Tja... we zijn pas net begonnen. Maar wat zouden wij deze fiets toch graag even willen testen! Ehhh. ja... dit is een oproep!!! De Santa Cruz Megatower is flink verbeterd. En dan hebben we het niet over de ruimte in het frame om je gereedschap op proteine reep op te slaan. Maar vooral over dhet betere klimvermogen van dit nieuwe paradepaardje.
Nu kunnen wij wel heel wijs gaan doen, en zeggen dat we alles weten van moutnainbikes, maar zo is het gewoon inet. De mannen van Vital MTB weten dit wel! Dus laten we dit even vertalen zo goed en zo kwaad als we kunnen!
Mountainbikes vandaag de dag zijn meer dan goed. Natuurlijk, en zijn uitzonderingen hier en daar, maar als mensen vragen wat voor fiets ze moeten kopen, is het antwrood: "Wat er in je budget past", bij je lijf en of het op voorraad is.
Mountain bikes today are darn good. Certainly, there are some exceptions out there but by and large, when people ask what bike they should get, the reply is, "Whatever fits your budget, body, and is in stock." This has been a matter of internal discussion at Vital for the past year or so. Everything is getting four stars or better now because the bikes all meet or exceed expectations and abilities. If everything is so good now, how do we target the standouts? Now and again, we get one of these wonder bikes. Santa Cruz's new mixed-wheeled Bronson is just such a bike.
- Efficient pedaler
- Smashes rocks
- Pops lips
- Geometry hits a sweet spot
- Ample frame protection
- Santa Cruz 35 bars
- Short dropper post
- No alloy versions
- Carbon C and CC frame options
- 29-inch front and 27.5-inch rear wheels
- 150mm (5.9-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) fork travel
- VPP suspension design
- Shuttle zone and bottom bracket protection
- Guided, internal cable routing
- Size-specific chainstay lengths
- Lifetime bearing replacement
- Lifetime warranty
- Threaded bottom bracket with ISCG05 mounts
- Boost 148 rear spacing with 12mm through axle
- Measured weight (size medium, no pedals): 30.4 pounds (13.7kg)
- MSRP $9,849 USD (as tested)
This spring Santa Cruz launched its 2021 V4 Bronson. Santa Cruz made just enough changes to the bike that upon first glance riders will notice something is different, though this is not a total facelift to the Bronson name. Vital took full stock of all these changes and shared our initial impressions way back at launch time. To really dig into all the new stuff and what Santa Cruz did to the Bronson line, check out our First Look feature
Why Vital Took So Long
Vital always makes sure to put a bike through some very hard times in the testing window but frankly, testing a bike for a whole season shows diminishing returns and jams up the workflow. There were two key elements that had really embedded themselves with the Bronson though. First, the mixed-wheel craze that seems to be spreading in the mountain bike industry. Is it a money grab? A reinvention of the wheel? Are there real, tangible benefits to this throwback methodology?
The second element was Santa Cruz's choice to only offer the Bronson in carbon. The barrier to entry for potential Bronson owners is now $5,049 with some parts that are not known for long-term rallying. Santa Cruz has long made it a point to show the durability of its carbon frames and backs them with free replacement bearings and a lifetime warranty. While the upfront cost is greater, it seems Santa Cruz is banking on riders owning their bikes for longer, much like the Volvos of yesteryear. Is the juice worth the squeeze? Our own bike is the Bronson X01 AXS CC Reserve, a gut turning $9,849. Did we have double the ride quality? How did the parts that comprise that dollar figure hold up?
On the Trail
Since taking hold of the Bronson this spring, it has found itself under multiple riders and fulfilling several different roles. This is supposed to be the life of the Bronson - a bike that is your do-everything and go-everywhere kind of steed. There are two other bikes in the Santa Cruz family that also exist with this goal, the Nomad and the Hightower. Both with slightly more skew than the Bronson. Hard chargers that want more travel and see frequent chairlifts will find a friend with the new Nomad. Trail riders that more often earn their turns and/or don't need so much travel will be reaching forthe Hightower. Though it has yet to get the updates of the Bronson or Nomad, the Hightower is still plenty efficient and more than capable of both the all-day epic and watching the world burn on downhills.
