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New Santa Cruz Chameleon 275plus Report

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New Santa Cruz Chameleon 275plus Report

Old 03-09-18, 01:46 AM
  #1  
jsigone
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New Santa Cruz Chameleon 275plus Report

Coming from a hard tail XC 29er race bike ( 2014 cannondale F29), I wanted something that wouldn't be so white knuckle on the steep downhills, yet playful enough to go fast and hit some sweet small jumps. I'm bit older, have plate in my collarbone so not eager to crash anytime soon. But wanted modern geo, so slacker head angle, longer front, short stem and up to date wheels/hubs

I've been looking at this style bike or this bike for a while, then while getting my wife a bike at REI, they had the Salsa Timber jack there with the 275+ tires. Test rode that and was sold on trying plus tires, but that bike need better, fork, seatpost and sliding drop out. Thought how fun the fat tires would roll over everything keeping the same 29er outside diameter I've been riding for a decade.

After a talk w/ my buddy at Competitive Cyclist, I had a large chameleon sent to my office. Pre built and checked by CC, all I had to do was mount the bars, wheels and set the seat height. I had a set of CB mallet Enduros waiting for this bike. They left the bars high w/ one 3mm spacer above the stem. I just left it and if I didn't like it I can change it on the trails. aka need it lower to climb easier.

First ride to break her in was a mini solo epic, turned out to be 42 miles but only 3300ft of climbing. Good enough to get a rough feel for how the bike handled except for long climbs. Got used to the fit, the weight, all on ez trails. First time riding w/ a dropper seatpost, so it was bit of time to adapt how nimble the bike is.





Couple of days later I took it off to a lunch ride near work. It climbed well up the steep hill, 30t front and 10/42 rear. Good range but can see more top end needed then climbing. It's still a beast to climb compared to my F29 race bike but that give. Was super fun on this section of single track, both up and down.



using some of that CC store credit, I got some upgrade for the bike. The 50mm stem was perfect balance for me, Not short enough to wheeliie up each climb but not long enough to get the balance all off. Also changed the bars since the OEM were heavy 35mm 8* sweep. I like the Enve riser 9* sweep on my wrist. Same bars I have on the F29. I'm waiting for a 34t front ring and chain. I'll save the 30t for the long mountain rides like Nobel Canyon and San Juan trails.



Went to test on my local fav where you have to climb for those flow singles. Put the stem all the way to the top to test climbing, seems to have enough weight on climbs and have great control on the way down. 12mile and 1800ft of climb/decending on single track



Yesterday I used it as a commuter. Added my Apidura/Rapha front roll bag, contains my shoes, clothing and candybars. Camelbak on my back with water, speaker and tools. 16miles each way, 13 of those were on dirt. 930ft of climbing to work, and about 1350ft of climbing to get home. I was surprised how plush the fox fork was with the roll bag on. I need to mess with the air setting more now to replicate those feelings without the bag. Bag on the bike still felt nimble and not off balance for steep drop in shoots. Weight was still behind the front axle.





Each ride I tired different air pressure. the First 42mile ride I had 20psi in both tires. I knew it was going to be too much but it was also a big day on the bike. Dropped down to 15/15 the lunch ride and rear was too soft, almost hitting rim on 2ft drops to flat. Past couple rides have been 17rear and 15 or so in the front. Now I have air pressure dialed, I need to play more with the fork settings.

I have 94 miles on the bike in 2 weeks/6 rides. I'm finding I really like the air volume and grip of the plus tires. The Chameleon came with 3in wide tires. I've yet to had the front wash out me yet. Maybe I can try harder! The downside of the plus is the added weight, about 200grams per wheel. And wider foot print. Accelerations are slower for sure. Stalling leg RPM on steeper climbs occurs more then when I can power thru traction and slip the tires as the 29er was climbing. Tempo climbing seems unchanged really, other then heaiver bike weight and seating angles from XC. Flow sections I find I have to ride more like a singlespeed, aka use less brakes to scrub speed cuz getting back to speed takes more energy. Overall I really like this bike, how it rides. I like that in the future I can change to a 29er wheelset and maybe even race it if I sold the cannondale. It has sliding drop out so can even replace my singlespeed XC bike with this single frame. It can match whatever mood I'm in
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Old 03-09-18, 12:17 PM
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Thanks for the write up.

Always liked this bike, though I have not kept up on what SC has been doing with it recently.
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Old 03-09-18, 01:04 PM
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Nice write up.

I am in the similar position as you were with a 29er XC bike and healing a fractured clavicle (opted for no surgery). I have a soft spot for steel so the Jamis Dragonslayer and Marin Pine Mountain are at the top of my list. However, my aluminum tops are the Salsa Timberjack and SC Chameleon.

