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  1. #1
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    Alloy vs. Carbon Nomad?

    Here's the scoop...

    I'm in the process of buying a Nomad and am torn between a Nomad R AM ($3,399) and a Nomad Carbon R AM ($3,999). I've noticed the overwhelming popularity towards the Carbon Nomad and was wondering why the alloy bike has somewhat lost its place.

    I'm 6'4" and about 165lbs. (16yrs. old) and a big fan of gnarly descents so I know that this bike will see much abuse but I don't want to worry about flexing in the rear and/or sloppy handling over time.

    I'd really only like to pay $3,399 for the alloy Nomad but might be open-minded to spending the extra to get the Carbon Nomad if there is a significant difference in strength and handling that I should know of offer the best long-term satisfaction.

    I ask purely out of curiosity to better equip myself with the knowledge I need before making the investment. Any feedback is welcome.

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    The carbon Nomad is significantly stronger than the aluminium one according to Santa Cruz, something like 50% stronger.

    Santa Cruz Bicycles - Test Lab - Pinkbike

    The other big advantage of the carbon Nomad is that it comes with a bolt thru rear (142 x 12) whereas the aluminium one is still QR. Rumour has it the carbon is now also coming with internal cable routing for Reverb Stealth dropper seat post.

  3. #3
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    "The other big advantage of the carbon Nomad is that it comes with a bolt thru rear (142 x 12) whereas the aluminium one is still QR."

    Is that true for the 2013 model as well? It appears on their website that the alloy Nomad has a rear thru axle as well. But you are right that is a big selling feature.

    I assume the increased strength also reduces torsional twisting of the rear?

  4. #4
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    It appears you're right at least looking at the pictures on the SC web site for the aluminium one now (Santa Cruz Bicycles NOMAD)

    SC must have updated without consulting me

    I have only recently bought a second hand 2011 Nomad C and was surprised by the amount of flex in the rear with a standard QR rear. That should be remedied today with the fitting of a DT Swiss RWS 10mm bolt through that just landed on my table.

  5. #5
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    the 2013 alloy nomad has (142 x 12) rear axle

  6. #6
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    any nomad, al or carbon, with the qr rear is plenty stiff. SC said so themselves. My guess is that they only went 142 is because everyone thinks they need it and they are in the business of selling bikes. On my carbon nomad with qr I can tell no difference when going from a standard qr to the 10mm dt through axle. That said, I imagine SC improved the derailleur hanger strength with the 142 system. The easily bent just enough to throw off your shifting rear derailleur hanger on the nomad and other carbon qr bikes is the only flaw I've found with the bike.

  7. #7
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    I owned a 2010 Reign X with a 135x12 (weird standard I know) bolt thru before getting the Nomad C (with QR) and the Nomad flexes more than the Reign X, not bad by any means but it's definitely there.

    Edit: and I'm only 70kg (~150lbs) too.

  8. #8
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    The 142 rear axle is the biggest reason imo. Go grab both by the seat and wiggle the back wheel. 135 qr seems silly after you do.

    Sent from my MB865 using Tapatalk 4 Beta

  9. #9
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    You can get a bolt attached rear hub for QR dropouts, for example Hope Pro 2 Evo:
    http://www.bikebling.com/v/vspfiles/...35BO-Hub-2.jpg
    And since the Nomad has one piece rear end, Santa Cruz themselves said that 142 rear was mainly market driven addition for them. Don't get me wrong, I would not buy a new bike without 142 rear, but I don't feel QR dropouts are a huge issue in case of old Nomads especially with a bolt-attached rear hub.

    But the bigger issue here is that the current Nomad is nearing the end of its life cycle. It's a great bike (with -1 Angleset), but it is probably going to be updated later this year or next year. If it stays 26", I would guess that update is coming later this year, but if 27.5", then they are probably waiting for 27.5 Fox 36 and that might delay it to 2014? So I wouldn't buy the current model at this time, especially at full price, because soon it won't be current (and resale value will drop).

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by bicyclebillpdx View Post
    The 142 rear axle is the biggest reason imo. Go grab both by the seat and wiggle the back wheel. 135 qr seems silly after you do.

    Sent from my MB865 using Tapatalk 4 Beta
    That is all very good to know, especially that Santa Cruz has only taken their attention to 142 rear ends because of the market shift, despite the fact that their QR system has proven quite reliable over time.

    I still prefer the security of a thru axle and the potential to upgrade the hubs and rims is also a bonus that I might explore in the future.

    Is it fair to say that an alloy Nomad with the new 142 would come the closest to the Carbon Nomad in lateral stiffness? Where's the real (noticeable) difference?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Huck Spin View Post
    That is all very good to know, especially that Santa Cruz has only taken their attention to 142 rear ends because of the market shift, despite the fact that their QR system has proven quite reliable over time.

