Santa Cruz Chameleon
Santa Cruz is known for their stylish, high-performance mountain bikes. The Chameleon ($1,599 at Backcountry) is the brand’s versatile aluminum hardtail that will accommodate the new, plus-size 27.5 tires. This wider standard, known as 27.5+, offers greater traction than narrower tires and absorbs some of the bumps you’ll encounter along the trail. You can also run 29-inch wheels on the Chameleon.
The Chameleon features a long bottom bracket and slack head tube for stability and short chainstays, which aim to give the bike snappy handling through corners. With a Rockshox Recon Silver SL fork and SRAM NX 1×11 drivetrain, this build offers a nice balance of affordability and performance. We’re fans of SRAM’s 1×11 drivetrains which offer simplicity, thanks to the absence of a front derailleur. SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes complete the package. Though this bike is at the higher end of our price range for this list, it’s a fun, rip-able frameset with a solid build.
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