Compare-O First Look: Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon

27.5 Enduro Enduro Compare-O 2014

This article is part of the Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here–http://reviews.mtbr.com/category/enduro-compare-o-2014

Of all the bikes in our Compare-O, Santa Cruz’s Bronson Carbon is perhaps the most fawned over. Everyone, it seems, wants a rip on this tennis ball-yellow superbike—and with good reason. First is its reputation which, despite a relatively short time on the market, has reached cult status. Second is the price-is-no-object build spec that counts a SRAM XX1 drivetrain, Shimano XTR brakes, and Enve AM carbon wheels among its highlights.

It’s also hard to ignore the bike’s racing pedigree, which is well-tested in the World Enduro Series under gravity superstars like Steve Peat, Cedric Gracia, Josh Bryceland, and Greg Minnaar.

While a good rep’ and peerless part mix might turn heads, it also brings the danger of creating colossal, unattainable expectations. Does the Bronson live up to the hype? We’ll let you know when we’re done riding it, for now, let’s take a closer look.

Virtual Actual Success

Santa Cruz has bet the farm on the Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension design, and both the 150mm-travel Bronson and its shorter-travel counterpart, the 5010, represent their latest refinement of the system. And with a history of great success both on the race course and in sales numbers its easy to see why.

With this go-around, SC manages to squeeze out alluring numbers that set it apart from the two “old” Santa Cruz 26-inch models to which the Bronson is most often compared—the Blur LT and the Nomad. A 67-degree head tube angle, 13.6-inch bottom bracket height and 28.8-inch stand over (size large) puts the Bronson in the low-and-stable geometric zone, beating out its predecessors on most fronts, despite the larger hoops.

Though Bronson started life as a 26-inch bike as well, Santa Cruz wisely moved it to the mid-wheel size when they saw the 27.5-inch wave coming, confident that their refinements to VPP and the geometry would translate. We had heard rumors—and even seen prototypes on local trails—so far in advance of its eventual release, we’re apt to believe Santa Cruz took their time dialing-in the nuance.

Yeah, Parts is Parts…Then There’s These

When they were done drooling, members of our test crew had few complaints about our Bronson’s deluxe build, though a couple wondered aloud if a RockShox Pike would make it even better. And while the Pike seems to be the darling of this year’s suspension ball, Fox’s Kashima-coated 34 TALAS CTD 120-150mm fork is more than sufficient, if not excellent in its own right. The fork is well-matched to the Fox Float CTD Kashima shock that handles the Bronson’s 150mm of rear travel.

Putting the build—and price tag—into the stratosphere are a pair of Enve AM carbon wheels with tubeless Maxxis High Roller 2 2.3-inch wide tires. In amazing matchey, matchey style, Santa Cruz offers the Enve’s with color-matched graphics that pushes the Bronson to 11 on the style scale.

We already mentioned the XX1 drivetrain—for the record it comes with a 34-tooth front ring and the XX1 10-42 11-speed cluster in back.

Curiously our Bronson came with an e*thirteen XCX chainguide, which is not part of any build kit offered on Santa Cruz’s site. We’ve yet to drop a single chain on a properly adjusted XX1 system, though we’ve heard of occasional derailments in muddy conditions. Perhaps our test bike was used in the UK or Pacific Northwest before coming to powder dry Northern California.

For stopping duties Santa Cruz spec’d a pair of Shimano XTR Trail brakes with a 180mm front/160mm rear Icetech rotor combo. This unlikely SRAM drivetrain/Shimano brakes combo matches much of the “best of” chatter we’re seeing both in the Mtbr forums and hearing from our test riders.

Finally, the cockpit of the Bronson came equipped with Easton’s excellent, 750mm-wide Havoc carbon bars, a 70mm Thompson stem, and RockShox’s well-regarded Reverb Stealth dropper post. A WTB Volt SLT Ti saddle and a pair of Lizard Skin Peaty Lock-On grips round out the parts mix.