    I still prefer the security of a thru axle and the potential to upgrade the hubs and rims is also a bonus that I might explore in the future.

    Is it fair to say that an alloy Nomad with the new 142 would come the closest to the Carbon Nomad in lateral stiffness? Where's the real (noticeable) difference?
    142 is stiffer, less prone to slippage, and easy to use. It's really not marketing, it's just better.

    You are a big guy, and you will keep growing and gaining weight. Longer tubes/bigger bikes flex more than shorter tubes/smaller bikes, so the differences between carbon and aluminum will be amplified for you. The carbon bike is stiffer all over, not just the rear end. If you had a chance to ride them both side by side you would notice more stiffness in the front end and an all-over feeling of the bike simply being more stout, while at the same time being lighter.

  12. #12
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    Well, Huck Spin, that is a good problem to have.

    I just replaced my 2007 alum Nomad with a 2011? carbon Nomad. Both are 135mm rear using the same wheels, which are Hadley/823s with the ti bolt on rear. I am much heavier than you at 250lbs. The difference in flex between the two frames is very noticeable, which results in better tracking with the carbon than the alum. Is it a huge difference? No. But noticeable. I am assuming that the latest alum Nomads have the same stiffness as the old alum Nomads. Maybe more stiff?

    Either alum or carbon will do you well. Is the carbon worth $600 more than the alum? It would be for me, but I would have the extra $600 and I keep frames for a long time (no turnover every year or two for me).

    And the rear end 135 vs 142? If using QR, then, sure, the 142 will likely be more stiff than the 135. If using bolt on or thru bolts on a 135, then I have my doubts about me noticing a difference. I likely would notice flex in the wheels and tires more than 135 bolt vs 142. Of course, if both Nomads are 142, the decision is made.

  13. #13
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    Thank you all very much. It sounds to me, with the long term investment in mind, that the Carbon Nomad is ultimately the best direction to head in. I'm sure they are both great bikes but, although the alloy is cheaper, I think the carbon will serve me best in handling the rugged terrain it is sure to see in the future and any modifications/upgrades that I may throw its way

    I appreciate all the wonderful feedback and hopefully you will hear from me next with pictures of the beast - as long as I can secure one in the near future - and happy trails

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by mehukatti View Post
    You can get a bolt attached rear hub for QR dropouts, for example Hope Pro 2 Evo:
    http://www.bikebling.com/v/vspfiles/...35BO-Hub-2.jpg
    And since the Nomad has one piece rear end, Santa Cruz themselves said that 142 rear was mainly market driven addition for them. Don't get me wrong, I would not buy a new bike without 142 rear, but I don't feel QR dropouts are a huge issue in case of old Nomads especially with a bolt-attached rear hub.
    Interesting... please educate me about this.
    So i can get a rear hub that basicly turns my qr rear axle into a bolt thru?
    Do i just need the rear hub for that? What other hubs have that option?

  15. #15
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    I see no advantage to the Hope bolt on skewer. The dropouts sit on the hub axle, not the skewer itself. So really, the skewer is there simply to provide enough clamping force to keep the wheel in place.

    If you can wiggle your rear wheel that badly in the dropout I would look into tightening your hub bearings or checking spoke tension. Or try a Shimano XT skewer.
    The cake is a lie.

  16. #16
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    The internet loves carbon! For your situation I think aluminum is a no brainer. Here's why:

    Age- You're 16. That means you probably aren't selling your bike every two years to upgrade to the latest and greatest like a lot of folks here. You won't break a carbon bike riding it, but you can definitely and fairly easily break it crashing it.

    You like gnarly descents- Hopefully that means you are riding rowdy terrain and pushing yourself and your bike. You will crash it. Since you want long term satisfaction, another vote for aluminum, carbon can't handle crashes.

    The nomad is an older design. SC has said they aren't making any changes to it this year, but the bike is outdated in wheel size and geometry. Maybe the one you want is cheaper bc of this, and that's fine, but I would definitely get an aluminum Bronson over the nomad today if it was even close in price. 26" is probably going the way of the dodo bird, bc 650 rolls better with no discernible disadvantages. The Bronson is a better bike up and down the mountain.

    Good Luck and have fun!
    http://www.mountainbikeSF.com - Guided Mountain Biking in the San Francisco Bay Area

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnmark View Post
    carbon can't handle crashes.
    All I know is my carbon bike handles crashes far better than I do. But if there's anything The Internet loves more than carbon, its anecdotal evidence. There's an SC video out there of them torturing carbon and aluminum frames.

