Drinkin’ the Kalimotxo Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson CC

Try it and you’ll be addicted. Kalimotxo, the Spanish drink made from equal parts red wine and cola. It’s unexpectedly refreshing. For 2016, the latest rendition of Santa Cruz’s fabled Bronson came dressed in a bright fuschia color and named after this tasty beverage. Now, normally bright pink isn’t my color of choice, yet there was something so appealing about this particular paint scheme that actually made me want to demo the Bronson more than ever before.

Since its inception in 2013, the Bronson has been one of Santa Cruz Bicycle’s most successful bikes. Last year, it got a face-lift, which drastically altered its stance and updated the Bronson’s geometry to fit in with where the industry seems to be heading with its all-mountain bikes. In short: It’s the reigning champion of trail or all-mountain riding and in a world of slacker, lower and longer, actually defends its title quite well.
Drinkin' the Kalimotxo Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson CC

Having never actually ridden the older Bronson, I approached this bike review with absolutely zero preconceptions. In fact, I had very little experience with Santa Cruz’s 27.5 platform either, save for a few runs on a Nomad years back. As the industry proves however, mountain bikes from two years ago ride completely different than their more evolved brethren of today. When the offer came up to review a Bronson, I drank the kool-aid. Or in this case, the Kalimotxo.

Drinkin' the Kalimotxo Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson CC

For those who are unaware, or who have been hiding under a rock for the past three years, the Bronson is Santa Cruz’s all-mountain or trail bike. While many use it for enduro races, it’s older brother, the Nomad is a more fitting beast for that task. The Bronson is more of an all-rounder for those living in mountainous terrain where the trails are steep, rocky and fast.

The Bronson boogies thanks to SCB’s VPP suspension design and previously mentioned updated geometry. It’s a 27.5″ shred sled, packed with 150mm of rear travel and a 150mm up front. The rear end is wider, now measuring 148 x 12mm. Point it and go. Your hesitation is the only thing stopping this bike from doing what it does best: go downhill, fast.

Drinkin' the Kalimotxo Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson CC

Build ‘Er Up

The Bronson comes in a number of build kits, ranging from $3,599 for the “C” grade carbon layup and XT all the way up to around $10,699 for the “CC” grade carbon with ENVE and XTR. This Bronson CC build lands around $10,099 with a SRAM XX1 kit and ENVE wheels. Expensive I know, and truthfully, I’d like to start reviewing the lower pricepoint buildout, which is where I think most people’s finances would direct them. But you know, it’s hard to say no to a completely blinged out bike like this…

Drinkin' the Kalimotxo Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson CC

Those Bars Tho

On the higher priced build kits, the Bronson comes with SCB’s 35mm clamp, 800mm wide bars. Whatever you do, do not cut these down. Ok, I guess if you really need to, go ahead but they’re my favorite all-mountain bars and I even put them on my Tallboy two years ago!

Drinkin' the Kalimotxo Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson CC

ENVE Executioner

The best carbon mountain bike wheels come from ENVE and this particular wheel build features Industry Nine hubs, some of my favorite mountain hubs on the market. Coupled with those hard-as-nails ENVE rims, this is one sick, Made in the USA wheelset. Pricey? You bet. Worth it? Hard to say but they do ride like beasts! I’d even go as far as saying if you can pick them up second hand, you’re good to go.

Drinkin' the Kalimotxo Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson CC

All the Squish with None of the Slop

Santa Cruz is known for applying the “whatever works the best is what’s spec’d” mentality. A lot of companies will spec their bikes with all Rock Shox, or all Fox, yet SCB has been known to mix and match components with what works best for their design. Even down to componentry. You don’t see a full SRAM kit here and in years past, SRAM’s drivetrains were mated with Shimano brakes, which has been addressed in this build spec with the new Guide brakes. This no-nonsense approach to spec’ing a frame makes for an ideal riding experience, especially when it comes to the suspension.

Drinkin' the Kalimotxo Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson CC

The Rock Shox Pike is still the best front fork I’ve ridden and while I’m not the most avid or experienced suspension expert, I’ll say with confidence that it was the fork that raised the bar for other manufacturers to attempt to match. That said, rear shocks are all over the place for me. An avid hardtail enthusiast, anything is better than being bucked all over the place in a rock garden, so I’ll leave the expertise to Santa Cruz’s specifications.

