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First Ride - 2022 Santa Cruz Bronson MX 9

29-inch front wheel, 27.5-inch rear wheel. Call it what you will but the all-new Santa Cruz Bronson MX has mixed wheels and is ready to mingle!

First Ride - 2022 Santa Cruz Bronson MX

When we wrapped up our test of the latest Santa Cruz Nomad, we couldn't help but wonder where this left the Bronson. The Nomad pedaled so well and was such an easy to hammer bike that we just couldn't make the case for the slightly smaller Bronson. Santa Cruz already knew what they were doing and today, we all find out. Meet the 2022 Santa Cruz Bronson...MX.

 

Highlights

  • Carbon C and CC frame options
  • 29-inch front and 27.5-inch rear wheels
  • 150mm (5.9-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) fork travel
  • VPP suspension design
  • Shuttle zone and bottom bracket protection
  • Guided, internal cable routing
  • Size-specific chainstay lengths
  • Lifetime bearing replacement
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Threaded bottom bracket with ISCG05 mounts
  • Boost 148 rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size medium, no pedals): 30.4 pounds (13.7kg)
  • MSRP $9,849 USD (as tested)

Just as we have seen with the 5010 and Nomad, the latest Bronson gets updated with a larger shock tunnel and size-specific chainstay lengths. There is also a revised, "more refined" suspension kinematic. Geometry has also been updated as the Bronson, expectedly, it grows longer, lower and more slack. Where the Bronson departs from the usual treatment, is the exchange from a 27.5-inch to a 29-inch front wheel. The 2022 Bronson now carries the MX moniker, Santa Cruz's label for mixed wheel setups. Bikes developed as mixed wheels are gaining ground as we see more brands adding them to the line. With promises of the monster trucking nature of a 29-inch front wheel and the snap of a 27.5-inch rear wheel, these bikes claim to be the sliver bullet in the wheel size war.

Concurrently, the Juliana line is being launched with the new Rubion today. All information here on the Bronson is directly relevant and transferable to the Rubion, with the exception of color.

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Geometry

We've gone over the mixed wheel size, but what about the numbers behind it? To start, the Bronson MX has a 64.5-degree head angle, a degree more slack than the prior model. Factor in the larger front wheel and the Bronson MX is quite a bit more aggressive at the leading end of things. This also creates a 20mm taller stack height. Reach has grown a bit to 452mm in our size medium, striking a nice balance of high-speed stability while still being snappy. A 436mm chainstay is to be expected anymore but that grows to 439mm and 443mm for size large and x-large, respectively. Lately, is the seat tube angle at 76.5-degrees. The Bronson does go all the way down to an x-small frame, which runs a 27.5-inch front wheel.

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Setup

We had the chance to speak with Santa Cruz and received some handy setup tips to make our learning process a bit faster. To start, the RockShox Super Deluxe was set with 150psi to achieve 30% sag. Santa Cruz advised we stick with this number as the new leverage curve is optimized here. We were fine with that since it's exactly where we ran the V3 Bronson. We did note this is a fair bit less pressure than the prior generation ran and is evidence of the new leverage rate.

See that blue lever? Yeah, never used it.

After our initial shakedown laps, we decided to make some changes to the "out of the box," setup in the FOX 36. We removed the one volume reducer and reduced air pressure to 68psi, which is slightly softer than recommended for our body weight. Our particular 36 lacked the supple off-the-top feel to which we've become accustomed. Perhaps we've just grown used to the 38's buttery goodness.

Our Bronson MX came with Santa Cruz's new carbon bar. The 35mm rise with 8.5-degree back and 5-degree upsweep felt terrific. We chopped the 800mm bars down to 770mm to fit our tester's frame. We were advised to mind the spacers under the stem and not get too high. The bike came with 15mm installed, so that is what we ran with for the first ride. After video production wrapped, we did drop the front end by 5mm and noticed an improved response in handling, this may also ease some of our fork quibbles.

We have since lowered the stem by 5mm and it feels much better.

The Lineup

Much like the Nomad, the Bronson MX is available in carbon C and CC frames only, alloy are not being offered at this time. This means the barrier to entry is going to exclude some budgets. The starting price for a Bronson MX C R is $5,049. This starting model uses a SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain and SRAM G2 brakes. Suspension is a RockShox Lyrik Select fork mated to a FOX Float X rear shock.

Bronson C R - $5,049
Bronson C S - $5,949

Moving up to $5,949 is the C S build which bumps the drivetrain up to SRAM GX Eagle. The fork swaps to a FOX 36 Float Performance and the shock becomes a RockShox Super Deluxe Select+. As with every build in the Bronson MX line, the front tire is a 29x2.4-inch Maxxis DHF EXO MaxxGrip and 27.5x2.4-inch Maxxis DHR EXO 3C MaxTerra.

Bronson C XT - $6,949
Bronson C XT RSV - $8,249

The final step in the C frame designation is the XT and XT RSV build. For $6,949, riders get a full Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes. The suspension fork pumps up to the FOX 36 Performance Elite while the same RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ rear shock carries over. While the XT has the same RaceFace ARC Offset 30 rims as the lower build options, the hubs move up to Industry Nine 1/1. Adding Reserve 30 hoops will move the price up to $8,249.

