Santa Cruz Chameleon 2022 NSMB Deniz Merdano (3).jpg
FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Santa Cruz Chameleon MX

Words Andrew Major
Photos Deniz Merdano (Unless Noted)
Date Nov 26, 2021
Reading time

Aluminum Is Authentic

Steel. As a material, it has great qualities for building bicycles, and perhaps the key among them is that it is the most straightforward to work with. A talented garage welder with minimal tooling can build a beautiful machine with fantastic ride qualities and bleeding-edge geometry. The vast majority of custom frame builders create with steel,* with any number of masters also working with titanium, and one of the reasons is complete control of their process from tubes to a finished product.

But the aluminum Chameleon isn't a custom frame from someone's small shop in FoCo, Frome, or Heriot Bay. And frankly, the majority of steel frames out on the trails aren't either. That's not meant to take away from your Surly, Stooge, or Chromag Stylus. That's not saying that a Kona Honzo ST or Unit isn't a fantastic machine. But before readers jump into the comments with tired tropes about how 'Steel Is Real,' I've owned a fair few hardtails and ridden a lot more, and if we're drilling down to the ride of the frame itself, the last generation Chameleon aluminum is one of the nicer ones I've ridden. For a direct comparison, both generations of Honzo ST frames I owned and loved were notably less compliant.

I attribute that to the effort put into the tubing and frame design, like the lack of a chainstay and seatstay bridge which carries forward to this generation of the frame. It's not a custom frame but that doesn't mean that a heck of a lot of thought wasn't pumped into the design. Add in some very intelligent sliding dropouts, a sub 5-lb (claimed) frame weight, a lifetime warranty, and then compare it to other volume-produced hardtails. The Chameleon's frame-only price of 950 USD | 1350 CAD is easily justified.

*Shout out to the wonderful works of Frank The Welder who builds in aluminum and steel

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I'm excited that Santa Cruz carried over the bridgeless stays which contributed to the excellent ride of the previous generation Chameleon.

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The sliding dropouts are even cleaner than the last generation of Chameleon frames. The stay length ranges from 425-437mm on all sizes.

When I say easily justified, I'm channeling my experience as well as those of friends and acquaintances who've owned excellent aluminum rigs like Banshee's surprisingly compliant Paradox, Kona's Big Unit (RIP), Santa Cruz's last gen Chameleon, Specialized's Fuse, Rocky Mountain's Growler, and so on. Just ignore that sanctimonious sh*t shouting 'Steel Is Real' from the saddle of their Surly. Remember, the only award their bikes ever won is a 2005 Golden Toidy from SOPWAMTOS*. I'm just teasing, I love Surly. The point isn't to dump on steel bikes; it's a great material, especially for hardtails. Rather, I want to point out that in the right hands aluminum is a great choice, and usually lighter as well.

*Society Of People Who Actually Make Their Own Shit

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This is a large Chameleon frame in a fun shade of Playground Yellow (SCB calls it "Golden Yellow" but c'mon). It's the MX version which is a rad way of saying mullet.

Hot For Mullets

I smile as I pull the sweet yellow Chameleon out of the box. Size large. The new geometry, now using a 65° HTA with a 130mm fork, looks good on paper. The latest from Santa Cruz has an even cleaner version of their excellent sliding dropouts. Oh, it's a mullet. Huh. I wonder if they'll send me the 29er dropouts?

Now, I'm hot for mullets. I've been plugging 27" wheels into 29er full suspension bikes for years and have no plans to stop. It boosts the fun factor, increases tire clearance for my 5'9" frame, and the trade-offs in reduced attack angle and traction are largely equalized by a good suspension design and sag. With hardtails, I only have one previous mullet experience, which was my personal Kona Explosif. I loved the bike, but I chose to go back to a 29" rear wheel for improved climbing performance and descending comfort with the rigid rear end. Santa Cruz didn't spec especially large rubber, or a tire insert, so I know I'm going to have to run fairly high pressure in the back due to the EXO tire casing, even with the durability of the latest Race Face AR series rims.

Santa Cruz Chameleon Geo Chart NSMB Andrew.jpg

Thanks to swap-outs the geometry is the same with a 27 or 29" rear wheel with the corresponding dropouts.

If I was putting down a deposit on a Chameleon, it would have been the dual 29er version. Running the smaller rear hoop does add an element of playfulness and differentiation though, so I'll stick with the MX setup with an insert added to the rear wheel and maybe a larger volume tire as there is ample clearance.

It would be interesting to know how the Chameleon 29er sells v. the MX version. Self-assured riders with smoother trails, regular access to a pump track, or who simply enjoy the acceleration of the smaller wheels, probably make up a larger percentage of the pedaling population than I think. Santa Cruz makes both options available with no geo or fit penalty for your choice.

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The Race Face AR30 rims are 6061 aluminum compared to the more durable 6069 aluminum in the ARC30 rims I have more experience with. For janky trails with an EXO tire, on a hardtail, I think an insert is a must.

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The combination of a 29er Maxxis DHF MaxxGrip EXO 2.5" front and 27" Maxxis Aggressor 2.5" rear tires are a thoughtfull attempt at balancing weight, rolling speed, and traction on technical trails.

The Build

This is Santa Cruz's mid-level R build. It's a massive leap in potential performance over their SRAM SX-equipped D level build for the extra 550 USD. It's arguably a better value than the 800 USD more expensive, SRAM GX-equipped S build. The R features the lowest-level SRAM Guide T brakes and an NX drivetrain with a Fox 34 Rythm fork. There are no real misses in terms of balancing the build. I'd love to see a CaneCreek 40 headset instead of the 10, but I'm happy to see the Descendant cranks over the SX units that often seem to accompany NX level bikes.

A large portion of the 2950 USD | 3850 CAD cost for the Chameleon R is the the frame - which is certainly worthy of significant component upgrades over time. While there are cheaper NX level bikes, the Chameleon frame probably makes it a better value. I'll discuss this more in a future article but for now here are some spec highlights.

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The SRAM MTH 746 rear hub and MTH 716 front hub are SRAM badged Formula units. They use cartridge bearings and are relatively easy to rebuild.

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I like the spec choice here over a lot of hubs coming on more budget-friendly bikes as I think these are actually worthwhile to lace into fresh hoops should rim damage occur.

I have good news about the Fox Rhythm suspension fork. It's okay out of the box but it's a fully serviceable fork that's worthy of a rebuild whenever that time comes. A lowers service and some fresh SKF Low Friction seals will make it really okay, or even pretty damn good, depending on your specific needs, especially on the front of a hardtail where you aren't trying to match its performance up to a rear suspension system. I'm fighting a bit right now to run it with as little sag as I'd like - to get the fork to ride higher in its travel - while overcoming the stiction out of the box. It is better after a couple of rides and being stored hanging from the front wheel.

The hubs are rebadged Formulas with SRAM logos. They're cartridge-bearing units that are easy enough to service. The front hub is a front hub, and for the rear, I'd argue if you take care of it the hub is even worthy of having a fresh rim laced on it in the future versus replacing the whole wheel. The exception is that if, like me, you love the experience of a hub that is quick to engage. If this was my bike I'd be saving for something with less than 5° between pick-ups as my first upgrade.

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I leave the compression adjuster wide open and run the rebound as fast as I can without compromising traction.

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The colour-matched Fox 34 is a plenty stiff enough companion for the Chameleon frame and aluminum wheels.

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Upgrading to some SKF (or Fox-branded SKF) low-friction seals will transform this Fox Rhythm into another animal.

Up at the controls, the Santa Cruz lock-on grips are one of the nicest stock locking options I've put my hands on. These could be worth buying for any lock-on lover, even if they don't own a Santa Cruz, and along with the WTB Silverado, it's very hard to fault the stock touchpoints. Someday all these companies that spec WTB are going to figure out that the Koda is their best all-around perch, but I don't want to let that get in the way of praising the good choice they made today.

