There’s no guarantee that this bike will make you link rutted turns like some of the 50/01 crew, but the small rear wheel is undoubtedly easier to change direction. It might not have the same "bump eraser" feel of a full 29er, but this bike wants to party. I found myself looking for different ways to ride the same old trails, basically searching for any bank or bump to carve up or pop off.
The girthy downtube has a sturdy feel without rattling your teeth loose. The ride is definitely on the stiffer side of the spectrum, but that has its merits. Large G-outs are handled well. It tracks true and unwanted frame flex, keeping your body from wiggling left and right. Even with the carbon rims, I didn’t find myself getting bounced off line in rough, off-camber sections or feeling fatigued more than normal on extended descents.
The small bump traction is decent, and the bike remains composed in the mid-stroke, letting you push into turns and compressions in anticipation of the next trail feature. The bike can be ridden by any level of rider comfortably and confidently. As mentioned in the climbing section, the dynamic geometry doesn't change radically. The Bronson goes a good job of not dive too deep into its travel, but those smaller square edge hits do have a tendency to slow you down more than I anticipated.
It wasn't so much the smaller rear wheel getting hung up, but more the suspension taking a little bit of time to get into the mid-stroke. I did experiment with the air pressures and clickers to try and find a solution. I started out with the shock at 157 psi, for 27% sag, but quickly changed this to 150 psi. The firmer setup was a little too harsh over repetitive square edge hits. The bike never settled into the sweet spot, despite increasing the fork pressure to keep the balance front to back. Once the rear shock was sitting at 30% sag, the suspension performance improved overall. The dynamic geometry came to life and I could stay light over stutter bumps, but still get the support I needed to push the bike into a corner or pre-load a jump. I only found the very end of the travel on large hucks, even with two volume spacers, the stock configuration.
It did seem like the ideal window for shock pressure is relatively small; a few psi here or there can make a big difference in how this bike rides If I was spending more time on the Bronson, I would try jumping on the "trail bike with coil shock" bandwagon for their better break away compliance - I have a hunch that would have created the shock feel I was searching for.
Like the positive suspension traits, the 64.5º head tube angle has a role to play in this ability to move the bike around quickly. It's slack, but not that
slack, which will help the bike's geometry suit a wide variety of rider types and riding locations. It's worth mentioning that Santa Cruz chooses to mold integrated headset cups into all their frames, which optimizes construction. That's hard to fault, but it does take away the ability to install an angle adjusting headset for those riders who want to do some geometry modification.
Specialized Stumpjumper Evo