Santa Cruz Bronson Review

A responsive descender

27.5 All Mountain Trail

We are pleased to announce that this bike has received a major update in a version called the Bronson V2. Review and information can be found HERE.

The significant changes to this bike are a longer top tube for more stable performance and better fit with shorter stems and wide bars. Head tube has been slackened for better descending and seat tube has been steepened for better pedaling.

The seat tube has been lowered too to allow compatibility with 150mm dropper posts. Suspension tune has been improved as well to provide more supple performance during initial travel. We’ve ridden this new version a lot and are very impressed.

How does it Ride?
It is very much like the Santa Cruz TRc and the Tallboy LTc really. It’s light, stiff and plush and all the geometry angles are dialed. I never liked the harshness of the original Tallboy but the Tallboy LTc (long travel) was way smoother and much more capable. It was just so damn big, specially with big tires, for my 5’8″ stature. Even with that size issue, I positively described the Tallboy LTc as like ‘landing a jump in a pillow’. The Bronson exhibits the same characteristic but it is more playful in the air. The Bronson is just plain better than the TRc in every respect and trumps even my TRc 650b conversion. The Bronson frame is laterally stiffer than the TRc or the Tallboy and it it is complemented with a 34 stanchioned front fork and a rear 12 mm thru axle. The Bronson feels right-sized with a wheel base and height that felt right at home on tight singletrack of very rough trails. It really showed its true colors on very rough and tight trails. The bigger the hits, the more it settled in and showed its prowess.

Small Bump Compliance
Santa Cruz spent a lot of time on getting the Bronson plush and small bump compliant. This has been the weakness of VPP and they seemed to have attained a new level here by suspension tuning and trying a bunch of rear shock valving rates. The bike is very smooth so it descends well, has a ton of traction on bumpy corners and rooty sections. On my very first downhill the rear was very active through small roots and ruts in the trail. I braced to get bounced around but was pleased by the plush riding experience.

When I pedaled the suspension stiffened up a bit VPP and it was not as plush as some fully active designs. But when I mashed hard or pedaled out of saddle, the bike did not bob much and there was little need to play with the CTD lever on the rear shock.

How does it Climb?
It’s a climber too and I never had to flip the CTD rear shock in to ‘climb’ mode. Wide open, it climbs well and stiffens up as you deliver more power. The drivetrain has been optimized for a 36 or 38 chainring so it is designed to stay neutral even with high torque pulling the chain from that size chainring. This results in a very good climbing bike in that big ring of a 2×10 or 1×11 front. It seems to me that the older Blur TRc was never designed for this size ring so it was always shipped with a triple front chainring.

The 73 degree seat angle props the rider forward when the lever is in the raised height position and the rider is able to drive max power as he’s right over the pedals when in the down stroke. Descending at this forward position may seem awkward but it actually works out with the dropper post since dropping the saddle negates the steep seat angle and pulls the rider weight down and rearward. We can actually say that this kind of seat angle is optimized for dropper posts.

The Bonus of High Travel
Do we really need 150mm of rear travel. Most trails and most riders may not require 150mm of travel most of the time but we found an unexpected benefit of it. Since this bike is quite efficient with its climbing, we kept checking our rubber o-ring rear shock travel indicator and noticed that we were not getting full travel even on our roughest trails. So we kept lowering our pressures on the rear and front shock until we got close to full travel. We ended up with about 30-35% sag which delivered a lower BB height and a more plush ride. Climbing was still efficient at the wide open ‘Descend’ mode of Fox’s CTD. But when the climb got long and steep we actually found benefit in putting the rear shock in the middle ‘Trail’ mode which firmed up the shock a bit.

On bike setup, the XX1 is just amazing. Santa Cruz mated it with Shimano brakes since those are the best. The dropper post with lever mounted in place of the front shifter is the finest configuration ever. Without the front shifter, the dropper lever is placed ideally under the bar as the rider does not have to unwrap the thumb from the bar to activate the lever. The Reverb lever is still too long but that will hopefully be fixed in the future.

Maxxis Ardents in the rear with High Rollers in the front is an amazing combo. And the Enve with matching stickers are aspirational. You don’t need them but if you don’t get them, you’ll be dreaming about them for the next three years.

