The Santa Cruz Stigmata earned high marks across all of our rating metrics and earned our Editor's Choice Award. This lightweight carbon bike was recently redesigned to dial in the geometry for the fast-growing gravel market, increase tire clearance, and give it a more forgiving ride. Testers found it to have an ideal blend of stiffness and compliance making this bike not only fast but comfortable too. The geometry is spot on and the Rival build we tested is ready for pretty much anything from serious racing to any gravel adventure you can come up with. It may be the most expensive model we tested, but we feel the Stigmata is worth it for the impressively well balanced and high-performance ride.
Santa Cruz Stigmata Carbon CC Rival Review
Manufacturer: Santa Cruz Bicycles
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Should I Buy This Bike?
If you're willing and able to shell out a few thousand dollars for a gravel bike, then there's a good chance you should strongly consider the Stigmata. This is our top-rated model for a reason, and whether you're a serious or aspiring racer or just a casual rider seeking a high-performing lightweight gravel rig, this bike has you covered. The Stigmata has been a staple in Santa Cruz's lineup for several years. Originally designed as a cyclocross race bike, the Stigmata was redesigned in 2019, giving it a more gravel-friendly geometry, increased tire clearance, and a more forgiving but still plenty stiff frame.
This Stigmata is very lightweight with a stiff and responsive Carbon CC frame that has just enough rear triangle compliance to take the edge off the rough stuff. The modern gravel geometry is spot on and this bike is comfortable and well-balanced for everything from hour-long laps to all-day gravel epics and big race events. Gravel roads, pavement, even some light-duty singletrack riding are all easily within the Stigmata's wheelhouse. The Rival build we tested is well thought out, and this bike is ready to roll with a solid component grouping that seriously needs no upgrades or changes. From the tires to the wide flared handlebar, the build is dialed and inspires the confidence to get out and let it rip up, down, and all around. There are lots of gravel-specific bikes to choose from these days, but we feel that the Stigmata is one of the best.
The Stigmata is currently only offered in the Carbon CC frame construction. This is a lightweight and stiff frame with some vibration muting compliance engineered into the rear triangle. The frame is paired with a carbon fiber fork and both feature internal cable routing including compatibility with internally routed dropper seat posts. The frame is flat-mount disc-brake compatible and it has 3 water bottle cage mounts as well as fender mounts on both the front and rear. It is available in five frame sizes, 52, 54, 56, 58, and 60cm.
When we measured our 58cm test bike, we found that it had a 390mm reach with a 573mm effective top tube length. The seat tube angle was 73.5-degrees with a 72-degree head tube. The wheelbase was 1038mm long with 425mm chainstays and a 285mm bottom bracket height. At the weigh-in, the Stigmata was 19 lbs and 2 oz set up tubeless and without pedals.
- Offered in Carbon Fiber CC only
- Threaded bottom bracket
- Fender mounts front and rear
- Full-length internal cable routing
- Available with 700c wheels (tested) or 650b
- Clearance for up to 700 x 45c or 27.5" x 2.1" tires
- Offered as frame only for $2,299
- Five complete builds starting at $3,599 (tested) up to $9,899
The Stigmata is a pleasure to ride downhill. Whether you're just cruising or going for glory on race day, the stiff but compliant frame, comfortable geometry, and thoughtful component specification combine to enhance the rider's experience. Buff fire roads, chunky old doubletrack, and even some moderate singletrack riding are all a good time aboard the Stigmata.
The Carbon CC frame of the Stigmata is lightweight and stiff, but the engineers at Santa Cruz managed to make the rear end of the bike somewhat compliant. Sure, it's still a rigid frame, but when you're throttling down a rough dirt road over some chunky rocks or some washboard, it feels less like someone is trying to jackhammer the fillings out of your teeth as it can on other bikes. This was especially noticeable when riding the Stigmata back to back with the Ibis Hakka MX. Both bikes are similarly lightweight with stiff carbon frames, though the Ibis is notably less forgiving over the rough stuff. We rode all manner of roads and trails during testing, even racing our test bike at Grinduro California. This bike was pinned down loose gravel roads, rutted doubletrack, and rocky sections of singletrack, and through it all it shined.