The 35mm Burgtec bar and stem are potentially a more controversial choice, especially for anyone planning to use their Chameleon for bike packing. They're stiff. So stiff. And hey, some folks love a super stiff cockpit so I can't really fault Santa Cruz one way or another but I'll be swapping to my own 31.8mm setup for the rest of the review.

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The stock lock-on 'House Grips' are actually really comfortable, for lock-ons. The Guide T brakes are very basic but no worse than high-end Guides I've ridden.

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The 35mm Burgtec cockpit is very stiff. Whether that's a pro or con on trails is personal preference. If you're bike packing your Chameleon, I'd recommend something more comfortable.

The Guide T brakes are SRAM's lowest level Guide units but they perform as well as any Guide brake I've used on the trail. One item of note is that they come with SRAM's MatchMaker clamps instead of the MMX hinged clamps. This doesn't change anything about shifter compatibility; it does however open up some interesting upgrade opportunities. The two-bolt MatchMaker clamp is interchangeable with the clamps on Magura, Formula, and Hope brakes. That means easy swapping of the brakes without having to buy new mounts for the dropper or shifter levers.

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The SDG Tellis dropper post has plenty of detractors but in my experience it comes down to shitty stock cable and housing. Replace them with good housing and a stainless cable as soon as they act up.

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WTB's Silverado is a good choice for a stock saddle as is the Volt that may potentialy come with your Chameleon. I think the more univesal Koda would have been the best choice. There is no Juliana version of this bike.

The Aggressor is both a good tire choice for the rear of this bike and a series of SKUs that Maxxis could simply eliminate from their catalogue. A DHR2 rolls slower but brings significantly more traction in aggressive downhill scenarios, especially when it's wet. A Rekon rolls much faster on gravel or pavement and supplies surprising traction in loose terrain. It can also be a bit terrifying when the ground is greasy but no more so than the Aggressor.

The MaxxGrip 2.5" DHF in front makes sense as a starting point. I could see some riders swapping for something faster rolling but really no tire spec is going to satisfy everyone on a machine with this many potential missions. I'm fine with the EXO sidewalls front and rear as I think this is a bike where folks will want to run the lightest tire with the best rolling v. grip ratio for their terrain, or if they're planning to pop in an insert.

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The 32t chainring pairs well with the 27" rear wheel and lightweight EXO casing tire.

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Santa Cruz always does a nice job with little details like the chainstay pad and headtube badge.

Sliders

Some manufacturers of premium frames say single-speeders are too small a market to warrant sliders on their hardtails. I think any version of this statement demonstrates lazy thinking or an utter lack of imagination. F*** single speeders, there are more important reasons to have sliders on a do-it-all hardtail. As a prominent example, what percentage of Honzo ST and ESD owners do you think single-speed those bikes? Yet I regularly see them with the chainstays set to a variety of different lengths.

The superior sliding dropouts on the Chameleon are part of what makes it a chameleon. Tighten everything up and lower the fork to 110-120mm and pump it around the track. Run them at full length and over-fork the bike and race your buddies on their Enduro rigs. Pick a spot in the middle, swap in a rigid fork (or don't), load the bike up with a collection of bike-packing paraphernalia, and disappear into the wilderness. Min-max a lighter weight build and enter the single speed class at your local XC Race.

It's only 12mm of adjustment you say? I know folks who've flipped frames to add a single centimeter of reach. People who've bought a fresh stem to ditch half that distance. I've hacked that much off handlebars plenty of times. Would I love to see frame-size specific chainstays and sliding dropouts? Sure! But in addition to adding a degree of easy customizability towards your preference - short v. long - Santa Cruz, or an aftermarket manufacturer, could also offer longer options for those of us who'd prefer a chainstay length closer to say 450mm.

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The new sliders are even cleaner looking than the setup on the carbon Chameleon and the last generation aluminum model.

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There is a specific version for the MX and 29er setups and, of course, the potential to offer a range of options including longer ones.

Marketing

I don't know that any marketing campaign will rival the production that Santa Cruz put together for the Carbon Chameleon. It's certainly my all-time favourite. But I think their Five Riders' Rides "Built For Whatever" effort to showcase the myriad potential uses for the new aluminum rig was a nice departure from typical mountain bike marketing. The campaign does a great job of highlighting that whether you're buying a frame or a complete bike, the fresh Chameleon is just a starting point and if you have a couple of minutes I'd say it's worth checking out.

Here's that Carbon Chameleon video again, because it's a cold, wet, rainy fall and this brightens my day:

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The Santa Cruz headtube badge is somehow nothing special but also a little detail that shows they really give a shit at the same time.

Changeling

The Chameleon doesn't change colours - it's available in two distinct tones - but it does have the potential to change personalities. It's not just a hardtail mountain bike with the potential to do almost anything - all bikes are gravel bikes etc - but it has the potential to do almost anything well, depending on the exact build, and it's a solid base for the rider aiming for an ever-evolving mountain bike experience, or simply bicycling.

That's going to start with the hardest choice of all, which is choosing what size to buy. I mean, the XL has a 490mm Reach so anyone tall had best be planning to use it as a pump and jump bike. My 5'9" frame technically belongs on a medium according to their sizing chart but I have to say this large is, well... it would be generous to call it a medium-large when I'm sat upon it. It goes to show how important it is to test a bike if you can, because the Chameleon's static measurements are only slightly smaller than the large Banshee Titan I reviewed (465mm v. 470mm Reach / 638mm v. 644mm Stack). The Chameleon's reach grows with sag, and the Titan felt a full size larger when standing on it. Weird.

I'm keeping an open mind, though. The bike still handles well with a longer stem and the weight balance with the rear wheel kicked out makes it easy to ride on technical trails. Cooper Mr. Shore Country Quinn offered me a case of beer if I could resist single speeding it, but it strikes me that if I was going to swap a few parts around on any bike I review it should be the Chameleon. Besides, is there really anyone reading this who wants to hear me whine more about how awful feeling and noisy pedaling all ShiRAMano 12-spd drivetrains are in the low gear?

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This Playground Yellow is so sweet that I have to assume it was chosen by the person who usually specs the colours for the Juliana lineup.

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I ride year round and I appreciate a bright, happy bike in the grey months. Actually, I'll give the mulleted MX version that - it shouts "LET'S PLAY BIKES!"

If I could change one thing at the design level, I'd give it the straight seat tube aesthetic it deserves and whatever bump, if any, needed in the chainstay length to make that happen. More room for bags, more room for bottles, and a more mature look.

I purposely haven't said too much about how this Chameleon rides. We're still very much getting acquainted and I don't want Santa Cruz Bicycles thinking they're getting it back soon. I love my steel bikes and I understand why steel and hardtail are conjoined in many riders' minds but that doesn't change the fact that the Chameleon is a sweet ride with the adaptability to be around a long time.

I know I'm going to have a lot more to say when I start typing up the proper review so I'm going to leave the first look there. Happy, as always, to answer any questions in the comments. There's much more information on the whole Chameleon lineup at Santa Cruz.

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Comments

fartymarty
fartymarty
10 months, 1 week ago
+12 Zero-cool Derek Baker ManInSteel kcy4130 Tremeer023 Pete Roggeman Vik Banerjee Mammal Andrew Major Cr4w Mark Forbes Karl Fitzpatrick

"that sanctimonious sh!t shouting 'Steel Is Real' from the saddle of their Surly" - you decribed me beautifully in one sentence.

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
10 months, 1 week ago
+9 Derek Baker Spencer Nelson ManInSteel kcy4130 Tremeer023 Pete Roggeman Mammal Andrew Major khai

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Vik Banerjee

Hahaha. You’re welcome!

