Culture

The Santa Cruz Chameleon Shows its Colors

Don't blend in

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

The first Chameleon emerged at a very different time in mountain biking. Arguably, a better time. The experiments that were happening were more broad. Categories that drive design trends today like trail, all-mountain and enduro had barely even been given names yet. Freeride was around, but it wasn’t as inaccessible or as polished as it is today. Trials and urban riding segments were highlights in every big-budget full-length mountain bike movie that made it on DVD. Oh, and there were big-budget full-length mountain bike movies on DVD. It was a different time.

But the Chameleon has done its best to stay true to its roots. Sure, there was recently a fancy carbon version, but it still had the ability to go single-speed, plus-sized, and could cope with a little over-forking if you wanted. Still, we were excited to see today’s news that, at least for now, the new Chameleon kept it a little more classic. We cover the details in our post on the bike itself, but in a nutshell, it’s got an aluminum frame, more traditional sliding dropouts, a universal derailleur hanger, longer, slacker yada yada yada. What matters is what you do with it, so Santa Cruz decided to spotlight five riders, and what they do with it.

Myia Antone’s Medicine Finder

My bike has taken me to places that previously I’d only visited in dreams. Places where our stories come from and where medicine was harvested by my ancestors. My mountain biking journey started during the peak of the COVID19 pandemic, which meant I was riding alone – a lot. However, I knew I was never really alone. I was constantly surrounded by the trees and plants that sustained my community for thousands of years. In many ways, my bike allows me to time travel to quiet moments where I can be with my ancestors.

It’s hard for me to separate mountain biking from plant harvesting, I find so many similarities between the two. Biking teaches me how far my legs really can take me, how to get back up after a fall, and that everyone looks better with a little bit of dirt on them. Plants teach me that we can all grow and thrive in different environments, you can’t judge someone or something based off of one season and you grow stronger the deeper your roots. If anything, the two seem pretty interchangeable.

My understanding of our relationship to land is that it is an extension of ourselves. We love and respect the land as our kin, and understand that the world will teach you everything if you look long enough. I was taught the forest was our pharmacy – when we were sick, that is where we would go for our medicine. Today, I think of mountain biking as medicine in the forest too. The ups and downs bring healing to every inch of my body, and I always come home with a smile as big as can be.

Today, I am finding new ways to do old things. My ancestors have been harvesting from these lands and waters since time out of mind. I follow in their footsteps, but sometimes my feet just happen to be on pedals. My bike brings me to hidden patches of wild strawberries and devil’s club galore. I bring my backpack for snacks, bike tools and space to fill with plants to take home. How did I get so lucky to have a beautiful territory that is also world famous for its bike trails? I am rich in love and beauty from my time spent on the land. However, wealth also means having enough to give away. How do I embody the teaching of reciprocity within mountain biking? How do we give back to a sport that gives us so much?

Today, Indigenous Women Outdoors is how I give back to my communities. We offer programming for Indigenous women and non-binary folks to come out together on the land, partake in mentorships and try new outdoor activities. We have so much to share with the outdoor community, and it is finally time to listen.

Mike Hill’s Tool Carrying Tool

My friends call me Mike. I build BMX frames for my company called Deathpack BMX. I owe my passion for bikes to my dad. He had me surrounded by bikes for as long as I can remember and riding as soon as possible. I can’t imagine life without bikes, be it pedal powered or motorized, there’s nothing like it.

This is an off-road workhorse to carry tools to the trails through the winter from my van down a two mile single track to the bottom of a wood where the jumps are. It’s like a swamper truck or winter hack. This bike is a tool. I go knock about on it, push iron, move dirt.

Paint: non

Frame size: medium

Frame mods: brackets and racks to carry panniers luggage and tools, etched frame logos and patina raw finish

Amount of airs in the bouncy bit at the front? Maximum

Number of gears: All of them.

Brakes, yes or no? Yes but maybe just back

Which side do you have the rear brake on? Right

Wheel size(s): 29 front, 27.5 rear. It’s a skullet

Tire pressure: 50psi

Tire type: Fat as possible and somewhere in between knobby and dirt tiller.

Eric Ackermann’s Pink Space Goblin loc

My friends call me Baby Legs Eric. I work in the warranty department of the SCB Factory and have been with the company for over 11 years. If you’ve ever requested something from our factory it was probably me that fulfilled it. You’re welcome.