Comparing this bike to Norco Sight and Range
We did a 650b/27.5 Round Up a couple months ago and learned about the contenders for all mountain bikes in this new wheel platform. We rated the Norco Sight the best so the natural question is how the Bronson compares to the Sight. The Norco Sight is a 140mm travel bike and its sibling the Norco Range is a 160mm travel. The Bronson slots in right in the middle with 150mm of travel.

We think these two bikes are very close. We’ll have to use the Bronson Aluminum as the basis of comparison since carbon versions of the Norco are not available at this time.

The Norco has shorter chainstays at 16.8 inches vs. 17.3 for the Bronson. Also the BB height on the Norco is 13.3 inches vs. 13.6 for the Bronson. So we like that Norco Sight better when it comes to carving corners and slithering through singletrack. The one geometry flaw on the Norco is it’s 70 degree seat angle vs. 73 for the Bronson. We like the Bronson’s 73 degree angle better since that places you in a much better position when climbing. And it is better optimized for dropper posts since the the seat is out of the way anyway when the saddle is dropped for descents.

As far as suspension travel is concerned, they’re fairly equal. But the Norco is more active during climbing and is thus better suited for very rocky climbs. The Bronson stiffens up a bit under power and it shows an advantage when climbing out of saddle. It really doesn’t need the CTD rear shock. The Norco on the other hand really benefits from the different platform modes of the CTD shock.

And finally, as far frame material options, frame refinement and cable routing, the Bronson is a clear winner. The Bronson frame has advanced pivots that are clean and easy to maintain. Cable routing too is dramatically better than the Norcos with the Bronson’s internal routing.

So as far as overall package is concerned, the Bronson edges out the Norcos.

In the end, definitely consider this new wheel size and the Santa Cruz Bronson (or the Norcos) if you’re in the market for a new bike. If you’re perfectly happy with your current bike and wheel size, then ignore all these new bike and wheel size chatter.

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About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.

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  • old school says:

    Wasn’t SC saying just recently that they saw no value in the 650b wheel size?

  • Francis Cebedo says:

    >>Wasnโ€™t SC saying just recently that they saw no value in the 650b wheel size?

    In basketball, that’s called a head fake. They poke fun at the social media hype often.

  • Kirk Bailey says:

    Although the Santa Cruz is a very popular company and now having a 650b bike, I find there are a couple of other options out there with better pricing. i.e. Scott’s Genius 700 series. It may only have 140 mm of travel, however it handles very nicely compared to most of the other 650b I have tried. Scott’s also gone to a 3 position remote lock out for the fork and rear shock. The Scott 740 weight is well under 30lbs. And if you upgraded to different wheels set, it could be under 25lbs. We don’t see many guys buying into the carbon framed models, so most (around my part of CA) will be eyeing the alu framed version. Non-the-less, Very nice bike Santa Cruz!!!

    • liquidSpin says:

      I totally agree. The new 2013 Scott Genius is just incredible…just wish I had the loot to buy one. However, I’m happy with my 2012 Scott Genius ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Brooks Yancey says:

    Looks like a beautiful machine, but why is it that a category only gets legitimized when SC enters the market? Kind of an insult to the other manufacturers that put in the work on the leading edge concepts and design. In any other industry that would be product suicide, but in the MB world we seem to put a disproportionately high value on the “cool” factor.

    • Mark Baeder says:

      I’m not saying others aren’t doing 650b right, but anyone can jam 650 wheels onto a 26″ bike. Designing it from the ground up can make a difference. Just as SC did with the Tallboy- they were later to the market, but instantly one of the better sellers because a lot of FS 29ers at the time rode like crap. I’m sure the cool factor/internet hype machine helps too though ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Izzy says:

    New on the top of my lust list!

  • MJ says:

    Nice to see Santa Cruz jump in. 650b will make us taller, smarter, happier, just generally more desirable. Well…. not really. Riding my Jamis 650b for 1.5 years now and still loving it. Santa Cruz makes great bikes. Their entry into 650b may help other riders stop thinking we’re the lunatic fringe on our tweener wheelsize. Thanks for the new choices!

  • GJ, CO says:

    Glad SC is making a 650b! Hopefully they’ll make it available on the Blur TR platform soon. A conversion for the linkage or dropout would work. And please SC, move the rear derailleur cable boss from the rear of the seattube on the Blur TRc.

    Also, how about a 20mm axle 650b fork? Anyone??

