Peaslake is a small, idyllic village that sits unassumingly in the heart of the Surrey Hills. In this village with a quaint little village store, stunning houses and a great pub, sits a small shop called Pedal & Spoke. For the past 7 years, it’s been the unrivalled powerhouse of the UK Santa Cruz market. Owner Howard Wagstaff is a lovely guy, known for wearing two things in particular; a welcoming smile and his trademark flip flops. Seriously, even in the depths of Winter, Howard is rocking the open feet look. If 5.10 don’t give him a signature set soon, I’d be surprised.
Supporting Howard is shop mechanic and all-round legend Jack ‘Mouse’ Roadley. Again, Jack is always smiling and having a laugh with the locals and newcomers alike and is always happy to help with anything. He’s a big supporter of Stealth Riders too, so I’m naturally chuffed by this!
Finally, there’s Mags, the shop dawg. A beautiful little Jack Russel, Mags can usually be found chilling out in her bed under one of the counters or near the tees. That is, until she hears the rustle of a paper bag with a cheese straw inside. Ears perk up instantly and the stereotypical ‘puppy dog eyes’ come out. All in all, Pedal & Spoke really is the quintessential ‘local bike shop in the small village’, inclusive of boutique brands and the friendly ‘locals service’ which is extended to all who walk through the door. It’s the perfect location; Surrey is one of the most affluent areas in the UK and the Surrey Hills just so happen to have some of the best trails to ride in the South East of the UK too, so it’s all a match made in heaven. It’s no surprise then, that Pedal & Spoke only sell Santa Cruz bicycles. Affluence demands perfection, so why sell anything else?!
After a quick chat with the guys, I was graced with a Large Santa Cruz Nomad C, the ‘S’ model in the gorgeous Ink/Gold colourway, which sits at a shade under £5k, and was told to simply ‘take it out for as long as you want and enjoy it’. And that’s exactly what I did. 6 hours later, I returned the Nomad, and below is what came of my time with the bike.
Nearly everything has changed with the 2018 Nomad and it really has been redesigned from the ground up. After years of development and research with it’s big brother the V10, Santa Cruz have trickled that tech and design down to the Nomad, to allow what seems to be basically a hill friendly mini DH bike. I’m pleased to see they have stuck with 27.5″ wheels, too.
Longer and slacker, the 2018 Nomad has a much lower placed shock, passing through the split seat tube. This change allows growth in travel from it’s predecessor, from 165mm to 170mm, and allows the bike to effectively feel the same on the descents as a full-blown downhill bike.
The Mk4 Nomad is a big departure in styling terms from the Mk3 and below is the proof of this. I was accompanied on the day by my buddy Phil G, who just so happens to ride a stealth black Mk3 Nomad. Aesthetically, I genuinely cannot choose a favourite; each has it’s own standout points and are both stunning in their own right, so I’m still torn. You can make your own mind up.
The S model I was demoing on the day is the mid-range offering of the Nomad family, with build highlights below:
Frame: Full carbon
Forks: Rockshox Lyrik RC 170
Shock: Rockshox Super Deluxe R
Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle 12 speed
Brakes: SRAM Code R, 180mm rotors F&R
Bar/Stem: Race Face Aeffect with Santa Cruz Grips
Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb, 170mm (L/XL models, smaller models get a shorter drop)
Wheels: 27.5″ E13 TRS 30mm rims with Novatec hubs, boost spacing.
Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 Front / Maxxis Minion DHR 2.4 Rear
Weight: Approx 29lbs
The Nomad also comes in an alloy guise, with prices starting at a friendlier £3,599. However, if you’re a bit more flush with cash, you can opt for the carbon ‘Reserve’ model; the Cremé de la créme of the range which will set you back over £7,500. Regardless of the model, the 2018 Nomad really is a joy to look at – sleek lines, stunning colours and that unmistakable classy look of a Santa Cruz bicycle:
It was a bit of a grim day and the rain had been coming in over the few days before, so there was going to be some mud. Phil and I decided to start out by stretching the legs with a road climb up to Holmbury St Mary, the typically drier hill of the three on the day, up to one of the Surrey Hills’ more famous trails; Barry Knows Best (BKB). Like an engine on a cold day, I take a little while to get warmed up and into the swing of things, as I’m sure most of you do too. After a bastard climb up, the descent of Barry gave me the chance to pump the bike through small dips, test the tyres in the corners and put the power down on the fast sections. Soon enough, I was feeling ready for the more gnarly, technical trails the Surrey Hills is known for.
We rode up towards Pitch Hill and I was very pleasantly surprised with the climb up ‘Deathstar’; if you know it, you’ll be pleased to hear that a 170mm bike can sail up. The rider, not so much.. after clipping a small rock, I was guided into a small gully and my climb came to a halt. Still, if I’d not made that mistake, the climb would have been easy enough. We rode ‘Proper Bo’ to warm up a little more and that gave me the first taste of the Nomad in the air. Whilst it’s a tiny double, it’s still good to get a feel before the bigger stuff, and the bike flew smoothly through the 4-5ft double and landed as if it was a kerb.
