First Ride: Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon – 650B Ripper


May 7, 2013

Check out a recent article on the new Santa Cruz Bronson. The reviews are rolling in and they look very good.

Santa Cruz announced the Bronson on April Fools’ Day, but the first mid-size-wheel trailbike from the Coastal California bike maker was no joke. We traveled to the new SC factory, situated at the foot of some of the area’s choice riding, to get a first-hand impression of how the bike performs. Those who have ridden in the coastal mountains of Santa Cruz will verify that the dirt, trails and average temperature are near-perfect 260 days out of the year – and the other 105 days it’s fisherman-cold and pissing rain. We were fortunate to enjoy one of the 260 – shredding between shaded redwood forest and oak woodlands for a most enjoyable day of riding on the trails where the Bronson was born and raised.


Bronson C frames share similar DNA with the Blur LTc and Tallboy LTc, but its carbon chassis is produced in a completely different mold and beefed up for pro-level enduro competition.

Bronson C Walk-Around

Bronsons have six inches of rear-wheel travel (5.9″/150mm) and can be configured with a number of forks ranging in travel from 150 to 180 millimeters, although a 150mm fork is preferred. Frames are available in welded-aluminum or carbon and in a number of builds. Both the alloy and carbon frame are built on separate tooling from any other Santa Cruz model, but the family resemblance with the Blur LTc and Tallboy is nearly identical. Bronsons are built much tougher than what is required for an XC trailbike and are advertised as all-mountain and enduro-specific. Our test Bronson was the carbon version, set up with a SRAM XXI drivetrain, Shimano XTR Trail Brakes and a Fox Float CTD fork and shock. Topping off the high-end build was a matched pair of Enve’s newest AM wheels in 650B. Santa Cruz’s website pegs the retail cost of our test Bronson just beyond the $10,000 mark. We tried to ignore that detail and revel in the knowledge that Santa Cruz’s claimed weight for our test Bronson was 26.21 pounds – pretty sweet for an AM sled. (Santa Cruz Bronson C builds start at $4150.) Medium-sized Bronson C frames are said to weigh 5.3 pounds and with a Fox float CTD shock, cost $2,699. Color options are natural carbon with blue or yellow graphics, or Tennis Green.


(From left) Bronson frames use a forged-aluminum upper rocker that drives a Fox Float CTD shock. The Reverb Stealth dropper post keeps the Bronson’s flowing lines uncluttered. Santa Cruz includes grease fittings to purge the lower rocker bearings and a bash guard to ward off rock impacts to the down tube.

Suspension Notes

Bronsons rely on Santa Cruz’s generation-2 VPP rear suspension for firm pedaling response paired with smooth suspension action, but those who insist on pedaling performance that comes close to a hardtail can fuss with the Fox CTD controls to obtain satisfaction. We questioned why the Enduro-specific Bronson does not have an option for the Float-X CTD reservoir damper and the answer seemed to be that the new shock was not yet forthcoming to OEMs. It seems like a perfect match, but as we discovered, the standard Float CTD shock was aptly suited for the Bronson’s hard-charging style. Both the upper and lower rocker links are forged aluminum and both use SC’s adjustable angular-contact bearing system. In keeping with SC’s recent tradition, grease fittings are tucked into the lower link to encourage preventative bearing maintenance.


SRAM’s single-chainring XXI drivetrain allows the Reverb Remote button to be located under the left handlebar where it should be. A reminder from Santa Cruz on the top tube – in case you forget who’s the boss.

Key Numbers

Quickly scanning the Bronson’s frame numbers backs up its mission statement – with a low, 13.6-inch bottom bracket height, a reasonably slack, 67-degree head angle, and a moderately short, 17.3-inch chainstay length the Bronson should handle brightly enough to dodge and weave through the trees, and still possess a shovel-full of courage-enhancing stability for high-speed forays down technical trails that should be the realm of a big bike. Previous experience with 650B wheels suggests that, shod with 2.35-inch tires, the Bronson will breeze over the rocks and deadfall which are the signatures of the Santa Cruz trail network.


bigquotes Every berm, every twist and turn through this forest, can be executed at speeds that exceed a normal rider’s imagination – and the locals use this to their advantage – tempting us with each new section of trail and then crushing us once again. This is the dark soul of Bronson.