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
10 months, 1 week ago
+8 Todd Hellinga hotlapz Pete Roggeman Vik Banerjee taprider Cr4w khai DanL

This 'Shore Country' thing has really paid dividends. I get to live in your head rent free.... do you have any idea how much money that saves here in North Vancouver?!

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
0

Hahahagha. F***.

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
10 months, 1 week ago
+4 DadStillRides Allen Lloyd Andrew Major Cr4w

I've ridden overly stiff dead feeling steel frames and owned an AL hardtail that had a nice ride quality. So there is no telling in advance what's going to happen. I do give a quality steel frame from a reputable company an assumption of superior ride quality over a quality AL frame all other things being equal. But, I'm ready to be proven wrong.

I'm looking forward to hearing what you think about the Chameleon. If NSMB got a chance to review the new Canfield Yelli Screamy that would be an AL frame I'd be curious about as well.

Reply

dbozman
dbozman
10 months, 1 week ago
+3 Derek Baker Andrew Major Vik Banerjee

I second the Yelli Screamy motion that Vik made!! Not really a hardtail person, but the original YS was one of the most fun bikes ever.

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
10 months, 1 week ago
+4 Muesliman kcy4130 Tremeer023 Andrew Major

Until a few years ago I would have told you I wasn't a hardtail person either...at least not in Coastal BC. But, modern geo hardtails won me over in a way I wasn't expecting. I went from "this is more capable than I was expecting!" to "I keep grabbing the hardtail because it's so much fun!" to "If I can only save one bike from a house fire it's going to be a hardtail."

A YS frame is on a $150USD discount at the moment. ;-)

Reply

Muesliman
Muesliman
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

Absolutely this. The extra climbing "zip", fun factor and low maintenance means my Vendetta wins out over the Capra most of the time these days.

Reply

ridestuff
Derek Baker
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

I rode one for 2 seasons before switching over to the Nimble9. The YS was fun, but hard on the lower back!

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
0

Interesting. Same sized tires and tire pressure?

Reply

gothicscholar
gothicscholar
10 months ago
0

Any idea why that was? I'm a hardtail rider with some back issues, so I'm always interested in hearing what works for other riders.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Vik Banerjee

Yelli Screamy would be on my list too.

I think it’s a fair assumption. For example I’d automatically pick a steel Honzo over an aluminum one. It’s to point out it shouldn’t be a general assumption.

Reply

taprider
taprider
10 months, 1 week ago
+4 Zero-cool hotlapz Andrew Major Cr4w

Titanium is tangible

Carbon is corporeal

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
0

Hahaha. Exactly.

Reply

Kenny
Kenny
10 months, 1 week ago
+4 gubbinalia Andrew Major Vik Banerjee Mark Forbes

Thanks for the thoughts, Andrew. I'm on a chameleon C (previous version). Mullet with 29er dropouts for extra slackness (BB drop is not too low with a 140mm fork and 2.6 tires). SLACKR headset for more slackness.

Definitely great they slacked it out given every mod I've made to mine has been to make it slacker, basically. Ha.

It's going to be converted to "gravel mode" shortly with 29 front and rear and a rigid fork, but I love that it's only a wheel swap and fork away from being back to being capable of going down pretty much any trail I want. 

People bitch about the price but these bikes really do what it says on the tin. 

Relatively low weight, good ride quality, swappable dropouts, and versatile geo means these frames do do a pretty reasonable impression of almost any flavor of bike. 

I am a bike whore and swap bikes often. Multiple chromags and multiple fs bikes have cycled through my garage in the past few years, but my chameleon is one frame I just don't see getting rid of.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
0

Thanks Kenny. That’s what I’m trying to capture talking about value. Not that it’s a good price for an NX build, but five years from now with a bunch of worn out stuff replaced I think the frame will still demonstrate value in whatever it’s being used for.

Reply

boomforeal
boomforeal
10 months, 1 week ago
+3 kcy4130 BenHD Andrew Major 4Runner1 Kenny

~4k$ cad for a not-quite-bottom-of-the-line spec aluminum hardtail with old-ish school geometry? there are dozen brands that offer better designed and dressed fullies for less. does the the santa cruz brand really carry that much appeal?

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
+4 Tremeer023 Pete Roggeman Mammal Mark Forbes

A few thoughts.

If I was designing the Chameleon as my frame it would have a 62/63* HTA, 480mm Reach, and 450mm+ stays. That’s what I like in a 130mm forked hardtail.

But compared to what other large brands are putting out for their all around hardtails (Specialized, Trek, Kona, etc) I don’t think the geo is off the back? Especially with the addition of sliders to lengthen stays.

———

The frame has a nice riding quality, Sliders cost money, etc, but it’s not inexpensive.

The obvious value choice for an aluminum trail hardtail with sliding dropouts is the Kona Honzo DL at $700 for a frame only. Would love to review one myself. My understanding is the Chameleon is a nicer riding frame. Maybe fatter tires could split the difference.

———

I think Santa Cruz could have gone a long way in creating value by making these Shimano bikes. SX is junk but for the same money they could run Deore 11spd (which is good). NX is okay (and comes on plenty of bikes more expensive than the Chameleon) but M6100 eats its lunch for the same money and some M420 4-piston brakes would be winners on both bikes.

———

FS bikes come with a whole additional cost of ownership (service) so value wise I don’t love comparing them to hardtails.

That said, I’m very aware that going off the spec list I would lose value/spec debates against many other hardtails (I’ve been doing a bunch of research for some potential more-budget hardtail reviews at the $1200-2200 CAD price level). And, that not everyone cares about sliders as much as me.

I would have loved to do this as a frame only review and that will be my main focus (nothing that hasn’t been covered many times here except maybe the dropper).

Reply

fartymarty
fartymarty
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

Your ideal Chameleon sounds like a Cotic Solaris Max with a -2.  I wish Cotic did sliders tho.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
+2 Zero-cool Vik Banerjee

Even Chromag has (very nice) sliders as an option now!

Whatever off-the-shelf hardtail I'd be looking at would have to have a slack HTA with a shorter fork than what most hardcore hardtails are built around - so I can easily acquire a rigid fork to work with the geo. I like the option. And really, this sort of setup is all about having options - if you're going to have a frame forever who knows what you'll do with it!

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Zero-cool

I wish everyone did sliders...hardtails and FS bikes. Give the people choices! :-)

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
0

Me too, but where the only reason not to do them on hardtails is cost. At least with FS bikes companies can claim that the changing stay length changes the suspension kinematics.

Reply

Briain
Briain
10 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

If you want sliders have a look at pipedream cycles. Love Cotics but I think the moxie will be my next hardtail

Reply

velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
10 months ago
+2 Briain Andrew Major

Vik has a Pipedream.

Me too.

Reply

geraldooka
Michael
9 months, 4 weeks ago
0

“If I was designing the Chameleon as my frame it would have a 62/63* HTA, 480mm Reach, and 450mm+ stays. That’s what I like in a 130mm forked hardtail.”

At 5’9” these numbers baffle me. I know everyone will have their personal preferences but I just can't understand how this beast would be rideable up some crazy tight, technically challenging switchback or playful on anything but downhill hammer fests.  

Dude if you every come to Victoria I would totally Iike to ride with you, not just to ogle how you would ride that rig but also you sound cool to hang with ;) Plus as someone who went custom and struggles with certain fit parameters still (great on the ups and down no so much on the in between) I’m still chasing the ideal all rounder hardtail setup and your specs seem so outlandish for your height (I’m 5’8”) I feel like I just don’t have enough information to make another expensive custom decision… 

Do you ride to your trails?

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
9 months, 4 weeks ago
0

The only question I can answer easily is the last --- yep, I believe if you can't ride from home it's a great idea to ride from somewhere. I prefer the straight-up-to-the-trails option usually as my single speed is fairly low geared for the steep technical climbs I like, but I also ride it a decent slog out-and-back to ride trails further from home, especially in the warmer months. 

