At A Glance
The Santa Cruz Bronson is probably the most talked about bike on the planet right now. Launched with a huge fanfare, and having the likes of Steve Pete and Cedric Gracia sing its virtues, it created an internet buzz that we haven’t seen for a while. Pre-orders stacked up and for a while the bikes were as rare as rocking horse sh!t as the team in California struggled to keep up with the huge demand!
The bike is built from the ground up around the new 27.5 wheel size and features their top end VPP suspension platform. They offer both an aluminium version and a carbon version, which we have on test here.
Santa Cruz doesn’t go for crazy acronyms and fancy phrases to describe the work they do, instead they just work hard to create the lightest stiffest carbon frames possible. There is a tapered head tube, internal bottom bracket ISCG 05 mounts and a 142mm rear end. Internal cable routing for a Stealth dropper post features alongside full carbon dropouts and disc mounts, giving the frame a very clear look. In addition there are integrated rubber chain-stay and down tube protectors.
There are various build options as with any bike, our demo model came with a Custom Tuned Fox Float CTD with rebound adjust rear shock to control the 150mm of VPP suspension and a RockShox Pike RCT3 SA 27.5 fork with 150mm of travel.
The driventrain was the ever-popular SRAM XO-1 set up with a 34T chainring up front and a 10-42T cassette out back. The XO-1 Type 2 rear derailleur was controlled with an XO-1 shifter.
Braking duties were catered for with Shimano XT hydraulic discs with a 180mm rotor on the front and a 160mm on the rear.
Maxxis High Roller 2 2.3 EXO Tubeless ready 27.5 tyres were supported by WTB Frequency Team i23 TCS rims with Hope Pro2 hubs.
A RockShox Reverb Stealth 125mm dropper post held up the WTB Volt Race saddle, and an Easton Havoc rises bar was held in place with a Truvativ AKA 60mm stem.
Santa Crux Bronson Carbon
|Effective top tube||584.2mm|
|Seat angle (effective)||73°|
|Weight w/o pedals||27.3lbs|
On the Trail
The Bronson is a bike that comes with a lot of emotional baggage, ever since that first outing at Sea Otter all those months ago the praise and accolades have been pouring in. It’s a brand new bike from the ground up, not just a tweaked machine to fit the new 27.5 wheel size that Santra Cruz are certainly championing across their range. Visually it is a stunning bike; the sleek lines of the frame and VPP suspension combined with the smooth carbon molding give it a striking finish.
After I’d stopped drooling I headed out on a rather wet and damp test ride, sadly after weeks of winter sunshine my luck had run out and the foul weather gear was on. Pedaling up the climb with the custom tuned rear shock wide open I noticed a small amount of movement in the VPP suspension, it wasn’t draining power from my legs, but the suppleness of the tuned shock was noticeable. Flicking the shock lever to the Climb mode tightened up the rear end and reduced the suspension movement to zero. On long fire road hauls you’ll be reaching for the lever, but on shorter more technical climbs the added traction was a benefit over any loss in power with the shock more open. Depending on your style of riding will no doubt dictate how you end up riding the Bronson. Personally I found I got more out of it by adjusting the CTD lever accordingly to the type of trail I was on.
The bike is quite short, certainly in terms of the effective top tube length and the wheelbase. This makes it really fun and lively to throw around corners, and if you have a set of berms that require quick changes of direction then the Bronson handles them with ease. You can really pump the bike into the turn and get plenty of acceleration out the other side too. Straight-line acceleration is very fast, the bike responds to pedal input very quickly with its stiff frame putting all the power into the wheels immediately.
At speed the larger wheels invoke a confidence in the rider and they keep on rolling too, brake less and you’ll be rewarded with more forward momentum and continued top speeds. I never got the feeling of being out of control even at speed, impressive on a bike with a relatively short wheelbase such as this.
The VPP suspension set up sublime; it works really well over the small bumps and keeps the back end glued to the trail when you want it to be. In fact the rear end grip was perhaps one of the most impressive things about the Bronson. Considering the wet weather I was riding in the trails felt drier than they should have done and despite riding it flat out I never once lost the back end or had a “moment.” I was even more surprised to see I had set a load of personal bests on Starva too, something that I normally discount as soon as the trails are wet.
The Bronson is very quick, and very forgiving as well, the geometry and set up sparks confidence and you’ll find yourself riding faster and faster as you get more in tune with the bike. It’s great fun in the corners too and feels very nimble on just about every type of terrain you can throw at it!
It’s hard to find fault with this bike, it’s so much fun to ride that you can’t help but love it. it does however come at a price, and that would be its downside. It’s not cheap, but then the best things in life rarely are!
Speed then is perhaps what sums the Bronson up quite nicely; it’s a fast bike that is also very playful. You’ll not notice any negatives from the larger wheels, just enjoy the benefits of faster speeds and better grip. If you make the most of the settings on the rear shock you’ll be rewarded with blistering performance whatever the trail.