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First Impressions

2023 Santa Cruz Nomad

Photos Deniz Merdano
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When I rode the Nomad V for my long term review I enjoyed the bike for its fun, playful and poppy feel, ability to carve corners and the feeling of extra speed pumping into and out of rolls, jumps and berms. The one thing it was lacking was how it handled the high speed chunky lines and steep rocks and rolls. I compared it to my mulleted Specialized Enduro and wrote that if the Nomad V was a mullet I would consider it for my daily driver. Well here we are a year and a half later and the Santa Cruz Nomad VI MX is the new and improved mulleted bike I pined for.

nomad driveside

Santa Cruz Nomad VI.


For this the sixth edition of the Nomad, Santa Cruz engineers didn't carry a lot over from previous versions, except for the 27.5 rear wheel. According to Santa Cruz North America brand manager, Garen Becker, "the Nomad 6 is the result of a full redesign, though it has some welcome similarities in suspension feel to the Nomad 4, particularly off the top - this is due to similarities in anti-squat values."

I'll go over the charts and specs below. For now, as in now after 14 rides including huge climbs, flow trails, gnarly jank, super steep dirt surfers, big rock moves and some medium sized jumping I can say this bike performs well in everything. I am going to ride it longer to see how everything holds up, do some back to back runs against my favourite bike (Spesh Enduro with a WRP mullet) and get my suspension expert buddies to tweak the dials to experiment with the feels.


29" front wheel, 27.5" rear wheel - I am all in on mullets so this is a welcome treat for a test bike.

170mm of lower link driven VPP rear travel + 170mm fork • 63.8-degree head angle and 77.4/77.2 (Hi/Lo BB setting with flip chip for adjustment) -degree SA for my medium frame size - I have only ridden the low BB setting because, well, it's low and I want all the traction I can get. I will play with the high setting to compare to the low soon.

Glove box - I have been in love with glove boxes, I mean SWAT boxes, on my 2017 and 2020 Enduros. Santa Cruz has, dare I say, a better SWAT box I mean Glove box. The Spesh box tends to rattle loose at the closure area. I have had the pivot hinge rod slip down but never out. Also, I think my Enduro S3 SWAT box is a bit smaller than the medium Nomad's box. I will be curious to see how the Glove box holds up over the long term.

Proportional geometry - Chainstay length and seat angle are matched to the frame size (STA steepens and rear center grows as frame size increases).

Frame stiffness tuned for size - SC believes that "bigger riders means bigger stresses on bigger frames. So we tailor stiffness for every size to make sure everyone gets the same ride quality." I guess this makes sense but I know some short light guys that break bikes way more than the big guys I know that don't shred as hard and consequently don't break anything except their vows to drink and eat less.

Sensitivity and constant traction - Santa Cruz claims that by lowering the anti-squat, pedal kickback on big square-edge hits at speed has been reduced, all while improving the overall sensitivity of the suspension to maintain traction at all speeds, both up and downhill. On my brief test period I can say that compared to the Nomad V these improvements are very noticeable. I have been adjusting the suspension trying to get the right feel for all the varied riding I do. During the fall test I will have more information on how the anti-squat is affected by suspension tweaks.

7 build kits ranging from 7499 CDN to the 14,649 XO1 AXS RSV I am testing - specs are detailed below. For more info SC has all the build kits detailed for your grumbling about pricing and part selection pleasure.

Fit, Flip and Flex

I was happy to get a medium-sized test bike. Initially I was slated for a large which is what I rode for the Nomad V, but after Crankworks Handlebar beers and pizza, the SC boyz hooked me up with the last medium test bike in the stable. I am so used to riding large bikes that at first the medium Nomad VI felt a bit cramped. Once I rode it however, the size felt perfect. A couple of my riding buds thought it looked small but what do they know - it feels perfect for my size.

According to SC when the "flip chip is in the low position, the shock rate becomes more progressive, particularly at the end of the stroke, and there’s some bottom-out resistance to be gained. In the high setting, the bike rides a little higher in its travel and supplies the rider with more mid-stroke support." As mentioned above, during the fall test period I will experiment with the high BB position and report back in the long term review.

Nomad Geo

As the sizes change, so do the geo numbers. As small as these incremental changes are it is an excellent detail that shows Santa Cruz is taking care of riders of all sizes.

