Review: 2009 Santa Cruz Nomad

2009 Santa Cruz Nomad

2009 saw the birth of the 2nd generation Nomad from Santa Cruz Bicycles.  I had coveted the original model Nomad for some time, and ridden it a number of times much to my enjoyment.  So I was skeptical of a redesign of an already amazing bike.  After discussing it with the SC staff, I was convinced that the changes were simply to iron out the quirks of the 1st generation Nomad.  Once I realized bikes are not computers, I put down the cash and got my hands on the 09 Nomad.

Changes for 2009

  • Redesigned hydroform aluminum frame
  • 5 non-tapered head tube
  • Reshaped carbon fiber rear linkage joint
  • Addition of grease plugs for easy servicing of VPP linkage
  • Addition of chain tensioner tabs
  • Overseas manufacturing, lowered cost

What Stayed the Same

  • Santa Cruzs Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) rear suspension
  • Sexy, sleek lines and frame design


First lets address the changes made for 2009.  The redesign of the rear linkage system actually removed about .5of travel from the overall rear suspension travel, but sought to eliminate a characteristic sag through the early 10-15% of travel that the 1st generation Nomad was known for.  Santa Cruz looked to further accent the Nomads already great reputation as a downhill worthy machine by introduction the 1.5 head tube on all models.  As for the redesign on the frame, it seems to add a more modern sleek update to the original design, but still holds on to some of those characteristic lines that distinguish the Nomad.  The addition of grease plugs means that you don’t have to wrestle to disassemble the rear linkage to regrease them.  Instead Santa Cruz took a note from the car shops and added the plug.  Also there are tabs available now to run the Nomad as a 1X9 downhill build.

To review an all-mountain machine I think you need to look at two basic components.  How well does it pedal.  How well does it descend.  Let’s start with pedaling.

There’s a problem that you encounter when you try for a bike that does it all.

2009 Santa Cruz Nomad

It brings to mind the saying, A jack of all trades and a master of none of them.  This, I believe holds true for any all-mountain bike. On initial impression the bike felt stiff and responsive.  Taking full advantage of the Fox TALAS 36 travel range, the use of the DHX Air ProPedal made the Nomad feel oddly nimble!  Actually, climbing steep climbs felt almost enjoyable.  There was no issue with rear-end bob what so ever.  Between the VPP linkage and ProPedal settings the rear end stayed put quite well.

An issue I had with the Nomad from 2008 was that it was virtually impossible to find a build that was suitable for all-mountain riding.  A short stem and wide handlebars added confidence to the descents, but cramped the cockpit when it was time to spin back to the top.  On the flip-side a longer stem made pedaling more comfortable, but added a sloppiness to the front end on downhills.  The same is actually true for this years Nomad, but really is no fault of the bike.


Now is when I sing the Nomads praises!  What a machine.  I personally like even my downhill bikes to be on the lighter side so they are easier to manipulate along the trail.  But, with lightness generally so comes instability or twitchiness.  Not so on the Nomad.  The bike feels absolutely stable in high speed descents.  Using full 160mm of travel in the front the bike remains stiff and responsive.  Though it is still an all-mountain bike, the design persuades you to remain centered on the bike, similar to the position on a full sized downhill bike.

A day or two riding at Northstar Bike Park really showcased the Nomads ability to handle rough terrain.  From the high speed chatter and long table tops of of the LiveWire to the rocky near vertical descents of DogBone and KarPiel the Nomad held its own beautifully.  There was no wobble in the front end during high speeds.  The suspension remained progressive even on large descents.  In fact, even a few mistakes proved the Nomad to be surprisingly forgiving!  The 1.5 headtube shows its virtues in these times by adding stability and rigidity to the front end.  Its on these days you will be glad you bought that short stem and remote seat drop.  The 09 Nomad comes standard with Avid Elixer CR brakes, which I will equally sing the praises of in another review.


Yes, its true, no bike is perfect.  So, here are a few of the Nomads lesser virtues:

It is heavy compared to the modern carbon ultralights on the market.  Most weight-weenies will have a hard time getting this one under about 29lbs.

It is stiff.  Where the rigidity of the VPP rear-end is a blessing on uphills, it lacks suppleness in fast rocky or chatter sections.

The 1.5 non-taper head tube eliminates the ability to add a lightweight front fork

Santa Cruz Nomad Website:

MSRP: $4606 (SRAM X9 AM build, Fox TALAS 36 1.5, DHX Air)

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