Chameleon Carbon 29 R Complete Mountain Bike
Over the years bikes have become more and more purpose built, which has its advantages, that is, if you only ride on kind of terrain, but most of us like to keep things diverse — after all, they do say variety is the spice of life. We want to be able to hit the jump park after work, session pump tracks and get a little boosty, and plan out weekend bikepacking adventures that dive deep into the backcountry — preferably without buying a second or third bike. Santa Cruz has a one-hit wonder remedy with the Chameleon Carbon 29 R Complete Mountain Bike. It hit its 7th generation with updates last season that transformed the steed into an ultra-capable ride with 29-inch wagon wheels, and moderate geometry that's hungry for handling more technical trails, plus a plush 120mm of travel in the front to soak it up when your line choice doesn't go as planned. Before last year, the Chameleon kept one thing consistent: it was always aluminum. However the day dawned at Santa Cruz, and the Chameleon was blasted into the modern era with a fresh carbon layup to drop weight, and improve ride quality.
This fun-loving, do-it-all trail bike is on our short list of bikes we'd pick for long-distance bikepacking missions over rugged terrain. As we mentioned above, it comes out of the box ready for 29er wheels, however, if you want maximum grip and floatation over loose trails with plus-sized tires, its interchangeable dropouts allow the frame to happily accommodate. The dropouts also allow you to swap out the gears for single-speed use, should you desire a near-maintenance free drivetrain, live in an area without major elevation changes, or you just enjoy flogging yourself from time to time. Please note we carry the separate dropouts for both plus and 29-inch wheels as well as for singlespeed use where the spacing is 142mm while the geared version is Boost 148mm.
Geometry plays a key role in the Chameleon's versatility, with short chainstays, fairly long reach measurements per size, and a relaxed 67.3-degree head tube angle. It's recommended to pair with a 5 to 5.5-inch fork for taking the edge off of rough trails letting you tackle way more rugged terrain than you'd consider on a hardtail. What we love so much about the Carbon Chameleon is it can jump in a singlespeed race one weekend, hit the berms and jumps in the bike park after work, and load up with a week's worth of camping gear for a bikepacking vacation next. Eagle eyes will notice two bottle cage mounts, including a triple-bolt cargo cage mount under the downtube for carrying large water bottles or various other items for bikepacking.
The Carbon Chameleon uses Santa Cruz's Carbon C, its second-tier carbon, which boasts identical construction to the higher grade CC carbon but uses a different modulus that adds a tiny bit of weight while saving big on cash. The method remains the same, with unidirectional carbon plies wrapping between tubes, adding strength and long-term durability. An inner bladder applies outward pressure against the mold while the carbon cures to reduce resin pooling and virtually eliminates imperfections. This results in a frame that is so tough, Santa Cruz backs it with a lifetime frame warranty.
This particular Chameleon comes spec'd with Santa Cruz's "R" build kit that gives you a trustworthy selection of parts, including a 120-millimeter Fox Performance 34 Fork for stiff, confident tracking over the rough stuff and plush absorption of rocks and roots on the trail. SRAM's NX Eagle 1x12 drivetrain gives you a massive gear range with its 11 to 50-tooth cassette, allowing you to tackle a wide variety of terrain while enjoying smooth shifting, infallible chain retention, and quiet operation, though with slightly less power than you'll find on the 10-50-tooth GX, X01 and XX1 Eagle cassettes.
- Santa Cruz's slick lizard sheds weight, and boosts stiffness
- Versatile geometry transitions from trail, to bikepacking, to dirt jumps
- Triple-bolt cargo cage mount for extra capacity on multi-day adventures
- 67-degree head angle blends high-speed stability with capable climbing
- Longer front end and shorter chainstays for playful handling
- 29-inch wheels maximize speed and rollover across rugged terrain
- Interchangeable dropouts let you swap in 27.5+ wheels or run it singlespeed
- Carbon fiber construction gives you responsive handling that's backed by a lifetime warranty