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First Impressions

2019 Santa Cruz Bronson V3 Ridden in B.C.

Words AJ Barlas
Photos Dave Smith
Date Jul 3, 2018

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.  

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The Bronson CC X01 w/ Reserve 30 Wheels in "Industry Blue".

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The Bronson CC X01 w/ Reserve 30 Wheels in "Primer Grey".

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

Frame Design

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.

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Being in the Fraser Valley, it would have been rude not to visit Field House Brewing.

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Antlers on tap…

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Self explanatory.

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.  


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The lower link driven design allows Santa Cruz engineers to move to a "linearly progressive" suspension curve, rather than the falling to progressive rate of the regular VPP design. 

Suspension 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.  

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Geometry

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)
Reach: 385mm/389mm 415mm/419mm 429mm/436mm 455mm/459mm 485mm/489mm
Top Tube: 541mm 574mm 598mm 621mm 656mm
Stack: 586mm/584mm 595mm/593mm 605mm/602mm 614mm/611mm 627mm/625mm
Seat Tube Length: 370mm 380mm 405mm 430mm 460mm
Chainstay Length: 430mm/429mm
Head Angle: 65.1º/65.4º
Seat Tube Angle: 75º/75.3º
BB Drop: -13.8mm/-9.8mm
BB Height: 340mm/344mm
Wheelbase: 1,134mm 1,167mm 1,191mm 1,215mm 1,252mm
Head Tube Length: 100mm 110mm 120mm 130mm 145mm
Standover Height: 692mm/694mm 700mm/704mm 717mm/721mm 715mm/721mm 715mm/721mm


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

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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. 

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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. 
 

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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. 


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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.

Comments

momjijimike
0
momjijimike  - July 3, 2018, 1:32 a.m.

Thanks for the review!

I'm riding a 2017 Bronson -> upgrade to Nomad or Bronson V3?

I do a lot of uphills with up to 2000hm - what would be your choice? 

Or should I wait until Hightower has also the new link-design?

Thanks for your input!

Mike

Reply

bikecruz
0
bikecruz  - July 3, 2018, 7:56 a.m.

I have a friend that sold his Nomad V4 and got a HighTower because he thought the Nomad V4 was a bit slow, at least compared to the Nomad V3 that he had previously owned.  

Mike

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+3 AGD Endur-Bro Merwinn
Cam McRae  - July 3, 2018, 7:56 a.m.

I'd say play to your weaknesses (to borrow from Levy). If you are a strong climber but could use some help on the downs go Nomad. If your DH skills are solid but you struggle on the way up get a Bronson. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a 29er version of this bike because the HTLT is only a year old. I'm sure something is being worked on but when it will arrive is anybody's guess. Also, having spent a few rides on the Plus version now, the large volume 2.6 tires roll extremely well, very close to 29" wheels, and I have been very impressed with the Bronson set up like that. For my riding, considering how capable the Bronson V3 is on the way down, it would be my choice.

Reply

Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - July 3, 2018, 10:12 a.m.

"play to your weaknesses"

Golden advice.

Reply

tehllama42
0
Tehllama42  - July 3, 2018, 11:39 a.m.

Wow, I can see an article rehash of the 2 + 2 = 4 concept on the whole 'play to strengths // play to weaknesses' angle of that, and set those as the endpoints.

I'm really curious how useful a desert specced one of these (DHR2 front, Minion SS rear) would be for my uses, since I can actually get those in DH casings.

Reply

Dongoose
0
Dongoose  - July 3, 2018, 1:44 p.m.

But Levy has no weaknesses.

Reply

AGD
0
AGD  - July 5, 2018, 3:34 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

momjijimike
0
momjijimike  - July 17, 2018, 6:07 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

momjijimike
0
momjijimike  - July 17, 2018, 6:07 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

momjijimike
0
momjijimike  - July 17, 2018, 6:07 a.m.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Reply

esteban
+3 sospeedy Niels Tehllama42
Esteban  - July 3, 2018, 12:53 p.m.

Why'd you want to upgrade, owning already a dream of a bike, is beyond me.

Reply

grimwood
0
grimwood  - July 3, 2018, 7:53 p.m.

I only ran the Nomad in the stock configuration for a few rides, but it pedaled awesome. Way, way better than I thought it would, or should. So if you're just pedaling to the top of the trail, strapping on your pads and bombing the descent, then I would vote for the Nomad. If you have a decent amount of flat trails, then I think you would have more fun on the Bronson.

I had the last version of the Nomad with a Push and this version with a coil DHX2. The N4 is decided more DH, but in a good way. No weirdness to the leverage curve.

Nomad or Bronson, I don't think you can go wrong either way.

Reply

jpetter
-1 grambo Mungbeanz Skyler
jpetter  - July 3, 2018, 10:58 p.m.

