I'm an old-school roadie. That means that I tend to favor lugged steel frames, Campagnolo components, and tubular wheels & tires, so it has to take something special to get me to make a change.
My primary ride for many years has been a 2003 Richard Sachs Signature road bike, initially built up with a 10-speed Campagnolo Record group and handbuilt Campagnolo tubular wheels. After a brief period with SRAM Red, it is currently built with an 11-speed Campagnolo Chorus group.
Then I tried something new.
The Santa Cruz Stigmata was my first carbon bike, my first disc brake bike, my first bike with tubeless wheels, and my first Shimano-equipped (I got mine built with an Ultegra 6800 2x group) bike since 1994. My frame sports one of the 2017 colorways. The only difference between 2017 and 2018/19 frames is the paint; materials and construction are otherwise the same.
Impressions? Oh my freaking heck (that's a Utah-ism for those who don't know), the Stigmata is an amazing bike to ride, both on road and on gravel, especially once the Utah snow melts, and the unpaved roads go back to their usual hardpack state rather than rutting out muddy slop pits.
Yup; this bike is a potential quiver killer for me. If I had to limit myself to just ONE bike, well … umm … the Campy-equipped Richard Sachs would win out (I am never getting rid of that bike); but if I got to keep TWO bikes, the Stigmata would be the second one.
I even really like the Shimano Ultegra 6800 components, which is hard for me to admit as a Campy guy. Shifting is spot-on, and Ultegra’s qualities as one of Shimano’s workhorse groups are hard to beat. Anecdotally, I’d say that Ultegra has 99% of the performance of Shimano’s top-tier Dura Ace group, but at about 60% of the price. For a bike designed to be ridden in rough conditions, Ultegra is arguably the better (and certainly more durable) option.
I was initially worried about the disc brakes being grabby compared to all my rim brakes, but so far, I feel like I still have good modulation when feathering the brakes to control my speed going into a curve, but have all the stopping power I need when I need to grab the brakes. I am a firm believer in disc brakes on a “road” bike now.
With the stock wheels and 700×40 Maxxis Rambler tires set-up tubeless, along with Time ATAC 4 pedals, the Stigmata came in at 18.7 lbs. The Rambler is Maxxis’s first attempt at a gravel-specific tire. While it is not as popular amongst the gravel set as the offerings from other tire makers, it definitely has a great tread pattern for most riding conditions other than mud. The Time ATAC series of pedals have long been my choice for off-road riding.
While the frame and fork will easily fit the 700×40 Ramblers, the one downside that I have found is that tire clearance is not quite as generous as other gravel bikes, and thus the Stigmata does not fit 650b/27.5” wheels with suitably wider tires, and skinnier 650b/27.5” tires can affect the handling of the bike.
This means that on extremely rough or washboard roads, you’re going to feel it afterwards. For me, riding those particular conditions are rare enough that it’s not a dealbreaker, and the positive ride qualities of the Stigmata in all other conditions are a dealmaker.
[Editor's Update: On May 13, 2019, Santa Cruz Bicycles announced the new 2020 Santa Cruz Stigmata and Juliana Quincy gravel bikes. The new versions have been reengineered with updated layup schedules and clearance for both 700×45 and 650b/27.5″x2.1″ tires, along with mounts for fenders and a third water bottle cage. Previously, the smallest size available was a 52cm Stigmata, but with the introduction of the frame to the Juliana line, the Quincy will be available with a 49cm frame. Other than the availability of the smaller size, the primary difference between the Stigmata and the Quincy is that the latter will come with a women's specific saddle, shorter stem, and narrower handlebars.]
With a separately purchased set of dedicated road wheels (Reynolds Blacklabel 46 Aero DB) mounted with Vittoria Open Corsa G+ (clincher) tires, a road cassette, and the same Time ATAC pedals, the bike weighs in at just about 18 lbs., and performs just as well on pavement as any of my dedicated road bikes. It might not quite handle like a crit bike, but that’s never been what I’m looking for. I like a bike that climbs well, descends well, and is comfortable for a long day in the saddle.
The stock Santa Cruz Stigmata, with Shimano Ultegra 2x mechanical components retails for $4599.00. The frame & fork retail for $2299.00. Reynolds 46 Aero DB wheels retail for $2099.00.