Like all modern Santa Cruz dual suspension bikes, the frame has beefy counter-rotating links that connect the two triangles. The idea here is to reduce lateral flex. Doing the scientific lean the bike over and push on it with my foot test makes me think their design works. On the trail hitting tight corners at different speeds confirms the stiffness. The engineers spec'd big 'ole axles and bearings which have the SC lifetime warranty, and lifetime bearing replacement.

Components Spec and Kits

SC starts the price parade with an NX build but on the carbon C frame (slightly heavier but just as stiff - or so I am told), a Zeb R and an RS Super D Select at 7500 CAD (5650 USD) and works up to the top of the line test bike I have with a CC frame, Fox Factory 38 & X2, XO1 AXS derailleur, Reserve 30 wheels and a pile of sweet stuff. The Reverb Stealth seat post feels so good (at least so far). I was told by SC that they could not spec an AXS seatpost because it tops out at 175 which would not work for their larger frames.

nomad kits

Choose your weapon based on how much you are willing to sacrifice/spend.

nomad tld rock roll

After some rebound changes on the Float X2 I am starting to dial in the feel on steep rock roll exits. As boring as it sounds (to me anyway) I am going to roll - turn dials - hike back up -then re-roll until I get it right. This is the suffering I am willing to do for our readers; well really just so I enjoy the ride until Seb from SC pulls this bike from my cold dead hands.

Preliminary Verdict: First Thought best Thought?

In a few words: I like it. I don't feel like I have it dialled in enough to fully understand its potential so no it's not the best thought. The tedious task of twiddling with dials and riding sections of trail over and over with different tweaks will help me get to the bottom of what this bike can do. All of the components on this model have been solid. I like the feel of the Reverb seat post over my usual cable posts though I worry about potential future service issues. If Rock Shox made a 200 mm AXS seat post Santa Cruz apparently would have spec'd AXS on all Nomads.

Thus far the Santa Cruz Nomad VI is a fine piece of bike. I'll get all the experimenting done this fall and get the long term review out just in time for Christmas shopping.

As for the price on my tester it is an astounding 14,650 CAD (11,200 USD) for this their top of the line model but you can get one from the base model R with very good spec for 7,450 CAD (5650 USD). I often wonder what it would be like to get the low end review bike and the high end review bike and ride a pile of back to back runs over a couple of weeks. Would it prove less is more? Or more is more? Personally, I would save money by selecting alloy wheels and a middle of the road drivetrain but I would want the best suspension and brakes available. For the Nomad this would be the S model at 8950 CAD (6800 USD). We all have our price points (plus a little bit more, who remembers to add tax to your budget?). What would you spend and what would your build choices be? Let us know in the comments.

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+6 kcy4130 Pete Roggeman Tim Coleman Allen Lloyd Blofeld Lynx . Metacomet Joseph Crabtree

At 6'6" I've complained a lot about fit over the years but these guys have really come a long way in that regard. This bike in XXL would actually fit me; I really want to try this, but the price is outrageous and maybe rightfully so.

I think small guys are worse gear smashers because they think they can get away with it, like a toddler driving a Tacoma. Bigger guys have been conditioned to try and be gentle; just riding around has often been at the edge of what the gear can survive let alone smashing it. Just imagine what they'd wreck if they truly believed the gear could handle it.


+3 Vik Banerjee Todd Hellinga Lynx .

I think a lot of people who believe they fit a large bike should give a medium a try.  Pinkbike has convinced everyone that they need to ride the biggest bike that can fit them.  Just look at the slammed seatposts on the large bikes they test.


+2 rg-nw Lynx .

2009 I was on an XL

2014 I was on a L

2018 I was on a M

I won't be shocked if I am riding a small next time I buy a new FS bike. ;-)

+2 Allen Lloyd kcy4130

Strangely I have gone the other way as bikes have gotten longer. I used to ride mediums, then larges and now I'm often on an XL, depending on the reach and size of wheels. 

One reason is that my technique has changed dramatically and another factor is vastly improved flexibility. I don't feel bad on smaller bikes, I just feel better on larger ones - up to a point.


I've been on L/XL all the time and have just grown with the bikes!

Improved flexibility through yoga and improved stance on the bike have made a huge difference for me too.