  • Mr. K says:

    Yes, I have a problem with SC saying they had no interest in 650b last year. So, I bought a Blur LT and put 650b wheels on it. Does anybody have an opinion on bb height? My Blur with 650b wheels is just a touch over 14″. Since I ride East Coast trails, I like the fact of having a bb height, but wish it were a little lower. Also, anybody if the Bronson’s rear triangle swingarm would fit on my 2012 Blur LT? It would be nice to have a 142×12 axle instead of QR. Thanx, Mr. K

  • WB says:

    White Bros Fluid 650B 20mm axle. Been riding one for a year and a half.

  • Mickey DeSadist says:

    Wheel size is the only substantial innovation in years. Should be interesting.

  • Michael says:

    Sure would like to see SC come out with a 4.7 lb – 5″ travel 27.5…

  • Adam says:

    I’m so confused… I think I will just keep riding my Blur Lt and my 907.
    Looks fun though

  • Peter says:

    This bike looks awesome. I demo’ed the Norco Range Killer B2 for a few days last week while vacationing in Moab, did the Mag7 and a few other of the famous trails on it. I currently ride a Specialized Pitch. The Norco felt really fast, even with 160mm of fork – I don’t know if it was the frame and/or the wheel size, but it just felt good. I had heard from a few SC local shops here in the Bay Area that SC had told them they were preparing for the switch to 650b, but I had heard they were redesigning the Nomad for the wheel size. But whatever – I was holding off on a new ride until the 650b thing got settled, I’ll definitely be looking at this.

  • Julius says:

    I WAS looking at the Superlight 29 but now I have to hesitate!

  • roger says:

    The SC blur LT plaform beats any of the current offerings in the 650b market before the Bronson. bhaw ha ha

  • Izzy says:

    Haha, “aspirational” ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Thanks for comparing with the Sight (my former dream bike, before the Bronson came)
    This now begs the question, what will happen to the Nomad?

  • Mike says:

    Santa Cruz builds great bikes and I am really interested in picking one of these up. I am thinking of a custom build to get the weight down. I figure getting rid of the poppy post and big rubber will help. Interesting they don’t spec with an enve dh bar.

  • Jamie says:

    Your thoughts on bottom bracket are not entirely correct. You are using static unsagged numbers to imply how the bike will carve singletrack. If they had the same travel, then it is apples to apples comparison.

    Assuming vertical travel (which is not correct, but a good approximation)

    sagged bottom bracket at 30%
    Blur TRc =13.1 unsagged bb height -30% sag*125mm/25.4=11.62 inches
    Bronson =13.6 unsagged bb height-30% sag*150mm/25.4=11.8 inches

    So the reality is 0.2 inches, not 0.5 inches, so the differences are less than originally suggested.

  • Michael says:

    I still ride my superlite(12 years now), its like flying coach maybe-I never want to fly business or first-I dont know what I am missing- those seats sure look inviting though. I have to save the money to keep the 3 kids outfitted in their outdoor endeavors. Lots of nice new bikes.

  • Dale Burton says:

    I test rode the Bronson yesterday on an 8-km loop of varying terrain that finished off with a great down hill section that had everything man made ramped jumps.

    Having now ridden both the Tall Boy and Bronson carbon versions (circa $6,500) bikes I can say these bikes were not fun, at least for me anyway. I rode the Intense Carbine 27.5 right after the Bronson and the difference in easy of riding was like night and day.

    The Intense was the better bike for me, although the rear tire clearance was really tight to the point I got tire buzz when pushing it hard on the down hill sections. They should have changed the chain & seat stays to accommodate 27.5 instead just replacing the dropouts.

    Before unloading a ton of cash on a decent 27.5 you really need to ride them hard off road. Just going on the street outside the LBS you may find you bought something less than you bargained forโ€ฆ!

  • Leonidas says:

    Norco Sight actually has 73.9 estimated seat tube angle and this is comparable to the 73 of the bronson. The 70 mentioned is the actual and not what it counts to teh rider. Was this mistake made purposly? Only the cable routing is an advantage – again according to an author who made a serious mistake. The Sight is lower, shorter stays, better SA and the bronson better cable routing, which is better now?

  • Matias says:

    Hi i am from chile,south america
    I m looking for a santa cruz bronson i am 5’10” tall and i want to go for the medium size
    Is that ok ?
    I also tried a rune v2 in medium size and i felt a little bit more confortable
    Which bike should i get?
    I personally prefer the bronson
    Saludos desde chile

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