Santa Cruz Nomad MK2 7yr Review


You may ask what’s the point of reviewing a 7yr old mountain bike that you can’t buy any longer? That’s a reasonable question. I guess this post is more an ode to the MK2 version of the Nomad than it is a “dude go out and buy this cool shit!” post. At least you know I’m not getting paid the big bucks to write this review by Santa Cruz! 😉

Still minty fresh...
Still minty fresh…

I got this bike in early 2009 and it was my first pedally long-travel bike. Before that I had always ridden XC or trail bikes. The Nomad looked pretty ridiculous for the relatively tame terrain around Calgary we were riding at the time. I’m don’t recall what motivated me to buy it vs. something else. That memory has long faded. I do remember that soon after buying it and installing my first ever dropper post my buddy Kurt and I were in Moab. Both on minty fresh Nomads it’s safe to say our minds were blown!

Riding in style...
Riding in style…

We rode them like trail bikes because that’s what we were used to, but every time we pushed them harder in chunky terrain and off drops they laughed so we evolved our riding styles to take advantage of their capabilities. Moab and Sedona made us fall in love with these beasts. Getting back to Calgary they were overkill for a lot of our riding. Luckily within a year we found ourselves living on Vancouver Island.

After a few years she went red...
After a few years she went red…

Vancouver Island and most of Coastal BC is a steep rocky rooty mess. Many people wouldn’t consider it mountain biking and it has as much flow as a death metal concert. The Nomad was made for this terrain. Slack angles, high BB, reasonably efficient VPP pedalling platform and burly solid construction. In fact the bike was far more ready than I was. It could shred hard on day 1. I took a year to fully adapt to my new home. There was a lot of frustration at first since the tech density is ridonkulous. There is literally an advanced feature every 10′-20′ on many trails.

And got wide rims and big rubber...
And got wide rims and big rubber…

As my skills grew the Nomad got better and better. So did my love for this bike. 🙂

Why is it so great?

  • slack angles make steep terrain easier to ride
  • bike is not so slack that turning and climbing suck
  • shortish TT and slack seat tube mean a reasonably short wheelbase so it stays nimble
  • burly frame seems pretty much indestructible
  • VPP needs minimal service despite tons of PNWet riding
  • VPP grease ports for stupid easy lubing lower bearings
  • suspension provides great traction on climbs the is plush and bottomless on the downs
  • Santa Cruz offers free bearings for life
  • the bike has never made a sound
  • original parts spec was solid and I’ve kept a lot of them through the years
  • this bike has never let me down
Rocking and rolling...
Rocking and rolling…

I now have a Pivot Mach 6 which is a state of the art fully blinged out wunder bike. Riding the Mach 6 in the summer and then going back to Nomad in the winter it’s shocking how little the older bike gives up to the newer machine. Keeping in mind the Nomad has all middle of the road parts it’s still close to the top of the heap of all mountain rides.


I didn’t buy the Mach 6 because the Nomad let me down or it wasn’t capable of keeping up with the current crop of bikes. I have to admit the only reason I got a new bike was I had ridden the Nomad so much I wanted some fresh experiences on the trail.

More Sedona...
More Sedona…

What’s not great about it?

So everything can’t be rainbows and unicorn farts. There are a few issues with this bike.

  • VPP + Fox DHX Air 5.0 shock was okay, but not amazing
  • it’s heavy at ~35lbs
  • original Avid Elixr CR brakes [180/160] I just replaced were never super powerful
  • stock DT Swiss wheels were heavy and rims were narrow
Much better after a visit to Avalanche Racing...
Much better after a visit to Avalanche Racing…

I got the shock tuned by Avalanche Racing and it transformed the bike. The suspension went from okay to nearly perfect. If you have a Nomad Mk2 and experience that dreaded mid-stroke wallow send your shock to Avalanche. You will not regret it.

Even pigs can fly...
Even pigs can fly…

With winter coming on fast here in Coastal BC I got the Nomad out of the garage and started the process of tuning it up for another season of riding. I put it away last spring when I ripped the derailleur off on a rock so I needed to do a bit more work than some other years.

  • swapped in a new Shimano SLX rear derailleur
  • new shift cable and housing
  • new SRAM 10spd chain
  • replaced cracked Hope freehub and exploded bearing
  • serviced fork and shock
  • new DU bushing
  • checked VPP [didn’t need new bearings]
  • new Shimano SLX brakes [203/180]
  • new Continental Trail King 2.4″ rear tire
  • refreshed the sealant in the front tire
Crushing the leaves...
Crushing the leaves…

The bike is looking and feeling amazing now. It’s going to be a great winter! 🙂


3 thoughts on “Santa Cruz Nomad MK2 7yr Review

    1. @Steve – the Coles Notes = fucking awesome! 😉

      – low maintenance
      – great adjust ability
      – great trail performance for my needs [stiff, plush & good ramp up at the end]

      I really have zero complaints. I am hearing good things about the 2016 Fox 36 and would definitely consider one if I was building up a new bike.


  1. I rode my Nomad MK2 from 2012 – 2016. My Hope Pro 2 rear hub developed a hairline crack in the freehub after 4 years too. Now on a Pivot Switchblade. The Switchblade is so much better in everything except really huge rock gardens. Miss my Nomad.


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