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Santa Cruz BicyclesChameleonChameleon Carbon 29 Mountain Bike Frame
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Item # SNZ00LD
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September 24, 2019
Deep Chameleon Thoughts
- I've put it through the wringer
Hardtails aren't for everyone and neither is the Chameleon but if you're looking for a hard charging trail bike efficient enough for all day riding you've come to the right place. The aluminum Chameleon is a classic, the carbon shaves some weight and is probably a bit stiffer. Don't worry about damaging this carbon, it feels stout. The interchangeable dropouts make this frame real versatile and you can run it with up to a 140mm fork. I went 130mm for some extra cushion on the rocky trails, it definitely slacks the front end out a bit more than I'm used to but it still climbs ok. The frame builds up nicely, the only annoyance is the housing doesn't run through internal tubes but Santa Cruz gives you a large opening so routing isn't that big a deal. Dropper posts are recommended, you can fit plenty wide tires (up to 2.5" 29ers), and there's bottle cage bolts in and under the frame. We'll get my fit comments out of the way first: I'm right between large and XL on the Chameleon and in the past on Santa Cruz I'd always recommend sizing up when between sizes but they've changed up the geometry on their newer bikes so it can be trickier to choose. Honestly you could probably ride a couple sizes and be fine, much of the choice comes down to your riding style. If you like a playful, nimble feeling bike that you can pop off roots and rocks on, I'd go with the smaller size. If you like a more stable feeling bike for fast, rough descents or long days in the saddle, go with the larger size. Now the other thing to keep in my is your body - I went towards the larger size as I have longer legs and can feel like I have the seatpost way up compared to the bars on smaller bikes, and I've got that paired with short stem. But if I did it again I'd probably go with a longer stem and some spacers under it to get that more playful bike. I'm finding on the steepest of steep climbs I can't get enough weight over the front end which a shorter reach would fix. If you're solidly in the middle of Santa Cruz's size recommendations just go with that! This frame isn't for weight weenies even though it's a hardtail. My XL built up at just under 28lb with dropper, GX/X01 Eagle mix, XT brakes, Reserve 30 carbon wheels, 2.4â Ardent tires, and Deity carbon bar. As for ride quality, don't expect this to ride similar to your springy steel hardtail - the Chameleon is stiff. Wide tires will get rid of any real harshness but if you're looking for a cushy cruiser, this isn't exactly it. That being said, after a 45 mile day the bike didn't make me hate it. Ride quality can be real hard to evaluate as everyone has their own preferences but I'll say that I'd look elsewhere if I wanted a bikepacking rig or even an endurance racer. However if you want a trail bike that can handle some real trails while still letting you load it up on the weekends, this is the bike for you. And be careful - when the trail points down, this bike wants to go! It's easy to get in over where a hardtail should be if you're not careful.
January 7, 2020
Great review, Daniel, thanks! Any thoughts on how wide you could go with the rear tire? I ride a Honzo CR, and I’m maxed out with a 2.3 on the same rim that you’re riding. I live in CO, so I’m ok, but in mud, forget it. I still get rocks in the tread that click on the chain stays every rotation. Also, how tall are you and what’s your inseam? I’m between sizes as well. Before the Honzo I had an aluminum 2017 Chameleon in a Large that I just couldn’t make work. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
July 20, 2019
May 4, 2019
What is the frame weight?