In terms of geometry, the Stigmata has numbers that are almost identical to several other bikes in this review. It seems that most of the major gravel bike manufacturers have settled on the sweet spot for gravel bike design. Since the major elements of the geometries are so similar, it is subtle differences that are the most noticeable. The Stigmata has the highest bottom bracket of all the models we tested, for example, which is a nice touch and helps avoid pedal strikes when you're on the gas on a descent. The stack height of the front end is also a tad higher than some of the other models we tested, which helps keep the rider in a more upright and comfortable position while attacking a descent. The wide and flared Easton handlebar spec is also a great touch that not only increases overall comfort but also steering leverage for more confident handling and reduced twitchiness in the front end at speed.
The component grouping of the Rival build is solid on the descents and helps give it the composed and confidence-inspiring feel. As mentioned above, the wide, flared, handlebar was very appreciated for comfort and handling. The SRAM Rival brakes are quality and served our testers well throughout our testing. The WTB wheels felt stiff enough, though we could see riders with podium aspirations possibly upgrading to something a little lighter and stiffer. The Maxxis Ravager tires provide ample traction on dirt roads and the EXO casing proved to stand up well to our abuse. Riders who frequently ride pavement or very smooth and hard-packed dirt roads might find the Ravager tires to be overkill, however.
The Stigmata is a lightweight carbon rocketship on the climbs. The geometry is relaxed and comfortable, power transfer is direct and efficient, and it eats up the vertical as well as any other bike we've tested.
The Stigmata is a lightweight bike, tipping the scales at just over 19 lbs with the Rival build in a size 58cm. It's not the lightest bike we tested, but you'd be hard-pressed to notice the 5 oz difference between it and the Hakka MX. The Carbon CC frame is stiff laterally and our testers couldn't identify any loss of power through the small amount of frame compliance. The geometry is dialed and the seated pedaling position is quite comfortable. The reach is roomy without feeling long and the stack height brings the handlebar up a little higher than some so you don't have to feel like you're on a racer crouch at all times. The 73.5-degree seat tube angle is properly steep and puts the rider close to right above the bottom bracket for a very direct feeling power transfer down into the cranks.
The Rival build is far from the flashiest spec out there, but it works very well on this bike and enhances its performance on the climbs. The 1x11-speed Rival drivetrain features a relatively wide range 11-42-tooth cassette paired with a 40-tooth front chainring that provides adequate range for most riders. The Easton EA90 cranks are nice and stiff with 175mm crankarms on the 58cm frame we tested. The WTB Silverado Pro saddle is agreeable and plenty comfortable, as is the Easton EA50 handlebar and cushioned Velo Bar handlebar tape. Testers found the Maxxis Ravager tires to provide plenty of climbing traction on dirt conditions of all kinds with minimal rolling resistance.
Like most gravel bikes, the Stigmata is a highly versatile bike. Not only does it rip on gravel roads, but it can easily double as a road bike, and it performs well enough on mellow singletrack. You can ride it with 700c wheels and tires, and it can fit 27.5" wheels with up to 2.1" wide tires. We actually tested the Stigmata with a 27.5" x 2.1" setup for a ride or two and the added air volume and traction made it feel a bit like a drop bar mountain bike. Santa Cruz currently offers it in both wheel sizes, though only one build has 27.5" wheels.
The Stigmata is lightweight and fast enough to jump right into some gravel races, and true to its cyclocross roots it is just as ready to tackle the fall CX series. Throw some slicks on it and it's ready for any length of road ride, though the 1x drivetrain may not have enough range for hammering in the flats. There's also no reason it wouldn't make a good adventure riding/bike packing bike, though the lack of rack and accessory mounts limits you to frame, saddle, and handlebar-mounted bags.
