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The evolution continues.
The Chameleon has been a staple in the Santa Cruz lineup for over 20 years. The model has endured, with a legion of fans, because of the bike's ability to adapt to rider's needs all the while coming in at a price that makes n+1 a reality—traits that surface again in the Chameleon 27.5+ R Complete Mountain Bike. The frame caters to those that favor a heavy-duty hardtail that can handle laps at the bike park, black diamond singletrack, and camping trips alike.
As proponents of all of the above, we appreciate the bike's ability to easily switch from gears to singlespeed and the tweaks to the frame in an effort to modernize the geometry and allow the frame to work with longer travel forks. The Chameleon 5.0 takes everything we loved about the frames of the past and supersizes the clearance so you can now choose 27.5+ or 29in wheels. Add in FOX's Rhythm 34 fork, SRAM's value packed NX group, and some fat 3in tires and the Chameleon R+ will put a smile on your face and become the go-to bike that's always getting dirty.
The R+ version of the Chameleon is compatible with 29in and 27.5+ wheels, and it comes set up with the latter. Changing between wheel sizes requires different dropouts to adapt the geometry; those dropouts are available separately from Santa Cruz. The sliding dropouts allow you to adjust the chainstay length so you can adjust the distance between the rear dropouts and bottom bracket to suit both your terrain and riding style. The dropout design also allows for chain tension management if you choose to run the bike as a singlespeed.
We applaud Santa Cruz in constructing the Chameleon frame from aluminum. This is a bike that encourages a rider to test their limits, and alloy is the right choice for when those tests see a rider picking themselves (and the bike) up off the ground. The material choice is durable and also keeps the price quite reasonable, leaving enough in your pocket to outfit the bike for several weeklong bike packing excursion or a second wheelset if you wish.
Most folks associate hardtails with cross-country but with the Chameleon's short chainstays, long reach, and slack 67.5-degree head tube angle, you'll be tacking trails you wouldn't typically bring a hardtail to. The 5in FOX Rhythm fork handles big hits and jumps with ease and the rigid rear end excels in efficiency and keeps weight down relative to full-suspension models. Swiss-army knife, jack of all trades, or whatever other clichés you can throw at it, the Chameleon will always impress with its adaptability and capability.
The 27 R+ Chameleon has a hunger for adventure and has a build kit that balances performance and value to satisfy that hunger. The fork is super plush and very easy to setup for the rider's weight, riding style, and terrain. SRAM’s NX drivetrain offers solid, reliable shifting and the Level T brakes provide excellent modulation and power. Race Face AR rims provide a great foundation for the grippy yet fast rolling WTB Ranger tires.
- Versatile hardtail for trails, parks, and overnight trips
- Slack head tube angle encourages point-and-shoot in steep terrain
- Aluminum frame is durable and offers great value
- Swap-able dropouts allow for 27.5+ or 29in wheels
- Dependable SRAM NX group fires off shifts with precision
- Item #SNZ00DS
- Q & A
Best hardtail to ever roll into my life
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
In the 3 months that I have had this bike, I have put nearly 250 miles on it. I have taken this bike on everything from smooth, flowy trails to steep, technical rocky trails, and even into the bike park a few times. The Chameleon has taken everything I have thrown at it with ease. The Fox Rhythm fork makes the R build worth the extra cost, making the ride as plush as possible right out the gate. Needless to say, I'm pretty obsessed with this bike.