Reader Bike Check: One Colorful Chameleon that Recharges Childhood

Chris Guggino's color-matched Chameleon is an ode to his childhood and time in the saddle.

Photos by Chris Guggino.

As a kid, Chris Guggino soaked in mountain bike content from the paper pages of magazines, wishing he could afford the shiny anodized bits advertised therein. To other mountain bikers on the trail, they might see a well planned color-matching scheme in his bike, but for Guggino, it’s a tribute.

“The color match is all about fulfilling a boyhood obsession,” he says. “It is definitely over the top, but my 14-year-old self would be proud.”

Guggino’s first mountain bike ever was a fully rigid Trek 830. “I wouldn’t even call it a mountain bike at this point but I loved it and took it on every piece of dirt I could find.” He says that was about 25 years ago when he started mountain biking.

“I bought the Chameleon as a nod to my roots starting on hardtails in the 90s, but there is no comparison between this bike and any hardtail or full suspension bike of that era.”

Guggino bought the Santa Cruz Chameleon to mark 25 years of riding bikes for fun. When he bought the hardtail, he sold his Titus Racer X which was a full-suspension XC race bike. Even though he gave up some rear travel, he increased the amount of fun he was having overall. The hardtail’s geometry and componentry are far more advanced than bikes of the old days, but there is still a curve to the rigid rear.

“You need good leg stamina to handle long downhills on this bike,” he says. “But, put this thing on a flowy trail with some pumps or rollers and it is pure JOY!!!  This bike was born to flow.”

Before he bought the Chameleon, Guggino says he rode more conservatively on the downhills and rarely rode drops or jumps. With the updated geometry — his 2017 Chameleon sports a 67.5° head angle — plus adjustable chainstays from 415-430mm, a 73° seat tube angle, and a modern component spec, Guggino’s says that his confidence has dramatically increased since he bought the bike.

Guggino added purple Hope rotors to match the bike, a 9-46T, 11-speed, e-Thirteen cassette, and Light Bicycle Recon carbon wheels with a near 34mm inner width.

Even though he has SRAM’s “budget” NX drivetrain, Guggino hasn’t felt the need to upgrade the shifter or deraileur. “I came off a bike with XTR shifting, so I was skeptical when first trying the NX. But, it has worked so well, I’ve never changed it. Hats off to SRAM for making a quality product at the lower end.”

Since speccing out the Chameleon to his liking, Guggino has made it his daily driver around his local Colorado trails and adventure bike for anywhere else. He doesn’t need a high-end race bike, just something to get him out there.

“I just love everything about the sport.  It’s my primary form of exercise, it melts life away […], it’s challenging, the gear is awesome, and it is just fun. I’m also inspired by the riders out there still doing it into retirement age. I hope that is me. Now, I’m focused on getting my kids into the sport!”