Santa Cruz Chameleon

BikeRide Score
The BikeRide Score ranks bikes from 0-100 based on opinions from users and experts. The higher the score is, the better. Read how it works
Where to buy
You get the best deals and we may get a commission. Learn More
BikeRide works hard to help you find the lowest prices and information on each bike from the widest possible range of sources. BikeRide is reader-supported, and sometimes we receive commissions for links you click on. Read Privacy Policy

BikeRide finds and shows you the best prices of the bikes you want to buy. Prices constantly change and it’s impossible to compare them all yourself.

We search for prices on over 120 bike retailers to guarantee that we find the lowest prices – to save you time and money.

It’s a promise we stand behind: If you find a lower price on a bike elsewhere, we will sell it to you for 10% less. For example, if you find a bike for $480 that we have listed at $500, we will offer you to buy it for $432 through BikeRide. The bike must be the same color and size, sold in the US and not include the use of a coupon.

If you find a lower price, email us at [email protected] with documentation of the price. We’re committed to making sure that the cost of a bike does not keep you from cycling!


Release Year
Wheel Size
Numbers of gears
Brake Type
Frame Material

Summary of Reviews

We have read all expert and user reviews on Santa Cruz Chameleon. In summary, this is what cyclists think.

11 reasons to buy

  • The Chameleon demonstrates agile, reptilian handling capabilities.
  • For some lower-end models, experts saw value-for-money as ‘solid’.
  • Generally, climbing ability impressed. One expert deemed it ‘stellar’.
  • The bike can be run geared, singlespeed and with two chainstay lengths.
  • It can also be shod with 27.5” tires (up to 2.6”) or 29” (up to 2.6”).
  • Reportedly, this steed performs savagely on descents.
  • Testers found the Chameleon to be at home at high speeds.
  • SRAM Level T brakes offered adequate stopping power.
  • Bikepackers were satisfied with cargo-carrier mounts under the down-tube.
  • Weight on carbon versions was described as ‘fairly light’.
  • On higher-end models, Race Face Aeffect dropper-posts were lauded.

10 reasons not to buy

  • It was common to hear that higher-end models seemed massively overpriced.
  • For some, steep geometry felt less confident in rapid descents.
  • The short rear-end felt jarring on rocky terrain.
  • An expert loathed the less-aggressive, XC-focused Maxxis Ardent rear tire.
  • On lower-end models, the lack of a dropper-post was a detractor.
  • The Fox 34 shock underwhelmed, as a difficult-to-tune base-model.
  • SRAM Guide brakes lacked power and needed bleeding early on.
  • Some riders would have liked clearance for a 29” x 2.6” tire, or larger.
  • One tester found climbing difficult on an R1, due to a ‘wandering front end’.
  • The Chameleon lacks a downtube bottle-mount.

Bottom line

The Chameleon has been around since 1997, in one guise or another. In its 8th and most recent edition, we see a bike equipped for singletrack, jumping, cross-country and now bikepacking. Innovative rear dropouts allow owners to easily choose from two chainstay lengths. In addition, the bike can be set up as a singlespeed and run with either 29” or 27.5” tires. Plus-size 27.5”s offered increased comfort at lower pressures. In general, reviewers could not overstate the Chameleon’s fun-factor. Unfortunately, when it came to higher-end models, it became clear that the Santa Cruz name demanded eye-wateringly high prices.

Expert Reviews

81/100 based on 6 expert reviews
Dusty Betty

Santa Cruz Chameleon R+ Review

Level 1 expert

As far as hardtails go I think this is, hands-down, my favorite I’ve ever ridden… Fun-factor: 11/10.

Visit full review

Santa Cruz Chameleon 7 R1 29 Review

Level 5 expert

…an addictively engaging, hyper-versatile all rounder that refuses to play by category and geometry fashion rules.

Visit full review
Feed the Habit

Santa Cruz Chameleon R Aluminum 29 Review

Level 2 expert

I enjoy the efficiency on climbing and the visceral way it connects you to the trail.

Visit full review
Outdoor Gear Lab

Santa Cruz Chameleon R1+ 2019 Review

Level 3 expert

Downhill capabilities are great, climbing is solid and the fun-factor is sky-high.

Visit full review
Outdoor Gear Lab

Santa Cruz Chameleon 29 R Review

Level 3 expert

…this bicycle is supremely fun and is a great choice for the rider who wants a hardtail to slap corners and play around.

Visit full review

User Ratings

100/100 based on 1 ratings
  • 5 star
  • 4 star
  • 3 star
  • 2 star
  • 1 star

Your Rating

Have you tried the bike? Join or Sign in and add your rating.


Compared to other bikes
#6 Best Bikepacking
Top 40%
#2 Best Cross Country
Top 40%
#7 Best Mountain
Top 40%
#7 Best Trail
Bottom 40%
#24 Best of All Bikes
Top 30%

Best Santa Cruz Bikes

Santa Cruz bikes with the highest BikeRide Score


In comparison to averages of categories
Santa Cruz Chameleon
Average All Bikes
Average Santa Cruz Bike
Average Mountain Bike