The Bronson and 5010 evolve

The cat is finally out of the bag. Kim and Steve have been in Downieville, California riding the new Bronson and 5010. The Pinkbike guys got the scoop on it. Here is what they have to say. Bikes land in store in the coming days.

 

Photo Mike Thomas

FIRST RIDE
Santa Cruz Bronson and 5010

WORDS: Mike Kazimer
PHOTOS: Gary Perkin / Mike Thomas / Mike Kazimer

A winding two hour drive from Reno, Nevada, is all it takes to trade the sleazy neon gaudiness of the city for the remote peace and quiet of Downieville, California. With a population of less than 300 full time residents, limited cell phone reception, and a growing network of superb mountain bike trails nearby, it’s the perfect place to put away the glowing screens that pervade our lives and escape into the hills to ride.It’s also where Santa Cruz Bicycles chose to launch the revised versions of the Bronson and the 5010, bikes that were due for an update, a nip here and a tuck there to keep them on the cutting edge. Both bikes get slacker head angles, steeper seat tubes, and longer front centers, along with shorter chain stays and 148 x 12mm rear spacing, changes that keep them thoroughly modern. Over the course of two days we were able to ride both bikes on the high speed, rocky, dusty, and grin-inducing trails outside of town in order to begin getting acquainted with the refreshed models.

Bronson

Bronson Version 2.0

When the Bronson was first released, Santa Cruz found themselves in the fortunate position of having the right model available at the right time, and they saw the 150mm all-mountain rig’s popularity skyrocket, fueled by riders looking for a longer travel bike that could climb almost well as it could descend. That’s still the updated version’s intention – Santa Cruz bills its intended usage as “all-around,” and all of the tweaks are simply meant to make it even more capable than before.

To give the bike a little more stability in the steeps, the head angle has been relaxed by one degree to 66° with a 150mm fork, a change that’s accompanied by a steeper seat angle of 74° for a better pedaling position. The chain stays have also shrunk, and they now measure 433mm, compared to the 439mm length of the prior version. The reach has also been increased by up to 25mm depending on the frame size, a welcome change from the previous version.


Details
• Intended use: trail / all-around
• Travel: 150mm
• 27.5″ wheels
• Carbon frame
• 66° head angle
• 433mm chainstays
• 12 x 148mm rear spacing
• Threaded bottom bracket
• Sizes S, M, L, XL
• Colors: Kalimotxo, black/grey
• Price: $3599 – $8099 USD (ENVE wheel upgrade available)

Those shorter chain stays were made possible in part by the switch to 12 x 148mm rear spacing, a change that some riders will undoubtedly see as a point of contention, but it’s a sign of things to come, and Santa Cruz are from from the only company making the switch. Although it was originally developed as a way to bring additional stiffness to 29” wheels, it works for 27.5” wheels as well, and according to Josh Kissner, Santa Cruz’s Product Manager, the results of their in-house testing were enough to convince them that moving to the new axle dimensions was worth the effort.
Santa Cruz Bronson
The lower link has been tucked up further into the frame and out of harm’s way.

The Bronson uses the third iteration of Santa Cruz’s Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension design, with the lower link now tucked up closer into the frame, keeping it out of the way of pesky rocks and roots, a change that was first seen on the longer travel Nomad. The bike’s upper link has also been relocated, moving from the seat tube to the underside of the down tube, which helped the bike’s designers lower the standover height even further. That low standover height, combined with the shortened seat tube reflects Santa Cruz’s feeling that traditional bike sizing no longer applies, a sentiment that’s becoming more and more common throughout the industry. Rather than selecting a bike based on its seat tube length, the way it used to be before the advent of dropper posts, Santa Cruz recommends looking at a bike’s reach number instead.

Santa Cruz Bronson
Like the Nomad, the Bronson’s upper link is now attached to the top tube.
Santa Cruz Bronson
Don’t worry, there’s still a threaded bottom bracket.
The revisions to the pivot link locations allowed the Bronson’s suspension curve to be tweaked as well. It still follows the digressive / linear / progressive formula that’s the trademark of a VPP design, but the initial leverage rate has been increased in order to increase the bike’s small bump sensitivity, and the curve on a whole has become slightly more linear in order to create a more consistent feel throughout the stroke. All of the bikes in the line now come equipped with FOX shocks, a spec choice that was facilitated by the introduction of the Extra Volume (EVOL) air sleeve. That air sleeve provides the initial sensitivity necessary for it to play nice with the bike’s VPP design, especially in the beginning of the stroke.Specifications

As with many of Santa Cruz’s other models, there will be two versions of the carbon frame, a C and a CC version. The stiffness of both frames is said to be identical, but the use of a less expensive (and slightly heavier) carbon fiber allows for a significant cost savings on complete bikes the uses the C frames. Complete bike prices start at $3599 for the Bronson C R AM, and climb all the way up to nearly $10k for the highest end, ENVE wheel equipped CC XX1 AM model. Carbon models will be available within the next week, and an aluminum version is due to be ready before April 2016. If the Kalimotxo (a Spanish drink that involves mixing red wine with cola) colored option doesn’t suit your tastes, there’s also a more subdued black and grey paint scheme.

