2010 Santa Cruz Nomad

Bike: 2010 Santa Cruz Nomad with Fox DHX 5.0 Air (aluminum frame, custom build)

Intended Use: All-Mountain, Freeride

Size Tested: Medium

Bike / Frame Weight: 31 lbs. / 6.97 lbs.

Geometry Chart:

Santa Cruz Nomad Geometry Chart, Blister Gear Review

Test Locations: Crested Butte and Taylor Park, Colorado, all-day epics; Grand Junction, Colorado, Lunch Loop Freeride-y tech and jump trails; Crested Butte Mountain Resort Lift-Served DH trails

Days Ridden: ~30

Tester Info: 5’11”, 165 lbs., 32″ inseam. Charge hard on the uphill and downhill. Prefer steep, techy climbs that test line choice and bike handling ability and similar downhills with some buff, drifty corners in the mix.


The Nomad, according to Santa Cruz: With longer legs than most trail bikes and a lot less bulk than most freeride bikes, the Nomad sits in a class of it’s own. On one hand you’ve got a light but strong aluminum frame and 160mm of VPP travel. And on the other hand there’s an ISCG05 chainguide mount built into the frame and a beefy 1.5” headtube. It’s a big country trail bike that rolls up or down with ease. It’s a flyweight freeride bike that dances circles around heavier rigs but is still burly enough to tackle serious terrain. Wherever you want to go, the Nomad is good for it.
– www.santacruzmtb.com


I put the nicest build I have ever put on a bike on the Nomad. I won’t say no expense was spared, but very few were, and this bike came out beautiful. I was building my dream bike—a bike capable of all-day epics as well as sending big gap jumps and most things in between.


  • ENVE All Mountain/Chris King Wheels (with Fun Bolts in rear hub)
  • 2011 XTR brakes
  • XTR Trail Pedals
  • RockShox Lyrik Solo Air Fork and Reverb Seatpost
  • RaceFace SixC bars
  • Continental Trail King 2.4 UST tires
  • Blackspire Stinger Chainguide
  • XT, XO, or better-level parts everywhere else.

Everything the lightest available that can still handle a full-on thrashing.

The Ride

I’d had my eye on the Santa Cruz Nomad for quite some time. I’d seen friends pedal XC rides as well as send 35-foot stepdowns on this bike, and given that plus the score of great reviews and Santa Cruz’s own marketing writeup, I was sold before I ever threw a leg over it.

When the Nomad arrived on my doorstep, I was waiting with a slew of the finest bike components I have ever owned, ready to build up the sickest trail weapon I could imagine. After I figured out how to rig up my ENVE wheels tubeless (I have the model prior to ENVE’s tubeless-ready offerings), the build came out at about 31.5 pounds.

Santa Cruz Nomad, Blister Gear Review
Santa Cruz Nomad

It is pretty common knowledge that Santa Cruz bikes tend to run on the small side, and the Nomad is true to this notion, sporting a 22.8″ top tube on the medium frame. This is perfect for me, as I tend to like my bikes just a hair on the small side for flickability. I am right on the cusp of a medium and large by Santa Cruz’s recommendations, and many friends encouraged me to upsize to the large. But I was happy with my choice, especially considering the riding I like to do and what the bike was intended for: charging in the über-tech.

One of my first rides on the Nomad was perhaps the finest test I could imagine for a long-travel all-mountain bike. The ride began with a long fire-road pedal up to a brutally technical singletrack climb that topped out on a steep, sometimes jibby, sometimes ultra-technical descent into a high-alpine traverse. The route concluded with a buttery-smooth, fast, and hard-cornering descent on hardly discernible backcountry singletrack. Rides like this, to me, represent the purpose of a bike like the Nomad: The rider looks for their bike to climb proficiently, but still have the durability and, well, balls to get them home safely over challenging routes.

From the truck, we ascended along smooth, dusty Jeep roads, and the Nomad sat high in its travel with ProPedal adjustment of the Fox DHX 5.0 Air Shock in the “on” position. For science, I turned the ProPedal off, and suspension feedback from pedal input was still negligible on smooth terrain. The bike pedaled efficiently, and it quickly put the boring part of the ride behind me. Very pleasing.

5 comments on “2010 Santa Cruz Nomad”

  1. Rob, you absolutely should have tried a different rear shock. The DHX Air is terrible on that frame. RP23 is pretty good, but the Monarch RT3 is amazing. A much more efficient and predictable use of travel.

    The Push link is designed to make the Nomad’s current VPP setup work better with coil shocks and moves the needle back towards more DH performance. This incarnation of the VPP on the Nomad is optimized to work with air shocks to make the bike more of an All Mountain destroyer. Unfortunately the DHX Air sits in the middle…not a predictably good air shock, but not a plush coil.

  2. Hi, I came to your website because I was looking for reviews on the Panaracer CG AM AC, and stumbled across this review of the Nomad Mk 2. While there may be some shortcomings with the DHX-A 5.0, I feel that perhaps you need to fettle with the shock a bit more. I had an alu Nomad with the DHX RC4 couple with a Ti coil, and is currently riding the carbon Nomad with the DHX-A. My current set up that can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.389744174370136.100076.100000036705817&type=3
    weighs 30.4 lbs. For AM duties, I really feel that DHX-A does a better job than the RC4. I am using a Float RC2 upfront and the bike feels well balanced. Take some time to dial in your boostvalve and bottom-out control, because if you do it right, the DHX-A can feel bottomless on this frame with the revised shock rate. An RP23 is inherently a progressive shock while the DHX-A is built to be as linear as possible (for an air shock). Coupled to the fact that the new Nomad has a flatter shock rate (not-so falling rate to not-so rising rate), one should be able to set up the DHX-A to match the new shock rate. A good starting point is to find the right sag, followed by opening up your bottom-out control fully, and pumping a boostvalve psi that matches your main spring. If the shock feels overdamped, the drop boostvalve in 5 psi intervals until you can get full travel based on the riding you do. If the bottom-out feels harsh, then close the chamber by half turns. Get comfortable with what each setting does and how they co-relate to each other and you should be able to find a set up that works for you! I’m sorry if I talk too much but I want you to enjoy the Nomad as much as I do!
    By the way, I bought the Panaracer CG AM AC based on your recommendation :) and they really are good!

  3. I’ve got a 2008/09 Nomad Mk2 that I am still riding as my winter/backup bike. Except for its portliness [average build] it still rocks compared to the latest greatest bikes.

    The stock DHX Air was awful. I sent mine to Avalanche Racing for a custom rebuild and it transformed the bike. It’s now as good a climber as a descender. Without a doubt this was the best money I ever spent on a bike upgrade in my riding career.

    I keep trying to kill my poor old Nomad, but it will not die.

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