Product Review: Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon
Photos: Re Wikstrom
Some have argued that the Bronson Carbon’s position in Santa Cruz’s lineup was challenged with the arrival of the new Nomad. Well, it’s true that the Bronson isn’t as all-out aggressive as the Nomad, nor is it as snappy and quick handling as the 5010. But rather than seeing this as a liability, it’s actually why I like the Bronson as much as I do.
The Bronson’s redesigned VPP suspension platform rides considerably higher in its travel than earlier generations of VPP bikes — a trait that I appreciate, as it adds to the pedaling efficiency, while also making it more responsive to rider input. The extra inch of travel over the 5010 makes the Bronson more active in the mid-stroke, which helps it remain compliant over uneven terrain.
Accordingly, it does exhibit more feedback at the pedals than the spryer 5010, meaning that those who run a softer suspension setup will likely find themselves reaching for the “climb” switch on the rear shock. And for those who prefer their suspension stiffer than the widely recommended 25-30% sag, will find that the need for an on-the-fly suspension adjustment is less pronounced. They’ll also be rewarded with a “poppier” feel when it comes time to get the Bronson airborne.
Geometry and Handling
As I covered in my 5010 vs. Bronson comparison, the Bronson has an inch of extra wheelbase in comparison to its 125mm sibling, which is mostly due to the longer, 17.3-inch chainstays and slacker, 67-degree head angle. The bottom bracket is essentially right in line with the centerline of the hub axles, so as it sags into the travel, it provides a bit of drop. This feature helps it to absolutely rail turns, without being so low as to drag on the exits.
In fact, the snappy, neutral cornering is perhaps the Bronson’s most endearing characteristic. The chainstays are long enough to keep the rider’s weight centered between the wheels, which creates the feeling that the front wheel is sufficiently weighted in order to easily initiate turns across a wide range of speeds. Meanwhile, the relaxed head angle keeps the front wheel from folding over in corners — a trait that becomes more important as the entry speed to said corners increases.
The Bronson exhibits typical Santa Cruz finishing, which is to say that it’s impeccable. From the thoughtful cable routing to the user-friendly collet style pivot hardware, it’s clear that there weren’t any shortcuts taken in the push to get it to market.
In particular, the generous tire clearance is a benefit to both fans of big rubber and those who regularly ride in wet conditions. In terms of rigidity, this is a fairly stiff frame, but when pushed, there’s enough lateral give in the rear triangle to aid in traction.
Those who regularly ride in muddy conditions will want to devise some type of mudguard for the rear triangle because, like most all VPP bikes, the lower-link can pack with slop, which will damage the area’s finish. A custom mudguard is fairly easy to construct, though, and the ample tire clearance does minimize the chances of a packed-up tire marring the inside of the chainstays.
The Bronson Carbon has enough travel to take the edge off incredibly hairy terrain, with handling that’s stable without being cumbersome. In other words, it’s perfect for riders with a taste for long rides and aggressive descending. Keep in mind that it’s not quite as efficient on climbs as the 5010, which is a compromise that many will probably be willing to make. And while it’s certainly tuned for down hills, it doesn’t require the Nomad’s “balls-to-the-wall” descending style. Accordingly, it’s perfect for riders who are more interested in pushing their own limits than reestablishing the limits of mountain biking itself.
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