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Santa Cruz 5010 vs. Bronson: Guns at a Knife Fight

Although we’re used to seeing droves of new bikes from our favorite manufacturers every year, the bomb that Santa Cruz dropped with this year’s lineup was downright staggering. The revamped models embraced the burgeoning 27.5-inch wheel standard have proved that it’s here to stay. However, most of the attention paid to the mid-wheeled bikes went to the 5010 and the Bronson. The differences between the models are subtle, at least on paper, which has resulted in a flood of questions from riders wondering, “Which one is for me?” After spending a month riding both, here’s what we’ve discovered.

The similarities between both bikes are perhaps as noteworthy as the differences. The frame weight is essentially the same between models, with the only difference being that the Bronson is designed around a longer travel fork. The jump from a 32mm fork to a 34mm option adds about half of a pound. They also share a revised VPP suspension, which provides a significant improvement in mid-stroke support over previous iterations of the famed dual-link suspension platform. Component compatibility is identical, and the aesthetic similarities hint at the Blur lineage that both bikes share.

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The most obvious difference is the suspension travel—five-inches for the 5010, and six for the Bronson. The 5010′s chainstays are 17.1-inches long, as compared to the Bronson’s 17.3-inch back end. The 5010′s head angle is 68 degrees, as opposed to the Bronson’s 67 with a slightly taller fork. Those fractions add up, and the difference is most noticeable when looking at the wheelbase. A large Bronson has a 45.9-inch wheelbase, a full inch longer than the large 5010, at 44.9-inches. However, reach and stack, and accordingly fit, are essentially the same between the two models.

Those well versed in geometry will immediately recognize that the 5010 should be snappier and more responsive, where the Bronson will gain an edge in terms of high-speed stability. The disparity in suspension travel should further reinforce each bike’s character. Not surprisingly, our findings mirrored this exactly.

In fairness, there’s considerable overlap between both bikes. In other words, both bikes are highly adept as trail slayers. The 5010′s tighter handling means that it’s more responsive at slow speeds, which is especially noticeable while climbing. Granted, it’s not an XC race bike, but it’s more precise when grinding up technical singletrack than the Bronson, which requires more focus to keep on a line.

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The opposite is true when the trail turns down. While both bikes track beautifully over rough terrain, the Bronson has extra margin for error, which becomes apparent as you start pushing the pace. A skilled bike handler can pilot a 5010 down most any terrain that you could ride on a Bronson, but when you start throwing it into turns at speeds in excess of 25 miles-per-hour, the Bronson is more composed. It’s comforting to know you have the buffer afforded by the Bronson’s extra travel when jumping doubles, or airing into rock gardens at speed.

So, this being a head-to-head comparison, which bike wins? The short answer is both. The Bronson demands more of its rider, as it needs to be ridden faster to appreciate its benefits. That being said, I’d take the Bronson without hesitation. The marginal sacrifice in terms of weight and climbing prowess are amply rewarded when gravity enters the equation. However, the 5010 is plenty capable for the vast majority of riders, and it’s a more agile climber. There are far more 5010s owned by the staff here than Bronsons for precisely that reason. The 5010 is the everyman’s mountain bike, which riders of any skill level will immediately feel comfortable on, regardless of the terrain. So if you’re on the fence, be honest with yourself. You already know which one is right for you.

READ MORE ABOUT THE SANTA CRUZ 5010 AND THE BRONSON.

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Photo Credit: Re Wikstrom
Location: Corner Canyon, Utah