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  1. #1
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    Bronson vs Solo test ride experience

    Hey all, this is my first post here. I've really appreciated all the threads/posts about the Bronson and Solo in helping me to determine what to look for and get between these two. I thought I'd share my experience with riding both bikes and what made me decide what to get in the end, in case you find yourself in the same position.
    _____I ride local trails in Sonoma County CA. I'm 5'10 and 175lbs. I have longer legs and a shorter torso. My usual ride is a mostly up/down 1400-1600ft climb with AM type terrain. I'm coming from an ancient 00' SC Superlight which gets absolutely punished on the local trails. I ride fairly aggressively, well, as much as my bike will allow anyway! I've always preferred a light fast bike (more XC style) vs an AM/DH bike as I like to climb fast and get it over with quickly, but also for maneuverability in tight sections and in general "flickability".
    _____Obvious concerns going into this decision with the Bronson where that it was too beefy and DH oriented for what I like. I demo'd an R spec medium (all bikes I rode were mediums) with the low end CTD's which came in at 30lbs.
    _____The good... It climbed really well for a heavy bike! I'd say I only spent maybe 10-15% more energy doing a 1400ft climb at a fast pace vs. my lighter XC bike, not enough to be concerned about at all! It definitely wasn't as maneuverable in the techy uphill sections though, but instead it could just ride over anything/everything in it's path, impressive! I found popping up the front a lot better on the trail than my small tests on the street, it was sufficiently pop able for techy sections. Due to the weight it did feel a bit sluggish in acceleration and getting going from a stop, but not terribly so. I had to make a lot of adjustments to get it to my liking: Low pressure on shocks and tires (dry sandy conditions), the shocks ended up considerably below recommended levels for me, and I used only 85% of the travel on both even then with pushing it hard. The highlight of the Bronson was popping off big (for me, about 2-3ft) jumps at speed. It was super stable and landed very soft and controlled. It really launches awesome off jumps, a nice pop off the rear! I was very fast in DH sections, I felt confident at speed on it.
    _____Now for the things I didn't like so much. The front CTD shock was sticky as all hell, stiction was bad on it, and it was very dry looking. Hitting cobblestone type ground, like rock fields 4-6" or less in height at any kind of speed, it really fed back every bit of it to the bars, the suspension barely budged (and the shocks were as soft as I dared and in descend mode). I was actually slower in these sections than my XC due to the front and rear stepping out constantly on the bumps, this was a bummer. Getting the rear to swing around in tight switchbacks was a bit lethargic from what I'm used to, but it was ok. I managed to get pedal strike quite a few times both in climbing and descending in techy sections, very surprising actually. It wasn't terrible, but I noticed it. The slack HA was just a bit much for me. Sitting in the seat, arms straight, I could see the axle about 1-2" forward of the bars, it felt like the front wheel was way out there, this made the slower speed handling kind of funny, hard to explain, but I'd say generally less stable/controlled feeling. I also felt as if I were sitting too far back on the bike for proper balance, yet when pedaling head down I was right over the bars, the geometry of my body just didn't quite feel correct somehow, I don't know how else to explain it. Coming from XTR on my bike (which I'm not really satisfied with either) the Deore stuff was crap! I could never ride a bike with those components for long, I'd be cursing the whole way. I'd have to shift 3x for every gear change just to get into the right gear I wanted, terrible. The brakes were also very weak. In one really fast section I actually got a little scared as the brakes faded out on me at a critical braking point and I ended up overshooting by a bit. Overall I was actually impressed by the platform though, I had fun on the ride, which says something, but not enough to put down that kind of cash for it. It felt like 75% there, if it just had softer small bump handling and was lighter I would definitely consider it a possibility for me, although the funny riding geometry of my body on the bike would have to be dealt with.
    _____Now to the Solo. It was an XX1 version (27lbs) with everything but carbon wheels. I rode the Solo in a small park near the shop, not on the trails I rode the Bronson on, but I did it immediately after my Bronson demo. I had two flights of stairs, some rough areas and very steep hills to test on. It was immediately clear to me, the Solo had perfect geometry for my body fit, it handled the stairs like they didn't exist (small bump handling) it was slightly more pop able in the front and climbed just as well.
    _____Now thinking it was just the upgraded parts that made it better feeling I took out another Bronson with XX1 (28lbs) and the better shocks and it still felt like the other Bronson in a few ways I didn't like, the body geometry, the steep HA feel, and going down the stairs just about took out my teeth... if I had added some loose dirt it would have been stepping out on me for sure like I had experienced on the trail. I made sure all the shocks were setup identically for all bikes so it was as close of a comparison as I could get.
    _____In the end riding both bikes back to back in the same configuration, it was obvious what choice to make. My decked out Solo arrives in a couple weeks. I highly recommend taking both bikes out on a trail you ride, that really makes it easy to decide which works better for you. I could not recommend one bike over the other to someone else, it's all about how you like to ride, and the smallest difference like leg vs. torso height or rider weight could make it a totally different experience. Good luck!
    ave- PS. I really hate this message text editor, no line feeds or tabs allowed??