Drinkin' the Kalimotxo Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson CC

For this build in particular however, Santa Cruz spec’d the Fox Float X shock with an Extra Volume Air Sleeve. When the VPP was redesigned, the Float seemed like a better fit both functionally and physically. Since the Bronson is an all-rounder, it needs to still be able to climb and traverse. This is where the rear shock really comes into play. The Float X with EVOL gives you a consistent feeling throughout your pedal stroke. The lockout is secure during your climb and with a flip of the switch, it opens up, delivering silky smooth suspension on the way down.

Drinkin' the Kalimotxo Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson CC

Details for Days

While that $10,099 pricetag might make you choke on your lunch, look at it this way: there is so much technology and engineering that goes into the frame alone, that it makes road bikes of equal pricing look like they’re the ones with the inflated retail. Just look at this bike and what it takes for the whole thing to move: pivot points, internal routing that is quiet for the most part, a threaded bottom bracket, the lower linkage got tucked in closer to the rear wheel, the upper linkage and the rear shock was relocated closer to the top tube. This redesigned VPP layout also opened up space for a bottle cage. Because, you know, why ride with a hydration pack if you can just throw a bottle in there? Best part, if you don’t want a bottle cage, you don’t have to run one but it’s nice to have the option. Speaking of which, even that front derailleur mount block doesn’t bother me.


Hold Onto Your Butts

My first ride on this Bronson was in Santa Cruz, California. We rolled out from the factory doors and climbed into the UCSC campus. In years past, I’ve tackled most of these trails on a hardtail, and have never taken on the fabled giants atop a full suspension. Within the first few runs, I was hooked. As with all full suspension rigs, there’s almost a disconnect that occurs when you ride a technical trail but what’s lost with the bike’s contact is gained with the speed at which you can travel through the trail. Whereas I’d be a little more conservative with my lines on a hardtail, a bike like the Bronson just gobbles up everything like a football team at Golden Corral.

To Go Down, You Must Go Up

“Earn your descents!” “Fuck shuttle runs!” I love it when people speak so adamantly about mountain biking and when you think about it, it does kinda make sense. In certain applications. Now, no one wants to pedal a downhill bike up a fire road for 8 miles, but on a bike like the Bronson, I would do it without hesitation and in many occasions, I did just that. The Bronson climbs like a dream. In fact, it’s the best climbing full suspension I’ve ridden. It could be the weight of the damn thing (mine weighed in around 27lbs for an XL) or the redesigned VPP, OR the Fox Float. I’m not an engineer so I don’t know but I like the way this bike pedals uphill. You’d think with its new geometry, slacker, longer, lower, that it’d be a pain in the ass on tightly-wound trails but it’s not the case. You just kinda let the front end do its thing around turns and when you need to, you can still get over the front end just fine.

Blogger air!
“Blogger air!”

We’re On an Express Elevator to Hell, GOING DOWN!

In the words of Hudson, woooooooohoooooooooooo!

While the Bronson is an “all-rounder,” it excels at going down, very fast. Part of that is the geometry, some is the suspension design and specs, but ultimately, it’s your ability to just let go. With a 66° head angle and a 18.7″ reach on the XL, you’re riding in this bike, not on it. The ability to get low and slalom down peaty trails or slide across sandy rocks is built into its design.

Bikes like this were destined to descend. As previously mentioned, the mountains of Santa Cruz were where I shook down the Bronson. Everything from the steep fall line trails to the vertical rock gardens and jumps succumbed to this bike but it wasn’t until I took it home to Los Angeles that I really felt the difference. Everything was easier, faster and consequently, more painful when you overshoot or underestimate a line. Falling in the San Gabriel mountains is like falling on sandpaper. I scraped the skin from a lot of my appendages in the review period of this bike.

Drinkin' the Kalimotxo Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson CC

Is it Worth It?

It’s hard to merit dropping $10k on a mountain bike, especially all in one go. I doubt anyone reading this website is that balleur. Personally, If I were to buy a full suspension bike, I’d probably pull the trigger on a lower-end model with the “C” layup and slowly upgrade the parts as they needed replacing. Having owned a Tallboy for a few years and literally riding the shit out of it just about every day, full suspension bikes need maintenance and parts get thrashed quite easily. Your best bet is to buy what you can afford and be able to ride with a clear mind because no one wants to outrun debt on the trail… That disclaimed aside, if you’re considering purchasing the Bronson CC, it is by far one of the most capable bikes I’ve ridden. The team at Santa Cruz Bicycles really knocked it out of the bike part with this one.

