There's a new Bronson on the block, and it looks a whole lot like a Nomad. But don't be fooled by the similar looks – out on the trail this 150mm machine has an entirely different feel than its longer and slacker sibling. Just like the prior version, it's still an all-mountain bike through and through, although it's more than capable enough to mix it up at an enduro race, or for the occasional visit to the bike park.
There are both carbon and aluminum framed options, with complete bike prices beginning at $3,499 USD for the aluminum R model, and going all the way up to $9,899 for the XTR Reserve model. Want to build up a Bronson with your own selection of parts? An alloy frame will set you back $1,999, and a carbon CC frame goes for $3,299.
• Intended use: all-mountain / enduro
• Wheel size: 27.5"
• Rear wheel travel: 150mm
• Carbon or aluminum frame options
• 65.1° or 65.4° head angle
• 430mm chainstays
• 12 x 148mm rear spacing
• Sizes: XS-XL
• Complete price: CC: $6999 - $9899 USD, C: $3499 - $6399, AL: $3499 - $4199
• Frame only: AL: $1999, CC: $3299
• Colors: Industry Blue, Primer Grey
• Lifetime frame warranty
The most obvious change to the Bronson is the rear suspension layout – the shock is now tucked low on the frame, just above the bottom bracket, rather than being attached to the top tube. There are also dual uprights on the rear swingarm (the prior version and the Nomad both have only one upright, on the non-drive side).
It's still a VPP suspension design, thanks to the two counter-rotating links, but by using the lower link to drive the shock Santa Cruz was able to give the bike a linearly-progressive suspension curve – in other words, the suspension should behave the same way when an obstacle is encountered no matter where the shock is sitting in its travel.
Thinking about trying out some extra-wide tires? That's no problem on the Bronson – there's room to go as wide as 2.8”. There are two different versions of each built kit - a 27.5 and a 27.5+ option. The 27.5 builds get a 2.5" Maxxis Minion DHF up front, and a 2.4" DHR II in the rear, mounted on rims with a 30mm internal width, while the 27.5+ versions get even wider rims, and 2.6” Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II tires. The Plus hype seems to have subsided, but we're starting to see more and more 2.6” tires hit the market, a width that offers more precise handling than a 2.8” or wider tire, while still providing the extra traction and smooth ride that put 27.5+ tires on the map in the first place.Sweating the Small Stuff
'Refined' is the word that often comes to mind when describing Santa Cruz's bikes – the little details are all in order, like the bolt-on downtube protector that's in place to protect the frame from the damage that shuttling can incur, the threaded bottom bracket, and the carbon tubes molded inside the front triangle to facilitate internal cable routing. There's also plenty of room to carry a full-size water bottle, and a miniature fender that protects the shock from any trail debris that gets flung up by the rear wheel. Geometry - A Little Longer, A Little Slacker
The new Bronson's reach has grown by 15mm compared to the previous model, and the head angle is now a degree slacker in the lowest setting with a 160mm fork. Like the Nomad, there's a flip chip on the lower link that can be used to increase or decrease the head angle and bottom bracket height.
The seat tube angle has been bumped up to 75-degrees, while the actual length has been decreased, which makes it easier to run longer travel dropper posts, or for riders to size up if they're looking for a roomier frame. Specifications
Detailing every single possible parts configuration for the new Bronson would be about as exciting as watching paint dry, but there are a few highlights worth mentioning. The first is that every model, from budget to bling, comes with a 12-speed drivetrain, ranging from SRAM NX gruppo found on the entry level aluminum and carbon models, up to either SRAM XX1 or Shimano XTR at the other end of the price scale. RockShox handles the rear suspension, with either a Super Deluxe R or RCT depending on the pricepoint. Up front, a 160mm RockShox Yari is found on the least expensive options, while a Fox 36 Performance, Elite, or Factory fork is spec'd on the rest of the models in the lineup.
I'm in the middle of testing several different bikes at the moment (a tough job, I know), but there's something special about the Bronson that keeps making me grab it over the other test sleds, which is saying something considering that it's not rocking my preferred wheelsize. Is there a 29” version on the way? I sure hope so, but Josh Kissner, Santa Cruz's Product Manager, cagily shrugged off my pestering – we'll just have to wait and see if there's a big wheeled option in the works. In case you're wondering, there's no way that a 29" wheel can be sqeezed in there - the tire will hit the lower rocker link.
I've been able to get in a handful of solid rides in on the Bronson, just enough to come up with a few initial impressions on its handling. I got along well with the previous version, and so far that's been the case with this iteration as well. It's a very intuitive bike to ride, one that doesn't require any special riding techniques to get it to behave exactly the way I want. All of my rides have started with a sustained climb, giving me plenty of time to contemplate just its climbing prowess. The new suspension layout hasn't diminished the Bronson's uphill abilities in the slightest – there's still no need to reach down for that compression lever unless you're facing an extra-long gravel or paved road grind, and even then it's not really necessary. It feels quick and efficient, but without the fully locked-out feeling that sometimes accompanies dual-link designs - it's active enough to maintain grip over rough terrain.
I've also started to experiment with a set of Santa Cruz's Reserve 37 wheels mounted up with a 2.6” Maxxis Minion DHF / DHR II tires tire combo, and that big rubber has already proven its mettle on the climbs – I managed to clean a section of trail the other day that I usually treat as a hike-a-bike. Granted, the dirt was
perfect, but those big tires made it much easier to keep from spinning out and losing traction. They probably wouldn't be my first tire choice if I mostly rode on fast, hardpacked terrain, but on slightly slower speed trails that have lots of chunky rock- or root-filled sections the extra grip and stability they provide makes them an intriguing option.
Does the Bronson feel like a mini-Nomad? In a way, yes, although the word 'mini' might be underselling the capabilities of this bike. That 150mm of rear travel is incredibly supple and well controlled, which makes it feel almost bottomless in the really rough stuff. The Nomad may be a bit more forgiving of line choice errors thanks to its 20mm of extra travel, but the Bronson has a more energetic feel to its handling, and it's better suited for rides that include a little bit of everything – up, down, and all around. I'm going to keep putting the miles in over the next couple of months – look for a long-term review later this year.