I've gone the other way as well. I'm 5' 11" and rode mediums for a long time and now have a large Ripmo. My bike was in the shop so I rode a friend's XL Rimpo and it felt pretty darn good.


+1 JVP

I used to downsize to a L (~15 years ago). But at the time, for a lot of bikes, the difference between a L and XL was that an XL had an overly long seat tube (and sometimes head tube) but only a small increase in length: TT, or reach or however you want to measure it. What I mean is L to XL the bike got taller but not necessarily longer. Hence downsizing made sense back then.


+3 Andrew Major rg-nw Metacomet

While I generally agree that longer is not always better, I think more slammed seat posts have a lot to do with dropper capability. I run my 210 as low as possible for max drop that I wouldn't have dreamed of "needing" 10 years ago.


+1 grambo

I used to think the same thing, but then I tried a L then an XL at a Pivot demo day.  I was more comfortable on the XL and faster, even though the XL was ridden at the end of the day when I was totally spent.  Both were Firebirds and the difference was mind blowing to me.  Initially the large felt right, but 2 pedals on the XL I was already sold.


+2 Allen Lloyd Cr4w

would be interesting to A/B this against the mega.


Unfortunately they are different sizes.


+2 Deniz Merdano Graham Driedger

Deniz and I are doing back to backs with the Nomad, Hightower and 5010 as soon as Graham agrees to shuttle us.


+2 Ryan tripleD

On paper the Megatower and the Nomad are really similar except for 5mm more travel and mullet for the Nomad. What type of rider do you think would prefer which?



I would say for one, shorter legged riders who like steep terrain may prefer the Nomad. Which coincidentally describes me. I have tried 29ers and cannot get along with them as I have quite short legs (I contact a 27.5 more than I'd like already), but I'm looking forward to getting my Nomad next month as I want the larger front wheel. Love my current Nomad, but I've definitely felt the benefits of the larger front wheel. 
I'm also a big fan of getting the back wheel loose, and I find the 29er doesn't allow it as freely. I have yet to try the new Nomad, but it sounds like it's going to be my kind of thing.



I'm starting to consider a mullet as a way to balance out the very longness of a bike that fits me proportionally with my need to actually get around corners. In theory a mullet bike with the correct wheelbase but smaller rear wheel could do just that.


+1 Cam McRae

Thanks Trevor for the first impressions review. This is the only bike at the moment that has my interest.  I’m with you - alloy wheels and middle of the road drivetrain (say GX, but with an XO or XX1 chain) with best suspension and brakes (say RS Ultimate both ends and Code RSCs). Found out today that the SC distributor down here in Australia is moving to the PON subsidiary (who already does Cervelo, Focus etc) and we won’t see stock with them until at least 1 Jan. Cheers.


+1 Cam McRae Vik Banerjee Sandy James Oates

I'm stating the obvious, but "I like it" doesn't sound good for $11k US. I would like to try a bike with that geo though. Moderate reach, moderate CS and just under 64 degree HTA sounds like a fun recipe



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+1 Niels van Kampenhout

It's been a long time since we did a back to back review of the same bike with different build kits. Last one I can remember were the V10C and V10CC Mike and I reviewed:

It's a good idea, and would like to see more like these.

+1 finbarr

This one is more recent than that. I agree though, they provide useful information and insight.


+1 Velocipedestrian

Similar to the discussion in these comments re: riding larger or smaller sizes... would love to see a comparison article where the same rider tests the same bike in two different sizes that said rider falls in between of. I constantly find myself wondering if my next bike should be a large or XL. Reach-wise, L's tend to be in the 470ish range, and XL's in the 490ish range... Hard for me to commit to that extra 20ish mm without understanding how it will really affect the way the bike feels.



Hey Trevor,

I have had the the Nomad VI S-kit for 3 months now and it has completely replaced my Hightower 2. This is the first mullet I have rode and now I see what all the hype is. This bike climbs as well if not better than my Hightower and really shines on the downhills. It’s super stable on the downhills and loves to pop off rocks and side hits and corners so fast, it’s scary! I added some Truvativ carbon cranks and some Magura brakes and it’s now my everyday bike.



Thanks for the review. As a norm I don’t get to try all the different forks and toys that much. Get to ride a bike around the block and see if it fits. The comment on the best value spec was really useful, I’ve just ordered an S on the basis of this.


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