Let's run a thought experiment: close your eyes and count on your fingers the features you're looking for in your dream all-mountain machine. If you counted up one, two, three, four, five, six inches of Virtual Pivot Point suspension — and you threw in a healthy dose of Shimano's superlative XTR groupset for good measure — then chances are good you were really just daydreaming about Santa Cruz's Bronson 2.0 Carbon CC XTR Complete Mountain Bike. There are some numbers that deep travel can't account for, though, such as the Bronson 2.0's slacker head tube angle, longer chassis measurement, and more power-oriented seat tube tilt, all of which contribute to make SC's venerable do-it-all machine even more appropriate for every type of terrain or gradient.
Of those new numbers, the most impressive alteration to the old Bronson's all-mountain pedigree is the head tube, which slacks out by an extra tick on the protractor to drop from 67 to 66 degrees. This change is complemented with a corresponding increase in top tube length, a lower bottom bracket, and a raised lower link — a combination that allows for short-stemmed, strike-free, point-and-click confidence while traversing lines and dropping steps that would cause even the previous Bronson to hesitate. It also effectively erases root lattices and moderate rock gutters, letting you mash across terrain that trail, XC, and even other all-mountain bikes have to pick through with delicate care.
Conversely, the Bronson 2.0's seat tube gets steeper by almost a full degree in order to better position the engine (read: your hips) up over the Race Face cranks. The revised geometry keeps you on top of the pedal stroke, and relocated links allow for a shorter chainstay, which makes for more power transferring efficiency. The back end is further stiffened with the new 12 x 148mm axle standard, ensuring that the extra watts produced by the improved pedaling position and shorter chainstays aren't lost to wheel flex. Despite its slacker head tube and longer geometry, the back end changes help the Bronson 2.0 pop over cruxes and maintain diesel speed across hard pack.
The Virtual Pivot Point 3 (VPP3) suspension system represents the latest update to Santa Cruz's classic VPP. Where the old suspension curve described a deep "U," VPP3's curve resembles a flattened check mark, with less dramatic ramping on either end of the arc. The results are that, during the initial stroke, VPP3 boasts increased small bump compliance to keep the tires glued to the trail for more traction while climbing across lumpy trails and root lattices. It also maintains its predecessor's firm feel during accelerations while jockeying for position in a mass start or a finishing sprint. The ramp-up arc doesn't dramatically alter as the shock compresses, so the pedaling platform stays consistent across travel, with less wallowing, bob, and bottom-outs — even when the bottom link activates and the axle's path turns rearward to absorb big hits in the deep end of the travel pool.
For all the changes listed above, the Bronson 2.0 Carbon CC's construction remains the same. As with previous Carbon CC frames, the Bronson 2.0 Carbon CC requires less material to hit Santa Cruz's stiffness targets without sacrificing any of the responsiveness of the less expensive, heavier Carbon C models. Both triangles are constructed as whole, monocoque pieces, which also contributes to keeping weight low because the carbon can be wrapped through junctures and around joints. This eliminates the artificial weak points of bonded frames and actually requires less material in the process. While it's being cured, the frame is compacted from inside and out. This final step eliminates excess material and resin pooling, resulting in more structural integrity and, of course, additional weight savings.
Finally, the frame is finished with a rock-star, World Cup-ready Shimano XTR/Race Face drivetrain. The massive cassette and double crankset make for a range of gearing options that allows the top possible speed over virtually any terrain, and the almost instant, three-degree engagement of Industry Nine's Torch hubs comes into play when clearing the rocky crux of a climb without clipping out makes the difference between losing momentum or extending a gap. Combined with the Bronson 2.0's aggressive geometry, this is the build kit of a racer, not a recreationalist.