Santa Cruz Chameleon...what's next?!

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1/16/2020 6:32 AM
Edited Date/Time: 1/16/2020 6:33 AM

Noob here, but I do get around on VitalMX quite a bit.

So I have a question for you fine folks. Years ago I bought a 2006 Specialized Enduro and it wasn't long after that I realized how terrible of a climber it was and after a year or so, I found myself losing interest in riding. After a wife and two kids, I wanted to get back into riding MTB because I just can't get out to the track as much as I used to. Maybe twice a month if I'm lucky. Last year I picked up a 2019 Santa Cruz Chameleon, put a 34mm Fox Factory Float on it and a Fox dropper, along with some other goodies and gave it a go. I've only got about 4 real rides on it so far, due to fracturing my thumb at an MX race a week after buying the Chameleon! Yesterday I was most impressed with it's ability to climb as I pulled off that gnarly (for me anyway) extra credit climb by the Brea dam at the Fullerton Loop. Please don't hate on me for mentioning that long debated funky system of trails, it's just convenient for me during the week after work and I know it like the back of my hand. Well, maybe not the first time back after more than 10 years, where I found myself a bit lost! Anyhow, here is my question. The reason I decided upon a Chameleon, was I wanted something that didn't have the pedal bob that I remember from the days of my Specialized Enduro and I wanted something that would climb like nobodies business, and the Chameleon achieved that for sure. My dilemma is, on descents, and the occasional jump, drop or kicker, I find myself wishing I had some rear suspension. Keeping in mind I come from a bmx/motocross background, what would be a solid move from the Chameleon, while not compromising the ability to climb? Lately I find myself looking at the Santa Cruz Tallboy and Hightower, but I feel the Hightower may be a bit to slacked out and more built for DH? And would it be possible or make sense dollar wise to swap my parts over from my Chameleon to a 2020 Tallboy frame?

Thanks for your advice and guidance!



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"Do It In The Dirt"

1/16/2020 8:30 AM

I haven’t rode either bike but people seem to be loving the new Norco Optic and Specialized Stumpjumper Evo. Both bikes are shorter travel, supposedly climb well and have aggressive geometry which I’m sure you would appreciate coming from a moto background.
I would avoid swapping the components off your Chameleon unless everything can be switched over. Seems like every time I’ve done that I end up with a handful of random parts I can’t sell and the money I spend on the replacement parts doesn’t justify the cost.

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1/16/2020 9:22 AM

You should try to demo some different bikes to find out what you like. The Path in Tustin often has Santa Cruz demos. I've seen Giant have a demo fleet right in the parking lot at the beginning of the Fullerton Loop. Look for demos on the websites of different brands and local shops. I think you're on the right track with a bike like the Tallboy. If the Loop is in your regular rotation, the Hightower would be overkill. And don't forget about tires. Geo and suspension are important, but having the right tires for the terrain you rides makes a big difference as well. Good luck!

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1/16/2020 10:46 AM

The comments from thejake and VitalBrad are both spot on. One question I'd ask back to you is what kind of riding do you want to do in the near future? Completely understand something that is built for your loop, but do you want to go beyond those trails?

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1/16/2020 10:56 AM

Great post! I’ve been a fan of the Specialized Epic. Even though it is a FS bike, it has been one the few FS bikes that have felt and responded like a HT. I mostly do XC riding as the elevation in East TX is fairly minimal. I agree with the previous comments, tons of variables presented when asking for feedback. Figured I’d throw my two cents out just in case your geography is anything like mine.

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1/16/2020 12:37 PM
Edited Date/Time: 1/16/2020 12:43 PM

thejake wrote:

I haven’t rode either bike but people seem to be loving the new Norco Optic and Specialized Stumpjumper Evo. Both bikes are shorter travel, supposedly climb well and have aggressive geometry which I’m sure you would appreciate coming from a moto background.
I would avoid swapping the components off your Chameleon unless everything can be switched over. Seems like every time I’ve done that I end up with a handful of random parts I can’t sell and the money I spend on the replacement parts doesn’t justify the cost.

as an evo owner I wouldn't recommend one unless you are a super aggressive trail rider or live somewhere STEEP.

