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.

-Kim Gives Initial Impressions on Santa Cruz Bronson 650b


The Bronson is a bike that went through more iterations than most on its way to becoming a production model. Unless you’ve spent the past year living in a cave, you know that 650b (27.5in) wheels are shaking up the mountain bike market in ways that 29ers never did. The Bronson was caught in the middle of the wheel-size maelstrom midway through its development.

Santa Cruz Bicycles found themselves at a crossroads while developing the Bronson – the name refers to 104 Bronson Street, the company’s longtime headquarters, from which they recently relocated. Company engineers set out to create a new 26in model similar to the well-regarded Blur LT, which, according to Santa Cruz, was getting long in the tooth.

The new bike would have 150mm of rear travel (10mm more than the Blur LT); a slacker, 67-degree head angle; a slightly lower bottom bracket (13.6in/345mm); longer top tubes across the four sizes; longer chainstays (17.3in/439mm) to improve high-speed stability; and a steeper, 73 degree seat tube angle.

The nagging question was: what size wheels should it have?

The company experimented with 26in and 650b test mules and, in the end, 650b wheels were deemed the diameter du jour.


The Santa Cruz Bronson is an all-mountain bike with 650b (27.5in) wheels and 150mm of suspension travel


  • Fork: Fox Float 34 CTD
  • Shock: Fox Float CTD
  • Wheels: ENVE Composites AM rims laced to DT 240S hubs
  • Tires: Maxxis High Roller 27.5×2.3in, Tubeless Ready, EXO casing
  • Crankset: SRAM XX1 w/34T chainring
  • Chainguide: e*thirteen XCX chain guide
  • Bottom bracket: SRAM GXP
  • Chain: SRAM XX1
  • Rear Derailleur: SRAM XX1
  • Shifter: SRAM XX1
  • Brakes: Shimano XTR Trail, 180mm front, 160mm rear
  • Headset: Cane Creek 110
  • Stem: Thomson, 70mm
  • Handlebar: Easton Havoc Carbon, 750mm
  • Grips: Lizard Skin Peaty
  • Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth
  • Saddle: WTB Volt SLT Ti

If money were no object, our dream build would look very similar to what Santa Cruz offers for its top-shelf build. But for most of us, money is finite. Thankfully, there are more affordable builds starting at US$4,150 for the carbon Bronson and US$3,399 for the alloy version.

Pick three: strong, light and expensive. Enve 650b AM rims are a good match for the Bronson

Pick three: strong, light and expensive. Enve 650b AM rims are a good match for the Bronson

Early impressions

It should come as no surprise that the Bronson is a remarkable descender – the frame is stiff and the geometry is sorted. But what really surprised us was just how well-rounded the Bronson is; its climbing prowess is equally impressive. Admittedly, the lightweight 26.7lb (12.1kg) build helps in this department, but the Bronson’s geometry and suspension also play a significant role. Save for long fireroad grinders, there’s no need to flip the Pro Pedal lever from ‘Descend’ to ‘Trail’ or ‘Climb’; the Bronson handles climbing and trail riding just fine with the shock wide open.


The lower of the two VPP links is exposed to the elements; Santa Cruz uses grease ports so owners can easily do a bit of preventive maintenance to keep their pivots smooth and silent

The VPP suspension feels quite refined, with very little pedal feedback. With a properly set up Fox Float CTD shock there is no discernible midstroke wallow – an unfortunate trait of some VPP bikes. The suspension does a commendable job of absorbing trail chatter, but performs better when tackling medium to large hits at high speeds.

The Bronson is available in carbon (shown) and aluminum

The Bronson is available in carbon (shown) and aluminum

Maxxis High Roller 27.5x2.35in tires provide plenty of grip and perform well over a variety of terrain

Maxxis High Roller 27.5×2.35in tires provide plenty of grip and perform well over a variety of terrain

The Enve rims are laced to DT Swiss 240S hubs

The Enve rims are laced to DT Swiss 240S hubs

Cables are routed along the top of the down tube

Cables are routed along the top of the down tube

The RockShox Stealth Reverb exits the seat tube just above the bottom bracket shell

The RockShox Stealth Reverb exits the seat tube just above the bottom bracket shell

Upfront there's a single 34-tooth XX1 chainring with a e*thirteen XCX guide

Upfront there’s a single 34-tooth XX1 chainring with a e*thirteen XCX guide

We look forward to putting the Bronson through the ringer at several enduro races this season. Check back soon for a long-term review.

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Santa Cruz Bikes offers a number of excellent kit and fork options for the Bronson. Please call Steed Cycles at 604-987-2168 and a member of the Steed Cycles Sales Team  will be happy to walk you through all of the options and recommend the right bike for your intended use.

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

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