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The Bronson 2.1 Carbon S complete mountain bike takes one of the most beloved trail bikes of the modern era and dresses it in components that offer nearly identical performance to the top level builds at a much more modest asking price. The combination of 27.5-inch wheels, a generous 6in of VPP travel, and a build kit that features a hard-charging suspension package and SRAM's groundbreaking GX Eagle drivetrain makes for a truly potent mix in nearly any terrain.
From its inception, the Bronson has been a bike that’s defied convention. And just like its predecessor, the latest Bronson packs a wallop courtesy of its generous but measured suspension travel, as well as its nimble geometry and 27.5-inch wheels. Equally capable as an enduro racer or an extremely versatile trail bike, there’s very little that the Bronson doesn’t do exceptionally well.
A large part of the formula is, of course, the Bronson’s 6in of VPP suspension. As with all VPP bikes, the Bronson’s counter-rotating links are carefully arranged to resist activation by pedaling forces, all but eliminating unwanted bobbing under power. This being the latest iteration of VPP, it’s tuned to provide more midstroke support than previous generations of the VPP platform, giving the rider a better feel for the terrain, and a livelier ride feel. It’s a balance that Santa Cruz has mastered, allowing for the requisite efficiency for all-day rides, while still taking advantage of sufficient travel to tackle the hardest trails you could possibly hope to find.
When comparing the Bronson’s geometry to those of some of its noteworthy competitors, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Bronson appears conservative on paper. As is the case with much of Santa Cruz’s lineup, the goal with the Bronson is excellence, not extremity. The 66-degree head angle provides the necessary stability for charging full-bore into enduro race stages, while remaining quick enough to change direction to be forgiving should you mistakenly find yourself on a poorly-chosen line. At 17 inches, the chainstays strike a nice balance between being short enough to turn quickly, and long enough to maintain weight on the front wheel, especially when hanging off the back in steep chutes. At 13.4 inches, its bottom bracket height is plenty low to remain planted in huge berms and off camber corners, but it’s just high enough to minimize the risk of pedal strikes. While there are other bikes that are longer, slacker, and lower, the Bronson is all about balance, a trait that it has by the truckload. And the upshot is that the Bronson delivers just about anywhere you take it.
The Bronson is built using Santa Cruz’s C carbon fiber construction. Although it's not quite as lightweight as Santa Cruz's premium CC carbon fiber construction, the C level carbon fiber frames offer exactly the same amount of strength and stiffness as their CC counterparts, at a weight penalty of roughly 240g. The upshot is that you get the legendary durability and ride quality of Santa Cruz carbon frames, at a much more palatable price.
The value-packed S build begins with a worthy suspension package from Fox: a 36 Performance fork and the new FLOAT DPS Performance air shock. This setup offers a supple stroke, on-the-fly adjustments at the flip of a lever, and easy tuning for both suspension gurus and those less experienced. SRAM’s exceptional GX Eagle 12 speed groupset provides the enormous gear range required for grueling climbs, while the Guide R brakes provide modulation and control in the face of unpredictable terrain. The RockShox Reverb dropper post enables the necessary on-the-fly saddle height adjustment. The Bronson S rolls on a hand built wheelset comprised of tubeless-ready Race Face AR 27 rims laced to Novatech hubs.
- A classic enduro sled gets updated for more speed
- 6in of efficient, enduro-tuned VPP suspension
- Longer reach shifts weight forward for better traction
- 74-degree seat tube angle optimizes pedaling efficiency
- Carbon C frame is stiff and durable
- GX Eagle drivetrain features an extra wide gear ratio
- Item #SNZ00DJ
- Q & A
Santa Cruz does it again
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
What can I say, there's a reason Santa Cruz is at the top of the bike game year after year and this time around is no different. I picked up a Bronson for this season and while I've only ridden it a few times I am already in love with it. For a carbon build it isn't crazy light but still sheds several pounds off it's AL sister and climbs like a champ, especially with that GX Eagle on the back. This thing wants to fly downhill and you can feel super confident getting rowdy and laying into turns. Haven't had a chance to put the suspension through the ringer too much as most of our DH trails here in Park City still have snow on them but through the smaller hits and rock gardens it has felt like a cloud. Buy this bike, you won't be disappointed.
- Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
After riding on the first gen Bronson for the past three years or so, I decided it was time to trade in my old bike for the newer Carbon C model with the S build kit. I scored a close-out that's slightly different than this build (mine has a Monarch RT shock and DT Swiss 370 hubs), but practically the same in all major aspects, such as the Fox 36 Performance fork, SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, RockShox Reverb dropper post, SRAM Guide R brakes, etc...
Here's my initial thoughts after a few small rides on warmer winter days (it's snowing again here in Salt Lake, so I haven't been out extensively). Will update as I rack up more miles this spring and summer. I'm 5'8" and chose a medium, which fits pretty spot-on, considering the updated geometry, which is a lot longer in reach than previous models.
- Not as flashy as my first gen Bronson with the gloss black/magenta/green colorway, but the second gen colorways are nicely subdued compared to the more colorful Bronsons of years past.
- Slacker geometry isn't super noticeable, but does feel more confident opening it up at high speeds and getting aggressive over bigger rocks. I was expecting it to be worse at climbing than my last Bronson, yet it's still very good at pedaling uphill, despite my build weighing in the area of 30 pounds.
- The redesigned VPP (over first gen) tracks noticeably better to the ground, meaning you'll notice a big increase in traction on climbs, which is interesting, considering this bike is aimed more towards descending, yet it's still quite capable on steep climbs with loose rocks and rubble. This also translates to a very plush feeling on descents and slight downhill grades when you stand up and just pummel over anything standing in your way.
- SRAM's GX Eagle is amazing! Seriously, I came from an older 2x set-up and don't miss it one bit. You can spin all day long in the massive 50-tooth cog. This comes in handy on punishing climbs, especially in the early season when I'm totally out of riding shape.
- Guide R brakes offer loads of modulation over my previous Shimano Deore brakes. They're easier to check speed coming into rock gardens, meaning they don't feel as on/off as Shimano brakes (which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your braking preferences).
- The newer Reverb dropper post works nicely, but does slow up a bit in colder weather. I was riding in mid 30-degree temps and it still worked, but had a more difficult time coming back to its upright position. If you ride in really cold high-elevation climates, this would be a part that you'd probably have to replace. However, this doesn't bother me one bit, seeing most of my riding will be in scorching summer temps.
- Fox really upped the ante with their base-level 36 Performance Fork. Although it's lacking the more sophisticated Fit4 damper found on the Performance Elite and Factory models, the cheaper Grip damper does an excellent job and makes things really simple for the rider who doesn't need low-speed compression tuning. I might drop in a Fit4 damper in the future, but the Grip damper feels good for now. The fork's overall operation is smooth and stiff, especially in the few rock gardens I rode through. I'd say it's not as plush as my previous Pike, but seems a lot stiffer, which will come in handy on aggressive descents.