Interview: Santa Cruz Product Mgr. Josh Kissner on Bronson/5010 Mk 3
Rather than doing the usual group grope that most press camps become, we've been doing mini adventures with the Santa Cruz crew when new bikes are released. For the Bronson/Roubion and 5010/Furtado we headed for the splendid soil of the Fraser Valley, just east of Vancouver. Our first day of riding was chockablock with shuttles on Vedder Mtn.; site of the first ever Canadian MTB championships, which I believe was 1982 or 1983. It was the perfect spot to evaluate the DH capabilities of the new Bronson and we were lucky enough to have both Josh Kissner and Seb Kemp along to demonstrate various mountain biking techniques. After spending some time on the Bronson on my own, I interviewed Josh, Santa Cruz's Product Manager, about the development of both bikes.
Cam McRae - First of all, WTH is linearly progressive? It's progressivity is linear? That sounds like military intelligence to me. The Nomad is apparently linear? Why the difference between the two?
Josh Kissner - I do believe Seb came up with that term, but the idea is to decrease confusion about what linear means. When we say linear, we mean the curve is approximately a straight line. But some people interpret that as a flat line, instead of just a straight line. Which is fair, given how the term has been used in the past. We're trying to make it clear that it is indeed a progressive curve, but is more or less a straight line. It's similar to the Nomad, but not quite as progressive.
With the Nomad and Bronson sharing the same execution of VPP and are only separated by 20mm of rear travel. How does one determine if you are a Bronson guy or a Nomad guy? Or a Furtado or Roubion woman? Is there a blood test?
Yes- they are pretty similar. When ridden back-back the difference is pretty noticeable though. The Bronson is more agile, more poppy and less plow. I'd say it's better all-arounder for most areas, and can be a one-bike quiver for much of the world. The Nomad really comes alive when it's steep/fast/gnarly, while the Bronson shows its sparkle on a broader range of terrain. Since we don't have to worry about making road bikes or townie bikes or anything like that, we can just concentrate on mountain bikes and make as many of them as we want.
What is the difference in weight between the Bronson and Nomad frames?
Bronson frame is .25 lbs less than the Nomad.
What is it about the low shock mount orientation that makes it appropriate for the Bronson and Nomad but not for the 5010?
Basically, the curve we get from the lower link suspension is most helpful in longer-travel models. The main selling point is the mid-stroke support, which is critical on bigger bikes (which are inherently squishier, right?). By making the rear end supportive, it keeps weight on the front end, and keeps cornering and handling more stable. Shorter travel bikes (like the 5010 or Tallboy) are already supportive/firmer so the goal is different: keep the first half softer and ramp up later in the travel than the Bronson does. 5010 curve is flat for the first 30% then starts progressively ramping up as it goes through the travel. This lets you use more of the (shorter) travel more often, but then it gets firmer later on to avoid bottom-out events.
Riding the Bronson on my home trails, I'm very impressed with how it pedals. (better than the HTLT imho). How were you able to achieve such contrary goals as drop to flat performance (clearly the most important goal) and pedalling performance in both the rough and the smooth?
Pedaling performance and DH feel aren't mutually exclusive traits. VPP allows us to tune the Instant Center/Anti-Squat independently from the leverage curve, so we can get good performance in both regards.
Earlier SC bikes that would swap between wheel sizes would go from 29 to 27 plus but the Bronson goes from 27 to 27+. Why that approach? Weren't there compromises making the frame capable of taking a 27 x 2.8" tire?
The reason we changed strategies is because the fork makers increased clearance and made their 27.5" forks compatible with 2.8" tires. Before then, to get the clearance we needed, we had to use a 29er fork. Both approaches work, but the tire sizes are closer going from 27.5 to 27+. Since they're closer, there are fewer changes necessary to accomplish the swap. No fork travel changes are necessary, and depending on your preference, you can change between the two simply with a tire swap. The 35mm rims we spec on the "plus" version will work with everything from 2.8 to 2.4WT, so there's a lot of versatility just from a tire swap and flip-chip.
