Santa Cruz Chameleon: Stop Riding XC. Ride this Instead.

Cascadia Wheel Co.

I won’t butter you up with a lush, descriptive introduction for this recent build in the shop. Instead, I’ll just say this: stop riding your XC bike and get a bike like this.

The Santa Cruz Chameleon has been in the line-up for some years now as a regular hardtail option. However, in 2017, it got a reboot. Santa Cruz had this to say about it:

Dirt or asphalt, mountain or urban, geared or singlespeed—the moniker Chameleon has never rang more true than on this updated-for-2017 Santa Cruz classic. Upsized to either 29-inch or 27.5+ wheels, the Chameleon shifts from trail-worthy hardtail to bikepacker to garbage-weather weapon of choice with simple, elegant aplomb. The wheel change is accomplished via interchangeable dropouts, and there’s a singlespeed version for each wheel size. –

The bike was easy to build up, easy to find the correct build specs for headset, bb, etc… More importantly, the frame came prepped so I could start throwing parts on immediately! This bike went together like a beginner Lego kit.

We spec’d out this particular build as a 27.5″ wheel size with 2.35 tires. More specifically, we built up a custom IWC alloy wheelset for it.

  • IWC House-Branded Boost Hubset
  • Stan’s Arch MK3 Rims
  • Sapim D-Light Spokes
  • Sapim Brass Nips
  • 1,625g
  • $680ºº

For the cockpit, we went with a full complement of PNW Components*: a matching handlebar, stem, and dropper post.

*A brief side note – I highly recommend this company. Their parts are fairly light, very durable, they look great, AND they’re easy on the budget when doing a full build, without cutting any corners.

For the parts group, we took took an XT/XTR group off an existing XC bike and transplanted it with white brake/shift housing to this bike. The end result? A wide range of gears, excellent shifting, solid braking; all with Shimano XT & XTR.

For the fork, we ran a Rock Shox Reba with 120mm of travel. The bike wouldn’t be taking big jumps or abrupt hits, so having a lighter option was more ideal as it will still be used for climbing.

This bike was all dressed up with somewhere to go… for its first test ride! As soon as I stepped onto the bike, I had the feeling that I wanted to immediately try to wheelie it. From the first go, it was magic. Big tires, a nimble frame, and little wheels made this bike feel like a bmx bike. I was impressed and, quite frankly, jealous that it wasn’t mine. It was a great build, and I am happy with the final result; a bike that just wants to have fun in the woods.


Joey Mullan

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