Bike Intro

Two Rides: The 2022 Santa Cruz Bronson CC XO1 AXS

Words Cam McRae
Photos Deniz Merdano
Date Jun 8, 2021
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While life is starting to return to normal in small ways in many places, the bike industry won't be vaccinated for a long time. With production being hampered by shortages in parts and raw materials, shipping containers in short supply, and demand up, it will likely be a couple of years at least before we reach something that resembles a pre-COVID equilibrium. With that in mind, I shouldn't have been surprised by the unannounced delivery of a fresh Bronson late last week. It all happened so fast that by the time I heard it was coming, it had already been delivered without my knowledge. I didn't even know what size it was or what size I would have chosen because I generally fit an XL in 27.5 Santa Cruz bikes and large for 29ers. What size do I choose if a bike is both? Fortunately Santa Cruz chose the size that feels great - a 497mm reach (high setting) XL.


Nice bike, shame about the face. The New Bronson is the largest dually I've ridden and felt comfortable on, with a reach that is 497 in the high setting and 500 in low - and my usual 750mm bar-width.* I assumed the bike would be in the low setting from the factory but I checked after ride two and discovered it was in high.

*I swapped in a bar rather than cutting the fancy redesigned Santa Cruz carbon handle

I'd already scheduled a ride, on a trail that scares me, for the next morning, so there was nothing to do but saddle up the Bronson and bed in the brakes. I didn't have much time for knob twisting but it turns out I managed to get things pretty close before pedalling up to a couple of the steepest descents in the neighbourhood.

2022 Santa Cruz Bronson Highlights

  • 27.5” rear/ 29” front wheel
  • 150mm travel/ 160mm fork
  • .9° slacker/ 15mm longer reach/ 20mm higher stack than previous Bronson
  • C and CC carbon
  • Size specific chainstays
  • Refined VPP Suspension
  • Sizes XS-XL (XS sizes get dual 27.5” wheels)
  • Lifetime Warranty

This Bronson looks a lot like a Santa Cruz. More than once recently I've heard riders say they can't tell Santa Cruz models apart, but the moto set up should make this one identifiable.

Two Rides

Santa Cruz seems to make the bikes I'm most likely to feel comfortable on out of the gate, perhaps because I've ridden so many different models in the last few years, and I rode competently right away. I didn't however have either the comfort or the edge required to tip into a few of the moves that were on the menu. I felt okay but I was riding tentatively despite the perfectly dry conditions.

Toward the bottom of our second descent, I was putting more lines together and getting a feel for the kind of inputs required to make the Bronson dance. I haven't spent much time on mixed-wheel bikes but I've ridden enough that I was prepared for how well the bike corners. It's not quite as easy to tip over as the current 27.5 Nomad, but it holds a line perhaps a little better. I have to confess that I missed the nimbleness shared by the Nomad and the previous Bronson; one big wheel was enough to make the bike feel a little more planted and less eager to get off the ground. Speed comes at a cost. #RIP650b


It's not moss green, or British racing green, or Stirling Moss Green... Just green.

With time for only two rides before I needed to come to some conclusions about this bike, I knew I had to make a change before my next ride. I've been testing and riding inserts pretty much non-stop for a few years, on my personal bikes and on test bikes, and saddling up without a bumper sloshing around in the sealant isn't a fair test. I like being able to drop my pressure a little and have a smaller (effective)* air volume and excellent sidewall support, so I stuffed in a mis-matched pair of Tannus Tubeless.

*Because Tannus inserts create a secondary air chamber, the overall volume doesn't change much unlike most other inserts


A good day for inserts.


I got next-level comfortable during my second ride on the Bronson.

This turned out to be an excellent choice because the next day was soggy and cold. When we arrived at the top of the mountain Junuary had returned; it was 3º and the rain was a little slushy. There was some singletrack climbing required to get to the trailhead and the bite of the rear wheel combined with the steep seat angle and long rear end allowed me to scuttle up every rooty pitch my legs could handle.


