Santa Cruz has given the 150mm-travel Bronson an almost identical shape to the 170mm Nomad but added playful pop to make it fantastic fun. Wheel choice makes a big difference to its overall character though.
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Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01+ Reserve frame
While the Bronson shares design DNA with the Nomad, the upper link of the ‘VPP’ suspension pivots further back on the top tube, and the swingarm is fully triangulated on both sides.
A split seat tube base allows the shock to be driven directly by the lower link and kept low and central in the frame. The Bronson has a steeper head (+0.5 degrees) and seat angle (+1.5 degrees) than the Nomad, but an identical reach and wheelbase (460mm/1,215mm, large), with a flip chip to lower the ride height and slacken the geometry.
You get chain guide tabs, a screw-in bottom bracket and rubber ‘armour’ to fend off rocks. There’s room for a 27.5x2.8in rear tyre, and a water bottle inside the front triangle. If you can’t afford this premium ‘CC’ version, bikes are available with cheaper ‘C’ carbon or alloy frames.
Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01+ Reserve kit
The 160mm Fox 36 Float Performance Elite GRIP2 fork impressed me with its consistent control. I upgraded the standard build (£6,499) with Santa Cruz’s Reserve carbon wheels, which add £1,200 to the cost (RRP £1,599) but are much lighter than the stock Race Face ARCs and covered by the same lifetime warranty as the frame.
On this ‘+’ model you get 37mm wide rims with 2.6in tyres for extra float.
Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01+ Reserve ride impressions
This is a bike that almost undersells itself at first. The 460mm reach and 65.5-degree head angle aren’t radical, and even the 75.5-degree seat angle feels conventional next to the Yeti SB150 TURQ Series X01 Eagle, also on test.
Compared to previous VPP systems, the lower-link-driven suspension doesn’t tighten as much under pedalling, so it feels more neutral. Add the super-smooth start of the bearing-mounted RockShox Super Deluxe shock, and the rear-end feels quite soft and mobile if you’re honking out of the saddle.
The more you ride the Bronson, though, the more you realise what an incredible all-rounder it is. Those lightweight carbon wheels and low-pressure 2.6in tyres give insane acceleration and in-line grip. Add its neutral pedalling character and steepened seat angle, and the Santa Cruz winched, lunged and charged up extended technical climbs that I’ve never cleaned before.
At under 14kg with a smooth roll over stutter bumps, it’ll join up the radical bits of a ride happily all day long, and you can always remove pedal bob with the shock-side lever if you need to.
While it’s not as punchy as the Santa Cruz 5010, with its upper-link-driven VPP, it’s still seriously poppy and agile, begging you to boost off features and slap berms.
The spot on, lightly progressive shock tune means you’re constantly aware of what’s going on with the rear wheel, rather than losing it in endless mid stroke, as can happen on the Nomad.
I did reduce the sag and add some compression damping to tighten up the pedalling feel slightly and make reaching full travel rarer, but the shock has a far more forgiving set-up bandwidth than the X2 on the Yeti.
While the frame stiffness and sorted fork mean the 2.6in tyres never get too out of hand — there are moments when the big volume bounces them off an edge unexpectedly, but the broad, well-damped rims mean you can surf them through drifts without worry and they carry speed superbly through chunder — their pretty thin carcass means you need to balance pressures carefully.
The Bronson is a lot more accurate and aggressive-feeling with the standard 2.5/2.4in tyre and 30mm rim set-up, so that’s what I’d choose for hard-charging fun and/or surviving angrier geology.