Last Updated on April 21, 2023 by Emmanuel
The Santa Cruz Chameleon AL R 29 mountain bike review is about a bicycle that provides all riding styles without costing a fortune.
The Chameleon AL R 29 mountain bike will enable you to try out every riding style and accommodate your need to tackle any trail.
So, let’s move to the next section, where I will provide more detailed information about this mountain bike.
Table of Contents
What Is Santa Cruz Chameleon About?
Let’s first acknowledge the Santa Cruz brand known for its various mountain bike models.
Regarding the bike’s performance on trails, many riders pick Santa Cruz’s bike as one of the go-tos.
One thing that many people see as the drawback of Santa Cruz is that their bikes are expensive.
However, this brand has one mountain bike model that is versatile enough for any biking style and the most affordable one: “Chameleon.”
The Chameleon model has existed for 20 years since it first appeared in 1997.
With that experience, it has stamped its name as one of the most successful bike models in the mountain bike world.
This bike has a lot of updates and improvements; you can assume that the latest build brings only the best features and updates of that 20 years of experience.
The latest build of the Chameleon brings the most radical changes in terms of frames compared to the first build.
One noticeable difference is the 4 degrees slacker head tube angle that provides a better ride on the bike.
Did I already say the Chameleon is a versatile bike? Yes. Santa Cruz makes it more convincing by providing options for a 29er and a mullet setup.
So, let’s dive deeper into the 29er build.
Chameleon AL R 29.
|Frame||Aluminum 29/MX Hardtail|
|Fork||FOX Rhythm 34, 130mm|
|Drivetrain||SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed w/ 32T Crankset & 11-50T Cassette.|
|Wheels||RaceFace AR Offset 30 w/ Maxxis 29″x2.5 front and rear.|
|Seatpost||SDG Tellis Dropper, 31.6.|
|Brakes||SRAM Guide T.|
The Chameleon AL R 29 has an aluminum frame that is not prone to rust.
With rust resistance, an aluminum frame needs very-low maintenance, making it ideal for mountain biking which the trails will be full of dirt, dust, or mud.
Moreover, the frame is durable enough to tackle harsh terrain. It features removable dropouts that support 148x12mm or single speed at 142x12mm.
For the chainstay, the curving seat tube makes it possible to shorten about 415mm, so you can, as a rider, immediately feel the power kicking when turning the crankset.
Besides that, notice that the spec says Aluminum 29/MX hardtail. It means that the bike supports a mullet setup.
So, if someday you want to try out mixed wheels, you can install 2.75 inches wheel on the rear end.
For 29 inches wheel, the Chameleon frame allows 2.5 inches tire. And, you can squeeze in up to 3 inches of tire for 27.5 inches wheel setup.
With this compatibility, there seems to be no limit to what this bike can do.
The R letter indicates that the bike is between the D and S versions.
That means the Chameleon AL R 29 sports better components that offer an incredible riding performance.
These components include Burgtec Alloy Bar, Burgtec Enduro MK3 stem, WTB Silverado Race Saddle, and more.
Combined with the frame geometry, drivetrain, and wheels, those components allow the Chameleon AL R 29 to be a decent expert and a confident climber.
Is the Chameleon AL R 29 for you?
Well, it depends on you! If you want to focus on one riding style, it would be better to get a specific bike.
But, if you are a rider that likes to climb steep hills while also enjoying rolling descent tracks and long rides, this bike is your best bet.
However, considering that the Chameleon AL R 29 is a hardtail bike, it would be better to keep the bike rolling on dirt rather than rock gardens when you ride it.
Santa Cruz does not make the Chameleon for a specific riding style.
They aim to reach more people with a bike model that can serve their needs regardless of riding styles and preferences.
Even when you are tired of pedaling on hills, descents, or single tracks, you can always fit the Chameleon with racks and bags for a backpacking trip.
- This mountain bike is versatile, with an aluminum frame resistant to rust. It is prowess on climbs, descents, and long rides.
- It sports 29 inches wheels that provide stability, better momentum, and traction.
- Moreover, this bike is also 27.5 inches wheel compatible for the rear end for a mullet set up to get sharp handling at the rear.
- It has a shorter chainstay and SRAM NX Eagle for snappy feels and easy pedaling.
- The Chameleon AL R 29 will allow you to swab a multi-speed with a single-speed setup.
- Lastly, probably the most important of all, the bike is affordable.
The Chameleon AL R 29 does not include a dropper post in the default kit package. It can’t handle punishments on technical and rocky descents.
If you want mixed wheels from the start, your first pick should be the Chameleon AL R MX. Here is what you get from a mullet setup.
Chameleon AL R MX.
The MX build has the same spec as the previous bike, and the price tag is also the same ($2,949.99).
The only difference between the two is the configuration of the wheels.
Chameleon AL R MX has RaceFace AR Offset 30 rim and Maxxis tires at both ends but with a 29-inch front and a 27.5-inch rear.
It also features a mullet setup providing several advantages a 29er configuration lacks.
The MX build offers the best performance of both worlds. The 29 inches wheel at the front will give you better traction and a higher attack angle over obstacles.
Whereas the 27.5 inches rear wheel will provide faster acceleration and tight handling.
The 29 inches wheel at the front also gives the bike slacker geo providing less rolling resistance that leads to better acceleration on the trail.
Business at the front, party at the back is probably a saying that best describes a mullet setup.
So, those are some advantages you can get from a mixed-wheel bike.
If you want something less expensive to start your journey in off-road biking, you can go for the Chameleon AL D 29 build.
Chameleon AL D 29.
This bike costs $2,399.99 and uses the same aluminum frame as the Chameleon R version.
However, the letter D indicates that the Chameleon AL D 29 features entry-level components.
For example, the RockShox Recon RL fork comes with a 130mm travel suspension.
This fork is cheaper than Fox Rhythm 34 but does well so that you can go over steep drops and relatively rough terrain.
On the drivetrain, the Chameleon AL D 29 sports SRAM SX Eagle. The groupset sits at the bottom of the SRAM lineup hierarchy.
It does not seem like much, but the drivetrain works fine for moderate usage.
The combination of WTB ST i30 TCS 2.0 Rims and SRAM Level brakes is strengthened by Maxxis tires.
You can ride the Chameleon AL D 29 on relatively easy terrains at the weekend, biking with fellow riders.
Did Santa Cruz stop making carbon chameleons?
According to what we have heard from the news, Santa Cruz has indeed decided to stop producing carbon chameleon bikes.
This company said it would concentrate on offering a chameleon bike alloy version that meets its model’s heritage.
In addition, this brand’s bike designers have made a few changes to the Chameleon 2022 geometry.
How much does Santa Cruz Chameleon weigh?
The weight of the Santa Cruz Chameleon R Aluminum 29 was 13.07kg ( 28.82lbs) as o 2020, unless this company has modified it after changing the alloy frame to carbon.
Santa Cruz Chameleon AL R 29 can be a perfect choice if you long to perform various riding styles with just one bike.
You can configure this bike easily as a mixed-wheel and a single-speed bike. Besides that, the Chameleon is also affordable for such a versatile bike.
Another good option is the Chameleon AL R MX if you like a mountain bike with a mullet setup.
This bike has the same parts as the 29 version but with the advantages of the mixed-wheel bikes.
Finally, if you have a tight budget, you can go for the Chameleon AL D 29.
Even if this bike has entry-level components, it will enable you to enjoy a nice off-road trip riding.
Another brand that produces future and sells the best mountain bikes in the US is Cannondale.
Thank you for reading the Santa Cruz Chameleon AL R 29 mountain bike review.