Bike Check: Mike's Santa Cruz Stigmata

Bike Check: Mike's Santa Cruz Stigmata

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It's bike check time again, and here we are with yet another Santa Cruz Stigmata, though this is the first Stigmata 4 we've featured on bike check. There's a reason Stigs keep cropping up however, and that's because they're one of the most versatile, go-anywhere gravel/adventure bikes around, while also being standard top quality Santa Cruz Bicycles build quality. The fact that they're so damn versatile means that it's possible to go in so many different directions with a Stig build, and some of our staff have gone pretty wild, like Mike here with his new Stig 4.

Mike Brown and His Santa Cruz Stigmata 4

Mike loves his gravel bikes - coming from a road background, he finds the utility of a bike with fatter tires for every day riding, commuting etc. means that's the bike he winds up grabbing most of the time, even if he does still own a 'proper' road bike; more on that later though. This isn't the first gravel bike check we've seen from Mike, the first being his Giant Revolt a few years back. This also isn't Mike's first Stig build, you can check out this dream build video we put together for his first one. Mike is pretty well known around these parts for putting together some pretty special but altogether functional bike builds, so let's get into this one.

The Stigmata 4 is Santa Cruz's latest evolution of the legendary platform that started as a cyclocross race bike and has evolved into a gravel bike with a little overlap into the mountain bike world, which makes sense since that's what they do best. Now with clearance for 700x50c tires, UDH compatibility, downtube storage, geo designed around a short stem and a suspension-corrected fork for 40mm travel, or on the top build a suspension fork, the new Stig really is an anything-goes type bike.

Santa Cruz Stigmata 4 drive side

Let's start with that drivetrain. Mike has always been a 1x kind of guy - it keeps things clean and simple with less to go wrong, and with less chance of a dropped chain. Simpler is always better, right? On a gravel bike, a 1x drivetrain just makes sense, unless you're bikepacking and need the range a single chainring with wide range cassette can give all the range you need with easier setup and fewer complications. Modern wide-range 1x cassettes can give just about the same range as a traditional double chainring setup but with only one chainring, the only real downside being wider spaced ratios between sprockets. On a bike that's being taken off road and used in the muck, having the extra tire clearance and simplicity that the lack of a front derailleur gives is always a benefit.

The new Stigmata 4 has SRAM UDH compatible dropouts, which means it can either use SRAM's Universal hanger for a regular derailleur, or it can use the new Sram Eagle Transmission drivetrain. mike felt that the lack of a T-type bike in the current Stig lineup was a missed opportunity, and decided to spec the XX SL Transmission drivetrain on his build. The hills here in BC are so steep that the gravel specific XPLR group just doesn't quite have the range for crawling up steep grades. The 10-51t cassette combined with the rigidity and robustness of the T-Type derailleur makes it perfect for a hardcore gravel bike. Running the new D2 Force groupset with a T-Type compatible 44t Wolf Tooth chainring on the carbon Force cranks, the T-Type transmission set up and shifts perfectly.

Santa Cruz Stigmata 4 with XX SL Transmission

The other super cool thing about this Stig, as I alluded to earlier, is that the stock carbon fork is suspension-corrected for a 40mm fork. That means that the frame can run a 40mm travel fork without it affecting the geometry. That means the Stig can run a gravel-specific fork such as a Fox 32 TC or the Rockshox Rudy Mike chose to run here. The Rudy is available with 30mm or 40mm of travel and comes with a Charger Race Day damper - the same damper that comes in the SID cross country fork. While not designed to be a 'proper' mountain bike, the addition of a little suspension travel significantly improves the comfort and capability of a bike like this. Either way, we're here for it.

Santa Cruz Stigmata 4 running a Rockshox Rudy suspension fork

 Paired up to that XX SL T-Type derailleur is Sram's newest Force D2 12sp groupset - most of the performance of Red without the price tag. Using powerful hydraulic disc brakes and their most comfy hoods yet, the Force group makes a great gravel drivetrain. The cherry on top is the ability to pair it with a mountain bike rear derailleur for a 'mullet' drivetrain as Mike has done here to achieve that truly wide range gearing.

Sram Force D2 groupset fitted to a Santa Cruz Stigmata 4

For wheels, Mike is rocking Reserve 25 GR rims on DT Swiss 350 hubs. Road light and mountain strong, the Reserve 25 GR wheels are the ultimate BC gravel wheelset - strong, compliant and with a lifetime warranty, there's not much better. DT Swiss 350 hubs are also known for being relentlessly reliable and the gold standard of hubs. 

Moving onto some finishing touches, Mike obviously likes his splashes of colour, and in this case opted for a bunch of orange Wolf Tooth parts including headset top cap and spacer, and seat clamp. Completing the look is some orange Supacaz bar tape. It's a bold look but we think it works.

Orange Wolf Tooth seat clamp

For the cockpit, Mike opted for his old favourite Easton, going for an EC90 AX flared carbon bar, EA90 stem and EC90 seatpost, for the ultimate in lightweight comfort.  Finally, one of the coolest parts of the build is the 76 Projects top tube bag which uses double sided tape to stick to the top tube without removing paint, and stabilises on a special headset spacer made for the task. It also has a neat little cable port for the battery for Mike's Gemini lights. Sweet.

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Santa Cruz Stigmata 4 with a 76 projects top tube bag