As much as it hurts to say it, the big "S" went too gnarly on that bikes Geo. Only place it made sense was when I went to New Zealand for a week and rode nothing but double black WC style tracks.

The rear suspension kinematic is not the best either. But to it's credit it does climb extremely well (if you don't slam your pedals into rocks.

For the OP's purposes the Tallboy is a good one if you are happy with Santa Cruz. Just demo as many bikes as you can is all I can say. Buying off a spec sheet/geo chart/online review can end in disappointment in my past experiences. Coming from a moto background i'm sure you can appreciate that "comfort" you might get from a particular brand, for me a Honda CRF feels like home.... doesn't matter what year.

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1/16/2020 12:53 PM

VitalBrad wrote:

You should try to demo some different bikes to find out what you like. The Path in Tustin often has Santa Cruz demos. I've seen Giant have a demo fleet right in the parking lot at the beginning of the Fullerton Loop. Look for demos on the websites of different brands and local shops. I think you're on the right track with a bike like the Tallboy. If the Loop is in your regular rotation, the Hightower would be overkill. And don't forget about tires. Geo and suspension are important, but having the right tires for the terrain you rides makes a big difference as well. Good luck!


Thanks for all the input gents!

Did exactly that and set up a rental for a SC Tallboy with The Path for next week.

Will report back after!
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"Do It In The Dirt"

1/16/2020 1:01 PM
Edited Date/Time: 1/16/2020 1:02 PM

brash wrote:

as an evo owner I wouldn't recommend one unless you are a super aggressive trail rider or live somewhere STEEP.

As much as it hurts to say it, the big "S" went too gnarly on that bikes Geo. Only place it made sense was when I went to New Zealand for a week and rode nothing but double black WC style tracks.

The rear suspension kinematic is not the best either. But to it's credit it does climb extremely well (if you don't slam your pedals into rocks.

For the OP's purposes the Tallboy is a good one if you are happy with Santa Cruz. Just demo as many bikes as you can is all I can say. Buying off a spec sheet/geo chart/online review can end in disappointment in my past experiences. Coming from a moto background i'm sure you can appreciate that "comfort" you might get from a particular brand, for me a Honda CRF feels like home.... doesn't matter what year.

Thanks for the advice brash, definitely stoked with my Chameleon and the SC brand in general, but I just want to be able to hammer downhills, bumps, and jumps a little harder. This epic video happened to be on the homepage when I stopped back in to see the replies to my post...so, it must be a sign!


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"Do It In The Dirt"

1/16/2020 3:36 PM

Sounds like you should probably add an Ibis Ripmo to your "bikes to demo" list.

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1/16/2020 4:00 PM

In addition to the Ripmo as BobChicken mentions, I'd demo an Evil Offering as well. I purchased an Offering last summer and it can handle just about anything you can throw at it and climbs quite well.

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1/16/2020 8:40 PM

After years on full our enduro bikes, I built 2 different "All Mountain" hardtails similar to the Santa Cruz you have. Hard tails are cool and all, but, they are slower on rocky terrain for the average rider. I would recommend a shorter travel trail bike with a slacker front end. I swapped my hardtail build over to a Knolly Fugitive ST recently. Its 120mm rear, 140mm front, and a 66.5 HT angle & 76 degree ST angle. It is a bit heavy, but it climbs well and absolutely shreds on more mellow trails, but if you drop it into slack mode (65.75 HT angle, one shock bolt), it can handle pretty much all the gnar. Bikes like this and the new Santa Cruz Tallboy are sweet if you don't want a big trail bike or a enduro bike, but need some cush in your life!