About That Price Tag

We—and Santa Cruz for that matter—realize that a $10,000 bike is out of range for many consumers. Thankfully you can get an amazingly spec’d version of the Bronson Carbon for $4,500—less than half the cost of our build. Santa Cruz also offers a well-kitted aluminum version for $3,500, and framesets for $1,925 (alloy) and $2,900 (carbon).

That said, we can’t wait to get what we call our “10G Bronson C” on the trail for some flogging.

2014 Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon Key Specs
  • Weight: 26.94 lbs.(size large)
  • Wheel Size: 27.5 inches
  • Frame Material: Carbon
  • Rear Suspension: Fox Float CTD Kashima, 150mm
  • Front Suspension: FOX 34 Talas CTD Kashima 120-150mm
  • Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 1×11; 34t chainring, 10-42 cassette
  • Brakes: Shimano XTR, 180mm front/160mm rear Icetech rotors
  • Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth
  • Wheelset: Enve AM
  • Tires: Maxxis High Roller 2, 2.3-inches
  • Bars: Easton Havoc 750mm
  • Stem: Thompson 70mm
  • Bottom Bracket Type: SRAM Threaded
  • Head Tube Angle: 67 degrees
  • Seat Tube Angle: 73 degrees
  • Chainstay Length: 17.3 inches
  • Bottom Bracket Height: 13.6 inches
  • Bike MRSP: $10,029
  • Frame MSRP: $2,900

For more information visit www.santacruzbicycles.com.

Read our Bottom Line Evaluation of the Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon here.

This story is part of Mtbr’s 2014 Enduro Compare-O. Check out our intro story here for all the ground rules and goings ons.

Compare-O First Look: Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon Gallery
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Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon First Look Cover

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Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon X6

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Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon Weight

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Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon VPP

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Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon Grip

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Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon First Look Thumb

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About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born editorial director Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area and pedaling for Mtbr, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.


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  • Roger says:

    Highlighter called, they want their color back! haha

  • GG says:

    I don’t get why the test is on rigs with XTR/XX1/ENVE builds!
    MTBR staff seem to get a hoot out of drooling all over these crazy bling’d out rides.
    Of course it’s going to be pricey and awesome… what’s the point to evaluate that?
    Why not build up or request the bikes with a solid SLX/XT/X9 & good hoops like most consumers can afford?

  • roger says:

    Carbon wheels makes all the difference. They should either test all the bikes with carbon enve or none at all.

  • isaidso says:

    These comparos are meaningless since they aren’t all equipped with the same components. Some bikes get anchored with deore XT, some get XX1. Some get stan’s flows, others get carbon ENVEs. How could you not prefer a bike with XX1 and ENVE rims?

  • rynoman03 says:

    What a beautiful bike that i’ll never be able to afford!

  • james12345pt says:

    The real world rider would benefit more from a review of this bike equipped out at a price level of ~$5000 dollar which is a more realistic pricepoint.

  • Bikethrasher says:

    Having ridden both the 10k version and the 3500 aluminum version. They are both really good. There is no denying the improvement in dampening and ride feel of the carbon vs the aluminum. Carbon is for the rich and fools like myself who sacrifice pretty much everything else to ride really nice bikes. That being said, when I demoed the 5010 in Fruita. That would be the bottom of the line aluminum build with a crap 3×10 and low end Fox fork and Shock. I still managed a dozen PRs and 3 Top 10s. The 5010 is a special bike. With very few rivals if your looking for all out speed everywhere. Would I be faster on the 10k build? Probably not by much but it would have been more comfortable, controlled, and I wouldn’t have dropped a single chain. Oh I almost forgot that extra 3-5 pounds that didn’t really bother me too much until I was hiking up out of Horsetheif

  • VB_MTB says:

    Why not build up or request the bikes with a solid SLX/XT/X9 & good hoops like most consumers can afford?
    Agreed!”

    Who puts SLX components on a Carbon Enduro bike??? While I believe SLX and even X9 components have there place I just don’t believe a bike like the Carbon Bronson or Pivot Mach 6 is there place.

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