A few years ago, 27.5+ hit us like a wave. We found it offered tons of grip in dry conditions, improved braking, and a minimal weight penalty when compared to a 29er wheelset. We found that, when paired to a quality hardtail mountain bike, that it never left us wanting for more capability on pretty much any trail that didn’t have a black diamond associated with it.
At the time, there was (in our eyes) one answer for anyone looking for a quality hardtail that could take plus tires: the OPEN ONE+. Today, we have one more to add to the fold, the 2019 Santa Cruz Chameleon Carbon. Like the alloy Chameleon, this new model is made to mold to its surroundings, a proverbial shape-shifter in its own right.
Here’s the details: a ‘C’ grade carbon frame joins the alloy model as the level-up option. Its essentially the same carbon as what one would find on the Hightower C or 5010 C; nothing exotic, just lightweight, durable, and battle-tested carbon adjusted for hardtail duty. Further, it pulls no punches compared to other Santa Cruz bikes, featuring internally-routed cable routing for the brakes and dropper post, as well as a threaded bottom bracket for a creak-free ride. The alloy model has been and will continue to be an excellent bike in our eyes, but the move to carbon makes it a lighter, faster, and more enjoyable bike.
The Carbon Chameleon changes to suit its environment thanks to just-right trail bike geometry shared with the Chameleon alloy frame. 29 x 2.5” or 27.5 x 3.0”, geared or singlespeed, Chameleon easily swaps between being a burly trail bike, single-speed racer, to a reliable bikepacking mule with ease. It’ll work with either a trail-ready 130mm or 120mm travel fork, respectively.
Why are we so into plus tires on hardtail mountain bikes? Let’s attribute it to a jack of all trades mindset. Bikes on which people place this descriptor are good, fun bikes, but they’re unexceptional outside of their versatility. And as much as we enjoy bikes of (almost) all kinds, it pays dividends to have a bike that can happily be ridden just about anywhere your eyes take you. A hardtail is lighter, more simple, and an inherently good climber, but the addition of plus tires make for a bike that’s simply more capable. It doesn’t easily replace a good full-suspension bike, but a hardtail plus bike can bridge the gap.
Assuredly trail hardtails aren’t for everyone, nor are plus tires. But for us, and the trails we love to ride in Northern Utah, we can think of few bikes that answer our needs better than the new Santa Cruz Chameleon Carbon. It won’t bomb down Bobsled trail like a new Bronson. Nor will it feel as precise as the XC-ready Highball hardtail. But as we’ve learned with the ONE+, the Chameleon and its jack of all trades predilection will assuredly become one of your most-ridden bikes.
The new 2019 Santa Cruz Chameleon Carbon is here in the shop and ready to roll. Come by to check them out and talk with our knowledgeable staff, or send us an email any time to email@example.com.