Bike: 2016 Santa Cruz Bronson
Size Tested: Large
Frame: Carbon CC
Drivetrain: Sram X01
Brakes: Sram Guide RSC
Wheels: Enve M60
Fork: Rockshox Pike RCT3 Solo Air
Rear Shock: Fox Float X Factory
Travel: 150mm Front / 150mm Rear
Blister’s Measured Weight: 27.6 lbs (12.52 kg) without pedals
Reviewer: 5’9”, 155 lbs.
Test Location: Boulder City, Nevada
MSRP: $8,599 as built[Editor’s Note: We first looked at the Transition Smuggler in our coverage of Interbike 2015. Now that bikes are starting to hit showroom floors, we’re taking a look back at everything we rode.]
Interbike’s outdoor demo is located at Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City, Nevada. It’s a fantastic network of trails, and it’s a great escape from America’s neon bunghole (Las Vegas). The trails we spent most of our time on were relatively fast, with a fair amount of sand and some pretty rocky sections.
Having said that…
Riding bikes at a demo is always kind of tricky. For starters, we’re unable to get as much time on each bike as we like–our test durations are measured in minutes and hours, not our preferred time frame of weeks and months. One good ride can tell you a lot about how a bike handles, but it certainly doesn’t allow for the customary, in-depth, Blister analysis.
Demo days also don’t generally permit the time needed to get each bike dialed to our liking. A quick suspension setup and fiddling with the bike’s ergonomics gets it most of the way there, but it’s certainly not dialed. We also take the bike as we get it, so things like bar width and tire selection may not be optimal.
So while we believe it’s important to be upfront about the limitations of reviewing bikes in such settings, there is also merit in riding a slew of bikes, back to back, on the same trails. Subtle differences that might not become apparent if our test rides happen weeks or months apart are able to come to light, and each bike’s attributes may be more easily identified.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the Santa Cruz Bronson.
Santa Cruz, from time to time, will revise their bikes and make some fairly significant changes. Last year the Nomad was the subject of a re-vamp, and this year the Bronson gets the treatment.
For 2016, Santa Cruz has released the second generation Bronson, which sees some pretty significant changes across the board. It’s still situated as a do-it-all trail bike, but tweaks to the geometry and suspension linkage make it a bike that’s noticeably different from the first generation version.
It’s been two years since I rode the original Bronson, but I found it to be a very good, middle-of-the-road bike for your average trail. It wasn’t the most aggressive bike out there, but it hit a good balance of being comfortable through chunky terrain, while still being capable enough to tackle more technical tests. But some wanted a bit more stability out of it, and like many VPP bikes, there were complaints about a lack of mid-stroke support.
With the new Bronson, Santa Cruz has aimed to silence those critics.
Santa Cruz offers the Bronson in two different frame models: the “C” and the “CC.” Both are carbon, but the latter takes a bit more weight out of the frame and your wallet. Both versions come with a few build kit options, although the C’s build kits don’t go quite as high end.
I rode an X01-equipped CC version that also had the Enve wheels upgrade. As expected, all of the parts performed very, very well.
Getting on a bunch of different rides at Interbike, it always interesting to go from bike to bike in rapid succession because little quirks of the build kits become noticeable. Some have bars that are too narrow. Some have grips that I hate. Some have saddles that leave me chafed within 15 minutes.
But with pretty much every Santa Cruz that I’ve ridden, I’m always impressed by the build. And it’s not the drivetrain or the brakes or even really the suspension (although the Float X rear shock is a nice touch). It’s everything else—the kind of stuff that doesn’t normally warrant a lot of attention.
In short, Santa Cruz spec’s its bikes with parts that I would put on there anyways. That means a WTB Silverado saddle, Maxxis Minion DHF / DHR II tires, and an 800mm wide bar (personally, I’d cut it to 780, but it’s better than it being too narrow). And here’s my favorite one: they spec a 150mm Reverb dropper post, and they use a right-hand lever mounted on the left side of the bar, so it’s under the bar instead of above it (which makes it way more ergonomic). Any company can bolt an expensive derailleur to a bike, but it’s little things like the dropper post lever that make this build kit awesome.
NEXT: Fit and Geometry, The Ride, Etc.