The Good: Stiff // Light // Grease fittings for the lower pivot // Free pivot bearings for life // Drop dead sexy lines
The Bad: Price // Exposed lower link
When I first saw an ad for a Carbon Nomad, I thought to myself, "This must be a joke, carbon is for road bikes." Well, obviously carbon is not just for the lycra set anymore.
Modern composite technology has come along way over the years, and the Carbon Nomad is a great example of this progression. Santa Cruz uses a one piece layup that they claim creates a stiffer and lighter frame. Stiff and light were the first two words that came to mind after throwing a leg over this composite creation. Stiffness is immediately noticeable over the alloy Nomad. There's just enough flex in the rear to avoid deflection, other than that, the NomadC feels like a block of granite.
VPP seems to perform better compared to my old alloy Nomad. The added rigidity and muted feel of carbon complement VPP traits nicely. On the ups you can lay down power anyway you want and never feel like you're on a deep travel bike capable of so much. There's a small amount of pedal feedback if you hammer out of the saddle in granny, but how often are you doing that? The 160mm rear travel is delivered in a generous, linear manner. I prefer using a shock that offers some end stroke support to dial in the amount of progression I prefer. Many will find it spot in in that it delivers all its travel all the time without wallowing or bottoming.
BB height is spot on for me, but may be a hair on the tall side by today's trends. We are seeing a trend to keep 6" bikes under the 14" mark.
There was a time when VPP may as well have stood for Very Problematic Pivots, but those days are long gone. Grease fittings for the lower bearings keep things smooth, quiet, and reliable. Should you trash any of your pivot bearings just provide proof of purchase at any Santa Cruz dealer and you'll receive new bearings free of charge as long as you own your frame. Pretty sweet deal!
I live in Colorado and ride everything from Desert to high Alpine. My nomad has seen monster climbs and downhills, as well as lift service park play. The nomad never leaves me wanting more bike, save for bigger gaps (that has more to do with the rider not the bike). Speaking of jumping, I will say that it's not the Nomad's strong suite, but it will happily send any hit you want. When I say jumping isn't its strong suit, that's in the context of other things it does exceptionally well.
The rear end wants to track the ground so you lose some "pop" off built lips and natural features. This tendency to track helps when it comes to straight line speed, cornering, and tech climbing. The longish 14.7 inch chainstay, coupled with relaxed geo (66.5 degrees with a 170mm lyrik and 11mm lower headset cup), make this bike feel like a mini DH crusher.
Some are concerned about carbons ability to take hits, all I can do is report my experiences. I'm not interested in trying to convince anyone that they are wrong in being worried in this regard. I've only piled it up once so far, and my frame is no worse for the wear. The trails I ride are mixed with large fixed and loose rocks of all sizes. I've heard rocks thud off the down tube more than once.There's plenty of little nicks and typical scratches, but they are all only in the thick protective finish.
The weak link of the NomadC is the exposed lower link. If your bash guard takes hits, your lower link as well as the carbon around the lower link has a good chance of being hit as well. You'll hear mixed reviews from Nomad owners on this subject. It all comes down to the terrain you ride, line choice, and the size of your bash or guide. I run a 36T bash. At static height, it appears to cover the lower link ok, but I still hit the link from time to time.
The new 142x12mm dropout looks much better than the 135 hanger of old. The latter bends easily, but replacements can be found for cheap unlike some hangers.
All in all I'm very impressed with this light weight bruiser. If you can afford it, you won't be disappointed. The alloy Nomad has been my favorite bike for years, and carbon just enhances all of its positive traits. The only real negative is the price which is no easy pill to swallow. Hopefully we'll see prices come down as carbon continues to infiltrate the all-mountain and downhill markets.