IN-DEPTH REVIEW: SANTA CRUZ STIGMATA CYCLOCROSS BIKE

This Santa Cruz Stigmata review appeared in Cyclocross Magazine Issue 29, which also featured a showcase on Ellen Noble, an interview with Sven Nys’ on his last season and much, much more.

After taking our first look at the Santa Cruz Stigmata, we at CXM headquarters took the bike for an extended review. As we do with all of our review bikes, we put the Stigmata through the paces, testing it in real-world conditions and using our experience to write an in-depth review—no marketing fluff, no advertorial—a honest, objective review.

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The last time we reviewed a Santa Cruz Stigmata, we were releasing our first print issue, and the bike was built from an alloy frame. Santa Cruz admits on their website that they’ve done things a little backward, starting off their carbon focus on their mountain and downhill bikes before venturing into the world of carbon fiber cyclocross bikes.

Santa Cruz carbon Stigmata cyclocross bike. © Cyclocross Magazine

The Frame:

A perfect example of this once-imagined stigma is in the geometry of the frame. Back in 2009, we called out Santa Cruz as one of the few companies offering a bike with a low bottom bracket. The geometry of the current bike continues the previous alloy Stigmata’s winning geometry, which is rumored to have been inspired by local Santa Cruz frame builder legend Paul Sadoff of Rock Lobster Cycles.

This geometry is pretty mainstream nowadays, with our 56cm model measuring a 56cm top tube, 42.5cm chainstays, 69mm bottom bracket drop, a 72 degree head angle and a 73.5 degree seat angle. The frame and fork are designed for thru axles front and rear: 15mm x 100mm in the front and 12mm x 142mm in the rear. The bottom bracket shell is designed for a PF30.

Santa Cruz carbon Stigmata cyclocross bike, with a bit of room to spare around a WTB Nano TCS 40c tire. © Cyclocross Magazine

Along with their full builds, Santa Cruz offers a frame option with an MSRP of $2,299.

The Build:

Santa Cruz carbon Stigmata cyclocross bike. © Cyclocross Magazine

The narrow Maxxis Mud Wrestler, listed at 33mm, may help you jump into a UCI cyclocross race if that’s your thing, but it feels too narrow for any serious adventures. After taking a look at the generous tire clearances on the frame, we decided to push the limits and throw in some of our own rubber on the bike. We were able to fit in a Specialized Renengade 29 x 1.8″ tire in the front and a WTB Nano TCS 40mm tire out back, both with room to spare.

Santa Cruz carbon Stigmata cyclocross bike. © Cyclocross Magazine

The Ride:

Santa Cruz carbon Stigmata cyclocross bike. © Cyclocross Magazine

Once you’ve solved that, and can hold onto the handlebars, you’ll discover that the Stigmata does almost everything right, and high jumps its way onto our short list of top bikes. The geometry lends itself to a really versatile bike that aligns quite well with the preferences of our test crew. It’s stable and hop-handicapped friendly, with a low bottom bracket (69mm drop) that aids in sweeping turns, long gravel grinds, descents—really in any terrain other than off-cambers and rocks and roots. The steering will get you around switchbacks and hairpins without a full-body effort, but it’s not a twitchy grass-crit specialist that will be a handful after six hours of dirt roads. And the 160mm head tube didn’t require a stack of spacers to find a comfortable offseason “gravel” position, yet wasn’t old-man specific to prevent a more aggressive,  race-oriented position come fall.

Geometry of cyclocross bikes has, for the most part nowadays, become a bit standardized, and it’s no surprise that the Stigmata closely mimics the geometry tendencies of its Bay Area neighbors, Rock Lobster and Specialized. Study its geometry, and you’ll find nothing remarkable about the Stigmata, except perhaps its tad-long 48mm fork rake, which bigger feet appreciate. The variances in general are so minor today that, at least for this tester, a bike’s frame features, versatility and tire setup are what I tend to zero in on and care about most.

Justin Robinson, a longtime Specialized-sponsored racer, made the switch to the Santa Cruz Stigmata this season, and agreed the geometry and ride is very similar to his Crux, but with a stiffer fork.

And where the Stigmata wins major points is in its versatility. I’ve ridden the Stigmata as a road bike with slicks, and squeezed 1.8” 29er tires in it, easily up front, and against better judgement out back, and had an awesome monster ‘cross/rugged gravel bike that was the perfect match for what I ride in the offseason.

Santa Cruz carbon Stigmata cyclocross bike, with the Mud Wrestler swapped for a Specialized Renengade 29x1.8 tire. © Cyclocross Magazine

My butt didn’t agree with the WTB Silverado saddle, and after a few rides I felt beaten and bruised and swapped it out, and that’s obviously just a matter of personal preference and body type. But I still wanted more WTB. Because the bike comes with the excellent, tubeless-ready WTB i9 rims, I wish Santa Cruz opted for WTB’s TCS Cross Boss tubeless tires, which offer a more secure, burp-resistant fit and more volume.

The Verdict:

A bike review often is an exercise in obsessing about the little details. But when your biggest complaints are easily replaceable components like tires and a saddle, you know you’ve found a winner.

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