Our size 58cm test bike weighed in at 19 lbs and 2 oz set up tubeless and without pedals. This is the 2nd lightest bike that we tested and we feel this is a very respectable weight for the entry-level Rival build. We attribute this low weight to the high-end Carbon CC frame which is very light, as well as the thoughtful component specification that was clearly chosen to keep the overall weight of this bike down. This bike is light enough for racing, and it will certainly increase efficiency over long rides and make climbs easier when compared to heavier models. Only the Ibis Hakka MX weighed less, with all of the other bikes in this review coming in 2-5 lbs heavier than the Stigmata.
The Stigmata Rival build we tested was pretty dialed and gave our testers very little to complain about. From the handlebar tape to the tires, the component grouping is nice for the price.
If the name didn't already give it away, the Rival build comes with a SRAM Rival 1 x 11-speed drivetrain. This includes the shifters and derailleur. The cranks are Easton EA90 alloy in a 175mm length (crank arm length varies by frame size). It comes with a 40-tooth chainring and a SRAM PG-1150 cassette with a 10-42-tooth range. The brakes are SRAM Rival flat-mount hydraulic disc with 160mm Centerline rotors front and rear.
The Stigmata rolls on WTB Asym i23 700c rims laced up to DT Swiss 370 hubs. Our test bike came set up tubeless with Maxxis Ravager EXO 40c tires front and rear. The Ravager tires have a lower-profile center tread and more aggressive side knobs that work well in a range of conditions and terrain.
Testers found the cockpit setup of the Stigmata to be quite comfortable. The Easton EA50 AX flare bar was nice and wide with a comfortable 16-degree flare. The Velo Bar tape was also very comfortable with more cushion than most. The handlebar is attached to an Easton EA50 stem. Keeping things consistent, they have included an Easton EA50 aluminum seat post and a WTB Silverado Pro saddle.
The Stigmata is offered in 4 different build kits that range in price from the $3,599 Rival build we tested up to the $9,899 Red AXS Reserve. Santa Cruz/Juliana also make a women's version called the Juliana Quincy which comes in 3 smaller frame sizes, 49, 52, 54cm only.
The GRX build comes clad with Shimano's new GRX gravel-specific drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes. It rolls on DT Swiss XR 361 Asym wheels and Maxxis Rambler tires. It retails for $4,599.
The Force AXS build goes for $5,899 and is available with either 27.5"/650b wheels and tires or 700c. It comes with a SRAM X01 AXS Eagle 12-speed electronic shifting drivetrain and SRAM Force brakes. The 27.5" version has RaceFace ARC Offset 25 rims and WTB Ranger 2.0" tires. The 700c version comes with DT Swiss XR 361 Asym wheels and Maxxis Rambler tires. You also have the option to upgrade to a Santa Cruz Reserve Carbon wheelset in either wheel size for an additional $1,200.
The top of the line Red AXS Reserve build goes for a whopping $9,899 and comes fully tricked out with a SRAM Red eTap AXS 12-speed drivetrain, SRAM Red brakes, and Reserve Carbon wheels with i9 Torch hubs.
There's pretty much nothing that we'd suggest upgrading on the Stigmata right off the bat. This bike is completely ready to ride as is and will suit you well whether you're entering a long-distance gravel event or just heading out for group rides with friends. Anyone who is serious about racing would probably be inclined to upgrade the wheelset eventually, but the stock wheels should serve most riders well for a season or two.
The Stigmata is the most expensive model in this test with a retail price of $3,599. Considering that it's our Editor's Choice Award winner, we feel that it still represents a solid value for a bike that's race-ready and perfectly dialed. This high-performance lightweight bike isn't just for racing though, it's equally at home on group rides or getting loaded up for a bike-packing adventure. In addition to its excellent performance, we find value in its versatility.
The Stigmata Rival takes home our Editor's Choice Award for its combination of well-rounded performance, comfortable ride quality, and efficiency. This bike is lightweight with a stiff frame that sacrifices little in the power transfer department for the compliance engineered into its design. It's not cheap, but we feel its worth the asking price and is a great option for everyone from racers to adventure cyclists.
— Jeremy Benson