Santa Cruz Nomad V5 XO1 Review



Words & Photos by Drew Rohde

Few bikes have a legacy or reputation like the Santa Cruz Nomad. A lot has changed in the mountain bike world since it was first released back in 2005. What has not changed is Santa Cruz’s vision for what a burly, downhill ready, fun-focused mountain bike could be. Back in the day we remember seeing polished Santa Cruz Nomad’s at Suicide Trail, G-Spot and other local DH spots as we pushed our 45+ pound DH bikes back up for more laps. It was an awesome time where bikes began blurring lines like never before and brands were pushing envelopes just as much as riders pushed them out on the trails. Although the geometry numbers and equipment have changed by just a few inches or degrees here and there, the perceived difference on the trail is worlds apart. It is amazing that we are now able to send it deeper, hit bigger drops and ride faster than we did on our old DH bikes on a bike that still pedals better than our XC bikes did. Now in 2021, Santa Cruz Nomad V5 takes the V4 revision from 2017 and steps it up a notch to offer aggro-shredders a bike that does not care about your Strava account or race times while being unapologetically fun.

That is right, it is not a mullet (mixed wheel size) or a 29er, that is what the Megatower is for. The Santa Cruz Nomad V5 is built for good times and creative lines, and Santa Cruz firmly believes that 27.5 is the fun wheel size. While the goals for big hit capabilities and fun have remained, there are plenty of changes in the bike’s design that have made for some big changes on the trail.

** In case you missed our first ride video where we took two Nomad owners and gave them this bike to ride without any information on the updates or geometry changes, you can give it a watch here to see how quickly they realized the changes were notable compared to their own machines.

Suspension: With 170mm of front and rear wheel travel, Santa Cruz’s Nomad v5 has a lower leverage ratio, longer shock stroke and some extra progression tuned into the end of the travel. According to Santa Cruz Bikes, these changes give the bike a more settled and damped rear tire that hugs the ground while also make the bike feel a bit more composed and stable in big hit scenarios. Like the preceding V4 Nomad, riders can opt for a coil or air sprung rear shock.

Santa Cruz Nomad V5 XO1 Review

Geometry: As to be expected, Santa Cruz has updated the geometry of the new Nomad V5 while also adding size-specific seat stays, something we are stoked to see more brands doing each year. Each size grows 5mm from 426mm on the small to 441mm chainstays on the XL. The new Nomad has also grown in the reach department by 16mm, with our size large test bike sporting a 472- or 475mm reach and 436mm stays. Depending on where you have the adjustable geometry set, you could run the Nomad with either a 63.7- or 64-degree head tube angle. This is nearly a degree slacker than last year’s bike. To keep this longer and slacker mountain bike’s front tire on the ground while climbing to your favorite descents, Santa Cruz gives the new Nomad a steep 77.5- or 77.9-degree seat tube angle. For most of our testing we kept the bike in the High position and never felt that it needed to be lower or slacker.

Builds: Starting at $4,499 with a claimed weight of 34.46lbs, the Santa Cruz Nomad R is the brand’s entry level price point and comes in their Carbon C material with a RockShox Zeb fork, Super Deluxe Select shock and SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain with SRAM Guide RE brakes. From there models increase to the S at $5,499, the XT or XT Coil at $6,199 before jumping to the CC carbon models at $7,499. The X01 and X01 Coil builds come in at a claimed 32.54 and 34.16 pounds, respectively and come with Fox Factory 38 forks, Factory rear shocks and X01 Eagle drivetrains. They also come with DT350 hubs with Race Face ARC 30 wheels or the Reserve Carbon upgrade and SRAM Code RSC brakes.

Santa Cruz Nomad V5 XO1 Review

SC Guarantee: According to Santa Cruz Bicycles website, they will repair or replace at its option any frame made by Santa Cruz that it determines to be defective in materials or workmanship for the lifetime of the product, to the original owner. The Santa Cruz Nomad V5 also qualifies for their lifetime pivot bearing warranty, where original owners can simply fill out a bearing replacement form, upload a copy of the receipt and will have to wait 48 hours for new bearings to ship. Santa Cruz also offers a no-fault replacement policy for non-warranty situations, where parts will be sold at a discounted price. Of course, Santa Cruz Bicycles works hard to make sure the Nomad and all of their bikes pass tons of hours of testing and abuse, so these issues won’t arise for consumers, but in the world of rocks, speed and gravity, things tend to happen, so it’s good to have some peace of mind around your hefty investment.