I've covered fairly extensively what I like to ride on a hardtail and I think long stays, a slack HTA, and weight balanced between the wheels is the way to go for the application. I think I do a decent job here of explaining that the Chameleon is meant to do a lot of jobs well - including being more poppy and playful. Certainly, it will be the key to my final review. 

------

_"I know everyone will have their personal preferences but I just can understand how this beast would be rideable up some crazy tight, technically challenging switchback or playful on anything but downhill hammer fests." _ 

I ride up and down skinnies and log rides. Up tight switchback trails - and certainly, my legs give out before geometry becomes an issue. The trails I love to descend on my hardtail are tight janky ones where it's necessary to make your own flow. If you've ridden on the Shore, Pipeline is my all-time favourite trail. 

Quite honestly, and this is not intended to be at all critical or offensive, when I read comments like the one I quoted above, to me, it's just a sign that you've not ridden a hardtail - and maybe specifically a 29'er hardtail - with long stays and a slack-slack HTA. As it sits the wheelbase is about 1250mm and it's easy enough to lean it over and power up some pretty tight climbs. 

The stability from the slack front end is never a negative once you get used to riding the bike. I did go to a narrower bar than I used to run by quite a bit as part of playing with my setup. 

You're riding a multi-speed bike I presume? More of a sit-and-spin rider? What is the BB drop? Chainstay length v. Reach? 

------

I doubt you'll ever see me in Victoria any time soon. I quite like the riding in GNARnaimo, Cumberland, Duncan, etc and the more northern parts of the island have other appeal but I've spent exactly the right amount of time in the capital city. Seen what there is to see, etc. 

I have heard that the riding at the Dump has progressed quite a bit since I was last there, but we're pretty spoiled in the Shore-To-Sky in terms of taking a ferry specifically for what Victoria has to offer? 

Cheers!

Reply

geraldooka
Michael
9 months, 3 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

So using that experience I designed the custom Myth and it has been so much fun It really has become my primary bike even when riding with folks that are on full suspension bikes (because honestly most peoples full suspension bikes are so clapped out its not much of an advantage anyways). It had all the things I wanted and some of the things I thought I wanted. The higher than in vogue bottom bracket drop at 40mm is one of my most treasured things and will absolutely make it to the next bike (relative to wheel size of course if I decide to change it from my primary 275), the head angle at 64.5 static is more than enough and I would consider going to 65 to get a bit more upright precision when climbing and less lean (though this may be solved with a longer CS). The biggest issue I have really is about seated pedalling comfort, at the time I initially put the numbers together I was not pedalling to the trails (about 45min on flat bike path one way). The straight post at 75.5 puts my seat (middle of the rails) only 5mm behind the BB at pedalling height. Its great for on trail riding but awful in most other circumstances. So I'm trying setback heads (I run a 9point8) and seats with longer rails but it seems to push the ETT out too much.  I'm one of those weirdos with most of my height in femur length a hobbit like torso and normal arms length its really effin annoying for bike fit! Still my goal now is to get the cockpit feeling good for flat riding first and then base the rest of a future design around that for a more all around hardtail. I'm just not interested in owning a lot of specialized bikes anymore.

Re wheels for around here (slow technical) I like 275 if I lived anywhere with longer faster terrain 29 is great. I was not completely sold on mullet I just didn't see the benefit of the compromise over 275 front and back perhaps thats a hardtail thing though since I want most of the cush on the back?... Maybe I should try reverse mullet!? For hubs I have a love affair with P321's they are on all my wheel-sets quiet and nearly instant.

Regarding Victoria being worth it if we take Thetis and Hartland there is definitely a weekend worthy trip. Add in Sooke, Bear we can make it a long weekend. Moving north there's Cobble Hill and of course the Duncan hills you know already. Bring it! If you are willing to ride at my slow middle aged pace I'd be happy to give you a local tour any time. :)

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
9 months, 4 weeks ago
0

Just for the record, I didn't pull the numbers out of my ass. That's about where my Waltworks V2 sits when I'm running a suspension fork instead of my rigid setup. 

I wouldn't change much about that bike if I had cause to order a replacement - say it was eaten by a T-Rex - and even then it would be a few mm here and there. It's my all-time favourite bike, the only mountain bike I own, and I love it - with a suspension fork or rigid. 

I got there by ordering something much less extreme (V1) that was more aggressive than other hardtails I'd ridden at the time and then spending a lot of time wondering if it wouldn't be even better if it was a little longer (starting at 450mm stays / 480mm Reach instead of 465mm / 64° sagged HTA). Finally, I just had to try it and custom was the only answer to exorcise my geometry demons.

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geraldooka
Michael
9 months, 4 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

I didn’t mean it to be and hope that my comment wasn’t offensive to you. I was searching for the phrase that matched my feeling last night but it escaped my brain. I was attempting to articulate the “you don’t know what you don’t know” feeling that gnaws at me when I’m pedaling to the trails and my body is quietly whispering in my ear; why did you put me on this bike on a flat bike path for an hour you dumbass…

I dig your writing and outlook on mountain biking Andrew and you’ve been responsible for a couple of successful experiments I’ve tried based on your reviews, the 30x bars come to mind immediately. 

I’m just being (slightly ashamedly) selfish and want you to come here so I can convince you to let me try riding your bike and see if its as crazy as I think it is… 

Many of my bike epiphanies came from learning from others or blind luck (the latter being a rather annoying way for learn something) Two such instances ; my favourite saddle discovered by sitting on a friends bike for some other reason and my favourite human powered city transportation device ever a Brompton folding bike spotted in its suitcase form stepping off a train during a brief sojourn in London.

My custom hardtail also came to be from some experimentation though strictly with off the shelf bikes tweaked with things like angle sets and forks to arrive at the bike I ended up designing. It’s great at many things but riding flattish stuff and nimble in the climbing twisty bits are not those things. To you I imagine it would be like riding a BMX!

geraldooka
Michael
9 months, 4 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

Yes I ride multi-speed though the Dump its not really a sit and spin kinda place its been described as "miserably steep" by locals, lots of push maneuvers required.

I’m 5’8” and the static numbers are (pretty unique at the time particularly with a 120 fork):

120 29er fork

HTA: 64.5

Re: 445

St: 620

BBD: 40 (one of my fave things I would keep, I typically run it with 27.5 x 2.6 or 2.8, however I also have run it with 29 x 2.6 both are great but prefer 27.5)

STA: 75.5 (straight post so the real thing here)

CS: 415-435

With the short fork the head angle stays fairly slack at sag but the STA is pushing near 77 deg and is one of the key numbers I’d adjust to be slacker in a future iteration. Which would also likely mean pushing the starting CS back to something like 420 or 425.

Anyways, that's a lot of me faffing, boarding on whining about something that can really only be answered by actually riding different things in the places one likes to or can ride at… 

Speaking of riding I have not had the chance to ride the Shore, I have ridden Burke in town and of course much of the Sea to Sky corridor.

Re Victoria riding if you’ve ridden the Dump perhaps you’ll recall a trail called Switchbacks its my regular climbing nemesis and the trail I use to judge if a bike either helps or hinders my climbing abilities. 

COVID has had positive impacts on mountain biking here the much higher numbers of riders hitting the local trails came at a time that governing agencies were debating how to treat mountain biking in parks and I’m happy to report their consideration was positive to the cause. Between the Dump, Thetis, Bear and the nearby Sooke (Harbourview), Maple and Tzouhalem I’m not complaining about the trails. :) I'm particularly excited about the development at Thetis because its more easily pedalable from home and I my tolerance of driving a motor vehicle continues to get narrower.

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
9 months, 4 weeks ago
+1 Michael

Hi Michael,

Not at all. I love talking about bikes and geometry and appreciate all the thought you’re putting in!

