BIKE TEST // SANTA CRUZ BRON­SON

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - Outdoor Bike Lane - RRP from$5999 (al­loy); from $6999 (car­bon); $5199 (Car­bon CC frame/shock only) www.san­tacruzbi­cy­cles.com TESTED BY Justin Walker

WHEN THE FIRST-gen­er­a­tion Santa Cruz Bron­son hit the mar­ket in 2013 it was hailed as the all-moun­tain bike. Its com­bi­na­tion of tough frame, just-right geom­e­try, long-lauded Vir­tual Pivot Point (VPP) sus­pen­sion with 150mm of travel, saw the Bron­son hailed as that myth­i­cal “do-it-all” bike.

In the same year, I bought a Santa Cruz 5010 – of­ten tagged the ‘mini Bron­son’ as it shared the same VPP sys­tem, but with less travel (130mm). These first-gen bikes were, how­ever, slightly shorter in the top-tube and reach depart­ment, so even though I mor­phed my body to fit the 5010 while I owned it, I se­cretly wished for the same bike but with a longer reach and stretched out frame.

So when Santa Cruz re­leased Ver­sion 2 (V2) of both the Bron­son and the 5010 I was both happy and a bit stuck; the geom­e­try had been re­vised on both bikes to re­flect the new ‘long and slack’ de­signs of the MTB in­dus­try, so a Large frame would fi­nally fit me as it should. But, most of my rid­ing is around Syd­ney’s North­ern Beaches where the ter­rain is dom­i­nated by sand­stone for­ma­tions and is steep and rocky, with nu­mer­ous sharp-edged dropoffs, steep chutes and sharp climbs. I was still look­ing for a bit more sus­pen­sion travel and slacker front-end to re­move that feel­ing of go­ing over the han­dle­bars when rolling down the steep stuff. The end re­sult: I stumped up for a V2 Bron­son frame.

Go for the frame-only op­tion and you get a frame made us­ing Santa Cruz’s top-end ‘CC’ car­bon, which is lighter (by 280g) but as strong as its stan­dard ‘C’ car­bon (Santa Cruz backs the strength of its car­bon frames with a life­time war­ranty). The team at Lusty In­dus­tries (the Aus dis­trib­u­tor of Santa Cruz) sent me the frame with its in­cluded FOX Float X shock, and I then had the lads at Sum­mit Cy­cles in Syd­ney swap over all the other com­po­nents from my 5010 frame. I did have to make a few al­ter­ations; the new Bron­son frame fea­tures the wider ‘Boost’ axle stan­dard, so Sum­mit’s Joe Dodd re­built my rear wheel with a Boost-com­pat­i­ble hub. I also fit a 160mm Rock­Shox Pike fork.

The end re­sult has been - com­pared to the more trail-ori­ented al­loy 5010 – a de­cep­tively beefier bike; it weighs around the same as my old 5010 but of­fers more travel and slacker geom­e­try, as well as that fa­mously tough car­bon frame. On the trails, the most no­tice­able thing with the Bron­son has been the front wheel now be­ing fur­ther out in front of me due to the slacker head angle. I initially thought it would mean the wheel ‘flopped around’ when climb­ing but with the im­proved VPP, the FOX Float X set to ‘Climb’ mode, and im­proved sad­dle po­si­tion due to the re­vised seat angle (now a steeper 74 de­grees), it has not been an is­sue. The bike is su­per-ma­neu­ver­able, mak­ing it ideal for the tight North­ern Beaches trails and the frame’s strength of­fers a for­giv­ing ride in terms of tak­ing the right line – it just bombs on through.

I am still di­al­ing in the Float X but the rest of the bike has per­formed with aplomb; the im­prove­ments to the VPP’s small-bump per­for­mance are no­tice­able, while the longer reach has meant I am more com­fort­able, and feel more cen­tred, rather than over the front of the bike. The big Pike up front has han­dled big hits with­out is­sue, and the car­ry­over wheelset – Eas­ton ARC 27s, shod with Maxxis rub­ber front and rear – has just kept go­ing. In terms of any fur­ther mod­i­fi­ca­tions, I am look­ing at go­ing to a slightly wider bar than the 740mm Ren­thal Fat­bar, and – maybe – a wider wheelset.

The ask­ing price for the frame is high but you get a life-long war­ranty and a highly re­garded brand. Even bet­ter news is the Bron­son is now avail­able in two well-specced al­loy mod­els, mak­ing for a cheaper en­try into what is one of the best all­moun­tain bike ex­pe­ri­ences on the planet.

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