An affordable Santa Cruz? Surely there's a catch?
Need to know
- Full carbon frame and swingarm
- 150mm travel front and rear
- Higher spec S build (£3,999) comes with a Reverb and Pike fork
- Kashima shock upgrade available for extra £180
- £3,299 with KS LEV Integra seatpost
The C bike I received for this first ride is the 150mm travel Bronson C R AM. The C designation refers to the lower-cost carbon used in the construction of the frame.
In terms of stiffness it’s equivalent to the material used in the top-end CC carbon frames, but it’s slightly heavier, adding roughly 200g to the frame weight. R is the build specification listed above and AM means it has an All Mountain bias — fatter tyres, short stem and wide bar, that sort of thing.
Working to a budget means there are compromises in the specification, and the one that hurts the most is the RockShox Sektor Gold RL fork. It has 150mm travel, but with only 32mm stanchions there’s a noticeable lack of steering precision.
It also comes fitted with the basic Motion Control damper, so doesn’t deal that well with square-edge impacts — and there’s also very little mid-stroke support. Having ridden a few Sektor forks recently, I think the performance could be improved significantly with the addition of some Bottomless Tokens.
These are available as part of a £25 upgrade kit for all 32mm RockShox forks, and it’d be a nice to see Santa Cruz include one.
It also took me quite a while to dial in the rear suspension. The Bronson is responsive and direct on smoother, flowing trails, but I was surprised at how little grip and control there was when riding steeper or rougher tracks. I experimented with running the suspension softer but this just caused the bike to wallow and feel vague.
Size-wise, the Santa Cruz Bronson C is also short in the reach compared to other 150mm travel bikes, which means it’s a little cramped with a stock 60mm stem; not that I’d want to go longer. I also found I was either too over the front or too off the back, especially riding terrain with steeper ups and downs, but I feel this is more about suspension set-up.
As a more accessible entry point into the Santa Cruz carbon range this is a great first step. Unfortunately, the Bronson C is hamstrung by the budget fork. Trade in the Sektor for a Pike, or splash out for the £3,999 S build, though, and it’s a totally different prospect.