With the best part of the day ahead of us and three honch riders from Santa Cruz Bikes, eager to show us every nuance of the local trail network, we throw a leg over the first 650B design to emerge from the iconic bike brand, find a wheel and hang on for dear life. They call it ‘hero dirt’ and the local mountains above the brand’s namesake city are made of it. The divine mixture of loam, clay and sand, kept moist by the eternal shade of coastal redwood trees, grips tires better than baby monkeys hold onto their mothers. Every berm, every twist and turn through this forest, can be executed at speeds that exceed a normal rider’s imagination – and the locals use this to their advantage – tempting us with each new section of trail and then crushing us once again. This is the dark soul of Bronson.

Granted, we are riding on the exact trails that Santa Cruz used to hone the handling of the Bronson, but the ease and agility with which the bike moves through the forest is remarkable. It has a beautiful front/rear balance that requires very little attention at the handlebar to keep the bike on line. It is a rare moment when the front tire won’t follow orders and the Bronson’s rear tire tends to track the front unless its pilot calls for a drift. There is a surety to its steering that encourages the rider to ignore minor obstacles and choose the flow lines. The Bronson front wheel seems eager to drive over almost anything in its way. Santa Cruz offers Maxxis High Rollers as standard rubber on the Bronson, but our test bike was outfitted with Maxxis Ardent tires, which roll faster, but give up a lot of grip in the turns to their DH-oriented kin. Tearing into the hero dirt, we imagine that a High Roller-equipped Bronson would corner and climb like it were geared directly to the earth.

Dropping into one of the zone's longer chutes - easy work for the Bronson. Regrouping in the redwoods for another round of Bronson-in-the-forest. Poison oak - it's everywhere - waiting for bare legs and arms.

Dropping into one of the zone’s longer chutes – easy work for the Bronson. Regrouping in the redwoods for another round of Bronson-in-the-forest. Poison oak – it’s everywhere – waiting for bare legs and arms.

Descending proved that, for Santa Cruz Bikes at least, Fox has implemented changes in its 34 Float CTD fork’s damping and spring rates to eliminate the mushy feel in compression and brake dive that the original model often suffered from. The Bronson dove fearlessly down rock chutes and leveled roots like a dedicated enduro chassis must. Under braking, aided by its Shimano XTR Trail stoppers, the Bronson feels sure and controllable in nearly all situations. Drops and jumps are non-issues, with the very stiff-feeling chassis feeling instantly composed upon landings, ready to negotiate the next feature. This agility seems to stem from a combination of a slightly steeper head angle than current fashion dictates that is paired with a rigid, balanced-feeling chassis, and this is an emerging theme from Santa Cruz. The Bronson’s ability to react to situations in a quick, decisive manner may trump bikes that employ excessively slack steering geometry and favor a plow-through-everything strategy. At any rate, it makes for a fun ride.

Speaking of rear suspension, the feel of the Bronson’s VPP rear end is very much like the Tallboy LTc, with a supple feel of the bottom and through the mid stroke, with a gradual rising rate at the end-stroke to soften hard landings. Climbing traction is abundant and there is enough pedaling firmness in the suspension to minimize the need to switch the CTD shock to Trail or Climb modes. While 150-millimeters of travel is quite common in this category, the second-gen VPP’s mid-stroke performance is as good as it gets, and in fast trail situations the system really shines. There is no sense that the larger wheels are a travel-booster like one often experiences from 29-inch wheel designs, but like a big-wheel bike, the Bronson feels quite capable of charging nasty sections that a 26er rider might shy from. Excellent performance at the suspension’s end-stroke, aided by a laterally rigid chassis, keeps the bike in control after hard landings and even if the Bronson lands out of shape, it recovers quickly. Over trail chatter, on the opposite side of the suspension’s spectrum, the tires feel well grounded, which removes much of the anxiety from fast, sweeping turns. The only possible negative suspension trait we noticed was that the rear wheel would catch momentarily before popping over a tall root or deadfall limb at slow speeds. This was not the case once the wheels were rolling at a proper clip. Whether this was a setup issue or inherent to the VPP suspension will be explored in a future test.