The Bronson likes corners of every shape and size, which is perfect for many of the janky moves on the North Shore.

As we started to head down a steep and somewhat loamy line, I began to get a feel for the bike. It started to become light underneath me and I began to let it run through rough sections as I felt it get up on a plane. Despite the rain, I was happy to give most every line a try, and soon I was looking for harder options.


  • Shock: Any 230x60mm coil or air shock
  • Max tire: 2.6
  • Boost 148mm spacing
  • Post mount brakes (180mm rotor)
  • ISCG05 chainguide mounts
  • Threaded BB
  • IS Headset (44mm upper, 49mm external lower)

We got lucky with the shooting conditions. Days like this often happen at some point in June, but we only had one day to shoot.

There are several states that each allow me to reach a higher plane on a mountain bike. Sometimes I feel as though my ability to interpret and smooth out the terrain becomes so easy it seems innate. Other times the bike seems get light and almost disappear, leading to the corny but apt 'flying' description. Another state, that used to be very rare, but is becoming less so, occurs when I seem to be more in control of the bike than usual; finding braking points more easily, allowing me to point my digits and release the levers, grip feels predictable and plentiful and at first the sensations make me a little uncomfortable.


Handling the climbs without any fuss.

A big part of what attracts me to mountain biking is approaching the edge of control and good sense, and sometimes pushing a little beyond. (This is an aversion to my own personal level of comfort, to be clear) In response I push back and eye up harder lines, lift the bike off the ground as much as possible, and explore the edges of the trail, and the limits of adhesion. At its best this rowdy state gives me a heightened awareness of the capabilities of my side knobs, occasionally so much so that I can push a little past and allow the bike to drift. It's unlikely anyone riding behind me would notice much difference, or be able to tell my tires were sliding ever so slightly, but internally there are few better feelings on the bike.


Mulleting the high line.

The wet conditions, after a long stretch of mostly dry, undoubtedly helped me get a little looser and allowed me to push past the grip threshold more easily, but I can't think of many bikes I've ridden where I got anywhere close to feeling of controlled chaos I achieved on the New Bronson with only one ride under my belt. In fact it was early on in the second day's descent when I started to notice how crisply the wheels communicated information about the trail surface to my hands and feet, despite the suspension not being as dialled as it could be, and barely broken in. The planted feel encouraged me to angulate the bike more sharply and I was emboldened by the predictable break-away point. I took high lines over roots, and chose inside lines, putting more and more faith in the magic the mullet.

After returning home I decided I should check to make sure the bike was, as I assumed, in the low setting. In fact it was not and I expect the bike to rail downhill even harder now that I have flipped the chip.


Tiny grommets cover the unused holes where the rear derailleur cable normally enter the frame.

The mixed wheel set up likely gets part of the credit, particularly the feeling of getting loose in the corners, because the rear wheel takes a slightly narrower arc around the turn, encouraging you to dive in deeper and over steer. I'm not entirely convinced the moto setup is preferable for everyone, particularly taller riders who need less ass-to-tire clearance, but my experience on both this bike and the mix wheel Bullit have made me mullet-curious.

Screen Shot 2021-06-07 at 8.59.13 PM.png

You'll notice that both the chain stays and seat tube angles change between sizes


AXS out of the box.

Parts Spec.

This is probably the most baller spec'ed bike I've ridden. And for 9849 USD it should be. There are always places you could spend more money, but with this bike you're going to have to try a little harder. This is also the first bike I've tested that comes with AXS wireless shifting out of the box. The rest of the drivetrain is XO1, and it shifted very nicely indeed over two rides.


It's a good looking Gucci build without any surprises.