  2. #2
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    Good writeup, thanks for posting!!

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by SonomaBiker View Post
    I ride fairly aggressively, well, as much as my bike will allow anyway! I've always preferred a light fast bike (more XC style) vs an AM/DH bike as I like to climb fast and get it over with quickly, but also for maneuverability in tight sections and in general "flickability".
    It looks like you were sold on the solo from the beginning.

  4. #4
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    Exactly - I'm the opposite with short legs (30" inseam) and a long torso. At 5'9" I fit bewteen a med and lrg Solo and poorly at that. Med Bronson fits like a glove (longer top tube than usual for SC). Bike fit is huge when choosing between these two bikes.

    Have FUN!

    G MAN
    "There's two shuttles, one to the top and one to the hospital" I LOVE this place!!!

  5. #5
    NedwannaB
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    Quote Originally Posted by idsmokeu2 View Post
    It looks like you were sold on the solo from the beginning.
    My thoughts too. Halfway thru the read I was like "man quit bashing the Bronson and get a Solo already!"

    Keeping on topic, can't wait to get some time on my 27.5 Superlite!
    Wait,who did he tell you that?....

  6. #6
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    Ha! I can see what you guys mean, it does sound like bashing on the Bronson. I originally did the Bronson demo ride thinking that was the bike I wanted (that's why I demo'd it), the Solo wasn't even a consideration to start. I guess the numbers and $$$ side of me was thinking why not get 1" extra travel and 34mm sanctions for the same price! However, the feel of the bike was not satisfactory to me, so I gave the Solo a chance. The two bikes appear to be so similar I really wanted to get specific about what it was that I liked and didn't like to make the best decision. I'm still surprised I liked the Solo better as the geometries are so close, nearly identical.

  7. #7
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    Hey G Man, I'm a little confused about the fit differences. Isn't the ETT the same on Bronson and Solo (M=23, L=24 on both)? SA is also the same, so I would think the general fit should be the same. Bronson has a longer wheelbase because of slightly longer CS, slacker HT and higher a/c, but this really shouldn't affect fit right?

    I'm really curious since I'm also 5'9" and demoed a medium Bronson. Haven't been able to demo the Solo yet.

    Thanks!

  8. #8
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    Great review! I am very happy with my Bronson as I'm sure I would be had I chose the SOLO. Enjoy

  9. #9
    NedwannaB
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    Quote Originally Posted by SonomaBiker View Post
    Ha! I can see what you guys mean, it does sound like bashing on the Bronson. I originally did the Bronson demo ride thinking that was the bike I wanted (that's why I demo'd it), the Solo wasn't even a consideration to start. I guess the numbers and $$$ side of me was thinking why not get 1" extra travel and 34mm sanctions for the same price! However, the feel of the bike was not satisfactory to me, so I gave the Solo a chance. The two bikes appear to be so similar I really wanted to get specific about what it was that I liked and didn't like to make the best decision. I'm still surprised I liked the Solo better as the geometries are so close, nearly identical.
    Great 1st write up btw, very detailed, specially coming off a ~12+ yo bike. Sounds like you got your moneys worth and did put that SL thru the ringer! Looking forward to your ride reports on the 5010.
    Wait,who did he tell you that?....

