A burlier Bronson.
Picking out a new trail bike can be a pretty daunting task. There are so many good bikes these days, including multiple options from the same brand. We’ve always had a soft spot for Santa Cruz's Bronson as its simply easier to pedal and climb than its bigger brother the Nomad while offering up a bit more all-mountain aggression than its smaller sibling, the 5010. So naturally we were a little apprehensive when Santa Cruz announced a complete redesign of the Bronson Carbon CC 27.5+ XX1 Eagle Reserve Complete Mountain Bike and we were worried it might somehow detract from its amazing versatility. Its arrival revealed its "new" plus-sized tires, longer, more aggressive geometry, and a lower-link driven shock inspired by the latest Nomad. Sure, this all looks good on paper, but how would it ride? In a word: amazing. Nothing was lost on this latest version, however, it's more capable than ever, helping to progress the modern trail rider and allow this bike and its rider to simply attack technical trails with more speed and confidence than ever before without sacrificing the weight and pedaling efficiency that's appreciated while getting to them.
One of the biggest changes to the third-gen Bronson lies in its 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 trophy truck plushness of a slack, long-travel rig on rugged trails while still remaining nimble and playful on buffer trails with big climbs and more pedaling. Santa Cruz lengthened the reach by approximately 15 millimeters across the sizes for a more confident, comfortable position at higher speeds. Additionally, it whacked a centimeter from the standover height for better clearance for shorter riders and the opportunity to run a dropper post with more travel. The head tube slackens 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 numbers were the domain of freeride or mini-DH bikes 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 an 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 seen on the latest Nomad and V10. This lower-link driven VPP suspension platform is something that's reserved exclusively for the gravity-fueled models, seeing that the need for increased bump compliance, better support, and higher levels of traction for all-mountain, freeride, and downhill disciplines are greatly appreciated. To better match the increased performance capabilities of this lower-link driven VPP, Santa Cruz spec'd a Super Deluxe shock for a supple stroke that tracks to the ground noticeably better and resists heating up on those exhilarating descents over thousands of vertical feet.
The last major change implemented on the third-gen Bronson is the introduction of Santa Cruz's "new" plus-sized tire, which is simply adding slightly larger 2.6-inch rubber for all the benefits in traction, bump compliance, and support afforded by plus-sized rubber, but without the major downsides of running wider 2.8 and 3.0-inch tires. By redefining the usability of plus-sized tires, Santa Cruz offers levels of plow-anything confidence to the masses without the negative attributes of traditional plus-sized tires, namely being the added rotational weight on climbs, sometimes vague handling feel, and a tendency to squirm under hard cornering and braking. If you'd like to run a true plus-sized tire, the newest version of the Bronson will gladly accept 2.8-inch tires with its flip-chip accommodating these wider treads.
Lucky for all of us, one thing that hasn't changed is Santa Cruz's carbon frame construction, which is a good thing as the legendary strength and unwavering stiffness of their renowned carbon layups is highly prized. This particular Bronson benefits from the top-shelf Carbon CC layup, which drops weight as it uses a higher-end carbon in the manufacturing process, without sacrificing one bit of stiffness or strength. You can count on this lighter Carbon CC version to save anywhere from 250 to 280 grams over the lower-spec Carbon C model, so it's worth upgrading if you'd like a lighter build, especially seeing how the Bronson has grown in length and travel figures for this generation.
It's worth noting this particular Bronson Carbon CC 27.5+ bike is upgraded with Santa Cruz's newest Reserve 37 Carbon Wheels, which provide all the strength and stiffness benefits of carbon hoops, but with a 37-millimeter internal width to properly accommodate wider tires. This means you'll be able to properly run tires in the 2.6 to 2.8-inch range without creating an overly bulbous, lightbulb shape that doesn't maximize the tire's tread and leads to squirming while ridden hard and subjected to cornering at high speeds. To bolster additional strength at the spoke face, these Reserve Carbon Wheels are reinforced along the spoke nipple interface to prevent them from pulling through at high spoke tensions and during aggressive riding. Additionally, they're even backed by an amazing lifetime warranty for added peace of mind while pushing this Bronson to the absolute limit. As one of its premium builds, this bike gets all the bells and whistles including a plush Fox Factory 36 Fork and RockShox Super Deluxe shock. Shifting and braking duties are handled by SRAM with its top-tier XX1 group providing plenty of range for those days that tickle 5-digit accent numbers with downhill World Cup-level 4-piston Code RSC brakes scrubbing speed on the way back down.
- Santa Cruz's all-mountain is back and more capable than ever
- 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 shock improves small bump compliance
- 6in of VPP travel smooths out jumps, drops, and rock gardens
- Carbon CC frame reduces weight without sacrificing stiffness
- "New" plus-sized 2.6in tires adding traction and cush
- Reserve 37 Carbon Wheels provide telepathic handling and strength