2019 Santa Cruz Bronson V3 Ridden in B.C.
When Santa Cruz released the first Bronson in 2013 it took the market by storm. The bike, which paid homage to Santa Cruz Bicycle’s original factory location, Bronson Street, received praise from far and wide. The bike redefined what a 150mm travel bike was capable of. Two years later an updated Bronson was released and the EWS team was seen riding it rather than the Nomad, a testament to the bike's capabilities.
Now three years on we are presented with a very different machine. The Bronson V3 is still targetted as an all-mountain ripper, designed around a 150mm rear, 160mm front suspension package. It comes standard with a 200mm front and 180mm rear brake rotor, but now the rear triangle has dual uprights and the V10-styled, low slung shock that first trickled down to the Nomad V4.
The New Bronson Models
For 2019, the Bronson V3 is available in two wheel formats 27.5 and 27+, and nine models of each are available. The only difference is that plus models spec a wider rim shod with a 2.6" tire vs a 2.4. It’s also possible to add Santa Cruz Reserve carbon wheels on any model from “S” through to the XX1 package. This time around alloy models are available straight away. Santa Cruz has heard the masses and added four alloy packages — two 27.5 and two 27+.
The alloy “R” model starts at 3,499 USD and comes with a RockShox Yari RC fork, a Super Deluxe R shock, SRAM NX Eagle, Guide T brakes and a mix of Race Face and WTB components. Despite providing an alloy option there remain two carbon layups, with the more value-focused C and the top of the line CC models available. The bike, both alloy and carbon, is available as a frame only option for those interested in building their own dream machine.
- Alloy Frame: 1,999 USD
- CC Frame: 3,299 USD
- AL R: 3,499 USD
- AL S: 4,199 USD
- C R: 4,399 USD
- C S: 5,199 USD
- C S Reserve: 6,399 USD
- CC X01: 6,999 USD
- CC X01 Reserve: 8,199 USD
- CC XX1 Reserve: 9,499 USD
- CC XTR Reserve: 9,899 USD
When you first set your eyes on the new Bronson you'll notice some big changes. Bronson V2 saw the upper link moved from the seat tube to the top tube, but now we see the Bronson follow the path of the Nomad. Gone is the top tube mounted shock, in is the lower link driven design and “chunnel” through the seat tube. Dual uprights on the rear triangle are another addition to the new release, with Santa Cruz noting more evenly distributed forces through the frame and suspension.
Cable routing on the new model goes one-hundred percent internal. That’s right, the rear brake line is internal for the first time on a Santa Cruz. It was a move forced upon the engineers, with the space taken by the chunnel and dual uprights not leaving room to run the cable through. Santa Cruz’s Seb Kemp noted that they tried to keep the rear brake line external but it wasn't possible. The internal routing is guided by inner tubes, making it easy to thread the lines. Cable routing is among the best I’ve seen to date, with little need for protective strips and zero cable noise while rallying through sections of trail.
Clearance for 2.8-inch tires is available for those that like to get as much volume as possible — though the 27+ kits are specified with 2.6-inch Maxxis treads. The new Bronson has a flip-chip to keep the geometry between wheel sizes in check. It’s tucked away behind the dual uprights of the rear triangle, but it’s easy enough to adjust on the trail if needed.
Similar to the Nomad design, the Bronson V3 has a bolt-on shuttle guard under the down tube, a mudguard behind the seat tube to keep the shock clear of debris, and easily accepts a bottle inside the front triangle. Santa Cruz remains advocates of the threaded bottom bracket and continues to fit their bikes with the simple, effective design.
Santa Cruz has begun to further differentiate models with suspension design. The lower link driven design seen here is said to offer a more favourable leverage curve on longer travel bikes, despite VPP still offering a wide array of tuning options. Here the bike has been designed with a “linearly-progressive” leverage ratio thanks to the lower link driven shock. This results in a more consistent use of the stroke.
Engineers at Santa Cruz have found that the lower link driven design allows for less complexity in the shock tune, thanks to the more linear design. Using this on the Bronson V3 allows Santa Cruz to better manage the longer 55mm stroke on the 150mm travel bike. Despite changing the design, they’re also quick to note the versatility of VPP, which continues with the lower link driven design here. It’s allowed Santa Cruz to tune the Bronson to ride with more support than a V10, for example.