The rims are Santa Cruz Reserve, but rather than DT Swiss they are paired with Industry 9 1/1 hubs. Some riders will immediately want to jettison the Exo Maxxis Minions (DHF MaxxGrip 29 x 2.5 front and DHRII 3C 27.5 x 2.4 rear) but they work great for me - at least while riding inserts. The fork is a 160mm Fox 36 Float with a Grip 2 damper, while a Rockshox Super Deluxe Ultimate deals with the 150mm out back.

MY22_Roubion3_CC_XO1_AXS_RSV copy.jpg

The Juliana version of the bike - the Roubion which comes in this colour only - is priced between 5049 USD for a Carbon C frame with Raceface rims and NX Eagle drivetrain. The top model is AXS XO1 with a Carbon CC frame and Reserve wheels for 9849 USD


The colour we tested is simply called green while this option is... gold. The entry price is 5049 USD like the Juliana but the top spec. Santa Cruz version XX1 AXS Reserve Carbon CC bike tested here is 11,399 USD, while the XO1 version costs 9849 USD.

Final Words

After only a couple of rides it would be premature for me to say much more, but my brief yet passionate time on this mixed up machine was very satisfying and it made me lust for more. Sadly it looks like I'll be handing this super bike off to another tester since my dance card is completely full. It isn't finalized and it may take a Battle Royale to decide who is worthy; two testers enter, one tester leaves...

For more on the refined VPP, the new Santa Cruz handlebar, and the details of each model of Bronson - head to Santa Cruz Bikes

For all that information and more on the Roubion - head to Juliana Bikes

Cam McRae

Age - 55

Height - 6'/183cm (mostly legs)

Weight - 165lbs/74.5kg

Ape Index - 0.986

Inseam - 34"/86cm

Trail I've been stoked on lately - Fifth Horseman

Bar Width - 760mm

Preferred Reach - 485-500mm (longer with 27.5 wheels than 29)

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+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
luisgutierod  - June 8, 2021, 12:17 a.m.

very interesting option.. any mullet geo on 160mm could be used as 27.5 fron with some tweak (180 or spacer cup etc)... I would love to know if it can handle the 65mm stroke.. nice job.. bad pricing though..


Cr4w  - June 8, 2021, 7:28 a.m.

If you're 6'0 and happy on the XL with 500mm of reach I guess no one taller need apply. This seems like a versatile enough bike in the lineup that it could use an XXL?


+1 Ryan Walters
Deniz Merdano  - June 8, 2021, 7:37 a.m.

Ok, apples to oranges but have you noticed how pivot mach 6 size run only goes up to Large with a 480 reach? 

I think some bikes don't need to be big to be fun. 

If SC thinks that this is their "fun" bike, it may not require long reach. 

Long story short, get shrinking!

#iwasinthepool !


+2 Tjaard Breeuwer AJ Barlas
Cr4w  - June 8, 2021, 9:22 a.m.

There is a difference between sizing down for fun and sizing just for fit. 6' isn't that tall...


Seb_Kemp  - June 11, 2021, 9:15 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

+2 Suns_PSD Tjaard Breeuwer
Seb_Kemp  - June 11, 2021, 9:15 a.m.

I've been riding one of these Bronsons in size large for about 4-5 months and a little last summer. I've been riding size larges (in SCB bikes) for a long time now. But I'm currently toying with getting a size medium for the long-term. Maybe I'm shrinking (I know my back is tightening by the year, so I probably should be doing as much yoga as Cam does). I also think I'm finding enough natural stability between the wheels now bikes are longer so perhaps I can trade a little of it to have a bike that allows me to feel the daring edge of traction more often. It might also require less weight transfer fore and aft for someone with my body proportions (I will never dunk and I always need someone to pass me the salt), and it might result in a less stretched back on long, steep, slogging climbs. I suppose what I'm saying is terms like small, medium and large might not perhaps tell all the story. While Cam's body proportions and riding style suits the XL, if you're taller it might not necessarily rule out the XL.


Hugo Williamson  - June 18, 2021, 6:16 a.m.


How tall are you?



Dave Smith  - June 8, 2021, 8:42 a.m.

The range in pricing is aggressive at the top end.


+1 Cam McRae
LWK  - June 8, 2021, 9:10 a.m.

mullet... so its a bit more planted/faster but a bit less nimble and poppy compared to a full 27.5 bike?


Reed Holden  - June 8, 2021, 10:33 p.m.

The mullet keeps the cornering and pop but loses the nimbleness. With 2x27.5 the bike feels like you can redirect it where you want, choose a new line, place the bike where you want after a jump. The roll over on the 29 is a huge benefit though.


+3 LWK Cam McRae Andrew Major
Seb_Kemp  - June 9, 2021, 7:20 a.m.

@reed and @LWK I actually find the opposite to be true. A *bigger* travel bike like this is steered by the heels not the hands (arguably most modern mountain bikes above XC are). Control is defined by the traction a rider can make the bike generate. If a larger wheel and good geo has more mechanical grip and better rider weight distribution (weight or pressure = traction) then the rider doesn't need to be tending to the front wheel as much, leaving them to steer with the hips and heels. Real power and control is found by driving a bike from the mid-point, I find. 

Personally I find there to be a magic feeling in the relative axle heights of mixed wheel bikes – front, BB and rear axle – that makes controlling them so much more intuitive and requires less energy to initiate direction changes (than 29ers) and fend off feedback from the trail (than 27.5). Less of these two forces means the rider can channel more effort towards dictating how the trail is ridden. On the kinds of trails Cam rides I find myself having to think a lot about where the limits of grip are in a 27.5 front wheel rather than where every little root gap or high line is.


LWK  - June 9, 2021, 11:50 a.m.

thx for a detailed and nuanced response!  your points make sense to me


+1 Cam McRae
gregster77  - June 9, 2021, 12:09 p.m.

Seb answered better than I can, but just to add from someone who has a 2x29 v10, mullet Bullit, + 2x275 Bronson (all santa cruz, though I'm not sponsored, hint hint SC ;)

I really like the mullet of all the options.  I agree that steering redirecting with the 29 front feels more natural, i don't get thrown around on roots/rocks and have better traction to steer my bike.

The 27.5 rear  just results in my ass getting buzzed less (i'm 5'10), more forgiveness when i screw up on jumps and rear comes up too much.  Plush forks save me each time :D

Not a huge deal for me with the 29'er rear, i adjust my riding style fairly quickly, but given the choice, I'm currently pro mullet, albeit with limited set of bikes to compare with.

For me only downsides of mullet are that you can't move the front tire to the back to live out the end of its life.  You can stretch out a 27.5 spare tube onto a 29 if need be, I hear.  However as long as you run "proper" tires (DD) you shouldn't need tubes.


+1 Cam McRae
rolly  - June 10, 2021, 6:32 a.m.

I started running 2.6 dhr2's on the front of my 27.5 Sight (like a poor man's mullet, lol). It's not a huge increase in diameter, but it is noticeable from the 2.4.


rolly  - June 10, 2021, 6:33 a.m.

Why would some riders want to jettison the EXO Maxxis tires??


Cam McRae  - June 10, 2021, 9:54 p.m.

I'm with you rolly but some riders are much harder on tires than others and EXO casings or even EXO+ aren't enough for them. They need double downs or full DH casings to prevent flats and tears.


+1 Cam McRae
Kerry Williams  - June 10, 2021, 11:32 a.m.

I'm not a prolific purchaser of bikes, only replacing my 1 ride every 3-5 years, but I'm always keen to see if a new offering might be my next purchase.  I love my Instinct BC but mullet bikes have always seemed quite an interesting option for someone who only has 1 bike.  The Bronson could just be my next love, LOL. Time will tell.


+1 4Runner1
Reaper  - June 13, 2021, 11:33 p.m.

I'm all for mx/mullet set-ups, but why not just release a Hightower with an mx/mullet option set-up?!


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