This article is part of the Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here–https://reviews.mtbr.com/category/enduro-compare-o-2014
BEST OF TEST WINNER: BEST ENDURO RACE BIKE
While a large percentage of our high-dollar fleet inherently has podium potential, Santa Cruz’s much vaunted Bronson Carbon goes to the top step. Slack and stable, galloping fast and eager to attack, the Bronson has that extra je ne sais quoi to nip the field at the line. Undoubtedly the smart, high-zoot build helps, but at the heart of it, Bronson’s stiff, responsive and fun-to-ride chassis wins the day. And not just Race Day, but everyday, because even on some idle Tues-day, throwing your leg over a Bronson Carbon is a victory in itself.
See the rest of the award winners here.
In the 1972 action-thriller The Mechanic, Charles Bronson plays a sophisticated man who enjoys classical music, fine wine and collects art. Despite his refined tastes, however, he makes his living as a hit man that meticulously and precisely plans and executes his kills. And while Santa Cruz’s Bronson (the bicycle) was actually named for the street of their former headquarters, one can’t help but see the similarities between movie and mountain bike. The latter looks every bit a sophisticated objet d’art, but when put in motion delivers a performance nothing short of killer.
As we mentioned in our First Look at the Bronson Carbon, the much-hyped 27.5-inch wheel superbike had no shortage of fanboys (and girls) within our test crew. Few, however, had thrown a leg over one—let alone one that cost $10,000 and came spec’d with an XX1 drivetrain and Enve carbon wheels. But once they did, the anticipation immediately turned to accolades.
“I actually had adrenaline shakes for the first 20 minutes of riding this bike—that’s how fast it felt,” said one rider who is no stranger to speed. “It’s quick, nimble, agile, capable, and ready to attack anything—a rowdy bike with a touch of refinement.”
Those comments reflect the unanimous sentiment of our test crew who collectively likened the Bronson to a rally car—“souped-up, fast, incredibly grippy and ready to attack stage-after-stage,” as one rider put it.
Photo by Tyler Frasca.
Of carbon goodness and VPP machanations
At the heart of Bronson’s inspired performance is the bike’s stunningly stiff yet light weight carbon frameset. Santa Cruz’s Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension system manages the rear end’s 150mm of travel creating a ride that’s supple across the entire range of potential impacts.
“I felt the Bronson had a really wide range of capability,” explained one rider. “It was supple on smaller, rapid-fire hits, but managed bigger impacts well too. Square-edge hits, braking bumps and even drop-to-flat, I always felt the suspension was in its element.”
Indeed, conversation about the Bronson seemed often to shortcut directly to its descending acumen, in both rough and smooth conditions.
“The trails at Demo aren’t really bermed,” observed one rider. “But the Bronson seemed to encourage you to lean it over, and the bike responded quickly, slingshotting you through a turn’s exit.
“I wasn’t really trying to pin it, but the bike just has a way of organically making speed,” he continued. “Often I didn’t realize how fast I was going until I got on the brakes.”
Keeping it on the up-and-up
Though the Bronson makes a pretty good case as an all-arounder, a few riders found some nits to pick with the bike’s climbing ability.
“The bike’s suspension worked great on steep, technical climbing sections,” observed one rider. “However, I had difficulty finding the sweet spot in terms of front/rear balance. The front end generally wanted to float up on steep pitches. Shifting my weight forward compromised rear traction.”
Photo by Tyler Frasca.
Another rider concurred but suspected it might be related to chainring spec.
“I couldn’t seem to keep the front wheel firmly planted on the ground, it was too light in the front end,” he suspected. “The large 34-tooth chainring spec’d with the XX1 system didn’t help matters on the steep techy stuff.”
Other riders—particularly ones intimately familiar with VPP bikes—felt the 26.94-pound Bronson climbed without issue.
“This bike climbs neither like an XC racer nor a pig, but it ascends reasonably well for its intent,” one rider commented. “With the CTD shock, I lock it out for the long fire road slogs and pretty much leave it in Trail for everything else and find it exceptional.”