SANTA CRUZ BRONSON V4 CC REVIEW

THE GOLDILOCKS BIKE?

Review by Drew Rohde & Alex Moschitti
Photos by Dusten Ryen

We were lucky enough to get the new Santa Cruz Bronson just before its release at the start of Summer and had a great time making a little first-ride video that fired up the rest of the crew and had us lining up for our turn on our latest test sled. Santa Cruz looked to see how they could update the V4 Bronson to increase the capability of the do-everything bike without robbing it of its playful nature. Apparently, there’s an expression in the halls of Santa Cruz Bicycles, “When in doubt, take a Bronson out.” With a slogan like that, we knew that we’d really have to put this thing to the test on a wide variety of terrain and riders. If bikes were bowls of porridge and the 27.5”-equipped Nomad and 5010 are too hot, and the Hightower and Megatower are too hot, perhaps the new Bronson would indeed remain the do-it-all bike that feels just right.

QUICK HITS

• Mullet Wheels
• HTA 64.7
• STA 76.9
• REACH 475 (Large)

Price: $9,849/£8,599
Website: Santacruzbicycles.com

THE LAB
Santa Cruz’s quest to elevate the Bronson’s capability led them to building the bike around a mixed wheel (29f / 27.5r), or mullet, setup. Making this change took the Bronson slightly out of contention with the Santa Cruz 5010, which is purely a party bike on two 27.5” wheels and gave it a bit more of an edge in terms of “Performance.”  The Bronson retains its 150mm travel VPP suspension, driving the shock off the lower link, with a 160mm fork up front to handle the abuse. Santa Cruz opted to lower the average leverage ratio by increasing the shock stroke length, which should help to ensure damping is more consistent on longer descents, and they ensured this leverage ratio was adequately progressive in order to allow riders to run both air and coil shocks. The bigger 29” front wheel combined with the shorter rear end and 27.5” rear wheel put this bike right in the middle or the range, offering a nice blend between party and performance.

Santa Cruz Bronson V4 CC Profile Shot

The Bronson is available in sizes XS-XL and Santa Cruz also gives the bike size-specific chainstays. Designed to help keep the reach to rear end length ratio more consistent. This is a trend many brands are taking to help give riders a better feel on the trail. To ensure the front-end height of the XS was acceptably low, the Bronson is equipped with a 27.5” front wheel in this size to avoid compromising the handling characteristics.

The frame is designed to accommodate 27.5×2.6” tires across the size range, and a flip chip is offered to provide a subtle 3mm BB height adjustment and corresponding 0.2-degree head angle change. The usual Santa Cruz features remain, with protective armor on the lower downtube and a shuttle guard nearer the headtube; internal cable routing with guided tubing; a bottle cage inside the front triangle to satisfy hydration needs, and a mechanic-friendly threaded BB surrounded by ISCG05 chain guide tabs. SRAM’s UDH holds the derailleur in place on the frame, making replacements easier to find when out adventuring. Santa Cruz backs the frame and linkage bearings with a lifetime warranty to give peace of mind that your investment will be good for the long run.

Santa Cruz Bronson V4 CC Rear Triangle

Geometry on the Santa Cruz Bronson V4 was designed to provide this desired capability and playful nature, with steering geometry relaxed, overall length increased, and seating position made more upright compared to the previous generation. In the high flip-chip setting this translates to a 475mm reach for the Large tested, with a range from 405mm for the XS through to 500mm for the XL. Accompanying stack heights range from 594mm up to a towering 649mm for the XL, with conversely low 370mm-460mm seat tubes, allowing for long droppers on all sizes and letting riders size up and down as preferred. The head angle is constant across the size range at 64.7 degrees, with an effective seat angle that slackens slightly through the size range from the XS’s 77.6 degrees through to the XL’s 76.7 degrees. The size-specific chainstays range from a compact 427mm on the XS to an appropriate 442mm on the XL, resulting in a wide wheelbase range of 1,149mm up to 1,284mm.

