I lost a friend recently. We used to go out on adventures together all around the South East and occasionally to the foreign climes of Wales. We climbed mountains, explored valleys, crossed rivers and shared good times and bad but now my Nomad has gone. I had ridden a Marin before but was over-riding this really, chasing better riders on better bikes and as my riding places moved away from cross-country bridleways to technical single-track the obstacles got harder and I needed a bit more bike.
I had considered a Blur and had tried to buy an Intense 5.5 but a ride on an early model Nomad proved decisive. I agonized over the bits to buy but on New Year 2006 I plumbed everything together.
It looked great. It hinted purpose. It was orange.
XT gears, Juicy 5 brakes, Hope hubs and Mavic rims and most importantly a Vanilla 36 RLC were the key bits. Everything has lasted well although nearly all the original gear bits have all had to be replaced and the wheels were upgraded to a wider rimmed set of orange rims. Towards the end the Juicy brakes were superseded by another set with larger rotors as the pistons were beginning to corrode but the fork was faultless although it did get a Mojo service every year.
The linkages were all serviced several times using the Propack of new axles and bearings and this was essential to keep everything running smoothly. Every time I carried this out I thought the linkages were running perfectly and after every time I was surprised at the improvement in the feel. I never had to replace the links themselves but I would be careful to check these if I was buying a used bike. The Santa Cruz tool for the bearings is expensive but essential for carrying this task quickly and accurately. The only item that has been fit it and leave alone has been the Chris King headset. It was expensive and it needed careful fitting to get it absolutely perfect but all the things that I had read about it seemed to be true. It waits on the shelf for a new place to serve for now.
At about 33lb with slime tubes and Michelin Extremes it needed a bit of work on the hills but it rode light. Going up on rocky boulder strewn chutes or on rooty stepped up tracks it felt 5lb lighter because the suspension swallowed the problem without losing momentum. On anything downhill the bike never broke sweat by the time I had reached my own terror limit.
A good fork was essential here as the high speeds that you achieve in an instant helps with the safety margin. On a side to side test with two Nomads fitted with the two versions of the 36, air and coil, the Vanilla was much smoother allowing me to pull a gap on the air fork Nomad easily on a rough downhill bridleway but being unable to keep on the wheel when we swapped over.
It accelerated slowly out of corners but Michelin Dry2 helped in the brief dry summer days and needed lots of side edges on tyres to hold you on track in anything soft but partly this is due to the higher speeds. I happily used it as a long day bike on bridleways where it was armchair comfortable but not really an uphill racer. This was not just the weight but also its reluctance to sprint. Twisty single-track was fun but the relaxed head angle made it short of nimble so wide entrance lines and straight over the roots were necessary to keep up with a light racy bike.
The best thing was it forced me try things that were way beyond my comfort level but the added capability gave me enough safety margin that I never had a hospital fall. I did fall off at times but when I did it was usually a small slip on something easy. I never fell off on anything that I had had to grit my teeth and take a brave pill. That has been the long term benefit as I have learned to do some difficult things on a big bike means that I can tackle them more confidently on a smaller bike with less travel.
I set up the Nomad as an everyday bike with lots of sag but it is better suited as a slightly hardcore build for the stronger, braver rider. In that form you can hurl it down a Welsh mountainside or a French Alp with abandon. You might fall off occasionally it you reach beyond your skill factor but the bike will not let you down. The frame bounces well with no dings or bending but it needs lots of protective tape over the paint. Anodised or polished may have been a better choice but the tape worked and the colour did not fade.
I have not ridden the new version but this seems to be an improvement in a direction well suited to the UK; a tighter rear for better climbing and for the twisty stuff, grease ports for maintenance and easier bearing change and even a nice new green colour.
I had a really good time with my Nomad covering thousands of miles from riding it several days each week and would recommend one to you even if you are not a gravity fiend in order to learn to ride some of the harder stuff with a better margin of safety.
You do need the strength and patience to wind it up the hills but I would not recommend building it light using a lesser fork instead I would point you in the direction of the new Blur LT which is a mini Nomad despite the protestations.
And as for a replacement for me, well I do not need another Nomad or its’ equivalent and I would like some help against Father Time so for me less is more.
Firstly I need to start with colour charts and check the shade of orange……