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2014 Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon 27.5 XX1 AM ENVE (discontinued)

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Vital Rating: (Spectacular)
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First Ride: Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon

Rating: Vital Review

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Reviewed by Evan Turpen // Photos by Gary Perkin

When I first heard about the Santa Cruz Bronson I was skeptical. I got the impression that Santa Cruz just slapped 650B (~27.5-inch) wheels on to a Blur TRc-esque frame and tweaked the geometry and suspension slightly to get more travel and fit the new wheels. After riding the bike and hearing the development process, however, I am happy to report that my skepticism was unfounded. The Bronson is an entirely new bike from the ground up and I have to say that Santa Cruz has done a great job.

Santa Cruz Bronson Setup

I was invited to Santa Cruz new headquarters to throw a leg over the new bike. Upon arrival, I was greeted by Will Ockelton (Santa Cruz Marketing Manager) and Santa Cruz’s dynamic-demo-duo of Ariel and Abby. Since I was the first to arrive, there was adequate time to select and properly set up a Bronson for myself.

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Abby walking me through the details of the Bronson.

At 5-feet 10-inches tall I can ride a medium or a large according to the Santa Cruz sizing chart. I decided upon a size large, “Tennis Yellow” Bronson set up with a shorter-than-stock 50mm stem, as I prefer longer, more stable bikes combined with shorter stems. We set sag to right around 25-percent at the rear shock and then added fork pressure to balance the bike, front to back. I set the rebound and compression to my personal preferences and was ready to go. Once the rest of the journalists and riders were set up on their bikes, the group headed out for a ride, pedaling right out the door of the new headquarters in sunny Santa Cruz, California.

Our Santa Cruz Bronson component highlights as tested with the Santa Cruz XX1 am 27 ENVE Build Kit:

  • Fox Float CTD Boost Valve with Trail Adjust and Kashima rear shock
  • Float 150 FIT CTD Trail Adjust fork
  • SRAM XX1 Drivetrain with 34t chainring
  • ethirteen XCX chainguide
  • Shimano XTR brakes w/ 180mm front 160mm rear Ice Tech rotors
  • Easton Carbon Haven handlebar, 711mm width
  • Rock Shox Reverb seatpost
  • ENVE Composites AM rims laced to DT 240S hubs with DT 14/15 spokes, alloy nipples
  • Maxxis High Roller 2 2.3-inch Tubeless Ready EXO tires
  • Claimed tested weight: 26.21-pounds
  • Price as tested, $10,624 (Bronson full bike prices start at $4,150)
  • You can personalize your Santa Cruz Bronson with the Bike Builder on the Santa Cruz website.

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Setup Notes

The stock Fox Float 150 fork can be raised to 160mm travel by changing the "Shuttle Bumper" in the air spring internally. You don't have to buy another fork which is nice. Also, the Fox Float CTD rear shock tune is specific to the Bronson. They use a 7.875 x 2.25-inch stroke with a light rebound tune, medium velocity tune, 200 PSI in the Boost Valve, and a 0.6 cubic inch air volume reducer in the LV (Large Volume) air sleeve. This tune is used across the board on all the different size Bronson frames and allows for a very easy suspension setup. The rule is just body weight minus 10-pounds in air pressure in the rear shock. I'm 170lbs and the recommended 160psi was spot on for me (a rarity for their setup charts). If you are a rider over 240lbs this rule changes, so check with Santa Cruz and Fox about set up configurations.

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Climbing and Pedaling the Bronson

The initial climb up to the trail network was first a paved road and bike path followed by singletrack of varying steepness and technical difficulty. On the road with the Fox Float CTD rear shock set to the softest “Descend” position, a very slight amount of movement (2-3mm) at the shock was detectable while pedaling. This movement was easily cancelled out by flipping the CTD lever to “Climb” mode.

Once the pavement turned to dirt and roots and rocks replaced the paved bike path, I set the shock to the softest “Descend” position to see how well the bike climbed. Relying solely on VPP’s anti-squat characteristics and the shock tune, even in the softest CTD setting, the bike pedaled efficiently up anything I encountered. The larger wheels and revised geometry helped maintain traction on the climbs, over roots and rocks and slippery terrain. While pedaling through bumps I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of noticeable pedal feedback.

