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Santa Cruz re-launches Stigmata ’cross bike

Prominent California mountain bike brand has a redesigned carbon frame to appeal to 'cross purists with front and rear thru-axles and more

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“What’s old is new again” is not a cliché that applies to the Santa Cruz Stigmata CC. Well, except for its name.

“Naming bikes is a process. Seriously, it takes months of circular emails being sent. It’s so much easier to name a new bike after an old one,” said Santa Cruz’s COO, Joe Graney.

The new Santa Cruz Stigmata CC, is a rekindled name for the California brand, and it’s in the same genre of bikes, though when the Stigmata cyclocross bike was cut from the Santa Cruz line-up in 2012, it had Easton EA6X aluminum tubes, handmade in Portland, Oregon, and was only available with cantilever brakes. It was on the verge of being an obsolete bike, with carbon ’cross bikes becoming commonplace, and the debate over discs reaching a head.

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“A no-holds-barred race machine”

Too often, a manufacturer will bring a new bike to market — especially in cyclocross — that blurs the lines of too many disciplines. The term “gravel grinder,” nauseatingly, comes to mind. Rack mounts, in-betweener bottom brackets, dropper posts, all these “features” take what could have been a cyclocross bike and turn it into something different. Something slower, in regards to pure cyclocross performance.

“No fender mounts. No rack mounts. It’s meant to be a no-holds-barred race bike,” said Josh Kissner, the Santa Cruz product manager.

The Stigmata CC will only be available in Santa Cruz’s top-of-the-line CC carbon. In the eyes of some, quite the upgrade from the aluminum model of four seasons ago, though the “made in the USA” tag that the previous Stigmata sported, is lost with the switch. “The goal was to make a high-end race bike. We do dip down a bit, offering a SRAM Rival build kit,” said Kissner.

The geometry is loosely based on the old aluminum Stigmata. Though the angles are a bit slacker and the chain stays are shorter than the old Stigmata, but overall, the Stigmata CC is on par with other mainstream cyclocross race bikes. The head tube angle is 72.5 degrees, which isn’t overly aggressive, like some 73-degree head tubes on the market, but it still feels agile. The geometry feels like a race bike, not a stretched-out adventure bike.

Santa Cruz claims that the Stigmata CC can accommodate up to 41mm tire, though we were unable to test that, the Stigmata looked to have plenty of tire clearance. We welcome the wider tires for training, of course, but for racing too. For those riders not toeing the line in a UCI event, the extra traction is likely to be just as beneficial as a narrower tread’s lower rolling resistance.

Stigmata builds

Santa Cruz went with completely internal cable routing, including the fork, which they designed. “When you’ve built frames, building forks is pretty straightforward,” said Graney.

To keep things quiet inside of the frame, Santa Cruz engineered a carbon sheath inside the down tube, to keep the hydraulic brake hose from slapping against the large, hollow carbon tube. The brake line sheath runs into the chain stay and out the exit port, near the caliper. So all a mechanic needs to do when changing brake lines is feed the line into the port on the left of the head tube, and it will exit at the brake caliper.

Santa Cruz sought to make the shift cables easy to maintain as well. There is an exceptionally large hole at the bottom bracket for them to exit, and the cable guide and cover are simple to install.

SRAM hydraulic brakes and drivetrains are used on all three of the complete bikes. The SRAM Red 22 model will retail for $6,600; Force CX1 will be $4,700; the Rival 22 model runs $3,700. Every model will be spec’d with Zipp Service Course SL bars, stem, and seatpost, and WTB Asym i19 rims, though each model will be laced to a different level of DT Swiss hub. For an extra $2,000 buyers can order a set of Enve M50 tubeless rims laced to DT Swiss 240 hubs. Frames will retail for $2,300.

Santa Cruz went with thru-axles front and rear, which we have to applaud, and choosing a proven thru-axle design like the RockShox MaxleLite only sweetens the deal.

Also a first for Santa Cruz, the Stigmata uses a Pressfit30 bottom bracket. The California brand has long been a proponent of the threaded bottom bracket, a feature we at VeloNews are fans of as well.

Kissner explained that with mountain bikes, thicker carbon is used at the bottom bracket in part to reinforce the frame as the bottom bracket junction on the down tube is prone to rock-strikes, and this also stiffens up the bottom bracket. On a cyclocross bike, the extra protection isn’t needed, so the Stigmata uses a thin carbon bottom bracket shell that is stiffened thanks to its sheer size and the BB30 spindle.

The Stigmata CC was set to be available in stores now, but due to port strikes, it will be delayed. We have to tip our hat to Santa Cruz for its effort to make the bike available well in advance of the race season.

However, we wish it were arriving with a threaded bottom bracket.

First ride

I only spent two short rides on the Stigmata CC, neither of which was on a proper cyclocross course, but the quality trails showed how the Stigmata performed over rough terrain. The Stigmata’s two water bottle bosses might be its only feature that isn’t reminiscent of a true ‘cross race bike, though we do welcome them, as rides like this are part of the fun of owning a cyclocross bike — it can be used for more than just racing.

The Stigmata’s compliance was noticeable, especially since I rode it with about 50 PSI in the tubeless Maxxis Mudwrestlers. I rode the Stigmata over abandoned mining railways outside Westport, New Zealand. A ride that would normally wear down on my lower back, but the Stigmata absorbed the large bumps better than I anticipated, even at speed when seated and pedaling.

The tube shapes are extremely square. For shouldering and suit-casing, it’s a nice touch, as the top tube rests on the shoulder comfortably but isn’t too big, so people with smaller hands will have no problem wrapping their fingers around it for a firm grip when suit-casing. The squareness on the underside of the down tube, will likely collect mud, however, as the large, flat area behind the front wheel is a good target for slop flying off the front tire. It’s a design that is not unique to Santa Cruz, as the large square tube shapes are supposed to be stiffer.

I look forward to testing the Stigmata CC at length this summer and fall. How much longer until CrossVegas?

Editor’s note: Santa Cruz Bicycles provided travel and accommodations for this product launch.

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