Santa Cruz Bronson 2: Don't take a knife to a gun fight

Boom! Here it is, my new Bronson. Some tough decisions had to be made. Pink or Black. Sram or Shimano. Fox or Rockshox. New or used bits. Boost in the front to match the rear. I tell you, I had some restless nights. But I thrive on that shit, and what you see before you is the ultimate trailbike according to that enigmatic alter ego of mine... The Rodfather.

Santa Cruz Bronson 2

Finally! My new bike is ready to ride and obviously I’m pretty excited. It’s been a long road to get me here today. A journey filled with joy, indecision, confusion, consternation and relief. Why all the drama? Well, it’s a long story, possibly a boring story to you, and my typing is more tortoise than rabbit. In a nutshell, I had ordered a Nomad that I was going to pick up on my return from Downieville where Santa Cruz were releasing the new Bronson and 5010 as well as the Roubion and Furtado. My credit card wasn’t working (the wife got wind of the coming purchase) so the Nomad didn’t turn up which in the end was a bonus as I fell in love with this Bronson and just had to have it.

Am I boring you yet? Just hang in there. It’s not every day I get a new bike. Ok, so I’ve had a few new bikes lately. In fact it’s a bit of a joke around my riding buddies. What can I say? I fall in love easily. It doesn’t take much. A new colourway is enough to send me into a frenzy. I’ve been known to rush into love with a little too much gusto, certainly lacking any sage advice from those that know better than to jump on the first sexy beast that catches my eye as it rolls seductively across the parking lot under some steely eyed, tanned and sinewy, smooth with the ladies, downhill legend that possibly may have just called me a soft bastard for taping my hands to prevent blisters (no names here RatBoy).

Sorry folks, where was I? Oh yeah, the Bronson. Why all the fuss? Well there’s just something about Santa Cruz bikes. Admittedly I have been on a couple of press junkets with the Santa Cruz family and I gotta say, I wanted in. There, it’s as simple as that. The passion and dedication the team have to their craft is a joy to behold. I had never really got the loyalty that I have witnessed with pretty much every owner of one of their sleds, now, it’s pretty clear to me. Ever wondered why Santa Cruz don’t release a new model each season? It’s because they would rather get any new design or even colourway and graphics perfect and not be constrained by time or marketing opportunities.

Now that’s love. Crap, I’m rambling again. Back to the bike. OK. Let’s cut all the shit. This time the love is real. The Bronson is back and it’s tougher than ever. In my eyes it’s nearly perfect. In fact if Josh (SC product manager) had only listened to me when I was hassling him about the new Nomad and had moved the rear brake hose headtube cable tab back a bit so us Kiwis, Aussies and Brits could loop said hose around the other side of the head tube in a tidy manner it would be 100%. Admittedly I was a little tipsy and was on the attack and I can’t really blame the guy for tuning me out, hell, most people do.

But the team have really nailed this bike and I have never before got off a bike and made it my life mission to own one as soon as possible.

The numbers are great. I ride a large and it has a reach of 445mm. This is one of the longer frames on the market without going to that new breed of super long reach that Giant, Mondraker, Lapierre, Transition and others have gone for. It has a 17” chainstay, stiff and wide due to the fact that Santa Cruz have been one of the first to adopt the 148mm Boost hub standard. This 150mm travel (not too much and not too little… perfect!) frame has a lazy 66 degree head angle to please the DH rider in me. A steep 74 degree seat angle to please the Enduro whippet that I so want to be. Lowish BB so I can rail corners, and a shortish seattube (18” for this large) so I can drop my seat even lower or run a 7” dropper post when they finally come out.

And look at the colourways. Grey on black for the wannabe tough guy in me, but if I wanted to bask in the confidence of accepting my masculinity I would have gone for the garish yellow on crimson Kalimotxo.

Ok, so it looks good, the numbers add up, but does that make for the ultimate trail bike? No. What makes the ultimate trail bike is the whole package of reliability, ease and length of service intervals. Flex plays a huge role as well as the clincher… the spring rate and custom tune of the shock to suit the frame and I reckon they have got this Bronson, like they did with the Nomad, dialed.