I have lots of riding friends who are more poppy and playful than me on a bike who prefer shorter stays.

I have one other friend who regularly rides a rigid bike and we prefer longer wheelbases. Is it carry over or learned behaviour? Sure. But I’ve ridden a lot of bikes, here and other places, and consider myself lucky to know what I like and what I want to ride.

———

I don’t know if this helps, but when folks as me about off-the-shelf hardtail framesets I always recommend a Kona Unit / Unit-X with a -2* headset (and this year’s colours rock!).

They have relatively long stays (430+) without commiting to riding a bus, the straight seat tube aesthetic I love, and with the Angleset geo is perfect for janky trails run rigid or with a 100-120mm suspension fork.

The bb drop at 65mm (static rigid / sagged sus fork) is right where I like it.

I would choose a large with a 30-40mm stem but you may prefer a medium with a 40-50+? 

I think the Unit is the perfect gateway to decide what’s best for an individual rider. If like my V1 it leaves you thinking that you’d like a longer slacker bike then it’s custom time. If you decide that a short rear center would be better then they’re easy frames to move. 

Plus, great chance to play with a rigid setup!

Cheers,

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
9 months, 4 weeks ago
+1 Michael

I should also add, I’ve sized up bikes for a long time with shorter stems and I like bars with lots of backsweep (glad the 30X was a good experiment for you - 12 or 16?).

Most the folks I know that prefer shorter stays / top tubes sit and spin a lot on climbs (even steep pumpy ones) which is why I asked. The bus-length bikes like the Titan or my Walt like to be leaned quite a bit through tight uphill switchbacks.

It’s easier on the Walt often as I’m already standing where the Titan I’d have to shift to a higher gear and get out of the saddle.

——

I’ve ridden Maple and liked it. I’ve been to Tzouhalem twice and it was totally my jam - powering up and over awkward roots and rocks. I haven’t ridden V2 there but had a hoot on V1 and my Explosif before that.

I haven’t ridden the Dump in an age. I’m on the rock a couple times of year - you’re saying it’s worth the visit? (Hahahaha - sorry to put you on the spot).

——

Interesting about the wheels. What rear hub do you use? Have you tried mulleting it or you run 2x 29x2.6 or 2x 27x2.6/2.8?

I’ll admit I’ve been struggling a bit with the Chameleon MX on tight, technical uphill switchbacks where hardtails with dual 2-9’s always work for me. But, I think it may have more to do with the large degree of rotation between hub engagements coupled with the smaller wheel not rolling up roots and rocks as easily.

Going to slap my mullet wheelset in and try that.

geraldooka
Michael
9 months, 3 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

For some reason the Reply button is missing in your reply's to me down below so not to be rude I thought I would reply here.

I ride the 30x 12 mostly but I like the 16 as well and have both. The 12 is just less weird feeling especially with a really short 30mm stem. Thanks for the advice re the Kona, I think I can probably get to where I need to be with what I have now. From a hardtail experimentation perspective I started* with an OG Krampus and -2deg anglset with a 120 fork. It was that setup that inspired me to get a a proper hardtail setup again (the OG Krampus frame rides divine). This was some time ago now but my recollection of that setup was despite the longish CS (446) and the angleset which would have balanced out the taller fork a touch it was still unbalanced with a really light front end in certain circumstances.

I then moved to a Canfield N9 2016 their first boost year and the year they went back to "normal" tubes from their previous years formed ones. That frame also rode really nicely and I regret selling it actually. That was a great bike, again with a -2deg angleset. I spent a a couple of years on that one in many configurations, mullet, big 27.5, big 29, normal 29, normal 275, 120 fork to 150 fork. It was the primary experiment bike and with sliders and an unusual geometry which seemed well suited to experimentation it was key in informing my choices on the custom bike.

*Technically I started with the OG N9 in 2012 but I didn't experiment much with it and strictly rode it as designed in 29 / 120 fork mode only.

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
9 months, 3 weeks ago
+1 Michael

Hi Michael,

Yes, at some point you have to scroll up to hit the last reply button. As a Luddite I assume that's to keep the text windows from getting narrower and narrower and narrower but there could be some other reason - or no reason. 

P321 hubs are great. That's actually what I'm riding on the Chameleon MX now. The hugely faster engagement has made the bike much more fun for technical climbs and any janky descents that require a bunch of ratcheting. 

I'd love to see the Krampus get some updates (see my best of 2021 piece when it goes live) but thanks to the fact that it had to clear 3" tires with a straight seat tube it has nice long stays that balance out excellent. -2° angleset and 120mm fork help too.

I'm often chided about my dislike of really steep seat tube angles but you sum up my experience well. Climbing up steep single track where I'm dynamic isn't an issue and they do allow a ride to get on a longer Reach than they could manage with a slacker STA which has benefits descending - longer wheelbase/weight balance but I ride to my rides a lot and on the SS that involves a lot of seated spinning. 

Interesting re. femur length. What stem length and bar width do you run? The Reach number looks short on paper for someone who's 5'8" but then if that much of your height is in your legs that makes perfect sense. Given how unique most folks' dimensions are nothing really surprises me. I like my bar fairly high which has a big effect on fit, and how Reach works, as well. 

I'll definitely hit you up for a tour if I'm over that way in the future.

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
9 months, 3 weeks ago
0

As to the mullet. If you have access to both wheel sizes I'd highly recommend trying it. It delivers most of the advantages of descending a 29'er with better acceleration more ability to tune gear range, and I think a more playful ride characteristic. 

I'm more hot for mullet for FS riding where the rear suspension helps maintain momentum and roll over, but the Chameleon has been really run despite being a hardtail that isn't dual 29". 

I don't know if I'm at the point where I'd try a smaller wheel in the back of my V2, but I'm really enjoying the SC experience.

Ceecee
Ceecee
9 months, 4 weeks ago
-1 Andrew Major

The chainstay length complements the head tube angle, and the increase in dynamic reach while descending, along with the narrower handlebar, improves aerodynamics. But centredness is only assured if one is riding a lavender singlespeed on Pipeline. Certainly you don't specify if your seat tube is offset from b.b. Best of luck with the auditory hallucinations

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
9 months, 4 weeks ago
0

I think my thoughts on bikes, local (Shore) terrain, community, trail building, and etc are clearly communicated in my work as is my deep interested in having intelligent conversations with other riders on those topics. Agree with me or otherwise, I put the effort in.

There are any number of other free online cycling communities where you can go be a dick.

My name is clearly displayed on the byline of everything I write and I’d like to politely suggest you consider giving the content I produce a hard pass going forward.

Cheers,

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BenHD
BenHD
10 months, 1 week ago
+3 kcy4130 Vik Banerjee Mark Forbes

Not in 2021 anymore, sadly.

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boomforeal
boomforeal
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 4Runner1

it's getting tighter, for sure, but i'll throw out the canyon spectral AL 5, commencal meta am 29 origin, marin alpine trail 7, and giant reign 29 2, all of which have lower msrp's and betters specs (imo; deore > nx), for comparison

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cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

Those aren't *all* D2C brands, but there's certainly advantages for a lot of consumers in picking something up from their LBS over a box showing up on the porch. The pricing differences between the two sales models are huge, and I always struggle a bit with how to compare similar bikes across the two.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
+3 Cr4w Zero-cool 4Runner1

Marin does a killer job on value AND making bikes that ride well. A lot of brands manage one or the other.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Zero-cool

I get a fair number of messages re. D2C bikes and I always recommend for folks that don’t have the tools/knowledge to properly assemble a bike to add $100-$200 to the purchase price and have a shop assemble it. The price range accounts for inter-shop fluctuations and whether it’s assembled or they’re dropping off a box.

I still think good shops add value (to the individual and community) beyond that but just in terms on a bike there are some good values to be had buying D2C and if the D2C company does a good job supporting their bikes the difference in the end user experience is limited.