  10. #10
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    I own a Bronson and also have a little time on a Solo.. with frameset fit I couldn't tell much of a difference. However, the riding positions did feel a little different. The Bronson has a higher center of gravity and BB height. I didn't notice the lower BBheight and shorter chainstay on the Solo as much as I thought I would. I sit more upright on the Bronson which probably has more to do with handlebar and stem settings. But, there is a noticeable feeling that the front of the Solo is lower even though the Stack measurements only show a difference of about 3.5mm.
    Handling of the two bikes was closer then I thought it would be. Both bikes being very maneuverable at slow speeds with good climbing ability. Maybe, the Solo had a slight advantage. But it wasn't much.
    I didn't get a chance to ride the Solo at speed on a chunky downhill. And, I expect it is there where the differences would be more apparent. I'm happy with the Bronson. It's been a really fun bike to ride. Even when the trails would be better suited for my hard tail. I'm still picking the Bronson every time
    Quote Originally Posted by So Cal RX View Post
    Hey G Man, I'm a little confused about the fit differences. Isn't the ETT the same on Bronson and Solo (M=23, L=24 on both)? SA is also the same, so I would think the general fit should be the same. Bronson has a longer wheelbase because of slightly longer CS, slacker HT and higher a/c, but this really shouldn't affect fit right?

    I'm really curious since I'm also 5'9" and demoed a medium Bronson. Haven't been able to demo the Solo yet.

    Thanks!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by flyinmike View Post
    I own a Bronson and also have a little time on a Solo.. with frameset fit I couldn't tell much of a difference. However, the riding positions did feel a little different. The Bronson has a higher center of gravity and BB height. I didn't notice the lower BBheight and shorter chainstay on the Solo as much as I thought I would. I sit more upright on the Bronson which probably has more to do with handlebar and stem settings. But, there is a noticeable feeling that the front of the Solo is lower even though the Stack measurements only show a difference of about 3.5mm.
    Handling of the two bikes was closer then I thought it would be. Both bikes being very maneuverable at slow speeds with good climbing ability. Maybe, the Solo had a slight advantage. But it wasn't much.
    I didn't get a chance to ride the Solo at speed on a chunky downhill. And, I expect it is there where the differences would be more apparent. I'm happy with the Bronson. It's been a really fun bike to ride. Even when the trails would be better suited for my hard tail. I'm still picking the Bronson every time
    I don't want to get this thread off topic but this is almost my exact comparison between the two.. The solo ever so slightly stiffer, slightly twitchier, and less raked out. Both were so close I had to ride each one twice..

    I saw no downside for me to get the bronson with 1" more travel since I really couldn't tell a big difference other than the slacker HA.

    Good luck they are really both sweet rides.. coming from racing motorcycles, I'm more of a point/shoot type guy... IE bronson..

  12. #12
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    My order was delayed, so I have a chance to demo the Solo again tomorrow before it's ordered. I'm going to run it through the same All-Mountain 12mile run I did with the Bronson. I'm positive I'll make the same choice but I'll see.

    I have this slight bit of doubt which wonders if I've become too comfortable with what I have and am trying to force some sort of compromise, when maybe I'd better of being slightly out of my comfort zone for a while to have a better overall experience and bike later on... hmmmm...

    Both are just so damn fun to ride, it's really hard to pick one!
    Since the demo, I daydream about bombing the Bronson down the trail and not feeling afraid to hit any jump as hard as I dare! Addictive!

    I'm hoping the Solo feels solid enough to get that same feeling, then I'll be 100% sure.

  13. #13
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    Same doubts... let us know how it went after the demo!
    OBEY

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by SonomaBiker View Post
    My order was delayed, so I have a chance to demo the Solo again tomorrow before it's ordered. I'm going to run it through the same All-Mountain 12mile run I did with the Bronson. I'm positive I'll make the same choice but I'll see.

    I have this slight bit of doubt which wonders if I've become too comfortable with what I have and am trying to force some sort of compromise, when maybe I'd better of being slightly out of my comfort zone for a while to have a better overall experience and bike later on... hmmmm...

    Both are just so damn fun to ride, it's really hard to pick one!
    Since the demo, I daydream about bombing the Bronson down the trail and not feeling afraid to hit any jump as hard as I dare! Addictive!

    I'm hoping the Solo feels solid enough to get that same feeling, then I'll be 100% sure.
    What trail areas are you putting the Solo thru the test on? Curious to conditions.
    Wait,who did he tell you that?....