Why black then? I have a cunning plan. Now that I have my custom sticker kit on file, it's not going to take much to swap the accents to a different colour anytime I choose, smart huh! Sram? I just love the stealthiness of my trusty XO1 groupset (and I couldn't afford a new one). Rockshox? I've been stroking a Pike for two years now, and why get rid of perfection (helped by the fact that Fox only do boost in a 34plus chassis). So why Boost up front then? This really baffled me. Santa Cruz don't spec their builds with a Boost fork, they see minimal advantage, and it seems Wheelworks who built these wheels agrees. In the end I just wanted to move with the times and seeing as the frame has a Boost rear end, then same goes for the fork. There is way more tyre clearance so when some 2.6 and 2.7 tyres finally come out there should be plenty of room, fair enough? The Boost Pike comes in a 150mm only and this is the travel that Santa Cruz spec in their build kits, but I swapped out the air rod for a 160mm, put in 3 tokens and dropped my pressure to get a similar ride height but with a plusher beginning stroke and a firmer ramp up at the end for those massive drops I'm going to be hitting. 

I dont need to talk you through the wheels right. Have a look at the Flite wheelset post from the other day if you haven't already. So the rest of the build was just transfered across from my trusty Intense Tracer T275 that was already the ultimate trail bike until I hit send on my CC details to the team in Santa Cruz, California.

Nicole from Fine Signs Petone whipped me up a custom sticker kit for my Pikes. She's a pretty awesome rider and owns a Bronson too. It's always good to deal with other riders when you're doing bike stuff. They just get it, so much less explaining to do. 

It's only 99.9% the perfect bike because I was ignored when I told the SC product manager to move the rear brake hose tab back a bit on the new Nomad. No one ever listens to me, especially since I started rocking my enduro bumbag to the local mall (so handy). I HATE running my rear brake hose on the same side down the headtube. Here's my little fix to keep the hose from rubbing my headtube. Grrrrrrrr! As it doesn't affect anything except a super tidy and flowing cable routing set-up, I'm only forfeiting 0.1%.

All Santa Cruz bikes have a threaded BB for creak free riding. I'm running a ceramic GXP in red just because. While you've heard from Tristan at Wheelworks that Boost isn't a game changer for the wheels themselves, having a 148mm rear end allows the frame designers more room at the BB area which gives them license to build a stronger frame with wider pivots and shorter chainstays and more tyre clearance. This is why Santa Cruz have gone with it.

Check out those rock strikes on my cranks. I was in despair when I looked at putting them on my new build, but after five minutes with a bit of sandpaper and some cut and polish and they came up mint.

No, I'm not running a 1.9" tyre, it's a 2.3 Minion DHR2, so you can see there is plenty of extra room in the fork arch so I can roll a 2.6 (or  more) tyre up front if I want. To me that's the main bonus of a Boost front end.

After a visit to the boys at One Up Components last month I now run their sexy new minimalist guide and a 32T elliptical front ring to even out my pedal stroke. I've also ditched the 42T rear sprocket and put in one of their 44T jobbies for super duper climbing spin.

Don't you know who I am? The Don of cheese! I haven't been getting as much ribbing lately about my utility belt and I was getting a bit lonely so I thought I'd better up the ante. 

Match the bars to the bike with a Santa Cruz 35mm carbon riser mated to a 50mm Haven stem. 780mm wide to match my shoulders and luckily my silver Guide RSC brakes match the headtube badge. There's a Hope headset tucked in there somewhere.

I wasn't meant to show you this but the boffins at Santa Cruz have been working on a hover feature. It takes a pretty skilled pilot to master it like the Don here. You didn't hear it from me but it'll probably only feature on the e-fat bike they're releasing next year. It'll need it because as you must know by now, e-bikes and fat bikes handle like shit.

Yes, it's a tyre, well spotted. Rolling a rim this wide actually brings the tread inboard a little so the casing is the widest part which does leave it a little exposed. There will be a new breed of tyre hitting the shops soon to remedy this as soon as manufacturers realise that wide is the future. Maxxis have a WT (wide trail) range coming in January. A 2.5 and 2.6 Minion and Ikon to be exact.

OMG, Boost just wheelies so much better.

I'm going to give it a good thrashing and get back to you guys with a real rider's review when I can, but I can tell you that I have just had two days riding in Vegas on it already and my expectations were surpassed, it rips! See you out on the trails.