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2020 "Waiting on my new frame "
2019 Knolly Fugitive ST
2016 Specialized Fuse
2013 Raleigh RX Gravel

1/19/2020 10:44 AM

VitalBrad wrote:

You should try to demo some different bikes to find out what you like. The Path in Tustin often has Santa Cruz demos. I've seen Giant have a demo fleet right in the parking lot at the beginning of the Fullerton Loop. Look for demos on the websites of different brands and local shops. I think you're on the right track with a bike like the Tallboy. If the Loop is in your regular rotation, the Hightower would be overkill. And don't forget about tires. Geo and suspension are important, but having the right tires for the terrain you rides makes a big difference as well. Good luck!

Skypark Bikepark Santa's Village!

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1/20/2020 6:09 PM

VitalBrad wrote:

You should try to demo some different bikes to find out what you like. The Path in Tustin often has Santa Cruz demos. I've seen Giant have a demo fleet right in the parking lot at the beginning of the Fullerton Loop. Look for demos on the websites of different brands and local shops. I think you're on the right track with a bike like the Tallboy. If the Loop is in your regular rotation, the Hightower would be overkill. And don't forget about tires. Geo and suspension are important, but having the right tires for the terrain you rides makes a big difference as well. Good luck!

Zeke27G wrote:
Thanks for all the input gents!

Did exactly that and set up a rental for a SC Tallboy with The Path for next week.

Will report back after!

I just spotted this on Facebook. Giant will have demo bikes at the Fullerton Loop this Thursday from 2-7. It sounds like you're a Santa Cruz fan, but it could still help you figure out the type of bike you want. https://www.facebook.com/events/1289350584570561/

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1/20/2020 8:20 PM
Edited Date/Time: 1/20/2020 8:21 PM

I've got a 2019 stumpy short travel 29, put some heavy wheels and a cane creek helm at 140mm up front. Sitting at a 66 degree HA. It shreds. The suspension kinematics aren't technically the best, but I hopped on the bike and felt at home instantly. I'm faster on it that I was on the old Enduro 29 and it climbs a hell of a lot better.

That being said I'm a huge giant fan, I demoed the trance 29 and if I hadn't just bought the stumpy I'd be on that. Specialized has always taken care of me though so I'm not upset. But now that the reign 29 is out, that's pretty much my dream bike. I don't think I could part with specialized right now though. I just trust them and their support. I'd recommend trying the trance 29, reign 29, and a newer stumpy (not evo). The stumpy is one of the most instantly comfortable bikes I've been on.

I had a friend with an older gen 5010 who swore by it. I never tried to convince him otherwise, but some co-workers convinced him to hop on a long travel stumpy 27.5. He liked it but not enough to do anything about it. I told him if he's trying stumpys to try the 29er. He agreed, and his tallboy was for sale the next day. The one thing I love about my stumpy is that I can change it between short travel and long travel. Sure you'll need 2 shocks and a second "push link" or yoke but the option is there. My original plan was to get the cheapest short travel model and make it long travel, but specialized took too long to make the long travel links available after market, and I rode the stumpy in short travel for 3 rides and was sold. Cane creek offered to custom build me an inline air shock (it's available to anyone now) and the bike fucks so hard I've never thought of changing it. If I sell my Enduro (it's in park mode right now, single speed and what not) I'll look more into the long travel link. The helm can easily be raised, so just a new shock and I've got a longer travel ripper again.

All bikes are so good these days it's hard to buy a bad bike. I just started working at a shop that sells Santa Cruz and I've been very impressed with build quality as customer service. If I wasn't already on the specialized program I'd be on them or giant. Just find a bike you vibe with and have fun. Also keep in mind that sometimes bikes that are "better" on paper don't feel better. Whichever bike gives you the biggest smile when you throw a leg over it is the bike you should get.

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1/21/2020 4:15 AM

@thejake "I would avoid swapping the components off your Chameleon unless everything can be switched over. Seems like every time I’ve done that I end up with a handful of random parts I can’t sell and the money I spend on the replacement parts doesn’t justify the cost."

^^ So much this, it NEVER works out like that for me. To the degree where after a few attempts I've got enough bits to build my '17 TR Scout back up only months after breaking it to sell.

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