Jared's Santa Cruz Nomad And The Beauty Of Freeride

Jared's Santa Cruz Nomad & The Beauty Of Freeride

Written by Joseph Bonacci, on March 20, 2024

Santa Cruz has a history of building bikes for people who love fast, loose terrain and want to push themselves to the absolute edge of their riding ability. Their staple freeride bike, the Nomad, is no different. The Nomad is ready to be thrown at any type of descent with its 170mm of travel and its mullet wheelset. This bike is not for the faint of heart, rather it's for riders who look at a bike as a means to get down the hill as fast as possible, and have no desire to race uphill. Jared, our resident Contender Sender, chose the Nomad as his perfect bike to chase the downhill KOMs and push his riding to the next level.For those unfamiliar with the discipline of freeride, this riding style embodies a 'full send' attitude, prioritizing style and a willingness to push the envelope, over metrics like heart rate, power, or position. 

Utah is considered one of the freeride capitols of the world, with renowned destinations like Green River, Moab, and Virgin. Southern Utah is also home to the world's most prestigious freeride event; the Red Bull Rampage. While world-renowned and more popular every year, Red Bull Rampage is on the hyper-extreme end of the freeride spectrum. To take the abuse of the freeride discipline, the bikes have to be meticulously designed to be as strong as possible and be able to cushion and ride away from any hit the rider is willing to take. 

Jared’s Nomad

When putting together his Nomad CC frame, Jared wanted to build a freeride rig that would hold up to any abuse he could throw at it. He started by adding a FOX DHX2 coil shock along with a 170mm FOX Factory 38 fork. Part of Jared's reasoning behind the DHX2 Coil is that a coil shock does not heat up over long, rough descents and stays consistent over a long day. Air-sprung suspension, especially rear shocks, can heat up and actually increase the operational stiffness of the shock over long descents (Gay-Lussac’s law, for the chemists out there!). Because of its higher volume, the fork is not as affected by pressure increase, and stays cooler with use. That is why Jared opted for the lateral stiffness of the massive, air-sprung FOX 38mm fork stanchions. 

Freeride is one of the few riding disciplines where carbon rims generally are not the riders' first choice. Rather, riders tend to lean towards alloy rims for durability. Jared is in agreement here and went with WTB Tough 30 rims and laced them up to high-end Chris King hubs. This combo gives him maximum durability for the ride, so there is little worry about massive impacts. A Cushcore Enduro insert was added to the rear wheel, so he can run low PSI without the worry of damaging the rim. For tires, Jared runs a Maxxis Assegai Double Down MaxxGrip in the front and a Maxxis Aggressor Double Down in the rear.  This setup maximizes grip, flat protection, and durability so he can always trust his tires over any surface. On a freeride bike, the three most important components are wheels, suspension and brakes. Of these three, perhaps the most important piece of Jared’s build are the Magura MT5 brakes. A brake set needs to stay cool over time and also provide as much stopping power as possible, and the Magura’s do just that. The MT5's one-finger levers also provide great actuation and easy reach. 

While the other component are important, most riders don’t focus their freeride builds around them. Jared still went with a SRAM X01 AXS drivetrain, opting for its inherent enduro durability. He uses a OneUp dropper post, carbon SRAM cranks, and a carbon Santa Cruz handlebar. 

The Ride

The Santa Cruz Nomad was built to be as capable as possible and as such, it jumps at the opportunity to charge downhill. With the mullet wheel setup, the bike is extraordinarily stable at high speeds. The 63.5º head angle gives the bike the confidence to charge and plow through anything in its path. Santa Cruz wants the Nomad to always be as composed as possible, and the mullet wheelset is necessary to ensure that. Jared expressed that at high speed, “(The Nomad) comes alive and plows through anything in sight!” This is a necessary characteristic of any freeride bike, where much of the riding requires holding on through big hits and gnarly technical sections. 

Climbing is not the focus of any freeride bike, but it is something that the Nomad can do quite well. Using the Santa Cruz VPP suspension linkage, the Nomad provides high traction through the rear wheel, allowing you to stand up and crank on steep uphills. It keeps the rear wheel on the ground through rough technical sections, which is useful going both up and down. The Nomad will never climb like a cross-country bike, but you will still be able to pedal up pretty much anything required to get you to your favorite downhills. Yet another benefit of the Nomad's mullet wheelset is how well it enables the bike to tackle steep terrain. Due to the smaller rear wheel, your center of gravity is moved slightly back, increasing maneuverability when things get steep. The smaller rear wheel also makes the bike more playful, allowing you to have a ton of fun on the jumps, as the bike is easier to whip and throw around in the air. The Nomad makes big gaps and drops feel no bigger than your casual table tops and rock rolls because of its massive suspension travel and geometry. For a day of lift-serviced riding or just mobbing descents, few bikes outperform the Nomad. 

Why Freeride

Freeride is not most riders' discipline of choice, but having a freeride bike can greatly increase your skills everywhere else. Mowing down a trail on a big bike can help you develop more confidence to rip your short travel bikes on the same terrain. Bouncing down the trail on a freeride bike, relying more on the bike's capabilities is sometimes needed to gain the confidence to believe you can ride the trail. And make no mistake, the best freeride descenders are thinking about absolutely everything from tire placement, to braking points, to the finest details of bike setup. Their bikes are just a little more forgiving. Pedaling heavy freeride beasts up the trail is a great way to build endurance for road and cross-country racing, and when you do switch back to a better climbing bike, they’ll almost feel like an eBike! Overall, a freeride bike like the Nomad will allow you to push yourself farther than you think is possible, and help you find the limits of your riding ability.


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