Has anyone played with fitting 29" wheels on either or both bikes? Does it make a mess of everything? Maybe we don't need to build wheel size-specific bikes anymore!
That definitely won't fit in the frame, and certainly won't fit in the fork. You'd have to change way too much stuff to accommodate both. (It's true. I tried 29 x 2.35s, but maybe something skinnier...)
Four locations and one ride. Tell me which bike you would choose for each. And yes - you have to choose.
North Shore? Bronson
Santa Cruz? 5010
Squamish? mmmmmmmmmm. Tough one. Bronson.
Ride: Lord of the Squirrels? 5010
What elements of the current Bronson and 5010 were you most interested in improving and/or changing?
We spend the most time by far working on suspension feel on any new project. Usually we have a good idea of what we want to change for geo, and that's fairly straightforward. The suspension is what takes time because it's always a compromise (what's good on one type of terrain isn't necessarily the best on another terrain). So we need to try different link locations, tune shocks with it, try more, etc. Definitely the number one goal of the whole shebang was to make the Bronson feel more like the new Nomad.
Have the bikes been available to your Enduro racers yet? Have any chosen it over what they were riding before?
Not yet- the bikes have been quite rare up until now. They tend to not like changing bikes in the middle of the season though, so I'm not sure what will happen there.
Personally, what pleases you most about each bike?
My favorite thing about the Bronson is how it reacts to the largest impacts. If you have some confidence and lob it into some roots or a holes- it loves it. The harder you push it, the better it feels.
The 5010 is super playful, tight and nimble. We tuned the shock on the more aggressive side (compression damping and volume spacer) so it can handle some hard riding if you're up for it...
How long until there is a 29er version?
mmm, that sounds fun!
Have you spent time on the aluminum versions? How would you describe the ride compared to carbon?
Yeah for sure. Not as much time, as they're a little behind the carbon versions (that we used for final development and shock tuning), but a decent amount. They really don't ride too much differently- mostly just a bit heavier.
Speaking of materials, can you tell the difference between a Carbon C and a Carbon CC if you don't know what you're on? If so, what do you notice? If not, why pay more?
We've done some back-back testing with the two different materials, and I'd say I can juuuuuust feel the difference, but it's minor. CC bikes are just a little snappier. Why pay more? Well - like many things on a bike, more money gets you less weight. It's also not a matter of choosing which frame you want - they come bundled with the parts kits. So when you lay down the big bucks for a CC bike, you're getting fancier everything. We try to keep the parts kits and frames of similar performance level, and make sure everything is improving as you spend more money.
Once upon a time we only had CC frames, and put everything from XTR to NX on them. That's not a great value at the lower end- you're blowing too much cash on the most ridiculously nice frame, and then putting 3rd tier parts on there. Kind of like buying a $3000 bike and putting King hubs and headset on there- not really the best use of money. If you keep it even and everything improves as you go up the range, you're getting the best bang for your buck with no weak points.
Do you prefer the Bronson with a coil or air shock?
Air! The curve isn't quite progressive enough for a coil. Doable, but coils are really sensitive to leverage curve since they're not adjustable.
The geo chart lists seat angle at 75.3/75.0 for Bronson and 74.9/75.2 for5010. Actual or effective? If it's effective, How does Santa Cruz measure effective seat angle?
Those are effective, and are measured using the most common method (measured from the height of the stack).
I was out on the XL Bronson yesterday and it surprised me both uphill and down. It climbs as well as any Santa Cruz I've ridden. Yep - even compared to the Tallboy in my estimation. The position and kinematics conspire to push you forward with incredible efficiency. And on the way down? With the Plus option, with 37mm Reserve Wheels and 2.6" Minions front and back, the bike ravages trails and had me dreaming of power washing Sam Hill's nostrils with champagne.
I'll be back with a full review in my own sweet time. Maybe before Crankworx, or maybe after so I can get some park time on the bike. Stay tuned. For more on these bikes hit up santacruzbicycles.com