Santa Cruz Bronson
If Kalimotxo isn’t your color, there’s always classic black.
Geometry
Bronson geometry
Madeira - 21 July 2015 - during the Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson product shoot with Josh Bryceland of Santa Cruz Syndicate amp Cut Media. Photo by Gary Perkin
Josh Bryceland getting loose during Santa Cruz’s video shoot in Madeira.
Ride ImpressionsTo get a feel for the new Bronson we headed to Packer Saddle, the starting point for the Butcher Ranch trail. Best known as the race course for the Downieville Classic, the trail’s history dates all the way back to the California gold rush in the mid-1800s, when miners trudged through the hills hoping to strike it rich, and the population of Downieville ballooned to 5,000 residents. Those days are long gone, but thanks to the hard work of the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, the trail remains, and has been crafted into a singletrack masterpiece, dropping nearly 5,000 vertical feet over the course of 14 twisting and turning miles.

On paper, and in person, the new Bronson resembles the Nomad more than ever, but on the trail it has its own distinct personality, one that’s livelier and more sporty than its longer travel sibling. Even with a fairly slack head angle there’s still a satisfying quickness to its handling, and on flatter sections of trail it never felt sluggish or lethargic. There was also plenty of stability for the warp-speed sections of trail, those 40mph sections where the trees turned to a blur and it was all I could do to ignore the little voice inside my head telling me to grab the brakes. Although there isn’t a massive amount of climbing on the Butcher Ranch trail, there are a few short punchy climbs, and in those sections the Bronson was well behaved, with minimal suspension bob even with the shock set to the full open position.

Over the last year or so there have been numerous bikes introduced aimed at the growing enduro race scene, the Nomad included, but the truth is, most riders don’t live where the terrain is technical enough to really do those slack, mini-DH bikes justice. Sure, we all wish Whistler or the Alps were in our backyard, but that’s not usually the case, which is why a bike like the Bronson makes a lot of sense as a daily driver. It can still take on technical terrain, but its handling is quick enough that it’s enjoyable over an even wider range of trails, from tame to treacherous and everything in between.


Santa Cruz 5010

The 5010 underwent similar changes to the Bronson, emerging with 130mm of travel (up 5mm from the previous version), increased reach numbers, and shorter chain stays. The head angle has also been slackened by one degree to 67°, and the seat angle steepened to 73.8°. It might be slacker and longer, but the 5010 is still a trail bike through and through, aimed at riders who are going on more cross-country style rides rather than seeking out the gnarliest trails they can find.

The 5010’s suspension layout gets the same treatment as the Bronson as well, with the links relocated for better clearance and an improved suspension curve. Internal cable routing is now in place, using the clever internal carbon tube system that debuted on the Nomad, a system that eliminates the not-so-fun “fishing for housing” game that accompanies some other internal routing designs.


Details
• Intended use: XC / Trail
• Travel: 130mm
• 27.5″ wheels
• Carbon frame
• 67° head angle
• 425mm chainstays
• 12 x 148mm rear spacing
• Threaded bottom bracket
• Sizes S, M, L, XL
• Colors: black, blue
• Price: $3599 – $8099 USD (ENVE wheel upgrade available)

Santa Cruz 5010
Santa Cruz 5010
SpecificationsWhen we reviewed the 5010 back in 2013 a stouter fork and slightly wider bars were on the wishlist, and both of those features are standard on the latest version. A 130mm RockShox Pike is found on most models, and 760mm handlebars are in place across the board. Prices start at $3599 and head upwards from there, especially if you plan on springing for the XTR and ENVE wheel equipped version.

Santa Cruz 5010
Geometry
5010 Geometry
Mike Thomas photo
Ride ImpressionsMills Peak trail was the ride venue for the 5010, a slightly shorter route than Butcher Ranch, but still filled with plenty of sharp rocks and high speed sections to get a feel for the bike. How does it feel? Nearly identical to the previous version, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. The soul of a slalom bike remains somewhere in those carbon tubes, and it felt best on the tighter section of trails, darting through the dust and around the towering pine and cedar trees.

Even with the longer reach the 5010 still feels quite compact – the steeper seat angle and shorter chainstays likely play a part in conveying this feeling, and there’s no doubt it’d be a blast to ride on flowier, jump riddled trails. It’ll still take on the rough stuff without too much trouble, and I never felt it bottom out even on an ill-timed leap directly into a rock garden, but of course there isn’t quite the margin for error that its longer travel sibling possesses. The “trail” designation is a broad category, but then again so are the 5010’s capabilities, and riders looking for a snappy, peppy machine that doesn’t back down from a technical challenge will enjoy its handling.


Visit the high-res gallery for more images.


www.santacruzbicycles.com