Bikes looked very different 10 years ago. And they rode differently too. Seat angles, the current geometry hot-button topic of 2019, wasn’t even a metric you considered when buying a bike. Neither was reach. We still sized bikes by seat tube length or, at best, effective toptube length. You may have wondered whether your dropper post was out to kill you, if you even had one of those freaky contraptions at all. What about fork offsets? What the heck is a fork offset? The dominant wheel size was still 26-inch—29ers were for Jerry and 27.5 was barely even on the radar.

So what changed in the span of 10 years to bring us to where bikes are today? In no particular order, these 11 bikes broke barriers, set trends, spoke volumes or were just simply so freaking good that they changed the way we ride and how future bikes were designed. From the bike that garnered international YouTube fame to a simple hardtail that may have singlehandedly delivered the “long, low and slack” revolution, these weren’t just bikes—these were, and are, pieces of history.

Santa Cruz Nomad C-2010

The carbon enduro bike is no longer a novelty.

The Nomad was not the first bike that pushed a growing big-travel, big-fun category of trail bikes. It wasn’t even the first carbon fiber one. Pin that ribbon on the Scott Ransom. Though revolutionary, the Ransom was widely considered to be a curiosity, and not entirely unexpected from the Swiss magicians at Scott. But when the carbon Nomad was announced, most people thought, “how the heck is Santa Cruz going to make such a thing out of carbon?” The Nomad was known as an overbuilt, rough-and-ready bike edging toward the freeride end of the spectrum, rather than the afternoon-ride end. To most people’s surprise, the Nomad C was everything Santa Cruz claimed it would be. It was light (for the time), fast and most importantly, fun. The general reaction to it was something along the lines of, “Holy S#*t.”

Before the Nomad C, you could buy a bike that was light, fast and probably terrifying at speed. Or, you could buy a big, heavy alloy pig of a rig. And carbon? Carbon was witchcraft, best left to the XC nerds and dentists. When the Nomad C hit the dirt, it showed that a longer-travel, slack and aggressive bike could be ridden on your average trail without feeling like you were lugging around an anchor, or conversely, pushed hard in big bike terrain without feeling like a wet noodle.


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