For example, I’ve seen Commencal pay shops to do work on their bikes so a customer wouldn’t be out of pocket for stuff a shop would do free for a customer who’d bought their bike there.

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pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
10 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Up to you to decide whether the frame is just a metal or plastic part that you drape all the other parts on, but if that's how you compare prices - and there's nothing wrong with that - then the design elements built into a good frame are not being accounted for. The D2C part is also an obvious differentiator for most of those ones you mention.

I'm not saying your comment isn't valid, but I am saying it's not 100% accurate in terms of taking everything into account.

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Zero-cool
Zero-cool
10 months, 1 week ago
0

Those Commencal Metas are really stiff and unforgiving in my (albeit short) experience. Nice geo  though.

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craw
Cr4w
10 months, 1 week ago
+2 Andrew Major Wilson

But Andrew what if I wanted to run it singlespeed? Is there a slider option for those dropouts?

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
0

The XL would be a BMX to you! Shouldn’t you be complaining about the non-size specific chainstays and seat angle and the sub 520mm Reach?!?!

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craw
Cr4w
10 months, 1 week ago
+2 Andrew Major Wilson

Maybe I'm building a pumptrack bike.

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trumpstinyhands
trumpstinyhands
10 months, 1 week ago
+2 Andrew Major Cr4w

Bike sizing is so weird right now. I've owned an XL bike that would give the Titanic a run for it's money in the length department, yet this Santa Claus in XL guise is shorter than my current Large bike. At 6' tall, in the 'olden days' I'd just ride a large (ignoring the 'small bikes are more playful' phase......) and not even think about sizing. Making XL bikes 'smaller' means they now have to fit anyone from 5'10 to 9' tall!!

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cxfahrer
cxfahrer
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

I wonder.

My XL steel HT from 2017 has 475 reach with a 64` headtube angle. I tried to ride it on a pumptrack once, horrible, too long and slack! It feels about as long (or better:  short) as my FS enduro rig with 500 reach. 

I really would like longer reach on both bikes, but where I live there are not even hills or ever so slightly technical trails.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
0

Even sizing down to a medium and slamming the rear wheel the Chameleon wouldn't be a first choice for a pump bike, if I could afford a quiver of bikes. A real DJ/Pump bike is so fun. But, compared to the wheelbase on my bus... I mean bike... or riding a dual FS bike it would be super fun.

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andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
10 months, 1 week ago
0

Yeah. The manufacturers all started using reach as the metric for sizing a bike to a rider instead of top tube length but that gets messed up with steeper seat tube angles. I like a 420 ish reach, I’m not tall at 163 cm but if that bike has a steep seat tube angle fit gets messed up for me. Steep angles sit me too far forward which requires me to raise the bar height to achieve seated be balance. Might be more comfortable but I might also need a softer chair as more weight goes there and that’s a less efficient riding position for hard climbing. This small Chameleon will fit me fine though. My last gen chameleon is going strong though. No pressing need to change yet.

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craw
Cr4w
10 months, 1 week ago
+2 Andy Eunson Zero-cool

I would much rather have to consider a few dimensions than just one. The new way really gives you a whole picture of the bike. I look at reach then HA-SA then head tube length and rear center then BB height/drop with wheelbase. When I look back at every bike I owned before 2012 (when I began thinking of bike geometry in this wholistic way) it's no wonder that every single one of them fit poorly. That was when we trusted bike companies to do a good job.

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khai
khai
10 months, 1 week ago
+2 JT Andrew Major

That's a nice looking frame.  Can't say it's a great "value" (Rocky really set the bar with their Growler line) but at least here on the 'Shore it's a bit more unique.  I love my Chromag but some days it feels a bit like riding a Trek in Wisconsin.  ;p

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jt
JT
10 months, 1 week ago
+3 Andrew Major khai Pete Roggeman

As a guy in WI I was thankful to not be sipping my coffee when I read that last line.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
0

The Growlers are excellent, I regularly recommend them. I’d argue the lack of sliders presents a different mission from the Chameleon. 

Based on my experiences with my Walt, if some stops me on the trail on the Chameleon and says ~ “Wow, I didn’t know Chromag made aluminum hardtails” I wouldn’t be fazed  for a second.

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khai
khai
10 months ago
0

On the 'Shore, at least to many, Chromag==hardtail in the same way that Kleenex and Xerox aren't just brands, but rather product types.

I dig sliders/flip chips and adjustable geo. I wouldn't necessarily rule a frame in or out because of it, but in inherent tinkerability is one of the most appealing things about owning a Geometron.

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papa44
papa44
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

Oh no, I’ve been really excited to try the new geometry chameleon, but at 6’3” you’ve put the frightners up me. I just changed back from a large production privee shan to an xl cotic befe max and it’s astonishing the difference reach numbers can make to your riding. Looking forward to your future insights, I can’t say I’ll be in a position to buy a new frame for a while anyway

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
+2 papa44 Cr4w

I was choosing between a medium and a large but for trail use I could almost make the argument for the XL. My legs are long enough to manage the 18” seat tube with a proper length dropper (could probably manage the stock SDG) and the Reach is 1cm longer than my Walt on paper but based on the Large v. Titan I’m quizzical.

I mean, I’m very comfortable that I’m on the right size with a large, but would choose an XL over a medium for trail riding if that makes sense. It’s strange because I know a few folks who used to size up on SCB’s FS bikes and don’t anymore because the bikes are relatively bigger now.

At 6’3” I wouldn’t say no Chameleon. But I’d certainly test ride it. The Cotic is a bigger machine certainly.

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momjijimike
momjijimike
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

I'm 193cm and currently happy with my XL Megatower. Chameleon in XL is going to be my next "second" bike and I'm not worried about the frame size. 

@andrew thanx for your first impressions and I'm looking forward about the review :)

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 papa44

Cheers! Once you get the Chameleon I'd be very curious to hear a fit comparison.

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papa44
papa44
10 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Yeah I second that let us know how the chameleon matches up

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tehllama42
Tehllama42
9 months, 4 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

I'm probably no help, but hardtails will make geo snobs out of anybody who rides a dialed in one.  I'm with you on wanting this to be a Long-boi to make it really work.  If I want it as a more versatile nimble-whip, then the existing XL is probably great, but I've gotten so used to just rolling past people on their FS bikes while on a hardtail sled of a bike, I can't really go back.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
9 months, 4 weeks ago
0

I think so much of it is terrain-dependent. That it's why when folks are questioning my preference for long stays and long reach I always try to get an idea of where they ride. I've pedaled plenty of places where my custom geo choice would be more pumpy and playful (closer to the Chameleon) it's just on really chunky trails I think the sled makes riding more fun (and my bike much more capable). 

It's HARD to go back and then after a few rides I get back on my V2 and everything just works.

I am running the Chameleon full-long now and that made a difference certainly. Next change is a faster-engaging rear hub to see if that helps with some of my issues (climbing and descending) where I'm trying to flow through jank and having issues with timing the application of power.

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tehllama42
Tehllama42
9 months, 4 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

Yeah, so easy for me to forget, since climatologically I live somewhere that is the polar opposite of the north shore.  My dry dusty trails that allow me to carry speed virtually everywhere, and I'm also rocking a body type that allows me, for the most part, to just ignore timing of power and just rely on momentum provided I'm generating at least some usable level of power output.  
The other part is the choice of a whip that flatters skills or flatters fitness.  I've found that a light and long HT does so much to flatter my (lack of) fitness that I have more energy and can just brute force my way through things and make up for that utter lack of agility... and then turn it onto sled mode and basically troll people on enduro rigs by sticking to their rear tires or dropping them on chundery descents.  I just needed bigger brakes, and the party is on.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
9 months, 4 weeks ago
0

It's quite a while back now when I was writing a lot about CushCore that I had this message conversation going back and forth will a fellow from an area with steep but dry dusty and smooth trails who couldn't wrap his head around inserts or even heavy-duty sidewalls. "Just run more air pressure."

