Hardtail Domination Is What Santa Cruz Bicycles' Chameleon R+ Carbon Is After

Chameleon R+ Carbon 11 photos
Photo: Santa Cruz Bicycles
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“Dad, can I have a mountain bike for Christmas?” “Sure. We can go down to Wal-Mart or Target and pick something out for you.” “We either have to get it online or go down to Santa Cruz, California.” “That’s not too bad. We can make a trip out of it.” “Yeah! Thanks Pops!” “By the way, how much does it cost?” “I don’t know, like under three thousand.” “That better be pesos you’re talking about.”
Fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on how you see things), what this kid is asking for is a near three-thousand-dollar bike. But frankly, it’s worth every penny. Here, take a minute and have a look at the gallery before trying to expand your vocabulary from someone named Curmei (coor-may). How do you even pronounce that? Doesn’t matter.

Well, Chameleon is a word anyone can pronounce and is recognizable in almost any language. What you see in the cover photo and gallery is known as the Chameleon from Santa Cruz Bicycles. However, the Chameleon is actually an entire line of bikes. This one is the R+ Carbon.

Chameleon R Carbon
Photo: Santa Cruz Bicycles
I chose the R+ because it includes my preferred 27.5-in tires and a carbon frame. Oh, and I think you’ve picked up that it cruises in under $3k, $2,699 to be exact. Wanna find out what it can do?

If you’re reading this now, welcome! Welcome to a land where the only electrical component is, well, you. You will find no Nm of torque here. No Wh of capacity, except the food you ate before the ride. And certainly no pedal-assist. Here we find riders who will only go as far as their minds and bodies will allow them. Here we find raw biking in all its natural glory.

Now, one of the things you’ve noticed about the frame is the lack of a rear suspension. This means the R+ is more of an all-around bike. But it can handle some punishment if you know how to dish it out. Overall, the bike comes in with a decent 28.75 lbs (13.04 kg) of weight and internal cable routing to keep things clean and snag-free.

Chameleon R Carbon
Photo: Santa Cruz Bicycles
Because the rear suspension is missing, this is the kind of bike that will also rely on tires to offer some shock absorption. For the R+, the team threw on Maxxis Rekons, but if you don’t like them, they’re one of those components that can be easily customized. As for the front fork, a FOX Rhythm with 130 mm (5.1 in) of travel takes care of the rest of your suspension needs.

Now, who do you think is supplying the shifting systems and drivetrain? I'll give you a hint; it starts with ‘S’. Got it? If you thought Shimano, you’d be wrong. Actually, the Santa Cruz team chose SRAM as their supplier for these goods. The crankset, derailleur, shifters, and chain are all SRAM 12-speed NX Eagle. Even the brakes are covered by this team.

My only mention if you look to grab something like this for you or your loved ones, please, please make sure you guys know what you’re doing. If you’re not careful, that hardtail will kick you right off. Been there, done that, and walked home with a punctured oblique.
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About the author: Cristian Curmei
Cristian Curmei profile photo

A bit of a nomad at heart (being born in Europe and raised in several places in the USA), Cristian is enamored with travel trailers, campers and bikes. He also tests and writes about urban means of transportation like scooters, mopeds and e-bikes (when he's not busy hosting our video stories and guides).
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