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The Bronson seems to have hit the nail on the head as far as pedaling characteristics. I spent the rest of the ride in the “Descend” position and never once felt the need to touch the lever. The 13.5-inch (measured) bottom bracket height required a slight amount of conscious effort to avoid pedal strikes over roots and rocks, but in no way seemed too low.

When the climbs got especially steep, the 73-degree seat tube angle combined with the 17.3-inch chainstay length helped maintain proper weight bias while pedaling seated. The front end only wandered slightly on steep, seated climbs when the fork encountered a sizable bump. Overall, the Bronson handled steep climbs well whether seated or standing.

Pointing the Bronson Downhill

Once we arrived at the top and dropped in to our first trail of many it became very obvious what the Bronson’s intended purpose is...it's meant to be ridden hard and fast! Cornering traction was impressive on the stock 2.3-inch Maxxis High Roller II tires, despite some rather dry trail conditions. The bike inspires confidence in the corners and rewards riders with an aggressive, more-forward riding style.

Transitioning from corner to corner was very good. The Bronson has no hiccups in its handling while changing lines last minute. It's a very playful yet stable bike. For me, there was no real learning curve with the Bronson and its 27.5-inch wheels. The speeds the bike could handle felt much higher than my comparably-traveled 26-inch wheeled bike, and the harder you push this bike, the better it works, which is a great feeling.

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Josh Bryceland and the Santa Cruz Syndicate were on the ride with us. Here's Miami mowing down one of the rocky pieces of trail.

The Bronson is predictably balanced coming off jumps and very controlled upon landing. It likes spending time in the air. Riders who connect the smoothest bits of trail by launching over the rough ones will really enjoy this bike. The balance, front to back, in the suspension is some of the best I’ve felt on a trail bike. I used all 150mm of travel, front and rear, in multiple big-hitting situations (according to the travel indicator o-rings) yet never noticed it bottom-out. The suspension of the Bronson has a very controlled feeling throughout the entire stroke. According to Josh Kissner, Santa Cruz Bicycles Product Manager, this was a big focus in the development of this bike. The leverage ratio, shock tune, and air spring characteristics all work together to achieve balance and predictability in the suspension. It still has that distinct "Santa Cruz feel," only much more refined.

When the trails got steep and rough, the Bronson maintained its composure well. Braking is predictable and doesn’t require the rider to adjust their riding style to compensate. The suspension does a great job of absorbing bumps big and small. Carrying speed through the rough is exceptional for a trail bike too, which is most likely a combination of everything (geometry, suspension design, shock tuning, and wheel size). Frame stiffness is also very good with no noticeable flex.

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Bronson Frame Details

Cable routing is well thought out and fully external with the option of a very clean internal stealth dropper post routing. I personally prefer external cable routing for its ease of maintenance and swapping out a cable or hose if one should break. The Bronson also keeps the cables out of harm's way by routing them on the top side of the down tube and underside of the top tube.

Nice touches on the bike are the low-slung top tube, integrated chainstay and down tube protectors, ISCG05 chain guide mount, generous shock clearance for ease of access, clean 142x12mm thru-axle, and mounts for two water bottle cages. Overall the Bronson is a very clean and refined Santa Cruz.

Save any long term durability issues (which aren't common among Santa Cruz frames), I can see it holding up for several years of abuse.

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What's The Bottom Line?

Whether you’re racing competitively or just riding and having fun, the Bronson is an excellent bike that inspires you to push the limits. It’s definitely a bike I wouldn’t mind owning because of how much fun it is to ride! It truly is the Santa Cruz bike that was "20 years in the making," and represents decades of refinement and the best advancements in their craft since the company's beginning on Bronson Street.

As for the star rating, I'm going to have to go ahead and give it 5 stars, especially since my personal bike (the Specialized Stumpjumper EVO) just recently got a 5 star rating from the Vital MTB Test Sessions. I, without a doubt, like the Bronson more. It's encouraging to see progress like this from year to year.

For more information on the all-new Bronson, visit www.santacruzbicycles.com.

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23 comments newest first

If you have the crazy cash to blow, a carbon Stumpy EVO or BronsonC are no-brainer buys. But that said, I just bought a 26" Stumpy EVO Comp and am in love. And I paid just under $3K for the bike. I'm sure this $10K BronsonC you reviewed was fun, but it damn well should be when I can buy the whole family EVO Comps for that price.