Mechanically, what is not to like about Enve Carbon AM wheels, Shimano’s best disc brakes and SRAM’s eleven-speed one-by drivetrain? We would be hard pressed to find a quieter running bike. Only the click click of its SRAM XXI transmission and the sound of its tires scrubbing the soil break the silence of the Bronson’s ride. If there was any chain slap, Santa Cruz’s molded rubber chainstay protector would mask any hint of it. Double points to SC for integrating a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post into the Bronson’s frame design. The port for the actuator hose is further protected by a rubber boot, and the lack of a front derailleur allows the remote button to be placed under the left handlebar where it lines up perfectly with the thumb. For those who feel the need for a front mech, Santa Cruz includes the necessary housing stops and direct mount face-plate to do the job right. ISCG tabs are also standard fare. About the only aspect of the bike we’d change is to go to a wider, 750-millimeter handlebar – which is supposedly a running change for production Bronsons.

Seat up, foot down, brakes off - some old school drifting action aboard the Bronson.

Seat up, foot down, brakes off – some old school drifting action aboard the Bronson.

bigquotes Glowing as this text has been about Santa Cruz’s first 650B design, riding the Bronson on its home trails for a day cannot provide the range of experiences required for a conclusive bike review. What we can say for sure is that we like the Bronson – it’s a ripper. Comparisons can be made between its lookalike cousins – the 26-inch Blur LTc and the 29er Tallboy LTc – but with all due respect, the Bronson is a cut above both in a number of ways. The Bronson has much more high-speed stability than both of its predecessors, and it feels better balanced than the Blur in the corners. While the Tallboy and the Bronson share a similar flow when negotiating rough trails, the Tallboy likes to cruise effortlessly down the trail at about the same cadence, while the Bronson is a charger with a more energetic feel, and it pushes its rider to carve more creative lines and search for features to boost that may escape riders mounted on lesser machinery. It will be interesting to see how well the Bronson lives up to its purpose on the World Enduro Circuit. While you are watching, look for the complete test later this year. – RC

Read the full article here: The Shore Lives!

April 8, 2013

If you’ve been following the turning of the wheels here on the Shore as of late, then you know there’s some good things happening. For those of us that live here, dig here and ride here, that’s definitely an understatement. What has been quietly building in momentum for the last three years is now exploding out of the gate like Stevie Smith at Mont Ste. Anne! What once was lost, now is found, and our future here looks brighter than ever.


You’ll never take the gnar outta the Shore. Simmons knows where the nugs are. Photo: Sterling Lorence

Not so long ago, the Shore gave birth to Freeride on the shoulders of some of the biggest names in the sport. Simmons, Super T, Gully, Vanderham & Shandro rode into the history books on outlandish creations borne from the hands of Digger & Dangerous Dan. It is a history every mountain biker knows well. Captured on celluloid in Digger’s NSX videos, it spurred the building of Shore style stunts round the world. Although the world seems to think the Shore is all about ladder bridges and log rides, take Shore local Thomas Vanderham’s words from Follow Me: “When I go out and ride I don’t ride skinnies and I rarely ride anything that’s built out of wood.” Despite the following segment showing Thomas no-handing a massive platform gap over a creek, the old stunts that riddled the Shore are dying a long, slow death.

bigquotes When I go out and ride I don’t ride skinnies and I rarely ride anything that’s built out of wood. – Thomas Vanderham


Rotted wood on Pink Starfish. Slicker than puppy shit on a hardwood floor and rotten as a witch’s tit.

