The new Santa Cruz carbon Bronson has just arrived and we were lucky enough to have a test ride on a highly anticipated bike from a respected company that is known for it’s individual way of thinking when it comes to bike products and how they think a bike should be made. This individuality is shown with the use of the VPP rear suspension system across their range of premium bikes in all sectors from cross country to downhill.

Test Video

How is it to ride?

We rode the Bronson back to back against a Nomad with a very similar setup. Our reasoning was that the Bronson is being marketed as an Enduro/All Mountain capable bike, so it seemed the natural choice to see how the Bronson differed and if it was possible to ride it on similar trails to a Nomad.

Observed Characteristics of the Bronson

Speed – This is a fast rolling bike that maintains speed exceptionally well in climbs and descents. The large wheel size obviously helps this and improves the roll over ability and the bikes natural characteristics to flow with the trail, the Nomad is not the same and is definitely a more aggressive bike, however on 80 percent of trails that most people ride that aggressive capability is not really needed. The Bronson in all respects on normal trails is smoother and enables the rider to flow down the trail with greater stability and less twitchiness in a straight line.

Cornering – This is where the bike gets interesting, at no point did we find it harder to corner or slower, but we can say the rider needs to be clear with their intended direction, as it is not possible to correct for errors with the same speed as a 26″ bike, the extra rotating mass does slow down reactions in this aspect.

Suspension Performance – As we are used to riding bikes with the VPP system it was interesting to note the difference compared to the Nomad, with a feeling very similar to the Blur of being on the bike rather than being sat in the suspension.This is a notable feature of the slightly different pivot position and slightly less travel, the outcome of this is the bike stays more on top of the rough trail features and doesn’t eat up the trail like a Nomad does, however combined with the larger wheels the result is a fast ride over the top of bumps. We didn’t get to try the bike on a really technical trail, so it will be interesting to see how far we can push the Bronson in hard technical terrain at speed.

Pedalling – As expected the larger wheel size aids uphill performance and defiantly makes it easier to carry speed. It is slightly harder to start compared to a 26″ but although once started the bike just keeps rolling and moving over bumps that might stop progress more on a 26″ wheeled bike.

Component Observation

Groupset – We had the XT Shimano variant groupset with a Fox 27.5″ specific Kashmir fork all of which performed flawlessly including the powerful Ice Tech brakes that we really liked, although we would prefer a 36T large front chainwheel rather than the Supplied 38T on the crankset.

Contact Points – The bar and stem were the traditional Santa Cruz speced 60mm Truativ stem and Easton 710mm bar which is not our preferred size setup, but for the type of riding this bike is aimed at these components were a good all round choice that will keep most potential riders happy.

Wheels and Tyres – This is were things are interesting. The wheels were WTB aluminium rims onto WTB hubs, the tyres were MAXXIS High Roller II 2.3 tyres. It is the first time we have been able to find an aggressive tyre on the larger wheel size and we were very impressed with their performance, rolling fast griping extremely well under braking. It was when cornering we felt the larger wheel size come out and this tyre choice came into it’s own, the traction was extremely good compared to the same setup on 26″. So much so in fact, we were left with the impression that the tyre might be a little too aggressive on this wheel size, however to judge that statement we would need to ride this setup more and on more technical trails to get a clearer opinion. The advantage the setup gave though in corners, was an immense feeling of grip and we were really able to lean the bike over and push hard, thus carrying speed well, and adding to the overall “flow” feeling that the bike produced on the trail we tried it on.

Weight – Lifting the Bronson in and out of the truck and on the trail we didn’t notice any extreme weight gain due to the larger wheels, in fact we noted how light it felt considering the slightly larger form the wheels give the bike. We did not weigh it, but it was definitely lighter than our Nomad carbon setup.

Conclusion

By no means was this an exhaustive test and we felt we defiantly need more time on the bike and would change the bar and stem to match our more normal setup that we are used to, a personal choice. There is no doubt the Bronson is a bike that will be liked by nearly all that ride it. For the non extreme rider it is probably the one bike to conquer them all. If you are an extreme rider we would stick with the Nomad. If you like to ride fast, pedal a reasonable amount and like the greater manoeuvrability in corners compared to a 29er and want to retain some of that excitement feeling of smaller wheels then this is probably the bike for you. The VPP system has people that like it and those that don’t, in this form we have to say that it worked well and produced a lively and active bike which combined with the extra stability and rollover that the 27.5″ wheels, gave us a feeling of a bike that is capable of a great amount of speed and flow. Whether we were actually faster compared to the Nomad down hill is something that we need to check more definitively one day. This is the first 27.5″ bike we have tried where we have not been left wondering, “Whats the point?” We are happy to be able to have the Santa Cruz attention to ride and build quality that we like so much about their bikes.

Acknowledgements

I-mtb for their help with the test.

DSB Bonandrini for helping us get one of the first bikes to test in Europe.

Santa Cruz Bicycles