Staff Bike Check: Andy's Santa Cruz Nomad

Staff Bike Check: Andy's Santa Cruz Nomad

As Head Coach at Dirt School, Andy rides all over the Tweed Valley coaching on some of the most technically demanding trails in the UK in all conditions. After nearly two years on the all rounder that is the Bronson, Andy has made the change to the longest travel single crown bike in Santa Cruz’s lineup, the Nomad. 

Having loved his time on the Bronson, Andy decided to stay with MX wheels, but was curious to see how more travel and slacker geometry could change how he approached his riding. His role as Performance Coach sees Andy regularly taking on the infamous steep and technical trails that have put Innerleithen on the map, along with the flow trails and big jumps of Glentress, so he takes in a huge mix of riding on the same bike. It’s interesting now to see how he has found the switch from Bronson to Nomad and what the key differences have been. Read on to find out and get all the details on his bike and setup. 

Andy riding his Nomad in frozen conditions around the Tweed Valley

TVB: Ok Andy, let’s start with the basics. How tall are you and what size Nomad do you ride?

Andy: I’m 177cm tall, and about 78kg at the moment. I’ve been on large Santa Cruz bikes for over 10 years but went for a medium this time. I just felt like bikes have been getting bigger for so long now that I don’t need to size up any more, this medium V6 Nomad is bigger than my large V1 Megatower from a few years ago.

TVB: How does the Nomad differ from the Bronson in terms of descending characteristics?

Andy: Size for size, the Nomad has a longer wheelbase than the Bronson, but because I’ve gone down a size it’s worked out about the same. The longer travel drops the bottom bracket well below the axles, putting me in a more stable position. This coupled with the shorter reach makes it feel like I’m more central and lower in the bike. 

The additional 20mm of travel makes a big difference too. The Bronson with its 150mm out back, would have to completely clear things like rough rocks and roots, whereas the Nomad can just unweight and the supple top part of the travel keeps the wheels just in contact with the trail without the bike getting kicked about.

TVB: What is it about MX wheeled bikes that keeps you coming back?

Andy: In all honesty if I was racing, or riding quickly in unfamiliar locations, then I’d go for a Megatower. Its stability inspires confidence and the big wheels will carry momentum everywhere. I spend all my MTB time riding familiar trails at work, and I want to make any time I spend on this bike fun. The Nomad is more than capable enough on the rough stuff, but just keeps putting a smile on my face. It just feels easier to move around on tight trails and makes the bike feel more lively.

Rockshox Zeb Ultimate 170mm at the front of Andy's Nomad

TVB: On to suspension setup. What pressure and spring rate are you using and what has your process been for optimising your setup?

Andy: My fork and shock setting are:

Fork: Rockshox Zeb Ultimate, 180mm: 58 psi, 2 tokens, Rebound: 4, LSC: 4, HSC: 0

Rear Shock: Rockshox Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate, 450 spring, HSC: 0, LSC: 4,   HBO (Hydraulic Bottom Out): 0, Rebound: 0

I’m trying a coil shock for the first time since riding an ATX1 in 2000, so I’m starting from scratch with setup. I just figured that if I was ever to go for a coil, then the Nomad is the one to do it with. First impressions are brilliant, the rear suspension on the Nomad is fairly progressive meaning it pairs very well with coil shocks. So far I’m really happy with the coil and it’s holding up with minimal damping support. 

Rockshox Super Deluxe Ultimate Coil rear shock for Andy on his Nomad

I’ve also never used a Zeb before, so again I was starting from scratch. I started with one token, but added a second for extra bottom out resistance on some of the big freeride hits at Glentress. I also put the low speed compression to the middle position initially to give support in high load berms, but I’ve started to back it off one click at a time as I’m preferring the more active feel. 

An all Burgtec affair at the front of Andy's Nomad

TVB: Moving up to the cockpit, have you mirrored the setup you had on the Bronson or have you changed anything up front?

Andy: Bars are Burgtec RideWide Carbon Enduro cut to 740mm, so when fitted with grips the overall width is 750mm, with a 35mm clamp. I started off at 800mm on the Bronson, and slowly worked my way down in 10mm increments over 12 months, but 750mm overall seems to be the sweet spot for me around here. I went straight to 740mm bars with 30mm rise for this build. My Burgtec Enduro mk.3 stem is 42.5mm in reach, and I run 20mm of spacers underneath. 

Reserve 30|HD rolling stock on the Nomad

TVB: How do the Reserve 30|HD wheels differ in terms of ride feel to an aluminium wheelset?