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Hi ET! Have you also ridden the Enduro 29 yet and can compare it to the Bronson?

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Hi ET, I am lucky enough to be getting one of these babies but was unsure whether to order a medium or a large (my medium Blur LTC is a bit short so I run a 70mm stem). I too am 5'10 and like bikes with short stems but was advised as the Bronson is 1inch more reach and 2 inches longer than the LTC I should go for the medium, however after reading your report I am thinking I should have stuck to my original plan of a large, did you get to try a medium and if so how did the large feel in comparison?

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Hey David,

I did not get a chance to try a Medium. I went for the large as it had a similar reach and seat tube dimensions to my current rides.

If you were coming off a medium before and were comfortable on the bike, I'd think you'd enjoy the Bronson in a medium with a 55-60mm stem. The large would be a huge difference compared to your current setup. It's your call. I don't think you could go wrong with either at your height, but from what I'm hearing, I would probably recommend a medium.

Hope this helps!

Cheers,

Evan

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I personally really like the Tennis Yellow, but both look good.

I think if you prefer to be stealth then Matte Carbon, if you prefer to be loud then Tennis Yellow. It's up to you.

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Build kit aside, Bronson or SB-66? SB better in the nastier, DH-ier stuff? Bronson climb better, carries speed better? Tie? Whatcha think?

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Hey filthyanimal,

My experience on the Yeti SB-66 amounts to one day on the medium alloy bike set up with full XTR, Easton Haven Carbon wheels, and a Fox 36 160 fork.

Build kit aside, I choose the Bronson for aggressive trail riding/enduro racing and here is why...

We spend A LOT of time in the saddle! Although the Yeti pedals very efficiently with great anti-squat characteristics, the slack 71.7 seat angle (with a Fox 34 150) combined with the fairly short 17" chainstays puts me in too rearward of a position for efficient climbing. It made it a bit of a chore keeping the front wheel down and tracking up steep sustained climbs. This feeling was exaggerated further by the higher axle-to-crown measurement of the Fox 36 160 on my test bike.

When the going gets rough, steep, and fast my choice is still the Bronson. The Santa Cruz has very unique braking and suspension characteristics that seems to be more active deep in the stroke compared to the Yeti and most other trail bikes I have ridden. This helps to maintain traction, control, and smoothness of the suspension when things get gnarly.

As for carrying speed...the Bronson takes the cake with its larger wheels and unique suspension action. I was and still am surprised by the way the bike carries speed through bumps big and small.

But don't take my word for it...Get out there and try both bikes! Ultimately it is up to you which bike is better suited for your riding style and personal preferences.

One last thing to note about the two bikes:

Yeti SB-66C frame: $3,200 weight: 6lbs
Santa Cruz Bronson frame: $2,699 weight 5.3lbs (roughly 0.20lb change per size, so 5.5lbs for the size large)

Hope this answers your questions.

Cheers,

Evan

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Since not everyone can push a single ring, I'd be curious to know if there is any loss in pedaling efficiency if someone ran a 2x10 setup and used the granny gears to get up steeper stuff. I think the single 34T front ring pays a big part in the bikes climbing prowess.
good looking bike..

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Hey Luc,

That is an excellent question!

They did have Bronson's set up with triple rings however I did not get a chance to ride on one of these. I'll see if I can get some time on one with a granny gear to get you an answer.

Thanks,

Evan

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I think I know the answer - but I'd be interested to hear what you think.
you still ride flats or on clips now?

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I'm 100% on clips on the trail bike. Dirt jump on flats and mix it up (both clips and flats) on the downhill bike.

One thing to note (don't quote me on this) is that I recall the Santa Cruz boys saying that the frame is optimized around a 32-34 tooth ring. My guess is that the bike will tractor up climbs with ease spinning seated in a 22-24 tooth granny. It would have slightly more anti-squat (due to the gearing), but shouldn't be so much so that you get awkward pedal feedback.

Again, I'll have to ride it and get back to you about this. Your guess is as good as mine at this point...

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Evan, thanks for the writeup. I know how you ride, and I respect your perspective.

Questions:

What size wheels does your Stumpy EVO have?

How much of the ride difference would you attribute to wheel size?

Braaap!