I was actually thinking about it last Friday. It was especially greasy on anything rock-armoured and cold enough that even super sticky rubber and low pressures still were requiring a master's degree in brake control. I was so stoked to be aired down low with huge inserts. 

But, if I lived in some of the chunky places I've ridden that doesn't get greasy I'd probably be happy to ditch the inserts and run heavy-duty sidewalls for protection and just add some air pressure for rim protection? 

Never mind different preferences for geometry for different terrain, climate, building styles tires and tire setup is going to be hugely geographic too.

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tehllama42
Tehllama42
9 months, 3 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

I ride like enough of an idiot that the answer tends to be 'all of the above', but I'm in the unique position of being a >125kg gross vehicle weight goofball and yet still be trying to KOM segments over actually talented riders, so inserts, running DH/Enduro casings, and running 32psi still has me walking some sections fairly consistently (or more often, having the odd burp or bleedoff moment, coming down below 25psi, having a tire fold under, and wadding myself up as a result.
I think riding style and intent still somewhat trumps location in terms of the overall geometry/travel/other package for what really makes the most sense, but it's still one where the north shore is a perfectly usable proving ground in terms of what will keep you rubber side down elsewhere in difficult situations.

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
9 months, 3 weeks ago
0

Right, because speed becomes a trail feature on a lot more trails - especially more difficult ones - other places than here. Especially during the greasy season when it becomes imperative to keep bikes upright for many features. That's just another example I think of how varied terrain is from place to place.

mammal
Mammal
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

Have they done anything to the Guide-T brakes in the past year or so?? The ones that came on my bike in Feb'20 were criminally horrible. My single piston SLX brakes I was coming off of were so much more powerful than those G-T 4-piston brakes, it wasn't even close. Basically couldn't stop my Ripmo AF at speed at all, with 200/180 rotors and a variety of different pads. Terrifying.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
0

I have heard stories of riders getting “good” or “bad” Guide brakes - regardless of price point - but in my experience a Guide is a Guide from T to RSC. Throw in sintered pads, they feel good, power is underwhelming compared to other options.

Certainly if I was specing bikes everything SRAM would have Codes.

But these aren’t abysmal by any means.

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mammal
Mammal
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

Very weird. Sintered pads, multiple bleeds to rule that out... Nothing helped, they wouldn't stop a bike a speed. I hadn't been on Sram-style brakes since actual Avids, so I can only compare to Shimano, but they were about 3/10 performance-wise. You could say they had excellent modulation, if you weren't worried about having the power to actually stop.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Mammal

Was not doubting your experience at all. I’ve heard the same from others. Including people who like Levels over Guides!

I’ve heard a master cylinder rebuild can improve problematically bad brakes (little DOT grease does go a long way) but that could also be a placeabo affect.

These Guide T brakes are fine. I’ll swap the front for something else probably at some point as I like good over fine.

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davetolnai
Dave Tolnai
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

Never underestimate the contribution of the rotor.  I am less familiar with what options SRAM has, but Shimano has stock rotors that run from terrible to amazing.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Zero-cool

Hahahahaha, to the best of my knowledge no other company is trying to get away with "Resin Only" rotors. 

It's amazing (not in a positive way) how much extra shitty rotor spec Shimano is getting now thanks to their cheap hub/rotor combos. Center Lock as well. Ugh.

Hollytron
Hollytron
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

I have guide Ts on my ht and I just run big rotors. They work fine for me but maybe i got a "good" set.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
0

I’ve never had a pair of Guides (any level) that didn’t feel like Guides but there’s enough individual stories going around about bad v good sets that I give weight to them.

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bushtrucker
bushtrucker
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

I’m guessing I’m in the minority here but I’m kinda into the conservative geo of this thing (for a modern hardtail anyway). Looks like a great double duty trail bike / back-country touring rig. And that dual use might make the asking price a bit easier to swallow. 

With loaded riding in mind the relatively short reach means you can achieve a pretty upright position for all day comfort. I think an even longer rear-centre would be a good idea and yeah, a straight seat tube - and maybe a touch less TT slope would - would help to open up the frame a bit. You mind throwing a few bags on at some point between now and the full review Andy?

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Pete Roggeman

Andrew, Drew, Drew-Bob, Mandrew - pretty much anything but Andy. I mean, I don't personally give two shakes but my mom hates it and you have to respect a guy's mom. 

I'd love to see a longer rear center and that straight seat tube aesthetic but I think the key thing with this bike is it's trying to do everything well and some applications - and some riders - call for short-short stays. 

I should be able to get my hands on some bags for final photos.

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Captain-Snappy
Merwinn
10 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Given the Chamelon has a 34... I remember my '07 Blur LT with a 140 mm (?) TALAS fork with a 9 mm QR, basically a noodly Fox 32. Now some XC guys are racing on 34 SCs. Were we under-forked, are bikes over-forked or bang-on forked now?

Just wondering.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months ago
0

Those 9mm QR 140-150mm Fox 32 forks were noodles but I think it’s important to remember that stanchion size is only one part of the chassis stiffness equation. For example, the Fox 38 lowers are incredibly stiff on their own, with no axle, compared to any Fox fork this side of the original 40 and I think that contributes as much to fork stiffness as the uppers.

I use the term ‘over-forking’ to mean putting a fork with more travel than spec on a bike, but here you mean stiffness?

The answer is, it depends. As HTAs get slacker fork stanchions need to be stiffer to resist causing stiction/binding. The HTA on the Chameleon is comparatively slack compared to anything that would have come with a 32.

I think of it as a system. With the stock wheels and my more  forgiving 31.8 bar, I think this 130mm 34 is working well on the Chameleon - at least in terms of stiffness. But, add some carbon wheels and the stock 35mm bar/stem and the fork’s the flexiest component in the system. That’s what happened on the Lux Trail with the 35mm SID v. 35mm RF cockpit v. DT carbon wheels, v. stiff carbon frame. It wasn’t unrideable or anything, just worthy of note.

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Vikb
Vik Banerjee
10 months, 1 week ago
0

This comment has been removed.

Ceecee
Ceecee
10 months, 1 week ago
0

Large Titan has 452mm stays and 1265mm wheelbase, so probably not weird. With a nominal toptube of 669mm, the rearward bend in XL Chameleon non-offset seat tube will need to be straightened for more than aesthetics, unless saddle is never run at topout. As a 6' who'd take a M in this based on nominal toptube and reach I can't comprehend your sizing preferences, unless the long stays and reach are there to weight front end at desired wheelbase. Still nothing there favorable for getting bike off ground. Does that mean your style is...monster truck?

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 gubbinalia

Strokes for folks I suppose but at 5’9” the fit of this Large Chameleon (ignoring HTA or wheelbase) feels small. It feels small v. the Titan (similar static seated / standing geo - and I loved the fit) and it feels small v. my bike. It also apparently looks small (will include a side profile in review).

I can’t imagine a 6’ person on a medium. But if you ever have a chance to throw a leg over one in person send me a side shot if you think of it and then I won’t have to.

———

Out of curiosity, if you don’t mind me asking, are you local to the North Shore or riding somewhere else? How would you describe your skill level on a bike?

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gubbinalia
gubbinalia
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

I'm not entirely sure what commenter @Ceecee is saying... But I have been thinking a lot about the pratfalls of chainstay length recently (albeit from my own peculiar perspective -- 191cm tall, 195cm wingspan, 820mm-ish saddle height) and what I'm looking for with chainstays on all sorts of different bike: race-y SS hardtail, comfortable all-day-pedaling trail hardtail, mid-travel trail bike, bike-park-and-shuttle-only bike. Strangely, I think I see the benefits of size-specific changestays for the XL/XXL sizes I'm riding on the set-up-for-comfort HT and the park bike, but not on my singlespeed or trail bike.

