Have you ever noticed that we always want what we can’t have? We are almost guaranteed to lust after excess or the unattainable—guacamole at Chipotle, bigger tires on the truck, a flashy toy or some gleaming carbon bicycle, like the Santa Cruz Bronson reviewed here. Why this happens is something that’s probably best discussed with your therapist and not in a bike review, but the phenomenon is real.
Like clockwork, anytime I took the Bronson CC out for a test ride, at least one person would ask me about the bike, beg me to ride it or just stare as a little puddle of drool started to form below them. The bike has a sex factor that is undeniable. Those kinds of things happen when you’re aboard a flashy bike with a $9,999 sticker price.
Let’s just address the elephant in the room straight away: this bike costs the better part of $10,000 as tested, yes that’s a shitload of dollars. To put it in perspective, for another $2,855 more, you could be driving away from the dealership in a brand new 2017 Nissan Versa, but we’ve never seen anyone drool over a Nissan Versa. With the hefty price tag comes ENVE’s M60 carbon wheels laced to Industry Nine Torch hubs, a Rock Shox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork, and a Rock Shox Monarch Plus RC3 rear shock. SRAM supplies the drivetrain with an XX1 Eagle set up, Rock Shox Reverb post and Avid Guide Ultimate brakes. All were top notch performers, although I couldn’t help but see the Guide Ultimate brakes as the weak link. They lack the modulation, power and lever feel of their Shimano counterparts, especially for the steep, technical riding in my area. I swapped them out for a tried and true set of Shimano XTR trail brakes and haven’t looked back since.
Aside from that one gripe, the frame and spec are all very well thought out. Small details like cable routing, dust seals and high quality contact bearings in the pivots make the Bronson a supreme machine. Removing the rear triangle also reveals a well-engineered linkage design that protects the pivots from debris and grime out on the trail and the revised VPP linkage is tightly packaged above the bottom bracket while still retaining a grease port for easy maintenance. We also love that the front triangle has more than enough room for a water bottle cage, even despite the piggyback rear shock.
For everyone that isn’t able to spend $10,000 on a top of the line Bronson CC, Santa Cruz also offers more budget friendly builds, like those found on the Bronson C, which is a more affordable (but 280 grams heavier) carbon frame and starts at just $3,599 and still retains the same geometry and well engineered design. While the price tag of the fully loaded CC model gives me some sticker shock, I have to give Santa Cruz due credit for offering a wide range of Bronson models to suit almost any budget, including the aluminum version that’s just $2,999.