-- Lee

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Hey Lee,

Those are great questions!

My Stumpjumper EVO is the 26" version built with Easton Haven Carbon wheels and my dream kit.

Wheel size plays a role in the awesome ride of the Bronson, but I can't say exactly what amount. My best guess would be 25-30%. It is definitely not just the wheels!

It's the combination of everything that makes the Bronson such a great bike (wheel size, geometry, suspension design, shock tuning, suspension travel, materials, weight, stiffness, balance, etc.). You'll have to ride one to see for yourself what I'm talking about.

Will you be at the Otter? If so, we should meet up.

Cheers,

Evan

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Evan!

Thanks for your reply. I dig that you're an analytical shredder.

No Otter for me this year. Coaching elsewhere. Have fun!

-- Lee

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I'd be pretty disappointed if a $10k bike didn't perform well. It would be great to see a review of a more real-world spec, eg alloy frame without enve wheels.

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Great reveiw id squeeze the trigger on this rather than Norcos,range,or Giants Trance,or Anthem.So why not a composite frame material?there was no mention,If your going to spend 4 g on a new rig You should be able to get carbon fiber,and new standards. i like the fact that the front fork can be altered.
You got to love those Sprinter vans with the logos.
I swear by my Nomad,did not think things could elevate to this high of a level.

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What Veach said...try them both! I did and they are both great bikes. I really enjoy everything about the Bronson. It pedals well, climbs well, corners well, jumps well, etc. etc...It ticks ALL the boxes for me and that is a rarity.

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I don't have a place here were I could even try them both if i wanted to lol. But for the price I think I make the right call on the Stumpy EVO, I got a killer deal from mojo and it gets me out on the trail earlier vs saving up for the Bronson but there is always the future! lol

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It's better because it's THE BRONSON! Seriously though, I'd say try them both out. You'll know instantly by how good the bronson feels.

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what makes the Bronson better than the Stumpjumper Evo? I was just curious. I know the cable routing is alittle better and the suspension design is different but not necessarily better.

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Specifications
Product 2014 Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon 27.5 XX1 AM ENVE
Model Year 2014
Riding Type Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size S M L XL
Top Tube Length 21.8 23 24 25
Head Tube Angle 67° 67° 67° 67°
Head Tube Length 3.5 3.9 3.9 4.7
Seat Tube Angle 73° 73° 73° 73°
Seat Tube Length 16 17 18.5 20
Bottom Bracket Height 13.6 13.6 13.6 13.6
Chainstay Length 17.3 17.3 17.3 17.3
Wheelbase 43.6 44.9 45.9 46.9
Standover 28.5 28.4 28.8 29.9
Reach 14.8 14.8 16.9 17.6
Stack 23 23.4 23.4 24.1
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b)
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details
Rear Travel 150mm
Rear Shock Fox Float CTD Adjust with Kashima
Fork 34 Float 27.5 CTD Adjust FIT
Fork Travel 150mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset Cane Creek 110
Handlebar Easton Carbon Haven 711mm
Stem Thomson, 70mm, 80mm, or 90mm
Grips Lizard Skin Peaty Lock On
Brakes Shimano XTR with 180mm Front, 160mm Rear, Ice Tech Rotors
Brake Levers Shimano XTR
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters SRAM XX1
Front Derailleur SRAM XX1
Rear Derailleur SRAM XX1
ISCG Tabs ISCG-05
Chainguide e*thirteen XCX
Cranks SRAM XX1
Chainrings 34 Tooth
Bottom Bracket 73mm Threaded, Included with Crankset
Pedals N/A
Chain SRAM XX1
Cassette SRAM XX1 10-42 Tooth
Rims ENVE Composites AM 27.5" (650b)
Hubs DT 240S
Spokes DT 14/15 with Alloy Nipples
Tires Maxxis High Roller 2 2.3" Tubeless Ready EXO
Saddle WTB Volt SLT Ti
Seatpost Rock Shox Reverb
Seatpost Diameter 30.9mm
Seatpost Clamp Quick Release
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 142 mm
Max. Tire Size 27.5" x 2.4"
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors Tennis Yellow or Matte Carbon
Warranty Five Year Frame
Weight 26 lb 4 oz (11,907 g)
Miscellaneous
Price $10,624
More Info

Santa Cruz website

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