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

Not found for sale. More bikes


Release Year
Wheel Size
Numbers of Gears
28.27, 28.82, 29.62, 26.01, 28 lbs
Brake Type
Frame Material

Summary of Reviews

We have read all expert and user reviews on the this bike. 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
Level 1 expert

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.

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Level 5 expert

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.

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Feed the Habit
Level 2 expert

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.

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Outdoor Gear Lab
Level 3 expert

Santa Cruz Chameleon R1+ 2019 Review

Level 3 expert

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

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Outdoor Gear Lab
Level 3 expert

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.

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User Ratings

100/100 based on 1 ratings
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