The Bronson quite literally slots right in between the Nomad and Hightower. It's pretty clever, really. A wheel from each bike, more travel than one, less than the other, revised kinematics for efficiency with some aggressive geometry and boom - a full-on crowd-pleaser.
In many ways, our rides aboard the Bronson continue to reflect that first ride we had many months ago. The key difference is that things have only gotten better. While the pedaling efficiency was impressive from the start, we had some complaints about the Bronson's climbing manners. We found the front end would get a bit light and wander when the trail got really steep. More time and tweaks remedied that.
By sliding the seat forward a bit, but not all the way forward, we shrunk the Bronson's cockpit. This helped get our weight a bit more forward and made us not so stretched out over the now generous front end. We lowered the front another 5mm as well. By dropping the bars a tad, the front didn't feel so high in the sky when ratcheting up walls of dirt. In all, time aboard our Bronson test bike moved its climbing rating from good, to stellar.
What we appreciated about making these minor adjustments (other than better climbing) was how little negative impact they had on the rest of the ride. Descending on the Bronson, no matter the generation, has always been a blast as has been tossing it into corners.
Each time we rotated from another test bike back to our Bronson, we remarked how well it carried its speed. Whether using the natural terrain to pump or just hanging on through rock gardens, the Bronson just blasts everything. The acceleration and ability to really hum through flatter sections of trail punctuates just how much of an all-rounder this bike is.
Going up or down, Santa Cruz's revised kinematics make the Bronson a treat. Getting up rough sections of trail is only limited by fitness. For much of the descents, the Bronson maintained its near-bruiser-like quality. When coming off long-travel enduro bikes and hitting the local lift-served park, we did notice a bit more trail feedback aboard the Bronson. Giving up 20mm of travel will have that effect and we really only noticed this in back-to-back scenarios.
Mixed-wheel bikes do seem to carry a bit more of a dual nature to them in the corners. Our Bronson was no different. The bike is happy to drive through corners properly with similar upper body input as your typical 29er, while also delivering a snappy rear end through the feet. This combination can also be translated by punching corners and riding trails in more of a hooligan nature.
This adaptable riding style was something we became accustomed to with all of the mixed-wheel bikes we tested throughout 2021. Having the Bronson as a baseline bike made us reluctantly decide that there is something to this 29er front, 27.5 rear wheel thing. It isn't the solution for everybody, just another option that we are happy to now have.
We spun a lot of laps at Eagle Bike Park, a local trail center that is riddled with jumps and berms. The Bronson never felt like we were over-biked or trying to make a linebacker dance. Snappy, quick to respond, and effortless to loft, we loved goofing off with the Bronson.
Conversely, we had quite a few slogs in the hills with this bike. Just like it did at the trail center, the Bronson was happy to make use of the natural terrain to help us re-interpret the trail. The Bronson has enough travel and the right geo so riders can tug and take a chance with little fear of the bike letting them down.
Our test bike is near the top of the line from Santa Cruz. Readers should not be surprised that we had no real issues with our Bronson. Toward the end of testing, we had some creaking finally showing up. We pulled the cranks and cassette, cleaned a season of crud out the interfaces, and put it back together. Our bike was ninja silent once again.
As we've noted, the parts on our test bike are all top shelf. By and large, we had no issues with any of the functionality or performance of any single part on our Bronson CC X01 AXS Reserve. At this level of build, riders get treated to parts that are not only lightweight, but durable to boot. After months of flogging under various riders and more than a few crashes, our Bronson looks no worse for wear.
