With all the excitement surrounding the new Nomad and Hightower LT geometries, some riders may be excused for overlooking the Bronson 2.1 Carbon XE Complete Mountain Bike. But not by us. From Trans Provence to The Ridge, the Bronson has proven repeatedly that it's one of the most capable steeds in the all-mountain category, and the latest generation pushes the envelope a bit farther in all the areas that first made us fall in love with the Bronson. It's longer, slacker, and has a bit more travel than its predecessor, so there are even fewer excuses now for overlooking it.
A large part of the winning formula is, of course, the Bronson’s 6in of VPP suspension. As with all VPP bikes, the Bronson’s counter-rotating links are carefully arranged to resist activation by pedaling forces, all but eliminating unwanted bobbing under power. This being the latest iteration of VPP, it’s tuned to provide more midstroke support than previous generations of the VPP platform, giving the rider a better feel for the terrain, and a livelier ride feel. It’s a balance that Santa Cruz has mastered, allowing for the requisite efficiency for all-day rides, while still taking advantage of sufficient travel to tackle the hardest trails you could possibly hope to find.
When comparing the Bronson’s geometry to some of its noteworthy competitors, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Bronson appears conservative on paper. But again, not by us. As is the case with much of Santa Cruz’s lineup, the goal with the Bronson is excellence, not extremity. The 66-degree head angle provides the necessary stability for charging full-bore into enduro race stages, while remaining quick enough to change direction to be forgiving should you mistakenly find yourself on a poorly-chosen line. At 17 inches, the chainstays strike a nice balance between being short enough to turn quickly, and long enough to maintain weight on the front wheel, especially when hanging off the back in steep chutes. At 13.4 inches, its bottom bracket height is plenty low to remain planted in huge berms and off camber corners, but it’s just high enough to minimize the risk of pedal strikes. While there are other bikes that are longer, slacker, and lower, the Bronson is all about balance, a trait that it has by the truckload. And the upshot is that the Bronson delivers just about anywhere you take it.
In the end, the Bronson is still a Santa Cruz, so it features the same carbon construction that's ruined our tastes by giving us unrealistic expectations for how carbon should feel. The frame's two carbon triangles are built as whole pieces rather than glued together from disparate bits, a method that saves weight and increases structural integrity by allowing Santa Cruz to wrap carbon continuously through and around key junctures. This process reinforces the frame with less material while eliminating the artificial stress points that result from bonded construction methods. Finally, the carbon is also compacted from the inside and the outside for a more even finish that avoids any structural defects, excess material build-up, and resin pooling for—you guessed it—even more weight savings.
- An aggressive enduro bike for big lines and big ambitions
- 6in of climb-happy, enduro-tuned VPP suspension
- Longer reach shifts weight forward for better traction
- 74-degree seat tube angle optimizes pedaling efficiency
- Carbon construction drops grams and bumps up stiffness
- Shimano's XT and SLX prove their meddle with on-trail durability