Mike - do yourself a major favor and get a new YT Capra - you will get an equally fun and capable bike compared to the Nomad and save yourself $4000 (for an equally spec'ed bike). I sold my 2017 Nomad and got the top of the line Capra 29er for $7,400 all in, taxes and delivery. The equivalent new Nomad or Bronson is $11,000 plus taxes. The Capra is awesome. I'm a climber on the North Shore and in Squamish, meaning I ride up No Quarter, or Good Sir Martin or Legacy Trail to earn my downhill fun, and I think my Capra is far superior to my old Nomad in every way. And the 29 inch wheels means so many fewer peddle strikes vs the Nomad.

Reply

grambo
0
grambo  - July 5, 2018, 3:44 p.m.

LOL the downvotes for mentioning YT. Gotta pay 56% extra to support the local supply chain bra.

Reply

jpetter
0
jpetter  - July 6, 2018, 1:43 p.m.

I would save the $4k by buying a Capra, then go to my local bike shop and buy my wife/girlfriend/brother/sister/kids a new bike(s) - everyone is happy! Except Santa Cruz of course. lol!

Reply

DemonMike
+7 Metacomet Cam McRae Ceecee AJ Barlas Endur-Bro Merwinn Niels
mike  - July 3, 2018, 9:09 a.m.

Props to SC for continuing to offer aluminum frame sets!!!

Reply

Endur-Bro
0
Endur-Bro  - July 3, 2018, 10:38 a.m.

"Looks like a Nomad 4"

Reply

esteban
0
Esteban  - July 3, 2018, 12:54 p.m.

"Santa Cruz’s Seb Kemp noted that they tried to keep the rear brake line external but it wasn't possible" any reason for wanting to keep it outside?

Reply

aj@nsmb.com
+2 sospeedy Endur-Bro
AJ Barlas  - July 3, 2018, 1:18 p.m.

It really comes down to accessibility. Having the ability to easily remove the brake line without bleeding etc. is a bonus to a number of home mechanics.

Reply

esteban
0
Esteban  - July 4, 2018, 12:39 p.m.

I see, thanks!

Reply

Kenny
0
Kenny  - July 3, 2018, 2:10 p.m.

How are the pedal strikes, especially in low mode? I have 2017 bronson, and while the bike is amazing, the only think I find a little tiresome is I find I really have to micromanage the crank position especially on technical  climbs. If I do a couple rides on my hardtail then get back on the bronson, it's like I have to re-learn how to ride a bike. I hit the pedals on freakin' everything.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - July 3, 2018, 10:59 p.m.

No pedal strike issues for me. Clearance seems fine but, TBH I'm not sure what setting it's in. LOL

Reply

DaveSmith
0
Dave Smith  - July 3, 2018, 4:33 p.m.

Have to say I'm intrigued as well. I spent those two days lugging a camera pack on an HTLT (which I have never gotten along with )and the RM PowerPlay( which I really liked - uphill ). My only trepidation about getting back on a Bronson would be having owned a previous generation 1, and not enjoying it all on anything steeper than my driveway. By contrast, Cam had to tear the Nomad test bike we had last summer away from me when it was time for it to go back. This new Bronson's iteration has me intrigued - the parking lot fit was great in an XL(I'm 6'2") and everyone seemed to be loving their time on them but then it's hard not to enjoy never ending shuttles on Black Forest Ham.

Reply

Endur-Bro
+2 Skyler Ceecee
Endur-Bro  - July 3, 2018, 5:40 p.m.

We really need to get away from "Spec every Mtn bike not a DH bike with 175mm cranks." 

FYI I smack a few pedals/cranks on my G16 29 with ~20mm BB drop.  I may need to focus on the shock more.

Reply

Kenny
+1 Ceecee
Kenny  - July 3, 2018, 5:58 p.m.

I changed the 175mm cranks that came on my Bronson to 165mm, and also increased the fork to 160mm. It definitely helps. I think part of it is that 8 out of my 10 rides are up Seymour. I sometimes wonder if we folks on the north shore are a bit of a minority with respect to the type of terrain we climb on a regular basis, and the low BB height is not such an issue for others. 

I also have a dpx2 rear shock which firms up a little better than the monarch that came on it, but it was a take off from an HTLT. Perhaps the tune could be better...

Reply

grimwood
+1 Ceecee
grimwood  - July 3, 2018, 7:47 p.m.

I had a bit of a laugh at these last 2 comments. I just took my 170 mm cranks off my Nomad in favour of 175's. I also ride a lot on Seymour. It's interesting what works well for different people. However, I'm regretting getting rid of the 170's now... Nomad + coil + big flat pedals = lots of pedal strikes.

Reply

AGD
0
AGD  - July 3, 2018, 11:44 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

CoilAir
0
CoilAir  - July 4, 2018, 9:47 a.m.

“linearly-progressive”

lol

Reply

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