Santa Cruz Bronson Mountain Bike Review

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The morning was cold and slightly misty. Up in Park City, sometimes you are literally in the clouds. My goal for my lazy Saturday was 3,000 feet of climbing to the Wasatch Crest Trail. I’m not really a hiker, so I asked around and landed myself the new Santa Cruz Bronson. It’s a heavy hitter all mountain bike – perfect for this kind of ride. For what goes up 3,000 feet, must come down. Santa Cruz dove headfirst into 27.5-inch wheels for 2013 and they have done a fantastic job creating a burly, yet precise all-mountain (enduro?) shredding machine. The Bronson is a special kind of bike; a bike that you won’t be scared to pedal up the hill and will have a hell of a time tearing back down it. Keep reading for my full review of the Santa Cruz Bronson.

Out of the Box

The Santa Cruz Bronson mountain bike is a full carbon frame that makes good use of Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension. VPP uses a two parallel links behind the bottom bracket to connect the rear triangle to the front. This system effectively separates pedaling forces, suspension forces, and brake forces. In short, the suspension won’t bob dramatically while you’re pedaling and the rear tire is glued to the ground in rough terrain. Brake jack, where the suspension stiffens up as you use your rear brake, is very minimal.

The Bronson that I rode came stock with a Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes, a full Fox suspension, WTB wheels, and Maxxis tires. Basically, this mountain bike came with a build kit that would have anyone grinning from ear to ear. FYI, even with these sweet components the price tag comes in at about $1,000 cheaper than other popular trail bikes. Basically, the Santa Cruz Bronson has a solid components kit that will take little more than regular maintenance, even as you beat on it for a season or more. All said and done, I think the Bronson was just shy of 28lbs, a very respectable weight in the trail bike class.

My only issue was that I had to do a little clever tuning with the Fox fork and rear shock. It seemed I needed to run more air than usual and that could be due to how the fork and shock came out of the factory. Nonetheless, after taking the time to set it up, the suspension performed flawlessly.

Riding the Santa Cruz Bronson

It was so fun! Everything on the Santa Cruz Bronson worked super well and the bike mechanics at Jans did a great job dialing it in for me. The pedaling was stable, both uphill and at a full out sprint. When I got into rough terrain, I could pedal over rocks and roots easily without losing traction. My test trail, the Wasatch Crest, is fairly smooth, but has a unique feature called The Spine. It is a couple hundred-foot long outcropping of rock that someone had the genius idea to ride over and incorporate into the trail. It is craggy and dangerous but the Bronson shrugged it off no problem. I attribute that to the Bronson’s bigger diameter 27.5-inch wheels, which can roll over rough terrain much easier. While the larger 27.5-inch wheels feel closer to 26-inch wheels to me, then say 29-inch wheels, I could still feel that the bigger wheels rolled over rough terrain easier as well as rolled faster. This faster rolling definitely helped on the climb. To learn more about this new wheel size, check out a review I wrote on 27.5-inch wheels here.

The Bronson also handles like a champ. At speed, it is stable thanks to a bit longer wheelbase and a nice slack head angle. But when the low bottom bracket sank into the corners, the bike felt stable and quick and it was easy to pedal out of berms or the tight switchbacks that pepper Park City’s mountain bike trails.

My Final Take

As I ended my ride at the bottom of Canyons Resort, I was feeling pretty excited. The sun was out and I was a little dusty. And I was super excited about the Bronson.

I would recommend a Santa Cruz Bronson when it comes down to it. It handles quick and light, but gets low and stable when you’re gunning it. The super lightweight carbon frame and parts kit was unbelievably reliable. And the Virtual Pivot Point suspension is one of the best mountain bike suspensions available. Santa Cruz has been in the mountain bike business for a long time and the Bronson is a clear-cut example of their expertise. So don’t waste your time, get to your local Santa Cruz dealer to try one out. Or come to Park City next summer and contact the Experts at Jans to try one out for yourself. The Bronson will definitely be gracing our demo fleet.

By Paul Boyle, Marketing and E-Commerce


Note: This post was originally published in August 2013 and may be out of date.