With the 2022 Santa Cruz Chameleon you can have plenty of different mountain bike flavoured cakes and have a great time eating all of them
The new Santa Cruz Chameleon is a very 2022 bike. It may not have an idler or a rearward axle path – which is a trick even the best hardtail mountain bikes struggle to offer – but it is very much about choices.
Santa Cruz Chameleon need to know
- 130mm travel fork
- 29in or mullet MX wheels
- 2.5in rear tyres on all models
- Aluminium only
- Adjustable dropouts for geometry tweaking (yes, and singlespeeding)
- Triple bolt ‘cargo cage’ option on down tube.
- Sizes: S, M, L, XL
- US pricing: $2,399 to £3,749
- UK pricing TBA
Santa Cruz’s own typically florid marketing bumf states: “Backyard trail thrashing and backcountry soul-searching … Wherever and whatever you can imagine.”Mixed-wheel MX mullet play-bike, singlespeed pure-AF pain-wagon, short-forked dirtjumper or trail bike 29er.
Despite all these showroom options, we’d wager that 99% of these new Chameleons will be run as the full 29er trail bike option. This is not to do the Chameleon down. Not at all. It’s more a testament to how versatile and uncompromised a modern 29er mountain bike can be.
From a UK perspective (the country that has arguably most taken the Chameleon to its heart over the years, nay decades), one of these Chameleon will perform great as a trail bike, a bikepacking bike, an XC bike and will even be fine being piloted down the occasional off-piste enduro line or two. And all of that without really requiring any component changes (bar suitable tyres, obviously). Some set-up tweaks and that’s that. Off you go.
The geometry, whilst being by far the most capable Chameleon we’ve seen to date, is nothing if not conservative. 65° head angle, 74.1° seat angle, 465mm reach (Large) are all non-scary numbers for mass market mountain bikers but are not so retro as to be hampering the potential of the bike.
The BB isn’t too high (315mm) and the standover is really generous (686mm on a Large), which are two crucial geo numbers not to fudge on a hardtail. The standover in particular means it’s very possible for a rider to size-up to get the reach figure they may desire without being (literally) saddled by a frame that’s too tall.