn’t realise the size of cunt I was being either, until Santa Cruz teamed up with the God of blisters from MTB shoes, Ash, to remind me:
And if that doesn’t make you want to head to the Mon-tons, then good luck back on your Incel Twitch feed.
My mission now is to A) Get the Nomad 6 to Queenstown and B) cover the 1,000km’s I deem the minimum benchmark to return with a more fulsome update… Ideally fuelled by GC’s and real Mon-tons.
“I’m loath to mention or complain about pricing of bikes, given my allergic reaction to this any time I see it on line…”
I thought I was the only one who had this response. Great write up describing the “is it really any better?” factor of an upgraded frame (I too am going through something similar currently) and great to see the site back with a new Gear Rant! You probably owe us one for the new Blur too, no pressure.