It’s a mini Nomad for trail riding
Santa Cruz Bronson has borrowed the Nomad’s new suspension layout, grown fatter wheels and longer geometry. Can it retain its Best Ever Trail Bike status?
The new Santa Cruz Bronson need to know
- Suspension rebuild now mirrors the Nomad with a lower link driven shock, and a flip chip to drop the BB height
- The VPP suspension still dishes out 150mm travel but the suspension fork increases to 160mm
- On trend geometry changes: 15mm more reach, longer wheelbase and a slacker head angle
- Big 2.5in tyres and the new frame will accommodate Plus sizes up to 2.8in
- Three frame materials: C carbon, top end CC carbon; and alloy available in October
- This XO1 bike with Reserve wheels costs £7,699
- New suspension design is a top performer, both pedalling and damping like a dream. Stunning frame design too
- Sky high price, but perhaps slightly lower than previous model years now own brand Reserve wheels replace Enve
- Women’s version, the Juliana Roubion, also released
If you’re getting a strange sense of déjà vu, that you’ve seen this bike before, relax a little — this isn’t the new Santa Cruz Nomad again. This is the new Bronson, a bike Santa Cruz has reworked to include the same suspension design as the big hitting Nomad, this time on a trail bike.
It’s a distinctive look, with a shock that’s now driven by the lower VPP link rather than the upper as before, and of course a dazzling new paint job (that rather reminds us of last year’s Kona Process 153, sorry!). We’ll get to the details of why Santa Cruz has rejigged the suspension a minute, but you can probably guess that it’s a quest for better suspension performance and sensitivity.
Can the Bronson take a coil shock then, just like the Nomad?
Yes and no. The Nomad is designed to run coil shock or air, and has plenty of space for larger DH shock bodies. The Bronson has a smaller chunnel though so it would be something of a squeeze.
Yes, a chunnel. To find space for the shock in its low-mounted lower link driven position Santa Cruz had to make some dramatic changes to the Bronson frame, specifically splitting the seat tube and creating what they call a ‘chunnel’ for it to run through. No mean feat when you’re still trying to create enough space for a long drop dropper post, and the Bronson can house a 175mm dropper post.
What’s more, those clever Californians have managed to do it without the need for an asymmetric rear triangle, which the Nomad needed to make space for its bigger downhill coil shocks. This is good news for the Nomad because those dual swingarm uprights make for a stiffer bike, and better force distribution, Santa Cruz says.
Incidentally, the Bronson CC runs on a piggyback RockShox shock but it will fit a Fox DPX2.
More than a Picasso
These design changes create what is a desperately attractive bike, a siren song to leave the long suffering clunky bike and live the playboy lifestyle. The Bronson still has its distinctive swooping carbon curves but the new design has lent it a cutting edge look that shouts this is a bike that means business. There are a host of sumptuous details to the bike too that mean its no Picasso up close: The links are forged then machined to sculpture like grace, the inside of the chunnel is sleek and smooth, the cable routing that now needs no rubber bungs, the shock cover with ‘Santa Cruz’ formed into it.
Why no 29er wheels?
Well, the Santa Cruz Tallboy, Santa Cruz Hightower and Santa Cruz Hightower LT are your bikes for that. The Bronson has puffed out its tyres though. The bike will take 2.8in nobblies, something Santa Cruz is calling “plump”, probably because they’re too hip to say the ugly Plus word: either way, this test bike comes clad in 2.5in rubber but the frame and fork clearance means it’ll take a little more without rubbing the paint off the inside of the stays. Plumping up tyres has a tendency to raise the bottom bracket a shade too high on a bike that’s been designed for conventional size rubber, so Santa Cruz has got round this with a flip-chip to drop the BB by four millimetres (and slacken out the head angle by 0.3degress). In the past those two lovely little words ‘flip’ and ‘chip’ have had me reaching for the Allen keys after a few runs to drop the BB height, but not this time. The Bronson is genuinely useable in both settings without feeling overly lofty in high mode.
Gimme the specs!
The Bronson remains a 150mm travel bike, although the fork has grown 10mm to 160mm. The geometry has changed in a good and predicted way, the reach is 15mm longer, the wheelbase has lengthened, the standover height increased and the head angle slackened by half a degree.
The bike comes in a range of materials and specs, with this CC version setting somewhere near the top in the price order of things. CC is Santa Cruz’s top end carbon that shaves a few hundred grams off the weigh (and adds a few thousand to the price), and there are four SRAM builds, three of which come with the brand’s own carbon wheels. Drop down a price point and you’re in C grade carbon territory with full builds from £4,299 to £6,099, and the alloy bikes range from £3,399 to £4,199. Or you can buy it frame only in CC carbon or alloy. Naturally, you can get the Bronson as the Juliana Roubion women’s bike too, with six builds across carbon and alloy, and two frame only options.
Enough spec, how does the bike ride?
In short, there’s so much to love about the new bike it’s hard to start. This bike climbs like an absolute beast, and only part of that is down to its exceptionally low weight. The new suspension deign holds you and the bike in the best pedalling position I’ve tried on any bike, active enough to keep traction but muscular enough to push you forward at every stroke. Couple that with the not-too-low BB height that meant I barely bashed a pedal in two days riding and you have something of a goat.
Great climbers are often poor descenders but the Bronson is something else, the suspension manages to be both super sensitive on scrabbly chatter and also incredibly supportive when you lean on it into a pocket berm and ask it to fire you out the other side. Plenty of bikes are said to be ‘ride all day’ machines but the Bronson truly delivers on this, I kept coming back to just how comfortable a ride it is, how forgiving of mistakes and how rewarding of my efforts.
So we need to come to the Bronson’s flaws. It costs as much as a small car, a Dacia Logan is well within your budget instead of this bike, but it’ll be nowhere near as good on singletrack. I’ve also got a vague suspicion that the bike rides best in size large, with the XL I tried perhaps a touch too long at the front relative to the chainstays, which remain the same length throughout each size. This makes it harder to weight the front of the bike on mellower trails.
To be honest though, I’m nitpicking, the new Bronson is a dazzling bike, and one I’ve fast fallen in love with.