Reviewers’ Rides – 2015

[Editor’s Note: When our reviewers aren’t out testing various frames and forks and whatnot, what do their own personal builds look like? Our Reviewers’ Rides series asks some of our riders to detail their setups, and explain why they’ve chosen these particular frames and components.]

Tom Collier: 5’8”, 160 lbs

Santa Cruz Nomad 27.5 – size Large

I picked up my latest ride in June 2014 – the new Santa Cruz Nomad 27.5 in a size Large. This bike replaced an aluminum Nomad MkII in a size Medium. I rode that bike for almost 5 years—it had its flaws, but I was blown away by how little maintenance the frame required. In that time, it only needed two bearing changes and the suspension links stayed tight the entire time.

There are few things that frustrate me more than a bike frame that requires constant maintenance. It is becoming increasingly easy to find frames with pivot designs that don’t constantly loosen, but knowing that Santa Cruz had solved that problem still pushed the brand to the front of my list for replacement bikes.

Tom Collier reviews the Leatt 3FD Airflex Knee and Elbow Guards, Blister Gear Review
Tom Collier on the Santa Cruz Nomad 27.5, Flying Dog, Park City Mountain Biking, UT.

I also hate having to flip switches to make a bike climb well. I inevitably forget to switch them back when I reach descents, and so I end up dropping in to those descents on an almost hardtail. Fun.

Other designs may beat out the VPP suspension in the rough, but it still descends very well and it pedals better than almost anything else with the shock fully open, allowing me to keep it open and avoid accidental hardtail descents.

For the trails out here in Park City, pedaling is a priority, and this was the second factor that pushed me toward a Nomad. The deal-sealing factor, though, was test riding one and finding that I got along quite well with the bike.

When I purchased my old Nomad, I was living in New Hampshire and my daily rides involved tight, rolling, technical trails. I now live out in Park City, Utah, and spend a lot more time going fast and a lot less time on really tight trails. This change in locale played a big role in my decision to size up on the new frame.

Test riding the Nomad 27.5 in both Medium and Large sizes, pedaling back and forth on the same bit of trail endlessly and making notes of the differences, I found that I enjoyed the more stretched out climbing position on the Large as well as the extra stability and room to move around that it provided on descents. At high speeds it was easier for me to keep the front tire on the Large frame biting, and over turning resulted in a nice two-wheel drift instead of a crash.

On the Medium, I found that the tire had more of a tendency to wash out due to my position on the bike. Despite the bigger wheels, the new Nomad has shorter chainstays than the MkII, which makes it easy to toss around despite the longer wheelbase. So, ignoring all sizing charts, but knowing that my torso and arms are a bit longer than average, I purchased a Large Nomad.

The Nomad is overkill for many trails, but it allows me to ride any downhill trail I can find, and rally the piss out of everything.

Tom Collier reviews the Leatt 3FD Airflex Knee and Elbow Guards, Blister Gear Review
Tom Collier on the Santa Cruz Nomad 27.5, Flying Dog, Park City Mountain Biking, UT.

The Build (with links to reviews):

Fork: Rock Shox Pike 160mm with AVA cartridge with Midvalve

Wheels: Hadley Hubs w/ DT competition 2.0mm/1.8mm/2.0mm double-butted spokes and DT alloy nipples, WTB KOM i25 rims

Shock: Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair with offset hardware or Avalanche Chubie


Cranks: Shimano XTR M980 2×10 crank 170mm

Shifter: Shimano XTR M980 Shifter

Rear Derailleur: Shimano XTR M986 GS cage

Chainring: Wolftooth 32T Drop-Stop

Cassette: Shimano XT M771 11-36 w/ Wolftooth 42T cog

Chain: Shimano XT CN-HG95

Bottom Bracket: Shimano SM-BB90-A

Brakes: Shimano XTR M988 Trail, 200mm 6 bolt front rotor, 180mm 6 bolt rear rotor

Seatpost: KS Lev Integra 125mm 31.6

Saddle: SQ Labs 611 active Ti Tube rails

Stem: Easton Haven 40mm

Handlebar: Easton Carbon Haven 750mm, low 20mm rise

Tires: Maxxis High Roller II 27.5 x 2.4 front and rear, 3C MAXX TERRA EXO, run tubeless with Stan’s NoTubes sealant

Grips: ODI Longneck

Headset: Cane Creek 110

Pedals: Kona Wah-Wah or Time MX-4

I carried over a lot of parts from my previous Nomad. I had put a lot of effort into choosing parts that hold up well, and I take good care of my bikes, so most of the parts were in great shape.

6 comments on “Reviewers’ Rides – 2015”

    • Thanks Matt. We might do a separate review in the future. To help you with the immediate decision, the biggest difference with the AVA cartridge is mid-stroke support. The Charger damper is great, but I wasn’t thrilled with how it performed when I increased the low speed compression to handle really chunky terrain. The AVA doesn’t have the light and playful feeling that the Charger lends itself too, but offers a ton of support through rough terrain and is still very smooth over small bumps. Both are great, but they are definitely different.

  1. New England trail rider here. Can you comment on what bike you’d be riding today if you still lived and rode in New Hampshire? Would the new Nomad be too long and stack for the tight technical trails?

    • John, I wouldn’t be on a Large Nomad in New Hampshire unless I were spending a lot of time riding lifts. The bike just requires too much speed before it becomes fun. I would struggle to keep it up at that speed on the flatter trails in New England. Staying within the Santa Cruz family for easy comparisons, I’d be on a Medium Nomad if I still wanted a lot of travel. A Large 5010 if I prioritized a comfortable riding position but wanted a more playful bike, and a Medium 5010 if I prioritized fun and flickability at the cost of feeling a bit cramped on the bike. I’d also try out some of the offerings from Devinci, Norco, and Specialized if I were looking for something similar, but with a different suspension design. There a ton of other great options out there too, but those happen to be at the fore of my mind at the moment.

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