Enduro Bike Showdown: Santa Cruz Nomad vs Megatower

Santa Cruz Nomad vs Megatower Shootout

The Santa Cruz Nomad is one of the all time classics of their range, introduced way back in 2005 as one of the very first long travel all rounders and way ahead of its time. Even those original bikes were incredibly fast  and with every revision they have only improved over the years.

Santa Cruz Nomad 6 X01 Reserve

The current Nomad 6 is the most capable version of the bike ever, able to take on everything from relaxed day rides to Enduro racing and park laps. Still pitched all these years later as the ultimate hard wearing daily driver, the Nomad can take on a bit of everything. Despite being almost the same travel as the original bike, everything else has changed completely, from frame material to wheel size, geometry and linkage design. Dirt School Head Coach Andy Barlow is riding one now, check out his thoughts so far here.

Marks Scotts Santa Cruz Megatower CC XO RSV

The Megatower on the other hand has a somewhat different and much shorter history. Now on only its 2nd version, it was conceived in 2019 as a dedicated race platform for the Santa Cruz riders racing the Enduro World Series. A long travel, full 29’ platform it was built purely to be the fastest bike that could be raced downhill, while still having the pedalling efficiency and versatility to ride the long and demanding pedal-accessed stages of the World Enduro race circuit. Since then it has become a popular choice with everyone from racers to recreational riders looking for a longer travel 29er for off piste and uplift riding. Much more than just a race bike, it offers terrific downhill manners, comfort and forgiveness in a surprisingly pedal friendly and versatile package and can be a great all rounder for anyone with terrain rough enough to need it. Our shop manager and guide Neil spent the whole of last summer riding, guiding and coaching on one, read his long term review here.

Neil riding the Megatower on the Wardell Way at the Golfie

From those two very different starts both the V2 Megatower and Nomad 6 are now perhaps surprisingly similar bikes, sporting almost identical silhouettes, amounts of travel and geometry numbers, even sharing a front triangle between them. We often have customers who are confident they’ll want one of the two, but aren’t sure which or how to pick between them.

Let’s have a look at what they have in common first.

Both bikes are sensibly sized with a 472mm reach in size Large. Head angles are a relatively slack 63.5’ while seat angles sit at a modern but not extreme 77.6’ to keep a good position for pedalling at a variety of different angles.

Both use the excellent lower link driven VPP linkage now common across the Santa Cruz trail and enduro platforms. The linkage design gives a good amount of suspension progression, balancing a supple start to the stroke with plenty of support and bottom out protection to make for a smooth ride, while still allowing the bikes to respond well to rider input. Either bike can run air or coil shocks depending on rider preference.

VPP linkage on the Santa Cruz Megatower

That ability not to feel bogged down in their travel, along with exceptionally efficient pedalling manners are two of the stand out traits of Santa Cruz bikes in general and are part of what make both the Nomad and Megatower so versatile. Some long travel bikes can feel very underwhelming on flatter terrain or at lower speeds, but the VVP bikes support and efficiency make them much more usable for a normal rider who needs something more than a winch and plummet downhill bike. 

Detailing on the frames is excellent throughout, with all the small touches well executed. Cables are internally routed through moulded carbon sleeves within the frames, making any changes a breeze and keeping things quiet in use. The chainstay and downtube are well protected with rubber guards and there is generous downtube storage available via the Glovebox compartment. 

Cable routing on the V6 Nomad

The lower link features a flip chip to adjust suspension progression for either more support and better climbing manners or a deeper plusher ride, and a grease port, also on the lower link extends already best in class bearing life. As always, replacement bearings are supplied free of charge for the full life of the bike, lowering cost of ownership even further.

Both models are also tuned with different carbon layups and chainstay lengths for each individual size so that every bike is optimised as far as possible for the rider it ends up underneath.

Where do the differences lie?

The stock setup on the Megatower pumps out 165mm of rear wheel travel, while the Nomad produces 5mm more at 170mm due to a slightly longer stroke shock. For those that want it, the Megatower can also be adjusted up to 170mm with the removal of an internal shock spacer (during a shock service) without voiding the warranty.

Perhaps counter intuitively, the Nomad also has slightly longer chainstays at 444 mm in size Large, vs the 441 mm on the Megatower, though a 3mm difference is quite subtle in the real world.

By far the most noticeable single difference and the one that is going to drive the choice for most people is simply the rear wheel size, with the Megatower using a dual 29’ configuration, while the Nomad is built for a MX (mullet) wheel setup. Which of those options might be better is very much down to type of terrain, rider size and personal preference.

Mark riding the Megatower at Innerleithen

Climbing, the dual 29’ wheel configuration on the Megatower will clamber up square edges and over roughness with a little more smoothness and efficiency than the smaller wheel of the Nomad. On the other hand, the Nomad will produce an easier climbing gear for the same chainring size, so for those riders that like to sit and spin up the steep sections, MX bikes can actually work surprisingly well and they do weigh just slightly less.

When it comes to descending performance, once again it’s a story of balancing trade offs. A dual 29’ wheel bike like the Megatower will always carry speed through rough sections a little better than MX wheels can, and especially on lower angle or flat sections a full 29' setup is probably the quicker option for charging over bumps. It’s also slightly more forgiving on the rider for square edge hits with the rear wheel hanging up a little less. That said, once the angles increase and gravity takes over that difference starts to fade, with speed and comfort becoming much more about rear travel and room to move. 

Andy riding New York New York on the Nomad V6

It’s on these steeper or tighter trails that many riders prefer the extra space that a mullet bike creates, giving them more room to move around behind the saddle without the larger wheel getting in the way. Most riders also notice that while the dual 29’ bikes are more stable in a straight line, they can feel slightly less willing to change direction than the MX options. Neither of those traits is necessarily ‘better’, it just depends what any person is looking to prioritise. 

Here at TVB we also find that rider size can feed into what feels best, probably in just the way you might imagine. Taller riders on Large and XL sized bikes often prefer the full 29’ setup as longer legs remove much of the potential drawback of the larger wheel out back, letting them enjoy the extra speed and stability with little compromise.

Conversely, for riders on smaller sizes (or with shorter legs!), MX wheels become the more popular choice, especially in longer travel bikes where the rear wheel is rising up more as the suspension pushes through the travel. An MX setup simply gives them a bit more room to move before the dreaded tire buzz comes into play.

For everyone else in between, either can potentially work. The best thing is always to test ride a bike if you’re not sure and even better is a back to back test to really feel the differences.

Curious to work it out for yourself? We’ve got both Nomad and Megatower demo bikes ready to ride and we’re always happy to help in the process.

☎️ 01896 831429

📧 shop@tweedvalleybikes.co.uk


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.