The gradual lengthening continues with the new Bronson, with reach growing ~13mm on each frame size. Standover clearance has increased 10mm and the seat tube angle has steepened to 75 or 75.3 degrees, for low and high positions respectively. In addition to shifting the seat tube angle forward, the length has been shortened by 25mm, making space for longer droppers.
While the flip-chip was incorporated to balance geometry between regular wheels and the volume happy 27+, it can be used to change bike geometry within a wheelsize. With a regular wheel, the head angle can be adjusted from 65.4 degrees (high setting) to 65.1 (low setting). Bottom bracket drop changes four millimetres, from 9.8 to 13.8mm, and the seat tube angle shifts a mere 0.3 degrees, from 75.3 to 75.
2019 Santa Cruz Bronson 3 Geometry
|Frame size:||XS (Low/High)||S (Low/High)||M (Low/High)||L (Low/High)||XL (Low/High)|
|Seat Tube Length:||370mm||380mm||405mm||430mm||460mm|
|Seat Tube Angle:||75º/75.3º|
|Head Tube Length:||100mm||110mm||120mm||130mm||145mm|
The new bikes growth and more aggressive shape see the wheelbase increase between 17 and 27mm*, depending on frame size. Nevertheless, the rear remains short and has shrunk from the outgoing model’s 432mm chainstays. The Bronson V3 features 429mm chainstays in the high setting and 430mm in the low setting.
*With the flip-chip in the high setting
Initial Riding Impressions
To check the new bike out, Santa Cruz took us to the Fraser Valley in B.C. to sample Vedder Mountain’s finest. It had been years since either Cam or I had ridden Vedder and recent excitement over the area and the #veddersucksdontgo claims had piqued our curiosity. We spent time on the now classic Black Forrest Ham and an assortment of other trails in the area.
As it turned out, the trails on Vedder are incredible and it’s an excellent location to test the capabilities of the new Bronson. There’s plenty of speed on offer, some steep lines and an abundance of terrain features to keep you focused squarely on what’s ahead. The new Bronson took it all in its stride, granting confidence on the new terrain.
Initial bike setup was straight-forward and Santa Cruz’s Product Manager, Josh Kissner, had us set the bike to about 30% sag in the rear. After some dial twisting, we were off for our first lap. The steep terrain and high-speed compressions throughout saw me looking for more support from the new 2019 Fox 36 GRIP2. More air was added and the dials adjusted accordingly. From here the bike’s shape was great and regardless of the trail, I barely touched another dial throughout the day.
However, I wanted to see how it felt with the flip-chip in the low position. After a couple of runs in high, Josh walked me through the process of flipping the adjuster to low. It's a little awkward to access because of the position behind the dual uprights but easy enough to do on the trail if needed. In the low position, the bike felt more settled, and I felt that I was more "in" the bike rather than on it, a sensation that I far prefer.
The bike sat into its travel comfortably, but there’s plenty of mid-stroke support to catch you, making it easy to push off. Travel through to the bottom of the stroke is consistent and efficiently used. It never bottomed out hard despite some big hits and silly riding, nor was there any harsh feedback toward the bottom of the stroke. Supportive and energetic, it’s a treat to throw around. It’s easy to pick up and fly over sections of trail on short notice, and it’s very comfortable doing so.
Part of that comfort is the result of the support provided by the bike. It was remarkable how well we got away from some poor choices and big holes, our corresponding cackles echoing through the woods testament to that. Coming up short on a number of features produced the same bewildered laughter. The bike took it all in stride, remaining very calm. Rider weight shifts are well controlled by the composed nature of the suspension and the stability was there at speed as well.
First impressions are good and I predict that the capability matched with the fun ride will see a number of riders interested in the Nomad changing their tune. The Bronson continues to blur the lines of what people think a 150mm travel bike is capable of, and it does it while retaining ride qualities commonly attributed to shorter travel bikes.
The 2019 Bronson V3 is available now. Check out the Santa Cruz Bicycles website for more details.