The new normal.
Santa Cruz's popular all-mountain bike, the Bronson, was quite instrumental at the time when the competitive trail market was emerging with 27.5-inch wheels half a decade ago. Slight smaller than the Nomad but bigger than the 5010, it proved itself capable on everything from pedal fest in the mountains to enduros and even hot laps after work. The bike was so well received, by the cycling media and ourselves, that naturally we were nervous when Santa Cruz announced it had completely redesigned the Bronson Carbon 27.5+ R Complete Mountain Bike with longer, slacker, and more aggressive geometry for progressing the modern trail bike and extending the capabilities for aggressive riders. Besides the geo changes, a new lower-link driven shock, inspired by the latest gen Nomad, hinted at where Santa Cruz was going with the Bronson and given its expertise and foresight in designing mountain bikes, were pretty sure this new rig sent alarm bells off in the mountain bike world and having thrown a leg over it and pedaled it on our favorite trails, we declare this bike an absolute riot. Built up with SRAM's new NX Eagle group and RockShox suspension, get ready to elevate your trail game.
One of the biggest changes to the third-gen Bronson lies in a longer, slacker geometry that pushes it deeper into the gravity end of the riding spectrum. However, this redesign doesn't significantly alter its all-around versatility, meaning it's still great for the rider that desires the monster truck plushness of a slack, long-travel rig while having fun on trail systems with big climbs and high-speed descents. To be specific, Santa Cruz lengthened the reach by approximately 15 millimeters per size for a more confident, comfortable feel at higher speeds, plus a centimeter lower standover height for a better fit with shorter riders. The head tube angle drops from the previous generation's already slack 66 degrees to an even slacker 65.4 degrees in its highest setting, complete with a flip-chip that slackens it out even further to a bike park-friendly 65.1 degrees. These were numbers that you'd only see on a freeride or mini-DH bike just a few years ago, meaning you'll have tons of confidence bombing those technical descents littered with steep drop-offs and nasty rock sections.
Another significant change to the latest Bronson lies in a reconfigured VPP suspension platform. Instead of relying on upper-link driven design, the third generation Bronson enjoys the increased bump compliance and glued-to-the-trail traction you'll experience with a VPP suspension driven by a lower-link mounted shock that's inspired by the latest Nomad. This lower-link driven VPP suspension platform is something that's reserved exclusively for the Bronson, Nomad, and V10, seeing the need for increased bump compliance, better support, and higher levels of traction for all-mountain, freeride, and downhill disciplines. To best match the increased performance capabilities of this lower-link driven VPP, Santa Cruz spec'd a Super Deluxe shock for a suppler feel that tracks to the ground noticeably better and resists heating up on those scintillating descents over thousands of vertical feet.
The last major change implemented on the third-gen Bronson is the ability to clear tires up to a whopping 2.8 inches wide, thanks to increased space in the rear triangle for the needs of modern wide trail tires. We really like the spec'd 2.6-inch Minion DHF 2.4-inch Minion DHR II on the rear providing plenty of traction and rollover ability without losing too much in terms of rolling efficiency and heft. Additionally, it's less vague and bouncy than 2.8-inch plus tires. Santa Cruz is calling it the "new plus" and we feel like it offers the benefits of plus but rides more like traditional widths were used to. If you do feel the need to run traditional plus-sized tires and their 2.8 inch treads with even more traction and cush, the frames flip-chip is happy to accommodate.
Lucky for all of us, one thing that hasn't changed is Santa Cruz's carbon frames, which is a good thing if you're after the legendary strength and unwavering stiffness of their renowned carbon layups. This particular Bronson benefits from the Carbon C layup, which makes for a resoundingly stiff frame for swift acceleration and unflappable poise while pummeling across rough terrain. It's backed by Santa Cruz's excellent lifetime warranty, so you'll have extra peace of mind while riding particularly fast on your favorite stretch of trail and shuttling downhill laps on the mountain pass.
- Santa Cruz's redefines their all-mountain all-rounder
- Aggressive geometry is slacker and longer than before
- Flip-chip slackens the head tube angle from 65.4° to 65.1°
- VPP with lower-link driven air shock inspired by the Nomad
- 6in of VPP travel soaks out bigger hits, tames rock gardens
- Carbon C frame balances weight, strength, and value
- "New" plus-sized 2.6in tires for plow-anything confidence
- SRAM NX Eagle and RockShox components further extend the value