Is Santa Cruz’s new Stigmata gravel bike the ultimate MTB/road crossover?

Stigmata on a rock slab
(Image credit: Santa Cruz Bicycles)

While Santa Cruz are best known for mountain bikes, they’ve also been producing drop bar bikes for years starting with the radical aero alloy Roadster. The new Stigmata was originally designed for ‘suffering on the (cyclo) cross – hence the name – and has always stayed on the racier, lightweight, fast handling side of the ‘gravel/cyclocross’ spectrum. This new gravel bike shifts dramatically towards a more MTB influenced geometry and feature set though, so what’s in this Holy Grail of the off-road, drop bar church?

More mountain bike

If you’ve been following the recent evolution of Santa Cruz’s Hightower, 5010 and Tallboy mountain bikes, you won’t be surprised to hear that new Stigmata has grown a ‘Glovebox’. That’s the Santa Cruz name for high capacity internal storage in the downtube, complete with a chunky access door under the bottle cage mount. We’re big fans of this hidden cargo capacity on MTBs but it arguably makes even more sense on a bike where aerodynamics matter more for racers and those using their Stigmata as an all-road / commuter option.

Santa Cruz have also future proofed the frame against SRAM’s next likely T-Type Transmission move and made it easier to find a replacement frame hanger by using a UDH dropout. The rear end of the frame has also been opened up to take 700 x 50mm gravel tires, which means a lot of 29er XC MTB tires will fit too. The rigid fork up front has been lengthened so you can switch to a 40mm suspension fork without lifting up the nose and messing with the handling. 

The geometry of the bike has also been completely reworked towards more aggressive off-road riding with a 69-degree head angle. Reach has also been extended by 30mm across the S-XXL size range, with taller head tubes and shorter stems on build kits for a more stable but still traction tweakable front end vibe. 

Short stem and long reach on Stigmata

Longer reach, slacker head angle and shorter stem nail down the new Stigmata's more confident handling (Image credit: Santa Cruz Bicycles)

Less mounts

What Santa Cruz haven’t done is add a ton of what they call “unsightly riv-nut zits” for extra bolt on cages. There are three standard bottle mounts and hidden mudguard/fender mounts, but otherwise frame and fork are kept clean and light. How light that actually is we don’t know though, as Santa Cruz haven’t shared the info from their scales as yet. That’s going to disappoint luggage loving expedition bikepackers and while launch images show a color coded Apidura seat pack, frame bag and top tube bag for ‘light packing’, availability of that is TBC at the moment. On the subject of color, the new Stigmata will only be available in a brick red / orange options for launch.

Close up of Glovebox storage

New Stigmata gets 'Glovebox' internal storage but no external cargo carrying points besides the three standard bottle mounts (Image credit: Santa Cruz Bicycles)

Practical and painless

Santa Cruz have always stayed clear of cosmetic fads in favour of practicality and thankfully that carries on with the new Stigmata. Cables/hoses are routed through the frame – not the headset and handlebars – with internal guide pipes to make installation and servicing simple. The bottom bracket is threaded not press-fitted, and unlike a lot of recent gravel introductions, the frame is configured to work with single or double chainring setups. The front mech cable port is the same as that for the 27.2mm dropper seatpost though, so you’ll need to decide which you want or go wireless with at least one of them.

Good news for those who push the progressive handling too far is that the frame, fork and Reserve carbon wheels used on the more expensive builds are all covered by Santa Cruz’s excellent ‘no missed rides’ lifetime warranty.

Stig being aspirational by a raging river

Santa Cruz's Stigmata launch PR is big on the aspirational wilderness imagery but the CC Carbon frame should be fast enough to work as a daily driver road bike too  (Image credit: Santa Cruz Bicycles)

Builds for big bills

Pricing is definitely premium (EU TBC), but factor in the lifetime warranties and ‘proper shop’ sales path before immediately jumping to ‘crucified on cost’ conclusions.

  • Stigmata ownership starts at US $2,699 / £2,499 for the frame and fork set option
  • Complete bikes start with SRAM Apex XPLR cable for $3,999 / £3,899
  • Rival AXS 1X XPLR is £4,899 and Rival AXS 2X is $4,899 / £4,999
  • Force AXS 2X with Reserve 25 carbon wheels is $6,999 / £6,599 
  • Force AXS 1X XPLR with Reserve wheels plus RockShox Rudy Ultimate 40mm travel suspension fork and Reverb AXS XPLR wireless dropper post is $7,699 / £6,999

Render of the top spec Stigmata

The top spec Stigmata comes with all the SRAM and RockShox XPLR toys (Image credit: Santa Cruz Bicycles)

Tech specs: Santa Cruz Stigmata Force AXS 1X XPLR

  • Frame: Carbon CC
  • Fork: RockShox Rudy Ultimate XPLR, 40mm
  • Crankset: SRAM Force AXS DUB, 40t
  • Derailleur: SRAM Force XPLR AXS, 12-speed
  • Brakes/shifter: SRAM Force AXS
  • Wheelset: Reserve 25|GR 700c rims on DT Swiss 350 hubs
  • Tires: Maxxis Rambler, 700x45c, DC, EXO, TR
  • Handlebars: Zipp Service Course SL-70 XPLR Bar
  • Stem: Zipp Service Course Stem, 70mm
  • Seatpost: RockShox Reverb AXS XPLR, 27.2, 75mm
  • Saddle: WTB Silverado Medium, Ti

Stigmata testing

We’re still waiting on a media demo samples here in the UK, but they should be here next week so we’ll be jumping on a new Stigmata ASAP and letting you know how it goes.

Guy Kesteven
Technical-Editor-at-Large

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since we launched in 2019. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Forbidden Druid V2, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg