Downieville- California Gem

On September 6th Steve and I flew down to Reno where we were picked up at the airport and driven the 2 hours west to Downieville. Our friends at Santa Cruz Bicycles have often mentioned how great the riding is in these mountains and finally invited us to join them for a couple of days to test some newly released bikes; The second generation Bronson and 5010!

In case you weren’t sure where Downieville is, it is in Sierra County California. Downieville sits beside the Yuba River, at an elevation of 2,966 feet (904 m), with a population of 282. The town has it’s roots back in the mid 1800’s when the GOLD RUSH was flowing big time and thousands flocked to the town to stake their claim! To get to the land claims, a maze of trails were created. Fast forward over a hundred years and those same trails were the sick single track we rode!

Steve with Bronson 2

Steve getting stoked to take the Bronson 2 for a demo on the Downieville trails! Santa Cruz selected the top of the line Bronson CC frame with the SRAM XX1 build kit and ENVE wheel set for the demo bike builds; no complaints from us.


Jersey Bridge

The one lane Jersey Bridge is the only way into town.



This is a picture from downtown Downieville from the late 1800’s. The only real notable change from today is the dirt road is now paved. As you walk down the boardwalk the flavour of the town has that remote town feel. If you forget how “out there” you are, just try to make a phone call or check your email…no cell reception or easily accessible wi-fi.


St. Charles Place Saloon

The original “Saint Charles Place” saloon. The only bar in town by the way, and being the same saloon from the gold rush days, it must hold some great stories in the walls.



I learned a new game on the pool table, thanks to Santa Cruz COO Joe Graney. The game is called “CRUD” and included body checking and regardless of what they say there is some skill to it, the same guys won over and over. You might think a beard is also a requirement but this that was purely a coincidence.


Bronson 2

The 2016 Bronson 2 in all it’s glory! Lots of updates that you might not notice beyond the beautiful Kalimotxo paint job. The head angle has slacked a degree to 66 degrees and the seat angle steepened up to 74 degrees. Internal cable routing on the dropper post cleaned up the downtube cable clutter. The seat tube diameter increased to 31.6 so they can put a 6 inch dropper post for more aggressive descending. Also, they were able to shorten the chain stays with the help of a 148mm rear hub axle and a new lower link. If you were impressed with the last Bronson, this one takes it to the next level.



Time to put these bikes to the test! The crew at YUBA Expeditions drove us to the trail head in their fancy van. I am not normally one for shuttling but hey it was 40 degrees celsius and I think that climb would have been certain death.


Butcher Ranch Trail

FINALLY, with much anticipation we were let loose at the top of the trail and allowed to put this bike to the test! I was keenly aware straight away of how fast the bike picked up speed and accelerated out of the corners. The dry dusty conditions were to be expected but one new twist to the local bike set up was high tire pressure due to high speeds and lots of jagged rocks. My usual pressure is less than 20PSI and I had to crank that up to over 40. There were several flat tires regardless to the increased pressure, but it was all worth it as we rode some of the finest single track California has to offer on our 20k descent back to Downieville starting off on the Butcher Ranch Trail.


Flat Tire #1

Josh Bryceland gets the first flat.



The all new 5010 has some of similar updates with slacker head angle and steeper seat angle, shorter chain stays and internal cable routing. This bike blew me away with how fast it could navigate the Mills Peak single track. At 125mm of rear wheel travel this bike was no stranger to what I can only describe as a blisteringly fast chase of Rat Boy and Steve Peat. Ok, to be honest I didn’t even see the Syndicate for more than about 20 seconds as they launched into a dust cloud ahead!


YUBA River Chill

What do you do when your ride is over in Downieville and it’s too early for CRUD? You laze around in the YUBA River of course and drink the local brew. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip.


Flat Tire #2

Steve got flat tire #2





Josh Kissner from Santa Cruz had one of the craziest face plants to be caught on video. He was very lucky, as it could have been much worse. Tough looking chap.


Steve Peat and Rat Boy had their pictures taken with the California Highway Patrol… “CHIPS”!

IMG_7079 IMG_7092

Thanks again to Santa Cruz Bicycles for such an amazing trip! I can’t wait to ride those trails again! I have a Bronson 2 on order for myself as well as a few pallets full of Bronson’s and 5010’s for the store.