Santa Cruz Bronson V4 CC Rear Linkage

We held on to the Bronson CC X01 AXS RSV that Santa Cruz supplied to us for the first ride review. This model is the second-from-top level build that they offer, coming in at a decidedly premium $9,849/£8,599. This money gets you the lighter CC carbon layup frame shod with a whole host of high-performance components, with a 160mm Fox 36 Factory Float fork, RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate rear shock, SRAM’s X01 AXS drivetrain and Reserve carbon wheels. Though the Bronson is only available as a carbon fiber frame, you can pick up their slightly heavier C level carbon frame with an “R” build kit for $5,049/£4,999 or purchase a CC frame only with the same Super Deluxe Ultimate rear shock tested for $3,699/£3,499. If the X01 level build doesn’t quite satisfy your need, Santa Cruz has you covered with the $11,399/£9,899 XX1 AXS RSV build.

The remainder of the components on our CC X01 AXS RSV don’t stray from the high-end theme of the build. A SRAM Code RSC brakeset stops a 200mm front and 180mm rear rotor, giving bite point adjustment to keep the feel dialed in. The dependable Maxxis Minion combo is called upon to deliver the grip, with a Maxx grip 2.5” DHF up front and a 3C 2.4” DHR out back. These use the lightweight EXO casings, which will not suit all riders and terrain, but provide snappy acceleration for those who can make them last. SRAM’s X1 carbon crankset transfers the power into the X01 AXS drivetrain, and carbon is also used for the 35mm diameter Santa Cruz bar that is supplied at a full 800mm width with a 35mm rise. The Reserve 30 carbon V2 rims are laced with J-bend Sapim Race spokes to Industry 9’s 1/1 hubs to round out the rotating elements. The final touches are the Burgtec Enduro MK3 stem we’ve come to love at The Loam Wolf, with the classic RockShox Reverb Stealth seatpost suspending a WTB Silverado saddle.

Santa Cruz Bronson V4 CC Action

THE DIRT
Getting the new V4 Bronson out the box for the first time, the look of the new angular edges on the frame and that Paydirt Gold color had us very stoked to get it onto the trail and put it to work. Santa Cruz makes it simple to get the suspension in the ballpark with their setup guide, giving suggested settings for each bike model and rider weight, so we were quickly ready to hit the trails with the 30% rear shock and 20% fork sag we usually aim for.

The recent geometry progressions across the industry have made significant improvements to the climbing manners of full suspension mountain bikes, and the new Bronson is no exception. The 76.9-degree seat angle on our size Large put our team in a good place on the bike when ascending, avoiding that dreaded off the back feeling and helping to minimize effects on the rear suspension caused by pedaling and slight weight transfer when seated. On steeper pitches, there was seldom any issue with front wheel wandering that can sometimes plague the slacked-out machines of the present day, making technical climbing pleasant.

Santa Cruz opted not to go extremely upright with this seat angle though, avoiding discomfort on longer days in the saddle and generally giving a happy medium for the vast majority of riding. The VPP rear end has just enough pedaling support to keep us from ever feeling the need to flick on the climb switch, letting us focus on the ride and avoiding any lock-out induced ruined descents. Avoiding the use of this lockout lever lets the rear end conform better to the trail, offering some extra grip when climbing over root clusters and rock steps. At 31-pounds, the Bronson comes in at a very reasonable weight given its intentions and sturdy feeling, helping to aid its agility and snappiness. The soft, knobby tire spec does remove a little bit of rolling speed compared to a faster spec on many other 150mm rigs, but it’s a compromise we welcome for the majority of aggressive riding both up and down the hill, although we’d love to see a slightly stiffer casing for the rear tire since this bike is more than willing to throw down.

Santa Cruz Bronson V4 CC Action

Our team was unanimous when it came to feeling comfortable aboard the Santa Cruz Bronson during our review period. The 475mm reach being a preferred figure for our 5’11”-6’1” riders and the remainder of the geometry offer a relatively well-balanced ride. When it came to riding our local trails in Bend the Bronson absolutely annihilated them, encouraging us to push harder and harder on the slightly flatter and tighter tracks, yet still ironing out the rough rocky jank admirably and avoiding our VPP sensitivity qualms of the past.

Getting the Bronson stuck into some lift-accessed riding at Mt. Bachelor, it excelled on the Green and Blue trails, still kept up on some Black trails and was a blast on Black Diamond jump lines like Redline. There’s enough progression to keep that 150mm travel from being blown through until some decent sized hucks, and it gives enough pop on lips to have a great deal of fun. However we began to find the drawbacks to its playful character when compared with a full 29-equipped brawler when hitting the big braking bumps in technical black diamond and double black diamond trails, where it’s capabilities were pushed to the absolute limits and the confidence levels subsequently dropped as its 150mm travel became overwhelmed. This is not to say it’s not capable of riding in this terrain, simply that a longer travel and dual-29 equipped machine maintains composure better in these situations and won’t tire the rider out as much.

The initial setup had the Bronson feeling a little back wheel heavy as we’ve felt with other mullet-wheeled machines, perhaps due to the axle height differences and the high bar rise. Adding a touch of extra pressure to the rear shock and dropping the bar down a spacer helped to address this feeling to an extent, however the Bronson maintained its “loves back wheel” mantra throughout. This leads to a lot of fun on the trail, popping manuals easily and feeling composed on the steep sections, if not making for the ultimate speed machine.

Santa Cruz Bronson V4 CC Action

This new gen-4 Santa Cruz Bronson represents a significant improvement over their last design which sported dual 27.5” wheels. Opting for the Mullet or mixed wheel arrangement is a move that we think makes a huge amount of sense for a bike with the Bronson’s intentions, obtaining the front wheel traction and control of a 29er and being less phased by mid-corner blown out holes. If you’re looking for a rig to ride as fast as possible then you’d likely be served better by a full 29’er like the Hightower or Megatower, but the Bronson manages to capture a great deal of this speed-seeking capability, whilst maintaining a level of 5010 inspired playfulness that means the Bronson is just a straight up terrorist on all but the gnarliest of trails.

In typical Santa Cruz style, the Bronson has been a quiet and dialed ride throughout the review period. The suspension collet hardware does a great job at holding firm, the cable routing is dialed, and the frame protection keeps chain noise to a minimum. The paint finish has held up well to failed jibs and loose rocks, and the bearings are smooth as day one however some brake lever scratches on the top tube from a bumpy shuttle road have caused our heart some pain.

Santa Cruz Bronson V4 CC Action

The Wolf’s Last Word

As you would expect from a rig just shy of $10k, the components on the Bronson X01 AXS RSV also performed excellently throughout the test, with the wheels holding their true no matter how many cutties and side-hits we threw at them and the AXS gearing not skipping a single beat. Thankfully after a short bed in period, rolling resistance worries were gone, which we assume was a slightly sticky hub seal, and the Bronson held speed just as well as its competitors for the test remainder.

Our first ride impressions back at the start of Summer had us extremely excited to put some serious mileage and elevation into the Bronson v4, and we’ve come out the other side grinning just as hard as that initial honeymoon period had left us. Santa Cruz has done an impressive job at finding a perfect middle ground between the 5010’s playfulness and the Hightower’s desire to go fast, and the result is an absolute riot of a machine that’ll shred it all.

Price: $9,849/£8,599
Weight: 31 lbs.
Website: Santacruzbicycles.com

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SPECIFICATIONS

CHASSIS
Frame: Carbon CC; 150mm

Fork: Fox 36 Float, Factory, Boost, 160mm
Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate, 230x60mm

COCKPIT
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC, 200F/180R

Handlebar: Santa Cruz 35 Carbon Bar, 800mm, 35mm Rise
Headset: Cane Creek 40 IS
Saddle: WTB Silverado Medium Stainless Fusion
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth
Shifter: SRAM GX AXS; 12s
Stem: Burgtec Enduro MK3

WHEELS
Rims: Santa Cruz Reserve 30 V2 Carbon

Hubs: Industry Nine 1/1, 28h, XD
Spokes: Sapim Race J-bend
Front Tire: Maxxis Minion DHF 29″x2.5, 3C, Maxx- Grip, EXO, TR
Rear Tire: Maxxis Minion DHR II 27.5″x2.4″, 3C, EXO, TR

DRIVETRAIN
Bottom Bracket: SRAM DUB 68/73mm Threaded BB

Cassette: SRAM XG1295 Eagle, 12spd, 10-50t
Cranks: SRAM X1 Eagle Carbon 148 DUB 32t
Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle AXS, 12spd

Santa Cruz Bronson V4 CC Rear Forward Link

We Dig

Playful Character
Shredding capabilities
Santa Cruz Build Quality
Can’t not smile on this bike!
Inspires stupidity (which could result in crashes)

We Don’t

Slight rearward bias not for everyone
Not the fastest bike if you’re a racer

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