I am curious if you compared any other bikes with the Chameleon?
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Old 03-09-18, 03:36 PM
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Tested the Salsa Timberjack NX and GREAT $1100 bike. But I'd want a better fork, $8-900, dropper seatpost is a must so $300.

It really came down to the Kona Honzo, I'd have to build as a custom since it's mainly a 29er bike and the SC Chameleon. Both have cult like followings, showing the bike Geo works and is popular. I rode the lower grade Honza 29er alum and it was pretty sweet in a parking lot, suffered the same parts needed as the Salsa. Both are in the 67-68* head angle sweet spot that you can go slacker with 140mm fork or make it XCish with a 100mm fork. Custom ST Honzo or custom Chameleon from frame up was north of 3k. So I opted to get a R+ kitted stock bike for a small discount and roll what was saved to personalizing the fit and look.

I looked briefly at the Jamis but the reach was shorter then the other two, I'd have to get a XL and that would still seem short meaning I'd need a longer stem for cockpit room.
Large frames
Jamis Slayer Reach 440mm ETT 620mm (would have to run 70-75mm stem)
Chameleon Reach 460mm ETT 642mm (running 50mm stem)
Honzo Reach 475mm ETT 655mm (would have to run a 35mm stem)

Slayer and Chameleon has same seat angles so would climb very similar, Honzo is steeper meaning it would take a 140mm fork much easier and still climb just as nice.
@katsup good luck with the shoulder, I didn't have an option with my bone, it was broken in few places from the windshield I went thru w/ my roadie.
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Old 03-10-18, 10:01 AM
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nice bike i see you rode Hodges
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Old 03-10-18, 11:19 PM
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Originally Posted by jsigone View Post
Tested the Salsa Timberjack NX and GREAT $1100 bike. But I'd want a better fork, $8-900, dropper seatpost is a must so $300.

It really came down to the Kona Honzo, I'd have to build as a custom since it's mainly a 29er bike and the SC Chameleon. Both have cult like followings, showing the bike Geo works and is popular. I rode the lower grade Honza 29er alum and it was pretty sweet in a parking lot, suffered the same parts needed as the Salsa. Both are in the 67-68* head angle sweet spot that you can go slacker with 140mm fork or make it XCish with a 100mm fork. Custom ST Honzo or custom Chameleon from frame up was north of 3k. So I opted to get a R+ kitted stock bike for a small discount and roll what was saved to personalizing the fit and look.

I looked briefly at the Jamis but the reach was shorter then the other two, I'd have to get a XL and that would still seem short meaning I'd need a longer stem for cockpit room.
Large frames
Jamis Slayer Reach 440mm ETT 620mm (would have to run 70-75mm stem)
Chameleon Reach 460mm ETT 642mm (running 50mm stem)
Honzo Reach 475mm ETT 655mm (would have to run a 35mm stem)

Slayer and Chameleon has same seat angles so would climb very similar, Honzo is steeper meaning it would take a 140mm fork much easier and still climb just as nice.
@katsup good luck with the shoulder, I didn't have an option with my bone, it was broken in few places from the windshield I went thru w/ my roadie.
Thanks for this.

I usually ride a XL as I am 6'2" with a long torso. I guess I have to do math to find my preferred ETT. It is rare to find a XL bike in a shop, much less the bike I am looking at, so a test ride is nearly impossible.
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Old 03-16-18, 05:26 PM
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LBS has a Scott Scale 910 on Sale fro $3000. Almost $3000 for that Santa Cruz seems high to me.
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Old 03-22-18, 12:26 AM
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the chameleon comes as frame $750 build point
$1650 version= D build
$2400 version= R build

Everything I'd change/add to the $1600 version put me at the same price point as the R kit. The R kit also has a volume spacer change for $200 installed to change from 120mm to 140mm fork

Equal versions Spesh, trek and Kona Honzo are about the same price point

The more I ride this bike, the more I'm loving the ride of plus tires over my other 29er XC hardtail. I added a 34t front ring, I wanted 32 but was out of stock. (Bike came with a 30t) So settled for 34 and more pain on the 15+ grade stuff. I gain a few more MPH on the top end fire roads, paved roads getting between the trails.

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Old 03-27-18, 08:09 AM
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This bike is rad!
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Old 04-04-18, 11:39 AM
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did a XC race on it last week, super fun on the decents from 4800ft, some steep UPs like the massive granite rock the photog was setup on, 26miles, 3600ft of climb and downhill fun
Good times!!

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Old 04-08-18, 09:40 PM
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I really like the color scheme.
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