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by So Cal RX View Post
    Hey G Man, I'm a little confused about the fit differences. Isn't the ETT the same on Bronson and Solo (M=23, L=24 on both)? SA is also the same, so I would think the general fit should be the same. Bronson has a longer wheelbase because of slightly longer CS, slacker HT and higher a/c, but this really shouldn't affect fit right?

    I'm really curious since I'm also 5'9" and demoed a medium Bronson. Haven't been able to demo the Solo yet.

    Thanks!
    I think the numbers are wrong on SC's updated website (or they've changed the frame!). The number's I'd seen before was that the medium Bronson had an effective top tube length of 23.5" which works perfect for me an short stems. For comparison, I have the exact same measurement from my seat to the bars as my Banshee Spitfire which is considered a "long" medium and also at 23.5" ett. There's no way a Solo, with an inch less wheelbase, is going to have the same ett - it's a shorter bike and the feel is very apparent (a one degree change in HTA is NOT going to account for a full inch of wheelbase!). Also SC's range for the med Solo was up to 5'9" before the large - I know I wasn't dreaming that and now it says 5'10". Something is flat out wrong with their new charts since the website change!

    Have FUN!

    G MAN
    "There's two shuttles, one to the top and one to the hospital" I LOVE this place!!!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMac47 View Post
    What trail areas are you putting the Solo thru the test on? Curious to conditions.
    Thankfully, someone has a video on youtube of the downhill part of the trail: Annadel SP - Burmas - YouTube

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMac47 View Post
    What trail areas are you putting the Solo thru the test on? Curious to conditions.
    I dug out my gopro2HD, I'll see what I can do.. all I have is a handlebar mount.. so it will have to be on the handlebar or seatpost... any preference for view?

  18. #18
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    Re: Bronson vs Solo test ride experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Gman086 View Post
    I think the numbers are wrong on SC's updated website (or they've changed the frame!). The number's I'd seen before was that the medium Bronson had an effective top tube length of 23.5" which works perfect for me an short stems. For comparison, I have the exact same measurement from my seat to the bars as my Banshee Spitfire which is considered a "long" medium and also at 23.5" ett. There's no way a Solo, with an inch less wheelbase, is going to have the same ett - it's a shorter bike and the feel is very apparent (a one degree change in HTA is NOT going to account for a full inch of wheelbase!). Also SC's range for the med Solo was up to 5'9" before the large - I know I wasn't dreaming that and now it says 5'10". Something is flat out wrong with their new charts since the website change!

    Have FUN!

    G MAN
    Hmm, I am not saying you are wrong, since I am not 100% sure, but I think the Medium Solo has always been recommended up to 5'10". This is consistent with all their Xc, trail & AM bikes, 5'10" being the upper limit recommendation.
    Also the 23" TT for M is pretty standard for SC bikes. I would be really surprised if the ETT was ever mentioned as 23.5"...

    Sent from my PG86100 using Tapatalk

  19. #19
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    The med and large Solos and Bronsons have been 23 and 24" ETT's since the beginning. 5'10" has been the cut point as well. I'm pretty sure the Blur LT was M 22.5 and L 23.5. Perhaps that is what you are remembering.

  20. #20
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    Well I guess it's the shorter chainstays of the Solo then but I sure as hell feel the Bronson is a much better match for someone with a longer torso than the Solo - no way no how do I ride a bike with a shorter wheelbase than 45ish inches on a medium (Bronson with a Pike 160 is right at 45" - same as my Spitfire)!

    Have FUN!

    G MAN
    "There's two shuttles, one to the top and one to the hospital" I LOVE this place!!!

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gman086 View Post
    There's no way a Solo, with an inch less wheelbase, is going to have the same ett - it's a shorter bike and the feel is very apparent (a one degree change in HTA is NOT going to account for a full inch of wheelbase!).
    No, but in conjunction with an inch longer fork it will change it by .8" That plus the longer chainstays on the Bronson give you the 1" longer wheelbase, despite having the same ETT.
    A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by SonomaBiker View Post
    I dug out my gopro2HD, I'll see what I can do.. all I have is a handlebar mount.. so it will have to be on the handlebar or seatpost... any preference for view?
    No need to "show" me the conditions in Annadel, know them well. Just curious to what you were going to be riding with that machine.
    Wait,who did he tell you that?....

  23. #23
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    Just back from my Solo demo this afternoon.

