2018 Santa Cruz Chameleon 27.5+ spy photos

27.5+ or 29er on this slack hardtail

27.5 29er Cross Country Plus
This bike can take on many forms and will be available starting at $1600. Release date is March 15, 2017

This bike can take on many forms and is rumored to sell at $1600 base. Release date is March 15, 2017. Photo by Curt Larson

One of the most fitting names for a bike has always been the ‘Chameleon’ by Santa Cruz. A bike of many faces, this hardtail has recently surfaced in Santa Cruz dealers after undergoing a modern-day metamorphosis. What has emerged is a 29er, Plus, singlespeed, bikepacking, rally bike, just to name a few of the possibilities. That is the soul of this bike after all. Affordable, aluminum and versatile enough to be the shapeshifter of bikes.

The drivetrain is a SRAM NX 11 speed with 11-42 cassette.

The drivetrain is a SRAM NX 11 speed with 11-42 cassette. Photo by Curt Larson

These photos were taken at a bikeshop and Santa Cruz headquarters will neither confirm nor deny its existence at this point. We suspect the official release will come in a few days but here’s what we’ve learned so far:

  • It can fit 29er, 27.5+ or 29+ tires
  • Rumored base retail is $1600 in the US
  • Comes with 1×11 NX drivetrain
  • Easton 40mm wheels and Maxxis Rekon Plus tires
  • Comes with Rocker dropouts for geared or singlespeed use
  • There will be several Rocker dropout options available to correct geometry with different wheel diameters
  • No dropper post included at the $1600 price, but it will be ready for internal dropper routing
  • Front fork travel is 120mm
  • Front derailleur mount is present
  • Head tube angle is 67.3 degrees for a 29er and 67.6 degrees for 27.5 Plus tire bike
  • Chainstay length is adjustable between 415mm and 430mm
  • Reach is quite long!
  • Release date is the Ides of March, aka 3/15/17
These dropouts slide to adjust the chainstays from 415mm to 430. This opens up a wealth of possibilities.

These dropouts slide to adjust the chainstays from 415mm to 430. This opens up a wealth of possibilities. Photo by Curt Larson

Well color us excited. We are a firm believers that hardtails are ideal for Plus tires. Modern day hardtails with geometries that mimic their All Mountain siblings are extremely capable beasts except for one obvious area, the zero mm of travel in the rear. But with the use of a Plus tire sized 2.8 or 3.0, pressures as low as 12 psi will deliver significant comfort to the rider.

A threaded BB is a very welcome sight indeed. And internal routing for an optional dropper post is key.

A threaded BB is a very welcome sight indeed. And internal routing for an optional dropper post is key. Photos by Curt Larson

The key advantage over other options is price, weight and simplicity. It opens up other possibilities like a singlespeed build, a rigid fork lightweight build or a bikepacking/adventure mobile.

This may seem like the obvious evolution for the Chameleon but it does seem like Santa Cruz has nailed the execution phase once again.

With the sliding dropout all the way back, a 29x3.0 tire fit!!!

With the sliding dropout all the way back, a 29×3.0 tire fit!!! Photos by Curt Larson

Bikepacking is one of the the shapeshifter forms of this Chameleon.

Bikepacking is one of the the shapeshifter forms of this Chameleon. Photo by Curt Larson

Visit our forums here for more speculation and discussion.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • guy smiley says:

    Nice looking. Been interested to see how SC enters the + hardtail market….should’ve guessed it!

  • Randy Cougars says:

    The smaller the headtube the better it looks and the more versatile it is.

  • BlackBean says:

    I found that you can’t really run too low pressure on HT plus bikes. They are more prone to rim strikes so I always have to run my rear tire at a pretty high pressure (relatively). I have to pump it hard enough that the tire feels much harder than I would pump a XC tire. And that negates most of the comfort factor. All other things considered though, plus hardtails with trail geometry are fantastic beasts!

  • Dave says:

    I have a Specialized Fuse comp (2017). Best hardtail I ever had. Love the 3″ tires. Stable, solid. The 27.5+ thing seems to be the way to go for HT’s for sure. Note: I do not race.

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