The only thing that interests me is the absurd and keeping life as simple as possible. I have two important tenets that I base my life around: 1. Don’t be a picky eater and 2. Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut. I wanted to get down to basics and turn it into a single speed bike to bomb around town.

I was really into the color of the frame and thought pink would be the loudest contrast. It makes the bike look like it just came out of a comic book. I spend a lot of my free time illustrating and have gotten really into digital art so I knew I had to create some custom decals to slap all over it. Being able to cover one of my favorite bikes in artwork I drew was definitely my favorite thing. I ride this bike all over Salinas, crushing burritos and Jarrito soda waters. I plan on building one just like it for my wife so we can take our dogs on adventures.

Swanee Ravonison’s Patinated Aluminum Pariah

I make steel bicycles under the moniker Pariah and I convert old bicycles (from the 80s, 90s mainly) made up of new and used parts, to create mainly fixed or single speed gear machines. I do this in my bicycle shop slash grocery store, Fée du Vélo.

Looks wise I stripped ‘him’ of his flashy dress to make him more discreet, more subtle, more raw, sober, more radical like the Pariah bikes I build. The raw side is my hallmark. It means a bike ages and skates naturally. The traces of time which give any object a certain aesthetic and reinforce their sentimental value. But the more I work and think about natural patinas, the more the result reminds me of my brown body and my scarred skin. Imperfections, natural tattoos, indelible marks, memories of all my falls.

Using Hematite to age the frame is for me the opposite of a lacquer and varnish paint finish. The diluted stone is applied with a brush and the effect is not immediate. It can be stopped by water, and suddenly the result is revealed after drying. The warmer finish brings the frame to life and the tubes disappear. I like to linger to grasp the subtleties, to guess the hand of the craftsman. It’s impossible to get the same result twice. Sobriety never goes out of fashion and the details of the treatment are so subtle that it cannot be covered at a glance.

I kept big-volume tires for a cushioned feeling and installed a rigid carbon fork with mounting points to save some weight and carry bags for long bikepacking adventures. A lower bar helps for pedaling while keeping comfortable. I opted for cable disc brakes so that I could put the suspension fork and a wider cockpit back on without having to bleed. This is a solid enduro hardtail ready for rough and technical terrain.

As soon as the bike was ready I climbed a steep hill, jumped off the sidewalks and did a long sprint as a dancer.

Soon I’ll go further afield on it. The Morvan region is my favorite playground because it is accessible to me. First day out would be more cross-country, a loop around Saint Brisson. It would pass through the lakes of Saint Agnan and Settons, around a hundred kilometres. The second day, pure enduro, with technical climbs and descents, barely over 50km and still in Saint Brisson in the Breuil forest.

The destination matters of course, but what I always remember is the quality of the paths, especially if these are small technical and fun trails that require a little commitment. The difficulty of a climb and the adrenaline of a descent makes an outing unforgettable!

Sven Busse’s Barmeleon

People call me Sven, or sometimes Steven. Maybe they just call me a little crazy.

For nine years I have had a bar called The GegenÜber in the middle of Bielefeld, right next to a large skatepark. My bar is a melting pot for a wide variety of characters, music, skateboarding, art, all that kind of thing. A look at the facade explains more than a thousand words and the interior of the shop is also characterized by DIY style and a certain punk rock attitude. I wanted to transfer the heart and soul of the GGÜ to the Chameleon from which it became the Barmeleon. The paint was done by the graffiti artist who designed the bar [@ProPhret]

When I started thinking about this bike the first thing in my mind was the song by Orange Goblin – Monkey Panic

“Now it’s time for you to run,

Got the fear, so get your gun,

Drink your whiskey, drink your wine,

Take your pills and come inside,

Chaos falling all around,

Monkey tearing up the town,

People running for their lives,

Armageddon’s here tonight.”

Basically my biography has been completely interwoven with cycling since I saw the Hoffman Bikes video “Until monkeys fly” on VHS tape at a friend’s house in 1998, and especially the street part of Mike Escamilla. I would describe myself as highly addicted to biking. I associate so many great people, friends, trips, spots, injuries and constant progression with cycling. Then, at some point, actually inspired by my younger brother, who is a huge inspiration to me, I got into mountain biking and discovered my love for it. It’s a substitute for BMX riding.

Since I saw the video with Craig Evans (The Steel City’s chameleon), I’ve been a fan of his shredding style, but also of the bike. I actually dreamed of basically flowing all of my trails with this kind of bike and sure in myself that it must feel damn good. Both to flow my home trails, manual through the city and to send jumps.

 

promo logo