Sea Otter Quick Test: 27.5ers from Focus, Santa Cruz and Ibis Conversion

27.5 Sea Otter Classic

The Bronson is a six-inch travel bike designed for enduro racing.

If there were a theme for this year’s Sea Otter Classic, it would have to be the slew of new 27.5-inch bikes. Manufacturers such Focus, Marin, Santa Cruz and Scott were just some of the bike makers who showed new tweener bikes at the four-day festival of all things cycling.

Mtbr.com got some saddle time on the new Scott Scale 700 Series 27.5-inch hardtail, and also sampled soil aboard the new Focus Raven 650b, the Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon, and a one-off, unofficial “brototype” Ibis Tranny with 27.5-inch Ritchey Vantage WCS wheels.

Those who know The Angry Singlespeeder know I’m not completely sold on 29ers, mostly because I think they climb like a monkey humping a football, or put another way, they feel awkward. However, in my opinion the 27.5 wheels have none of the uphill big-wheel lethargy of a 29er yet still retain many of the positive characteristics of a 29er: improved rollover, sustained momentum on rolling downhill sections. As a bonus, 27.5ers also retain the nimble, flickable sensation that make 26ers so much fun to ride.

Although the bike industry needs another wheel size like it needs another bottom bracket “standard”, at least in the ASS’s completely biased opinion, the 27.5er is the ideal wheel size for hardtail cross-country bikes and longer travel enduro-style bikes like the Santa Cruz Bronson.

The new Bronson C from Santa Cruz with 27.5-inch wheels.

Santa Cruz Bronson C

Released on April 1, the new six-inch travel Santa Cruz Bronson is 20 years of full-suspension design in the making, and will be the bike of choice for the Santa Cruz Syndicate race team when competing at the Enduro World Series, which kicks off in Italy on May 18. The Bronson is available in both carbon fiber and aluminum. We tested the carbon fiber model, which was fully loaded with ENVE wheels, a RockShox dropper post, full XTR drivetrain, and Fox suspension with the CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) system.

The first sensation you notice on this sub-25 pound do-it-all machine is the out-of-the saddle climbing performance. For me at least, the tweener wheel size of the Bronson goes uphill with less exerted effort than its 29er counterparts, and in Fox’s Climb setting, the Bronson has almost zero detectable bob, maximizing climbing efficiency with every pedal stroke – saving precious seconds in an enduro event where slight uphills and sprints can mean the difference between winning and losing.

20 years of full-suspension frame design went into the Bronson.

The 142mm rear axle spacing with thru-axle system helps keep the rear tight and stiff, while the traditional 73mm threaded bottom bracket is a refreshing break from all the confusing new “standards”, and allows for easy installation.

With suspension set in Descend mode, the in-between-sized wheels of the Bronson combined with the plush Fox suspension system flattened out even the choppiest sections of trail where brake bumps inevitably emerge. Cornering and turning was nimble and quick with zero understeer, requiring far less body English than a 29er.

The Fox CTD system helps the Bronson climb with almost zero detectable bob.

For those who don’t want to mess with dials, just leave the Bronson in Trail mode, a setting that optimizes both climbing and descending for outstanding set-and-forget performance. Although a bit too much bike for traditional cross-country, the Bronson will surely be the weapon of choice for all types of enduro racing and burlier cross-country events like Downieville, where the most well-rounded bike and rider always triumphs. And thankfully, Santa Cruz made sure the Bronson could hold two water bottles – usually an oversight with most full-suspension bikes. We look forward to having more saddle time on this impressive new bike from Santa Cruz.

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About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.


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  • tv says:

    Can anyone point me to any info on the web regarding how/what Tim Cannard modified on the Tranny rear triangle?

  • Ted says:

    The 80′s called, they want their dayglow shoes back

  • The Angry Singlespeeder says:

    TV – Tim basically had a composites guy cut out a portion of the seatstay and chainstay bridge and re-carboned it to fit a longer rear wheel.

  • tv says:

    So they left the stays at their original length, but cut away material in the “body” of carbon where the stays merge and connect to the main triangle?
    I assume the “slot machine” was left intact, or at least intact enough to permit chain tensioning?

  • Ken Arnett says:

    ant details on this mod for the Tranny?

  • The Angry Singlespeeder says:

    TV – yes, that’s correct. Stays were left unchanged. Material was cut away from the body where the stays merge. The Slot Machine was not affected. I will see if I can get Tim to chime in here with the details.

  • Tim Cannard says:

    Hey there. So basically what I did was take out a bit of the slot machine and upper yoke to fit originally a 700×35 Cross wheel. This rear end was a test mule for my 324 Labs adapters some 3 years ago. And it just so happens a 27.5x 2.1 is the exact same size.
    According to the Carbon repair guy it was pretty straight forward. They made a backing plug for the slot machine when remolding it. And cut out the re-wrapped the top yoke. Looks clean and very close to factory.

  • Tim Cannard says:

    One more thing. About 1/3 of an inch of the slot machine travel was affected. And in my opinion not very critical since there is plenty of movement for chain tension after the modification.

  • Miguel says:

    Ouch…spandex, venus legs, and girl shoes isn’t going to sell 650B in these parts.

    • plume says:

      Gotta look good to go good Miguel. Baggies and flat pedals are for huckers son. I love that the Tranny mod got the best review makes me miss my hardtail 26ers of yesteryear.

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