    Carbon's definitely going to be stiffer, but I wouldn't go so far as to say its going to make the ride that much more noticeably sloppy.
    definite malingerer

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by PerfectZero View Post
    I disagree, I crash regularly on carbon and it's been handling it better than me.
    Carbon is fine if you are drifting off a trail into dirt, just not if you are crashing in a rock garden. If an aluminum and carbon frame impacted a rock in the same crash, the carbon frame would be worse off.

    I have broken 2 carbon rear triangles, one from a direct impact. A friend knocked my bike over and landed on a pointy (but not sharp) rock. Looked like cosmetic damage at first, but by the end of the ride had started spreading. The same would not have happened with aluminum.

    Why do you think a lot of enduro pros train on aluminum and race on Carbon?

    Look at Jerome Clementz and Ben Cruz as just two examples. Last I saw, Jerome rode alum bikes and raced carbon, whereas Ben doesn't even race carbon bc he doesn't want to deal with breaking them, and they get free bikes. "Carbon doesn’t take as kindly to violent dismounts, so I ride alloy"- Ben Cruz in a printed interview.

    I don't hate carbon or anything, I just think its a bad idea for a 16 year old who likes rowdy terrain. I ride an carbon tallboy LT, and if I needed something between that and my DH bike, it would be an aluminum bronson or similar 650b bike. It would make a great all-around bike that you have to worry less about on high speed or gnarly descents.
    http://www.mountainbikeSF.com - Guided Mountain Biking in the San Francisco Bay Area

  19. #19
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    I thought we were past the time when people thought carbon bikes break from looking at rocks, but I guess not.

    In any case, not all carbon bikes are equal, so it would be better to talk about SC carbon bikes here rather than what Ben and Jerome are riding. Plus, some guys train on certain bikes and race others that are lighter and (maybe) faster.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnmark View Post
    Carbon is fine if you are drifting off a trail into dirt, just not if you are crashing in a rock garden. If an aluminum and carbon frame impacted a rock in the same crash, the carbon frame would be worse off.

    I have broken 2 carbon rear triangles, one from a direct impact. A friend knocked my bike over and landed on a pointy (but not sharp) rock. Looked like cosmetic damage at first, but by the end of the ride had started spreading. The same would not have happened with aluminum.

    Why do you think a lot of enduro pros train on aluminum and race on Carbon?

    Look at Jerome Clementz and Ben Cruz as just two examples. Last I saw, Jerome rode alum bikes and raced carbon, whereas Ben doesn't even race carbon bc he doesn't want to deal with breaking them, and they get free bikes. "Carbon doesn’t take as kindly to violent dismounts, so I ride alloy"- Ben Cruz in a printed interview.

    I don't hate carbon or anything, I just think its a bad idea for a 16 year old who likes rowdy terrain. I ride an carbon tallboy LT, and if I needed something between that and my DH bike, it would be an aluminum bronson or similar 650b bike. It would make a great all-around bike that you have to worry less about on high speed or gnarly descents.
    All true. BUT if you are buying new, that 5 year defective frame warranty, plus the crash replacement warranty, plus SC customer service, is a lot of peace of mind. Put a downtube protector on it, put two layers of helicopter tape on the stays, and ride the sh!t out of that thing.

  21. #21
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    I've done far worse than "drift off a trail into dirt," but I guess that's besides the point.

    Quote Originally Posted by mtnmark View Post
    The same would not have happened with aluminum.
    How do you know? Did you replicate the exact same impact forces and direction on an aluminum triangle? If your carbon bike broke because if fell over, I'd consider that a defect.

    But hey, what do I know. As I said, the internet loves anecdotal evidence.
    definite malingerer

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by PerfectZero View Post

    How do you know? Did you replicate the exact same impact forces and direction on an aluminum triangle? If your carbon bike broke because if fell over, I'd consider that a defect.
    Of course I couldn't re-create it, but I have never seen an aluminum bike fail that way. When Joe (the SC engineer in the video you reference) looked at my 3 month old frame in person, he said it was not a defect, but user error that resulted in a "bad luck" crack, which I agree with.

    That SC video is great, but has nothing to do with what we are discussing. A weighted ball-peen hammer test would be something that would compare direct impact to the frame. I bet SC has done these.

    Another "anecdote" for you: I worked at a demo shop that had 30 SC bikes for rent, half aluminum and half carbon. Despite getting rented less (backed up by rental records), by the end of the season we had broken 6 carbon rear triangles, and 3 carbon front triangles, vs zero broken aluminum frames. Almost identical the 2nd year I worked there.