With my SS rig (currently a semi-custom 44 Marauder, but owned/loved the previous-gen Chameleon in both carbonium and alu) anything longer than about ~425mm and the bike starts to lose some of the quickness that I favor in a light, speedy, one-geared setup. I find it so much easier to change direction at slow speed, more predictable over steep/sharp rolls and stepdowns, and MUCH easier to jump (that much-discussed, "big BMX bike" feel). It is speed-dependent, though -- get going too fast and it feels like a survival test in loose corners or keeping traction through a chute. That's where things cross over to a more all-mountain-ish, all-day, ride-anything hardtail (my current experiment in that dept., w/ 445ish chainstays slammed all the way back, is a Pipedream Moxie Mk3, which has a far-too-short effective TT in the Longer size -- but that's a different story/problem). I'd go for even longer 455+mm stays on this sort of bike if available (or on a future custom project) -- not just for the stability discussed but also for the added traction/plantedness spinning up steep climbs.

The thoughts on FS chainstay differences also probably belong to a separate discussion, but I mostly want to make the point that the question really varies from bike to bike, or purpose to purpose, or even (we might say) one person's ride fantasy to another's ride fantasy. What made the last-gen Chameleon (esp in carbon) so perfect was that it mixed XC-racer levels of stiffness and efficiency with a totally different, much more attention-grabbing descending style. But, for me at least, it was a tough bike to ride for more than 2-3hrs at a crack, going fast could be scary, and (irrespective of the CS question) the reach was pretty damn short for someone of my armspan (I'm decidedly an XXL for Santa Cruz). With no BMX or DJ training, though, I always felt like an interloper on the Chameleon rather than the target audience.

Last thought in this disconnected jaunt -- I'm not sure I've yet rode a metal hardtail with longer-than-430mm stays, that also has proper rear-end stiffness and tracking...

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months, 1 week ago
+1 gubbinalia

Bikes are certainly more than a single number or even a sum of numbers on a geo chart but at the same time when we're talking about things like HTA or seat stay length - assuming a well-designed frame - I think it's pretty easy to categorize rigs. My experience through various stock and custom bikes is that wheelbase, rear center, and the rider balance is such that I think I can say with some authority what it would take to make the Chameleon a better hardtail for me on the trails I ride.

No disagreement that those features (longer stays, slacker HTA) would make it worse (or at least less fun) on other terrain or for other applications. I see the Chameleon as splitting the difference between a pump track bike and my Walt V2 and that's probably right where it belongs for most folks. 

For truly tall folks, in my experience, for hardtails being ridden in technical terrain you just have to ditch any thoughts about bikes being too long and go all out with the front center and rear center to get that weight balance. As trails get tamer certainly you can tune a bike to be more playful.

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gubbinalia
gubbinalia
10 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Thanks for those thoughts, @AM -- helps clarify some of the context in which you're setting up this Chameleon review (& other, future hardtail reviews, too). I am a huge fan of the specificity of your assessments -- ie., that you know pretty clearly "what it would take to make the ____ a better [bike] for [you] on the trails [you] ride." A rare and laudable trait in a bike reviewer!

One curiosity, though (having never ridden on the North Shore, or in any Canadian province west of Ottawa) -- do you ever feel that there's a competing interest, when it comes to chain stay length, between longer rear centers that feel more balanced and stable at speed, and shorter RCs/CSs that are more predictable and easier to manage on slow-speed moves and over sharp transitions?? That's my #1 issue/quandary when it comes to more aggressive hardtail applications designed for steeper trails. I want the stability of a 445mm+ CS without the concern of how that lengthy rear will handle awkward roll-ins and rear-end tucks. (A long rear end + 650b wheel might help; but I'm a pretty dedicated 29/29 rider at this moment).

Not knowing the nature of the N. Shore, I'm curious if this is a non-issue for you, or if you've adapted over time to the timing of running longish stays on all your personal bikes.

Cheers!

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months ago
0

I’d say longer rear ends and slacker front ends feel more stable at all speeds (assumes body position and offset good etc). 

It’s a question of the degrees to which that’s a desirable trait. I ride slow, tight, chunky trails usually. I’ll take the more stable bike and adapt.

There are certainly flowier and faster trails with smoother more open transitions from section to section where the Chameleon will be more fun.

Ceecee
Ceecee
10 months ago
0

I'm saying that the only way we've arrived at a place where it's weird that a frame with a 15mm longer stay and a 30mm longer front center feels like a size larger is that reach is overvalued. If frames came in 25mm size increments, large Banshee would be a size and a half larger than large Chameleon--and with that much rear-wheel travel, wouldn't you want it to be longer? When bar and stem length, spacers, bar sweep, and  bar rise have been factored in, reach is no more meaningful than effective top tube. Sizing by chainstay length and HTA would be more objective.

At 6', I'm supposed to be on a large Bronson.3, but my medium has a bb to grip tip center measure of 890mm, which is 70mm longer than what Lee McCormack suggests. Apparently there's a lot of room for negotiation.

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gubbinalia
gubbinalia
10 months ago
+3 Andrew Major Joseph Crabtree Andy Eunson

With respect, I think you might be conflating "sizing" (i.e., what would a professional bike fitter say is a good position from which to put out power?) and "preference" (what do I want out of this particular bike in my quiver, and how do I go about getting there -- both in terms of geometry/bike selection and parts/setup?) 

They're both important questions, and they both matter a great deal to the riding experience... But (at least in my world, as a rider and a once-overworked bike fitter)  it's very hard to assume any hard parameters that would transfer over from, in your ex., a Chameleon to a Bronson to a Titan. 

The industry has a long way to go on "human-specific geometry" (can't remember whose phrase that is). Agreed on that point!

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Ceecee
Ceecee
10 months ago
0

They're not Chameleons, but a couple of unimaginable side-ons have been put in my profile photos, as putting them here via Google or iCloud URL has proven impossible. One of those bikes, with its miniature crate suspension aka Cascade rocker, is within a mm or two of a large Chameleon, except for one measure. The longer reach (+20mm) frame has the same controls, but four-tenths deg steeper HTA and 8mm shorter chainstay, and feels a half size smaller--needs crate linkage. This means I should be fine on a medium Titan or small Enduro--I confess the shorter reach unit's dimensions make me tinglier.

My riding has been described as 'Slow down!' and 'We heard you coming,' accompanied by facial expressions indicating general concern, but I've been at it for a while and have only minor scars and no pain to report despite prior foot and knee injuries, so I probably don't suck--jinx! I heart the preloading crouch, reverse travel, and leaving terra firma. My spitting distance locals are small but treacherous and there's a downsection sufficiently steep and punchy to burn up a pedal-forward leg in sub-twenty. I believe anatomy and physics apply equally on 'the' Shore as they do Somewhere Else, but if I were there I'd probably want another 5mm of stay length and a degree or two less HTA. Cheerio

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
10 months ago
0

“…Physics apply equally on ‘the’ Shore as they do Somewhere Else.”

Nice. The reason I asked about locale is because sport surfaces change greatly from place to place and thus, so does an optimal setup. 

My favourite trails have greasy roots much of the year, chunky rock armouring, smooth rock faces, and wooden structures to negotiate. They’re tight and the only flow is what you make for yourself.

If I lived in Sedona, Moab, Wisconsin, or Colorado my ideal setup would be different (to very different) than it is here. To the extent that I’ll make changes to stay length and especially bar height when I visit those places. Not to mention tires. That’s what informs my thinking about fit and geometry.

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bushtrucker
bushtrucker
10 months, 1 week ago
0

This comment has been removed.

DC
DC
8 months, 1 week ago
0

Curious about the fork comment, does the Rhythm fork actually come with lesser seals than what are in the aftermarket Fox kit?

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