Santa Cruz Nomad V5 XO1 Review

Getting there is certainly the longest and most arduous part of the ride and where most riders spend their time. Lucky for us gravity fiends, the new Santa Cruz Nomad V5 is a capable climber. Our testers who currently own V4 Nomads instantly noticed an increase in support and stiffness while pedaling and loved the more upright seat tube angle. The increased pedal platform and seat tube had our testers feeling efficient and powerful.

Make no mistakes however, this is not going to earn you any KOMs on the way up, and it is not supposed to. These smaller wheels and 170mm travel are designed to bomb downs not smash ups, but for those who are not shuttle monkeys, you will be pleased to know that our testers were 100% convinced that this bike pedals better than their current Nomads.

Santa Cruz Nomad V5 XO1 Review

We equally enjoyed the updates and improvements made when it came time to let gravity do its best. Descending on the Santa Cruz Nomad V5 is, you guessed it, fun. While some of our riders were disappointed the bike is not a mullet, the smiles at play lines found on the way down were a testament to the Nomads application of theory. More than one large rock and branch were thrown out in front of me as I followed our tester Alex on his first ride aboard the new bike. He spent as much time popping off the trail onto sidehill lines, inside corner slaps and bushwhacking freeride shortcuts as he did on the trail. I was following him on an XL Canyon Spectral and felt a bit jealous as my speed machine just hugged the trail and went straight fast.

The updates to the new Nomad’s suspension make the bike very capable for a variety of riders. The lower link VPP suspension design has really brought us around to not hating VPP bikes and Santa Cruz does it best with their lower link system. Entering corners full of washboard braking bumps does not result in massive deceleration like some VPP bikes and we were able to keep our feet firmly planted on the pedals while striking square-edge rocks and sharp roots. Our testers all felt that the Nomad rides higher in the travel, giving it some nice pop off smaller features and easy to snap around. Key ingredients to a fun bike recipe.

Santa Cruz Nomad V5 XO1 Review

The Wolf’s Last Word

Overall, Santa Cruz has taken the Nomad and made it the best bike yet. It has come a long way but remains a well-rounded tool to maximize fun for a specific type of rider. Two of our testers, who are previous Nomad owners were instantly converted and plan on washing up their personal bikes and listing them for sale. Although one of those riders said he will 100% be converting the bike to a mullet and is bummed Santa Cruz did not offer a mixed-wheel version as there are some justifiable gains. As Santa Cruz says though, this bike is about fun and smaller wheels can mean more fun for those riders who are creative on the trail.

If you are a rider who prefers technical riding, playful jibs, jumps, drops and charging downhills without worrying about a stopwatch, then the Nomad V5 could be your dream machine. Don’t let that scare you away though if you’re a climber, as this bike will hold its own in the small wheeled, big travel category. It makes tough climbs and descents possible and does it with confidence and ease. We are fans of this bike for sure.

Price: $7,499 / $8,699 As Tested
Weight: 33.86lbs

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Frame: Santa Cruz Carbon CC, 170mm
Fork: FOX 38 Float Factory, 170mm
Shock: Fox Float X2 Factory

Brakes: SRAM Code RSC, 200mm
Shifter: SRAM X01 Eagle
Handlebar: Santa Cruz Carbon Riser
Headset: Cane Creek 40 IS Integrated
Stem:  Burgtec Enduro MK3
Saddle: WTB Silverado Team
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth 31.6

Hubs: DT Swiss 350
Rims: Santa Cruz Reserve 30 Carbon Rim
Front tire: Maxxis Assegai 27.5″x2.5″, 3C, MaxxGRIP, EXO+, TR
Rear tire: Maxxis Minion DHR II 27.5″x2.4″, 3C, EXO+

Bottom Bracket: SRAM DUB 68/73mm Threaded
Cassette: SRAM XG1295 Eagle 12spd 10-52t
Cranks: SRAM X1 Eagle Carbon 148 DUB, 32t
Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle

Santa Cruz Nomad V5 XO1 Review

We Dig

Suspension Performance
Supple but stiff
Stable in the rough
Size-specific chainstays
Geometry is dialed

We Don’t

SRAM drivetrain and brakes are temperamental
No Mullet version


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