We find ourselves in a new era. As the old stunts rot out, (presenting an entirely different challenge to the rider in the interim stages of decay) the capacity to replace every expired platform or skinny amassed over the past twenty years simply isn’t there. Nor, seemingly, is the appetite. The community is pulling together in a showing of arms to rebuild and revitalize our treasured trails, literally from the ground up. Hundreds are hard at work on the steep mountain faces, building bridges, diverting water and throwing dirt. But not everyone one is happy. As rotted stunts are removed, erosion undone and sustainability sought, a select few condemn the efforts as ‘dumbing down’ the Shore. But, with the amount of deferred maintenance bottle-necked in our 20+ year old network, neglect is no longer an option.

Those that truly know the Shore fear nothing. Thankfully, you can never take the gnar out of the Shore. For the vocal minority that seem unable to accept the change in our midst, Wade Simmons, now Director with the NSMBA, has a standing offer. “Anyone who thinks we’re ‘dumbing down the Shore’, I’ll be happy to take them for a ride.” I’d carefully consider that challenge before accepting. Many upper level challenges still lurk in the mist for those that want it, but now there’s something for everyone. Patching holes, fixing drainage, finding sustainable alignments, add in some flow, cohesive connections and shralpable corners, and it appears things are being smartened up rather than “dumbed down”. Fortunately, our pursuit of sustainability is not only harmonious with a positive ride experience, it’s strengthening relations with Land Managers & the broad based community, resulting in successful grant pursuits which in turn, fuels the trail work.


Digger leading the charge on Expresso. Photo: Jerry Willows


Bench cut?! On the Shore?! Photo: Norma Ibarra

“The Shore has never been running better!” Digger has a big smile on his face, happy to be ‘throwing dirt in the noon day sun!’ The original founder of the NSMBA, it’s only fitting he has returned to the Directorship this year. “The trails were never like this in the beginning, we’re just bringing them back to where they began!” He’s busy filling in deep trenches on the Baden Powell, one of the most heavily used arteries on Fromme, beaten down from hikers, dog walkers and bikers since its creation in 1970. The NSMBA has stepped up to restore this community treasure, for the betterment of all, further establishing a position of leadership and proving our worth to the budget strained Land Managers.

bigquotes The Shore has never been running better! The trails were never like this in the beginning, we’re just bringing them back to where they began! – Digger

Our new found expertise is taking form in reroutes and water management, grade reversals and outslope, banked corners and flow. Water dispersion is paramount in a climate that sees over 2000mm of rain per year (that’s 6 feet, or 72 inches for our brethren south of the border), yet little drainage was implemented in the original builds. Sustainability was an unknown term in the era when the Shore first rose up so long ago. Combine the lethal combination of our waterlogged climate, inherited fall line trails and heavy, year round ridership, many of the trails have eroded down to the bones. We’ve been busy retrofitting the worst sections, integrating a new school flow while keeping those heavy tech sections that we love so much. After all, the Godfather is an integral part of our tactical approach. Chunky technical and flowy goodness is proving a combination that incorporates the best of both worlds, inviting new riders into the fray while keeping the ‘ol timers’ happy retaining progressive lines. At least some of us.


Still having problems finding the gnar gnar? Maybe ask Arthur “Gnar Gnar” Gaillot. Arthur on the Skull. Photo: Mark Wood

While steep & deep still abounds, the sport is opening to other skill levels with the building of flowy XC trails like the Salamander, Gnomer and Defibrillator. “Lower Seymour has never been better!” Kevin Calhoun, pro rider for Rocky Mountain Bikes, has long been riding Shore circuits that would kill a goat. “It’s not a select group of riders out here anymore, the sport has exploded and the trail network needs to expand to accommodate.” Its enlightening to see this benevolence in vision, especially from a long time core rider who holds innumerable podium finishes.

bigquotes Lower Seymour has never been better! It’s not a select group of riders out here anymore, the sport has exploded and the trail network needs to expand to accommodate. – Kevin Calhoun


Mathew Bond, the NSMBA’s youngest and longest serving President, rallies the troops in the early morning on Seymour Mountain. Photo: Norma Ibarra


Fashionable detritus on Boogieman. Did I mention puppies & witches?

To tackle this monumental task, our solution had to come from within. Our first priority was to build capacity by empowering the community. Knowledge is power and therefore education key. With initiatives like the North Shore Builders Academy, the knowledge base has grown exponentially, and continues to grow. 187 graduates from 2012 have now become our elite forces: the Shore Corps. As evidenced in our first trail day of 2013, held this March, we have become a formidable machine capable of high quality work in short order. Combine this with the North Shore Trail Adoption Plan, what first seemed insurmountable is now within our grasp. We are literally rebuilding the Shore, making up for lost decades. TAP has taken on a life of its own, thanks to the Adopters who care enough to give back. Last year TAP tallied 70 trail days alone, with 100 optimistically projected for 2013. With the recent pilot project gifting the TAP framework to our brotherhood in the valley, the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association is helping to strengthen efforts through partnerships and knowledge sharing while at the same time fulfilling the mission of the NSMBA: Trails for all, trails forever.


The Shore Corps: Ready, willing & able. Our latest trail day this March, hosted by MEC. “The world is run by those who show up.”


Support those who support the Shore.

The corporate support has been the gas in the tank and is allowing us to tackle projects once thought beyond our scope. With thanks to some solid backing from some big names in the sport, we are tapping into greater opportunities to keep the machine moving forward. Our list of donors and sponsors is strong and deep, ranging from local industry to national and international supporters. Although Arc’teryx doesn’t even make bike gear, they live and play here on the Shore and are giving back as title sponsors of the Builders Academy while at the same time reinventing Dreamweaver on Fromme as part of TAP. MEC have been working tirelessly transforming Expresso under the watchful eye of Digger and have also granted the NSMBA $15 000 torevitalize the Bridle Path. While lead builder Matt Preston leads his crew on the Bridle, Digger and his team of builders are tackling the restoration of the Baden Powell trail (built by the boyscouts in 1970, of which Little Digger was one) thanks to grant monies from the CP Loewen Foundation. Beyond these two projects, each massive on their own, TAP is tackling another 25 mtb and multi use trails in 2013. The NSMBA is working on trails that benefit not just the riders, but the greater community, giving us a broader respect that is echoing in some exciting opportunities on the near horizon. We are proving to the Land Managers and the non endemic community that we are responsible, capable and a valuable ally.


Got wood? Sure, we got wood. Digger craftsmanship on Lower Ladies.


Regardless, when we are gone, the forest will take it all back in the ongoing cycle of ruin & renewal.


Two gargantuan projects, led by the NSMBA for the betterment of the greater community.

Perhaps not as sexy as building big drops and sick gaps, we’re taking on much needed work, long overdue. Thankfully, we seem to be catching up, and doing it in double time. At the same time, we’re learning how to work with the Land Managers, in a place marred by a history of strained relations. We now seem to be pulling on the rope in the same direction at a serendipitous time when our capacity snowballs. Hundreds of people are making it happen, pledging their allegiance to the cause. A fellow builder put it to me best “you’ve got to bake the cake before you put the icing on.” Using this analogy, right now, our cake’s in the oven. Our next phase is sure to be an exciting one as we get ready to put the icing on the cake. In the meantime, make no mistake, the Shore is open for business.


Business time. Irish Pete, Digger and Podo working on the Baden in torrential downpours for weeks on end.

Big thanks to for the great article. Read more here: