Bronson C R review
After maxing out my savings I ended up settling on the Bronson in the R AM build. I had mixed feelings on it at first, so I waited till I spent a good amount of time on it and got a solid feel for the bike. I have been riding it for some time now and for the most part I am very pleasantly surprised.
Totally stock it weighs in at a hefty 31.48 lbs with pedals. I changed the saddle out for my trusty SDG Belair with ti rails. Without a doubt I will be upgrading literally everything on the bike. At least now I have something to ride while saving up for parts.
The bike is essentially a do it all one quiver wonder bike. The only thing that holds it back is the build spec.
I am sold, though the improvements are not an immediate night and day difference. They kind of creep up on you until you realize that you are actually rolling faster and smoother in all situations. Just a bit faster but an improvement that cannot be denied. I don’t see myself on a 26” wheel bike again.
I was very pleasantly surprised with the pedaling performance. With all the DW vs. VPP talk out there I expected to see a huge difference. To be fair I only have one good test ride on the HD and Ripley to compare with. The Bronson with VPP2 pedals better than the HD in my opinion, but the small-bump compliance is not as good. I was expecting to see some pedal feedback while climbing, I am still looking for it…
In the trail mode the bike pedals noticeably more efficiently.
When I tested the HD and the Ripley I rode them on one of my favorite trails. There is a nice tight flowy Strava segment where you cant help but go hard. Here are the times I logged…
5:07 av 9.9mph - HD
4:48 av 10.6mph - Ripley (I rode this after the HD)
4:36 av 11mph – Bronson
Granted the Bronson is my bike and I probably have a subconscious vested interest in it being the right choice and the best of the three. Nonetheless those are the results and I feel they adequately reflect the performance differences between 26-27.5-29ers in tight flowy conditions. Overall I am getting PRs over all my segments, both climbing and descending, even got a few KOMs that were out of my reach before. There is without a doubt a quantifiable improvement over my old 26er.
The bike can climb really well. Though the stock cement-filled wheels and tires do a fine job of hiding this. The first couple of rides I found myself cursing out loud. These things just did not want to move up hill. I am coming off a bike with super heavy Transition Revoltion 32mm wheels with Nevegals and tubes, these feel noticeably heavier. The wheels and tires are pigs. My wheels with tires, tubes, cassette and rotors weighed in at about 11.5-12 pounds.
I had been off the mtb for a while and got used to feather light road wheels. After I got used to the heavier mtb wheels again I found myself climbing at my normal level again. But it’s a conscious effort to get up the hill at any descent pace.
Without a doubt a lighter wheel set and/or tires will be a vast improvement. Also the rear SLX hub is junk, spins about as smooth as a loose bearing Heliomatic hub with 15 years worth of old crusty remnants of grease. I ended up overhauling the hub, sure enough it is a loose bearing and cone system. Is this a bad joke Sh!tmano? Have you heard of sealed bearings? The bearings were lightly coated with a clear light grease. I packed it up with some Phil wood grease. No bloody difference, theses hubs are absolute junk and don’t belong anywhere near a $4+K bike.
Update: I swapped the tires for some Shwalbe Nobby Nics 2.35 Snake skin Pacestars. They are a whole lot lighter, tires weighed in at about 710-730g and fall short of the claimed 2.35” width, more like 2.25”. Performance does suffer some compared with the High Rollers which weighed in at about 970-1000g. They are great in dry XC- Trail –Light AM conditions. Push them too hard or lean them too far and they will start to give. Rode them in the wet today and all I can say is they are straight up unpredictable and dangerous in wet conditions if you ride them aggressively. Slipped on some hard packed wet dirt, as long as you don’t lean them too far you should be ok. The nobs at the edges caught my slip, its the gaps between the nobs that end up being the weak point, so there is a dangerous lack of grip at a certain angle. Also it looks like I am about to loose a nob on the edge already after only 3-4 rides! Snakeskin - so far so good, took them through some hairy sharp rocks and only one light surface scratch. Will probably end up using a Hans Damf up front, then again maybe not if the nobs keep falling off at this rate.
31.48lbs - Weight of the bike stock, High Roller 2 w/ tubes
30.33 – Nobby Nics w/ tubes
29.98 – Nobby Nics tubeless
29.9 – Nobby Nics tubless, swap for X9 RD and Shifters.
So you can easily loose 1.5lbs just in tires and tubes! That is an improvement you will feel. The bike climbs and pedals a whole lot better now.
This is where the bike really shines. The first time I got this bike in the air I was amazed at how balanced it felt. It loves to pop of the lip of jumps. My confidence shot up a few points after the first ride. There is a set of roots I always try to bunny hop over, I used to constantly clip the 3rd one with my rear wheel, now I clear all 4 with ease. The 650b wheels feel just fine in the air, I can whip this bike as easy as my 26er.
The Elixir 5 brakes work great, powerful solid performance. At first I had some squealing/singing issues. The rotors were rubbing on the pads and produced an annoying ethereal singing sound, which also seemed to coincide with humid conditions. I sanded down the pads a bit and used some White Lightening degreaser to clean the rotors and it all went away. The brakes squeal lightly a bit every now and then under heavy braking, I just clean the rotors with White Lightning once a week and its all good. Also if you need to really purge the rotors of contamination you can take the rotors off spray them with White lighting and light on fire for a few seconds. Used this trick years ago I suspect it still works.
After the crappy wheels this is the weakest part of the build kit. The performance is severely hindered by the dismal performance of the Fox Float CTD fork. The shock is ok, but again with much room for improvement in future upgrades. The forks stiction is absolutely unacceptable for a bike in this price level. Like others have mentioned the Climb is a lock out, Trail – what the climb should be, Descend – not plush enough on small bumps, in fact there is no small bump compliance. I too suspect the fork is low on oil. I flip the bike upside down before I ride to saturate the foam rings with oil. To be fair the fork has gotten a bit better over the few weeks I have been riding it, but still is far from satisfactory. The fork has a tendency to brake dive and I could not get full travel out of it at first, now I am getting more but still the sag ring does not go all the way to the fork crown. The fork is decent off of drops but that’s about it.
Looks like FOX put out an upgrade for the 2013 CTD forks. So I will probably get that to see if that helps. Otherwise I will be going back to the trusty and seemingly far superior new Pike. I have had 2 before with nothing short of awesome performance.
My shock works fine and I am now able to get full travel out of it. The only thing is there is a good amount of oil on the stanchion, not too much where I am worried about it but a healthy coating.
Shimmano SLX vs SRAM X9:
Perhaps I am biased as I have been on Sram X9 for 6 years now, and have never liked Sh!tmano much on the dirt or the road. For me it has to be Campy for the pavement and Sram for the dirt!
However the SLX stuff is not half bad at all. It is heavier than the X9. I will even concede that the Shadow plus system helps chain slap a bit more than the Sram double clutch system, at least that what it feels like on the bike. The SLX falls short when shifting under heavy torque on a climb, the X9 shifts with no problem regardless of the amount of torque you are producing. As always X9 is sharp and accurate with zero shifting issues. The shifting action into a lighter gear does feel a lot lighter than the 9-speed X9. X9 feels better than all the XT equipped bikes I test rode too. The rear wheel is a whole lot easier to take out with the X9 type 2 RD lock mechanism. I love this new SRAM stuff and I am surprised by all the complaints online regarding this stuff. Hopefully I don’t run into these issues down the line.
One serious complaint I have about SRAM is its complete lack of end-user customer service, you have to deal with an LBS (or Local Bull Sh!t artists as I like to think of them). This is total BS in my humble opinion. In my experience the vast majority of bikes shops nowadays are no more trustworthy or competent than a used car dealer, but that’s a topic for a different thread all together.
Seriously SRAM your lack of end-user customer service is inexcusable! I do all my own wrenching and expect to be able to pick up the phone and deal directly with the company whose product I PAID for.
Overall the bike is excellent, kudos to Santa Cruz for building such an awesome frame and getting it on the market in a reasonable time frame. The frame is SOLID and very well built! The frame finish is great. I don’t want to call it scratch resistant but it really does seem that way. Scuff seem to simply rub off, though same cannot be said about chips from rocks. The sound of rocks hitting the carbon frame is very unsettling, but so far so good.
The build kit is mediocre at best and grossly overpriced. A quick look at the bike industry today and its clear that profit at all costs rules the day even more so than before. Milking customers for every last penny they have is now a standard modus operandi.
The wheels are a bad joke, same for the fork. They will be the next upgrade. Also I don’t think I am alone in thinking that a 3x10 is way out of place on this bike. Why is full 2x10 SLX kit not standard on this bike? I have used the large ring only a few times when going for a smooth downhill KOM, otherwise it is just superfluous.
That’s it for now, cant wait do get a decent set of wheels on this and drop another pound or two.
Excellent and well thought out report!
Agreed on the wheels, you upgrade those and the cassette and you'll be loving life on that bike.
Hardrock 29er, Niner EMD9, Cannondale F29, Camber Expert, 650b Nickel all gone.
2014 Giant Anthem 27.5 here.
Sounds like you should have just saved up for a better spec.
It’s “do it” or “screw it” in my mind.
+1 - the OP didn't like the wheels/tires, shock, fork or Shimano kit. About all that's left is the frame,
Originally Posted by blaklabl
Wow - really honest and great review. You need to be on the mtbr or mba staff. Kudos for calling out fox!
It sounds like the bike wasn't properly tuned up from the original build. Or, you don't know how to adjust suspension to your weight/riding style.
Originally Posted by AMjunky
You didn't like anything but the frame, it seems. Quite eloquently. However, the time you took in writing this post could have been put into setting up your bike better.
Yeah dude, great write up, but Damn!! All of the new 650B rides are wicked expensive, and everyone knows that build kit makes the bike! So break out that wallet and let's get serious. Lose that triple ring set up and go 1x10 (or 1x11 if you can afford it!), get some sick bird wheels like the new DT Swiss or the likes and get your ride down to the 27 lbs. range. C'mon now!
Originally Posted by FNFAL
What model FOX kit is that exactly?
Thorough review! Thanks for taking the time to write it all up. Regarding the suspension notes, that does appear to be FOX's lower end stuff, no?
They have three lines I think, Factory, Performance and Evolution, and OEM stuff is often hard to pin down within the scheme of things. That doesn't appear to be the Factory Kashima level stuff, not that it would matter, but I noticed when looking at the pics.
i dont think you know how to work on shimano hubs very well. if you do them up right they should as smooth as anything.
He's got a point about the spec being bad for that pricepoint. For that price the wheels are boat anchors. The tires are heavy but that's personal preference. Here where we ride burlier terrain burlier tires are appreciated so that's a tough call for SC to make. But the OP's call about the sheer unadulterated craptitude of the Fox 2013 CTD is also bang on
Originally Posted by blaklabl
Or per my previous comment (which is echoed by many others) that the Fox 2013 CTD is dog shit
Originally Posted by FNFAL
No - that's Fox's high end OE non-Kashima.
Originally Posted by benja55
What? So you're suggesting he should have gone with a cheaper frame and better parts, as opposed to the carbon Bronson and lower level build? A swap of tires and updated damper and most of the issues are solved. SLX is solid, and more than adequate for 98% of riders.
Originally Posted by AgentPhatrick
I too recently bought a Bronson C, but was able to eek out one level up with my savings account.
Mine is the SPX AM build (Full XT) and weighs in at 30.9 lbs (Large frame) with Time ATAC XS pedals, but that also includes the Reverb Stealth dropper.
The Maxxis monster truck tires will be the first to go, Nobby Nics and a bottle of Stan's are already on the way. Beyond that I'm not sure where else to try and shave a few pounds, but I would sure like to get it down in the 26-27 lb range.
Not many parts on mine are the same as the OP's R AM build, the WTB Volt saddle is already lighter than the OP's SDG Bel Air Ti, the wheels are WTB Frequency Team i23 with DT Swiss 350 hubs, not sure how much better those are than the WTB SL i23 w/SLX hubs... My front wheel/hub/spokes weighs 881g, so I imagine the pair is around 1850g w/o cassette.
I am an intermediate rider that spends about 75% on XC and 25% on AM, but I figure this bike will be able to handle most any improvements to my skill or changes of riding style for quite some time. For now, I'd like to lighten it up a bit, perhaps later when I am a stronger and more daring rider, I may need to beef it back up, we'll see.
I spend very little time on the big ring, and I do quite a bit of climbing, but I don't know if the cost/weight value of converting to 1x10 would be worth it, or if I'd miss the extra gears if they were gone...
Here's the full component list, any recommendations to save weight and/or improve quality or performance without spending a fortune?
Fork: Fox 34 Float CTD Trail Adjust Kashima
Rear Shock: Fox Float CTD Trail Adjust w/Boost Kashima
Headset: Cane Creek 40 Mixed Tapered
Shifters: Shimano XT M780
Front Derailleur: Shimano XT M781
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT M786 Shadow+
Crankset: 26/38 Shimano XT M785 175mm
Bottom Bracket: Shimano XT
Cassette: 11-36 Shimano XT M771 10-speed
Brake Set: Shimano XT M785 Icetech 180F/160R
Handlebar: Easton Haven 711mm
Grips: Lizard Skin Peaty lock on
Stem: Truvativ AKA
Saddle: WTB Volt Team
Seat post: RockShox Reverb Stealth
Hubs: DT Swiss 350
Rims: WTB Frequency Team i23 TCS
Spokes: DT Swiss 14/15 alloy nipple
Tires: Maxxis High Roller II EXO 27.5 x 2.4 w/tubes (Already swapping for tubeless No Nics)
^tires/ tubes is really the only cost effective way to save weight on that build.
Nice review! I just bought the same bike, but mine's on order until Oct. I opted for the non-kashima coating front fork, hope that wasn't a mistake.
I've been saving up for a long time for this thing, so I've got about a grand reserved for upgrades. My buddy wants to convert his 26" to a 650b, so all my upgraded parts will just be passed on to him. I have a pro-builder putting it together, I got 2 kids and a more than full time job, so I'd like to get it all tweaked out right off the bat.
What's going to be the best bang for my buck? I demo'd a bike with a dropper post, so a KS Lev is a must have. Beyond that, I'm thinking new tires and wheels to drop the weight. Any specific recommendations on what to go for? I'm thinking these wheels but not sure on the exact options to pick. I'm also not sure on what tires to go with.
I live in San Jose and mainly ride fire roads with a bit of all mountain, but now that I'm getting rid of my 20 year old Trek POS, I'm gonna start hitting the Santa Cruz mountains/trails a bit harder. Basically what the Bronson was made for, but I'd like to lighten it up a bit.
Nice bike! My SDG weighed as much as my stock Volt, I like the Volt but not as much as the SDG for my sit bones. I am going to put the Volt on one of my road bikes, with cycle shorts it should be just fine.
Originally Posted by Rated M
If you climb a lot, not sure 1x10 is going to be what you want, unless you are super fit with near pro level of performance.
Yeah the Bronson will be a huge improvement over your 20 year old Trek, and yes Santa Cruz does make good bikes! It will be like going from a Fiero to a Ferrari!
Originally Posted by brimorga
I say ride it stock for a week or two see what you like and don’t like. You just might like the SLX stuff, the trigger/thumb shifter in one is pretty nifty. The stock tires are heavy but good, but upgrading those will be the fastest way to drop up to 1.5 lbs. Since your getting your in October it will almost definitely have the 2014 fork which should have most issues ironed out. Wheels next, I haven’t done much research but there are a few threads on light 650b wheels with some good info. If your ok with Chinese stuff Light Bicycle wheels seem best bang for your buck and are feather light.
With a grand to play with I would go - nice wheels and good somewhat light tire like the Hans Damf. Also X9 shifters and RD can be had for about $160, that’s a great performance upgrade.
There is something to be said about riding stock before upgrading, you appreciate the upgrade that much more.
I don’t find much use for a dropper post here on the East Coast. However when I lived in Cali I guess I could have used one. I wish I never moved east!!! Though I am not sure I would want to pay the 1lb penalty for having one.
Thanks for the replies y'all.
Yeah I believe the fork is the most basic Fox Float 34 Evolution series. I really hope the new damper changes things.
Saving for a better spec was a non-option really. I test rode the SPX and it was damn good the Kashima stuff is much smoother. This is the performance I expect at the R price point. Moreover with the orange decals the Kashima fork and shock look awesome on this bike. Alas it was just too far out of my price range. Saving more was not going to happen, I saved for months and sold half of my vintage road bike collection to get this. I was without a mtb for just too long and the time came when I just needed to get a bike. Also I was interested in a Sram/Rock Shox build to begin and with frames not available till Aug-September this was the only option. I bought this bike with the full intention of upgrading everything, I just wanted to be able to ride during the summer.
I am not too crazy about what Ibis did with the HDR, but they did do one thing right… Kashima for all build levels! After all whats the point of dropping more than $3-4K on a full suspension bike with sub par suspension?
I actually had a few other options available to me, SPX Turner Burner, SPX Tall boy LT C, Mojo HDR- or HD Special blend and do the 650b switch myself and wait for availability.
I have been wrenching on my own bikes for many years now. I am pretty sure I know how to set up my suspension and work with Shimano stuff. I have my set of Dura-Ace 7700 hubs spining smooth as glass, and my only Shimano equipped bike runs great. However I did not take the freehub off yet, I might end up doing that.
SLX really is good stuff, except for the rear hub. I just love my SRAM mtb stuff, I need those large thumb shifters and uber accurate shifting performance. The way a bike is set up also plays a big role. One of the XT equipped bikes I test rode was head and heals above the rest of the XT bikes. A competent bike mechanic is worth their weight in gold.
For wheels I am probably going to lace up my own, or at least get a custom set built. Thinking either Chris King or White Industries for hubs, my WI road hubs are simply amazing. Maybe a Light Bicycle carbon rim, but a US made hub laced to a Chinese budget rim mmmm not sure.
Ok enough typing …. need to go ride!
Personally I think 26-27 is a pipe dream with this bike. I bought the same build as you and have since changed out wheels and tires(enve am with i9 hubs, and ardent tires tubeless), enve carbon bars, lighter seat with carbon rails, and a kore stem. Mine weighs 28.7 right now on my scale. I'm going to add complete 1x11 very soon. Just can't see even getting into high 27 lb range. I guess maybe with some 1.9 tires but Im not switching from the ardents. Love those tires in our Rocky Phoenix, AZ trails. Let us know if you get yours to 26 and how you got there. I'd love to know.
Originally Posted by Rated M
Good review! Lace a LB carbon rim to a Hadley hub and keep the stock rear wheel as a spare. And go 1x10.
Thanks for the replies!!
I thought the kashima coating was mainly a gimic and didn't really make a difference. It was only $200 more, guess I should have gone for it.
Originally Posted by AMjunky
Originally Posted by AMjunky
Not too hard to get to 27lbs. I'm at 27.4 with 2.35 Hans dampf/ 2.35 nobby nic, 1x10 w/guide, havoc stem/ carbon bar and carbon wheels.
Originally Posted by Bronsondude
Hmmm, maybe so.
Originally Posted by Bronsondude
I had seen this Bronson sold on eBay claiming 23lbs, so I was thinking under 27 might be realistic without sacrificing too much strength or performance, but it sounds like 28-29 will be the sweet spot. His was also a medium vs. my large frame, I'm not sure how much difference is in frame weight.
Santa Cruz Bronson C 650B 27 5" RARE MTB Medium | eBay
Thanks for the feedback!
Do you have a dropper? Im guessing no. If so can you list your build?
Originally Posted by bajaguy
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