See all the specs, details and pricing information that I missed at Santa Cruz and hop on a Bronson at your local dealer!

Care to correct or query me? Do so in the comments but go easy on me. ;-)

  • Hunter Garrison

    I just purchased a 5010 CC with the x01 build and the Easton wheels..that saves about $4k off the top and makes it a bit more palatable. My medium weighs 27lbs with that build and you can always buy the ENVE’s later if you’re truly balleur. MTB is still cheaper than owning a boat :P

    • Or a car!

    • breed007

      “you can always buy the ENVE’s later if you’re truly balleur.” I always recommend people have someone build them a set of light, alloy rim wheels. They’re a huge step up over stock wheels, and the performance gains plateau pretty quickly once you start doubling the $ with carbon.

      • Agreed. Even the I9 wheelsets are a great deal.

        • breed007

          +1 on the i9s. I have a 24H Trail wheelset and they’re great.

    • What is “balleur” btw?!

  • Anthony Turner

    Dat color!!

  • S. Harris

    I ride a ’15 Bronson CC. You can often find deals on frame only, then build it up how you like (read: cheaper). Mine was about 5k all new everything (rs pike, cc dbair, full m8000 XT, stans / king hubs). And i love it deeply.

    Of course mine is v1, but what it lacks in geo updates and water bottle real estate, it makes up for in green-ness.

    • nice!

    • matthew fitton

      I’m in a tough position – V1 with all the trimmings for £1750 (about $2100) or a V2 for rather a lot more (about £2700+)…

      Are you still on the V1 and how do you think it rises compared to the modern ‘enduro biased’ bikes?

  • tb

    Road bike prices are definitely inflated. Thank you for pointing out what I’ve believed for years.

    Nice bike, I’d like to demo one some time.

  • pedro revolorio

    Great review. I have a 2016 Bronson C, R version and the first thing I decided to do is upgrade to a single-ring 11 speed. The front derailleur is really finicky and dropping that saves weight. I went with the Race Face Next SL G4. I’m now waiting for a set of Light Bike carbon rims which are a lot cheaper than the Enve’s and even a lot of the aluminum rims.

  • Brian Surguine

    Good review, though I too would like to see more reasonable-cost bikes get the blog treatment. Having just finished my Santa Cruz Bantam build, I’m sad to see this frame discontinued. The Bantam is a heck of a bike, and I’m not at all bothered by the single pivot. As you say: full-suspension bikes need maintenance, and SC’s single pivots are the easiest ones to work on. Less time in the shop = more time on the trails.

  • Sretsok

    How did you like it as an all-rounder compared to the Hightower?

    • Personally, I’d rather have the High Tower just for the 27.5+ option. I’m really sold on that wheel platform.

      • Sretsok

        I love that it’s designed for both wheel sizes. It seems the 27.5+ with ~130mm of travel is winning a lot of hearts.

      • Mark Robinson

        Having run several demo days for a big American brand, who also have 27.5+ / 29er “swappable” frames, I am definitely getting a lot of good feedback for the new plus size format. The feedback seems to suggest that unless you are top 5% in terms of ability on a bike, the plus size tyre makes the rider more confident, and therefore generally faster. A lot of good work being done on tyres is suggesting only 1% more rolling resistance than a standard 27.5 but considerably increased cornering traction, enabling the rider to carry more speed. So basically, us mere mortals should enjoy our riding a bit more (assuming you want to go faster!)

        I have ridden the lower spec carbon version of the Bronson and it’s a beast. The new Pivot Switchblade compared very favourably.

  • Tom Briggs

    I recently bought a Bronson v2 C S and it’s been awesome. I also upgraded the rear shock to the Fox Float X and could not be happier with it. I’ve ridden a fully loaded Bronson CC like the one you’ve reviewed here and truthfully I can’t tell a whole ton of difference other than a slight weight increase. I’d highly recommend this bike to anyone, it’s awesome!