Feeling more comfortable on the bike, it was time for something a bit bigger. We rode up to the entrance of Thick & Creamy, known for its super rocky, technical gully entrance, which then opens up to two drops; the first being over a downed oak tree and the second launches you into a huge berm before a smooth table. The Nomad sailed through everything with ease. It was, simply put, the smoothest run of that trail I’ve ever experienced, with travel feeling endless and the wheels feeling railed. I didn’t think I’d ever say that the drops on this trail would feel small, but the Nomad swallowed them without question.
We rode towards Winterfold Forest and the climb there once again surprised me. How the hell is a 170mm bike pedalling this well?! I mean it when I say this, the Nomad felt like a 130-140mm bike on the climbs. We reached a favourite trail of mine (and everybody else), Evian, and again, sailed over the first 8-10ft double, through the tight berms and over the second, smaller double. It was at this point I realised my face was beginning to ache a little. I figured out this was because for the past few hours of riding and chatting, all I’d been doing was smiling and laughing, even as the mud and slop began to cling more to me and the bike. It’s not every day I enjoy a ride this much, so I was not going to take it for granted.
We rode a few more of the trails around the Winterfold area, including Northern Monkey and again, the Nomad never skipped a beat. Not once. Even on greasy roots, as soon as I felt a wheel begin to give, the Nomad shifted into autopilot, ensuring I remained upright and railed. Honestly, it was a strange feeling and I can’t quite explain it; where I’m certain I’d have fallen a few times on another bike, I somehow kept things together on the Nomad, saving me an embrace with some of Surreys finest mud.
One thing I was very curious about in the morning when picking the bike up was, considering the state of the trails and the general muddy conditions the UK has in comparison to California, the position of the rear shock. Surely, with the shock placement so low and close to the rear wheel, this was a recipe for disaster. However, it’s amazing what one tiny piece of plastic can do. This just goes to show that the small details really do make the differences. Not once was I hampered by mud clogging the shock, nor did I feel anything other than buttery smooth compression and rebound. Top marks to Santa Cruz for the innovative ways they’re addressing minor points to ensure maximum stoke levels.
Phil and I headed back to the village centre for a bite to eat and a warm brew, courtesy of the ever-lovely Trudy and team at the Peaslake Village Store. At this point, Phil had to head off. Covered in mud, damp and aching a little, I could at this point have finished the ride. But why quit on a good thing? I was still feeling stoked to be on this bike, so I set off for a full climb to the Holmbury St Mary viewpoint and test through Yoghurt pots; undulating corners, much like a roller coaster made of gnar. At the viewpoint, I bumped into Marcia Ellis, who, a few years ago launched Surrey Hills MTB Chix, a group dedicated for getting women out riding. We had a good chat and it’s awesome to see how far women riding has come and it’s thanks to Marcia and co that are driving the revolution.
I hit Yoghurt Pots and managed to get through most of the trail without pedalling, instead opting to pump through everything I could and the immediate speed generation the Nomad produced was inspiring. It’s always a trail that guarantees a smile from me, and this time I think it was just a touch bigger than ever before.
Finally, I headed back to the first trail of the day, BKB. This time however, I knew the bike and how it handled, so the bike and I worked in unison, nailing every rut, root and berm. I finished the trail feeling elated, yet sad to know my time with the Nomad was coming to a close. I span the last few hundred metres back to the shop, reminiscing on the sheer epicness of the ride I’ve just had, hosed the bike down and hung it back up on the rail outside whilst having a chat to a mate that was at the shop, James B. Thanking Howard and Jack, I said my goodbyes and got changed into some fresh clothes before heading home to reflect on the day.
HUGE thanks to everybody on the day, especially Howard and Jack for the demo and Phil for the company. As always, a big shout out to Trudy for the big smiles and beautiful coffee too and a ‘great to see you’ to Marcia and James. The cycling community is just incredible and consistently friendly, no matter who you are.
Talking quickly on Pedal & Spoke, they are, simply put, THE place to go if you want a Santa Cruz. They have an insane choice of demo bikes to try out, offer an impressive part-exchange service on your old Santa Cruz if you’re eyeing the latest model and provide top service, products and advice, all the time with good laughs.
I mentioned it in the opening paragraphs, but one thing that stood out for me was the level of relationship the guys in the shop had with their customers – from loyal clients turned friends, to new customers looking to buy the latest kit, the service was impeccable, dedicated and truly bespoke to each need. Still, it’s hard to see how the service wouldn’t be anything less than world class… the guys work in the heart of the stunning Surrey countryside with some of the best trails in South East on their doorstep, offering some of the nicest bikes currently available to some incredibly friendly people. Add to this the allure of the best cheese straws in the galaxy.. did somebody say dream job?!
I was going to write something big here, but I honestly don’t think I need to. Simply put, you know that warm fuzzy feeling you got when you had your first crush? By the last few trails of the day, that’s how the Nomad had me feeling. I think it could be love…
Ian @ Stealth Riders