Andy: The carbon Reserve 30|HDs are bombproof. I rode over 7000km on my Megatower set, and over 5000km on the Bronson. No damage, cracks or splits, absolutely amazing considering how much rough riding they have to put up with around here. They are so precise that when I ride bikes with alloy rims I notice the flex, and have to adjust how I steer out of turns to compensate. Reserves are just stiff enough without making the ride quality feel harsh.

Maxxis tyres front and back for Andy on his Nomad

TVB: Maxxis tyres front and rear, are you using the same casings and rubber compounds front to back?

Andy: My tyres, pressure and compounds are all as follows:

Front: Assegai, DoubleDown, MaxxGrip, no insert, 22psi

Rear: Minion DHR, DoubleDown, MaxxTerra, no insert, 24psi


I’ve chosen the well-loved Assegai/DHRII combo as I find that they offer a really nice balance of rolling speed and grip. The trails around here can get pretty spicy and the tread is spot on for the gradient and type of soil we have. The DD casing offers protection from punctures, but also gives the sidewall a bit of support meaning I can run lower pressures, this comes together to feel like they mute the trail and offer additional damping to the ride. Maxxis tyres are great at breaking loose gradually in a way that you can predict. You can then control the grip by applying or coming off the pressure. They inspire confidence in your grip and are consistent and predictable in a way that is an absolute joy to ride.

Guess the tread pattern!

Andy’s Nomad V6 shuns its derailleur hanger in favour of SRAM’s direct mount Transmission components. Promising smooth, fully loaded shifting and a simple setup, has he noticed a big difference with the X0 Transmission on his Nomad?

SRAM X0 Transmission on the Nomad

TVB: You’ve got full X0 Transmission on the Nomad. How have you found using the new SRAM components?

Andy: It’s definitely different, the shift feels incredibly smooth; you almost don’t notice the change! Over rough ground the whole drivetrain is silent and it all seems incredibly solid so I’m sure it’s going to hold up well. Crank length is 170mm which comes standard on this build. I’d be interested to try a shorter crank further down the line and see if I can feel the difference. I’m running a 32t chainring with a 10-52t cassette. 

SRAM Code Stealth Silver brakes clamp hard onto 220mm rotors

TVB: Staying with SRAM for the brakes as well, you’ve got Code Silver Stealth brakes. How do you set your brakes up?

Andy: I tend to ride my brake levers in line with my arms when standing in my ready position. I like my levers at the last bend in my index fingers, and as little lever throw as possible. The discs are 220mm front and 200mm rear. Incredible stopping power from the sintered pads, and noticeably more consistent than my previous set up on longer descents.

Burgtec The Cloud saddle and a 175mm Reverb for Andy

TVB: Finally, how much drop does your Reverb have?

Andy:  I completed the SRAM build with a 175mm Reverb dropper with a hydraulic lever. It fits the rest of the build nicely, offers plenty of space for me to move about once the saddle is down, and has a light and consistent feel at the lever.

Andy putting his Nomad to work

Andy’s Nomad Full Build:

Frame: Santa Cruz Nomad, 170mm travel, Medium

Fork: Rockshox Zeb Ultimate, 180mm travel, Charger 3 damper, 58 psi, 2 tokens, Rebound: 4, LSC: 4, HSC: 0

Shock: Rockshox Super Deluxe Ultimate Coil, 450lb spring, LSC: 4, HSC: 0, HSB:0, Rebound: 0

Wheelset: Reserve 30|HD rims, Industry Nine 1/1 hubs

Tyres: Front: Maxxis Assegai, MaxxGrip, DoubleDown, 21psi Rear: Maxxis DHRII, MaxxTerra, DoubleDown, 24psi

Handlebar: Burgtec RideWide Carbon Enduro, 740mm, 30mm rise, 35mm clamp

Stem: Burgtec Enduro mk.3, 42.5mm reach, 35mm clamp

Grips: Burgtec Bartender Pro, super soft compound

Drivetrain: SRAM X0 Transmission, 32t chainring, 10-52t cassette, 170mm crank

Pedals: Burgtec Penthouse mk.5

Brakes: SRAM Code Silver Stealth, 220mm front rotor, 200mm rear rotor, sintered pads

Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb, 175mm drop

Saddle: Burgtec The Cloud

Mudguard: Mudhugger Evo Long Bolt On


Curious about a Nomad of your own? Give us a call and we’ll be happy to talk you through options, as well as get you setup on one of our demo Nomads. Sizes Medium and Large are available to book now on our website.


01896 831 429

shop@tweedvalleybikes.co.uk


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