There have been quite a few AXS drivetrains come through Vital's test facilities. Each case reads the same - it works perfectly. We were actually glad when the GX/X01 AXS pairing on our bike was fickle out of the box. We had to do some tuning and tweaking to get all of our gears to hit correctly. Admittedly, the process did take longer than with a cable system but we'd chalk that up to 20+ years of cable experience. Once finally dialed in, our shifting worked perfectly from there on out.
This was an area that changed rather dramatically for us since our first ride. Initially, we faulted the FOX 36 for being harsh and found it challenging to pair it with the RockShox Super Deluxe rear shock. After some miles and plenty of adjustments, we finally landed on a fork that was properly broken in and set up to a degree that matched the bike. With two volume reducers and pressure set at the lower end for our body weight recommendation, we felt like we struck gold. Plenty of small-bump compliance without blowing through travel on lips of jumps. Our high-speed compression was nearly open with low-speed only 4 clicks from closed to suit our region's faster, more flow-oriented trails.
Santa Cruz is sneaking MaxxGrip Maxxis tires on the front of their bikes lately and we love it. Sadly, the Minion DHR II rear tire on our test bike only lasted a few rides before we slashed it at the bead. The puncture had us using a tube to get home and left a nice battle scar on our Reserve 30 rim.
Santa Cruz is bucking the trend of brands outfitting bikes with house-brand bars that are nearly flat. The new 35mm rise bars have a profile and bar shape to them that delivers on-trail compliance that is actually noticeable. We are fans of the overall shape and comfort of the new Santa Cruz bars.
Beyond the one bit of rock-inflicted damage to our rear rim, the Reserve 30 hoops served us well. We also enjoyed the move to the Industry Nine hubs. We found the engagement of the 1:1 rear hub to be quick and solid.
The RockShox Reverb did its job well. Our only beef with it was the 150mm drop. There is tons of exposed post on our test bike and we would have loved to see a 175mm Reverb on our medium. We even pulled the 150mm and installed a 175mm Reverb just to make sure. Even with the longer post, we still had room to go even lower and really appreciated the extra clearance when jumping.
If you've read or watched this far and not left an off-the-wall comment about the price, thank you. We said it when we took receipt of this bike and we'll say it again - this bike costs a lot of money. The frame and build kit are all top-shelf, so realistically, this test bike should cost a lot.
That said, we do hope Santa Cruz offers an alloy frame option down the line to lower the barrier to entry. We have friends and relatives with alloy Bronsons who adore their bikes and have done so for years. This is a terrific platform that will appeal to a ton of people.
If we were to walk into a bike shop and plunk down our own money on Bronson today, it would undoubtedly be for the Bronson S. For $5,949, riders will get a Carbon frame with a lifetime warranty and lifetime bearings. SRAM's GX Eagle drivetrain is a proven performer year after year. FOX's 36 Performance is a great fork and can be upgraded with a Grip2 damper later down the line. While still not an inexpensive bike by any means, this build and price are in line with what other bike-shop-oriented brands are offering.
What's the Bottom Line
There wasn't a whole lot that took us by surprise with the Bronson in this long-term test. We were hesitant to sign off on mixed-wheel bikes. Nobody wants to be the publication that endorsed a kook fad. After spending the summer with our Bronson and comparing it to others, feel free to call us kooks. We'll be too busy laughing our way down the trail to hear it. As for the Bronson as a complete bike, we wholeheartedly endorse this rig as a do-all fun machine that will explore the all-day epics and send it at the local jump spot after a day of downhill laps. We think that just about covers it all...
About The Reviewer
Brad Howell- Age: 42 // Years Riding: 27 // Height: 5'9" (1.75m) // Weight: 165-pounds (74.8kg)
Brad started mountain biking when a 2.25-inch tire was large, and despite having threads, bottom brackets sucked. Riding in the woods with friends eventually lead way to racing, trying to send it at the local gravel pits, and working in bike shops as a wrench to fix those bikes. Brad has been fortunate enough to have dug at six Rampages, attend some World Cups, work in the industry for a few years, and become friends with some of the sport's biggest talents. These days, he just likes riding his bike in the woods with friends.