    I still cannot believe it, but I actually changed my mind! I had them change the order to a Bronson. It was just chance that I had the opportunity to change the order due to the original Solo order not going through. I am so glad! Both bikes are awesome, no doubt, in their own ways, but the full test ride on the Solo was very revealing. Riding it around on the street/city park was not enough to evaluate it at all.

    I guess I'll just start with the thing that made me change my mind and fill in the full comparison after.

    There was a missing criteria in my testing which I figured out today. Grin Factor! I had a really fun time on the Bronson, but I was coming off 12yrs of riding an XC 100mm FS bike. The change was so drastic that I was a bit turned off by it at first. The handling is way different. The thing is I was day dreaming about bombing the Bronson down the trail day/night after riding it, despite finding things I didn't like about it. Big Grin Factor! Today I took the Solo down the same run and it felt like I was back on my 100mm XC bike, bottoming out the shocks and generally being too scared to hit the big stuff or go too fast... comfortably. I was shocked seriously, I didn't think I would notice that much difference. One thing that threw me off was the top 15-20% of the fork travel on the Bronson never got used, so I thought I didn't need it.... BUT, I didn't realize these forks top out with 1-1.25" of stanchion tube unused. Today I bottomed the Solo out on every decent sized jump and it also showed the same 1-1.25" of stanchion left! On the Bronson I did not feel the bottom out like I did on the Solo, big difference. The Solo was much less composed at high speed on super bump and jump. So that did it! Bronson it is!

    ... I'll continue the other differences in the next post...

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    ...continued...

    Fitment. The bike felt much more cramped after riding the Bronson. Not to a fault, but more like my XC bike. It had a smaller feel to it, not sure how else to explain it.

    When I started the ride with the Solo today I was expecting/hoping? to feel a much better climb rate with it. The climb I did is about 1200ft or so BTW. I don't know if I was just having a bad day or what, but the climb did not feel much better than the Bronson. Handling wise, the front end definitely popped up quicker, actually, it came up when I didn't want it to a few times on bigger uphill grades in the saddle. I could tell it was slightly lighter but it didn't seem to help make the climb much easier. It definitely had better slow speed maneuvering and I could pop the wheel around obstacles easier. I only had one pedal strike the whole ride, so BB height was not an issue.... I got more on the Bronson! The shorter wheelbase was an advantage when weaving around particularly tight objects. It also was less stable when climbing outright over something big, like a rock... I would have thought the opposite, but the Bronson felt more planted than the Solo when climbing straight over big rocks and rises.

    When climbing and level trail riding the Solo I really liked the shocks, they worked perfect for this kind of riding. They responded perfect for small/med hits and slower/moderate speeds, totally opposite of what I felt on the Bronson demo. And I know by picking a Bronson I'll have to live with the harsher slower speed bump.... hoping I can tune more to reduce it though... or switch forks if I have to. It wasn't until I got to the rougher stuff, descending, that I found the Solo forks were not enough to absorb bigger hits at speed. Overall, I guess I'd prefer the Solo for climbing, but not by a lot.

    Now for the downhill. I had remembered my experience on the Bronson well here, it was awesome! I thought I'd have the same or similar experience on the Solo. It handled the first slower techy sections well, I was thinking I had nailed it at that point and the Solo was still in the lead. When I picked up to a moderate speed it was still pretty good, definitely a bit more responsive bordering on twitchy but not anywhere near out of control. As soon as I got up to bombing speed and looked at the first jump I could tell I was not feeling confident on the bike, it was harder to decide to steer into the jump because the bike was not as stable as the Bronson at this pace. I took a few jumps at slightly reduced speeds and the launch was ok, a bit more forward feeling than I liked, but the landings were bottoming out the shocks. I don't mean they didn't absorb anything, but I could tell my body was clearly taking some of the hit after the shocks had done what they could. Bottom line: I did not get the Grin Factor on the most fun part of the ride. That's when I knew, Bronson!

    If all I did was climb and ride relatively flat all day, I'd get a Solo for sure. But if I'm going up to altitude and coming back down on something fast and bumpy, I want it to be fun! So Bronson it is. I guess I'll be breaking my old ways and comfort zones, but damn is it fun!

  25. #25
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    Nice write-up -- another good argument for why test-rides trump spreadsheets every time...

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