    All were from crashes where the bikes impacted rocks, and were not warranty issues. The aluminum frames had paint scratches and the occassional ding, but nothing more. SC was always interested in our real world, average rider results, and never seemed surprised by them.

    I am all for carbon bikes, and SC makes damn good ones (I have 6 in the garage). I just don't recommend carbon for someone who plans to ride aggressively on gnarly terrain and who would be put out if they cracked their frame, either by the crash replacement cost, or not having a bike to ride for a couple of weeks.
    http://www.mountainbikeSF.com - Guided Mountain Biking in the San Francisco Bay Area

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnmark View Post
    The internet loves carbon! For your situation I think aluminum is a no brainer. Here's why:

    Age- You're 16. That means you probably aren't selling your bike every two years to upgrade to the latest and greatest like a lot of folks here. You won't break a carbon bike riding it, but you can definitely and fairly easily break it crashing it.

    You like gnarly descents- Hopefully that means you are riding rowdy terrain and pushing yourself and your bike. You will crash it. Since you want long term satisfaction, another vote for aluminum, carbon can't handle crashes.

    The nomad is an older design. SC has said they aren't making any changes to it this year, but the bike is outdated in wheel size and geometry. Maybe the one you want is cheaper bc of this, and that's fine, but I would definitely get an aluminum Bronson over the nomad today if it was even close in price. 26" is probably going the way of the dodo bird, bc 650 rolls better with no discernible disadvantages. The Bronson is a better bike up and down the mountain.

    Good Luck and have fun!
    Thanks for the input mtnmark - I know I still have another inch of growth but will likely only gain weight from then on. That said, I already ride an XL and would be for some time, so it's not like I'll outgrow my next bike and be looking for other options - so you're right, this bike will be my one and only for several years to come.

    I can't help but be tempted, however, by the value that seems to be offered by a complete Carbon build for only $4,000 (yes, it's a lot, but less than what most companies offer). If I'm gonna be throwing my weight around with a high center of gravity, I'm going to have a lot of leverage over the bike, putting some serious forces on it. I want this bike to last a long time, so when the concept of AL fatigue is mentioned, are we talking 3 years or 10 years? If the latter, then it sounds like I could have a solid, long lasting bike for $600 less (if I were to go with the AL).

    Another note is that although the carbon withstood greater forces than the AL in the SC test lab, even the forces withstood by the AL were far greater than anything human - I can't imagine putting anywhere near 1,500lbs on my top tube or headset - unless I lose all sight of dietary restrictions and just tub out. So, is there not enough security in knowing that either is incredibly strong?

  24. #24
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    Happy to help huckspin. The more I think about you, the more I wonder if the Nomad is the right bike for you, rather than the carbon/aluminum question. That wishing I rode at 16!

    Is this going to be your only bike? Where do you live/ride? What is most of your riding like? Are you riding regular singletrack trails, or are you riding a trail bike down DH trails? Big Jumps? Bike park ever? Do you race or want to?

    The carbon vs aluminum question is really just a money question. Can you afford the difference? If you broke a frame would you be bikeless until it got replaced, or do have another bike to ride? Would the $400-$600 to replace a front or rear triangle be tough to swallow?
    http://www.mountainbikeSF.com - Guided Mountain Biking in the San Francisco Bay Area

  25. #25
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    Because I lack a paying job but am so personally invested in the sport, it's clear that I don't break even when it comes to finding just the right bike. It seems that there are certainly benefits to both AL and Carbon, as there are always perks to both sides of an argument, but it certainly isn't easy to sit back when the outcome could bore a few-thousand-dollar hole in my pocket; it's important to me, that's all.

    In regards to MTB, yes, this would be my only bike. I live in RI and tend to seek out fast, technical trails with the occasional freeride flair but most of all, like anyone, I like to throw my bike around on the descents (where having long legs helps to soak up much of the impact). I took a trip to CO last summer and am looking to set up my next bike to tackle that genre of terrain (near Telluride) - a bit of climbing but loads of fast, edgy terrain - the real "all-mountain" playground. I'm no serious weight weenie, don't mind some pedaling, but bask in the assurance that the rig I'm riding will keep me smiling where ever the trail gets steep.

    So, yes, I could possibly stretch my wallet to shoot for the carbon, but if the difference in stiffness is minimal, you can slap a DHX RC4 on either for a more DH/Freeride setup, but the AL is ultra durable and cheaper to repair/upgrade, then maybe the AL is the better option (?).

    In any case, I'm eager to hop on a 6" travel bike and, although I haven't ridden the Bronson, I really liked the feel of the VPP on the Nomad (AL R AM) when I test rode it. I've never really considered 650B but if you are that loyal, I'm curious... what's so great about it?

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