Bronson CC X01 - $8,049
Bronson CC X01 AXS RSV - $9,849

Santa Cruz is offering three builds with the CC frame option. First is the X01 at $8,049. Riders will get a full X01 drivetrain with Code RSC brakes. Suspension bumps up once again to a FOX Factory 36 fork and RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate. The same RaceFace ARC wheels and Industry Nine wheels carry over.

Our test bike is the X01 AXS RSV and chuh-chings at $9,849. The same suspension and most of the drivetrain carries over with the notable exclusion being the derailleur and shifter. A GX AXS shifter and X01 AXS derailleur take on the shifting duties. As for wheels, the Industry Nine 1/1 hubs stay but the rims are now Reserve 30s.

Bronson CC XX1 AXS RSV - $11,399

We are now in five-figure territory. The Bronson CC XX1 AXS RSV MX will punish your back account at $11,399. As should be expected though, the build is as nice as it gets. A SRAM XX1 AXS drivetrain is implied in the name. Smaller details like a Chris King DropSet headset are nice, as is the bump to the I9 Hydra hub and Ti rail WTB saddle. We were a bit surprised to see a standard RockShox Reverb post, not an AXS model, on this bike.

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On The Trail

As a First Look, with very limited time on the Bronson MX so far, we were only able to take the bike out for a quick setup/shakedown session prior to hitting the mountains. Our one ride was originally meant to be a 15-mile affair that tossed some steep and sustained climbs and some of the more fun descents in the immediate area. Our  interpretive cartography skills could use a refresh, as it was a hair over 20-miles later that we returned to the car. At least we were in the middle of a heatwave and the rain the night prior left the air heavy and humid.

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DH/Technical Performance/Fun Factor

Let's get to the good bits right away. Traditionally, the Santa Cruz bikes have been a pretty fast read for us. Both the V3 Bronson and V5 Nomad had us feeling comfortable and at home right away. With its mixed wheel setup, the Bronson MX took a little while to get settled into and we'd still say we're working to crack the code fully. In this instance, to us, this is more about the mixed wheels than anything.

Generally, we found the Bronson MX to have an overall hooligan nature to it. The bike will certainly lay over and rail a corner but punching the rear wheel at the apex with your hips will create a quick snap and has the Bronson call quickly to attention. It is this sort of back-of-the-bike riding that brings the fun alive. Meanwhile, when approaching rough sections at speed, the Bronson is happy to charge headlong into the mess. We aren't ready to label the Bronson MX a full on brawler, but much like its predecessor, this is a bike that can hang with the big dogs, despite its "lower" travel numbers.

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After video production had wrapped up, we took the Bronson out for some laps at the local bike park/jump spot. We found the Bronson's more playful side and were very pleased with how the bike dealt with high-speed berms and all manner of jump. From long, lofting lips to sniper lines, the Bronson was every bit the "play," bike. In this more park scenario, we appreciate the intuitive geometry and cornering character of this new Bronson MX.

Rear Suspension Performance

When the V3 came about, Santa Cruz chose the RockShox Super Deluxe for a number of reasons. Chief of which was the lower bearing mount. We were happy to see this remain for the new model. If riders want, the enormous shock tunnel allows for pretty much any after market shock to fit. In all, we are very pleased with the stock setup out of the gate. We found the updated suspension and leverage rates to be exceptionally efficient uphill and track every bit as good on the downs.

Vero putting the Bronson to good use.

Geometry

Santa Cruz doesn't tend to go wild with their geometry. We appreciated the 452mm reach as it strikes a nice balance between roomy and maneuverable. It's still a 15mm increase over the V3 but we would say given this new bike's propensity for speed, the update was due. One area we will need to dig further into is the front end height. When climbing really steep sections of trail, we experienced some front end lift and found the bike to wander a tad. We'll be lowering the stem 5mm to see if that helps.

New bars, who this?

Perceived Weight

According to the scale, our Bronson is a tad heavy for what we would expect of a bike in this build class (see also: high end). By the time we put on pedals, the water bottle, OneUp pump/tool combo and a tube, we were well into the 30's. As so often seems to be the case anymore though, the Bronson MX felt far lighter when put to dirt. It accelerates and sprints with ease while never feeling like an anchor when deep in the pain cave.

Climbing

Riders looking to save some weight could remove the climb switch from the Super Deluxe. It is strictly for ornamental purposes when mounted to the Bronson MX. Not once in our ride did the thought ever occur to us to firm up the back end. The Bronson MX is efficient and downright spritely when climbing. After riding the Nomad V5 and being so impressed with its climbing manners, we wondered why not just bring this big bike along all the time and ditch the Bronson. We now know that all those incredible feelings and improvements have only been amplified when applied to the shorter travel Bronson MX.

The one area we will be diving deeper with are the Bronson's behavior in steep and technical climbing. We will give it a pass for today as we think the front end is too high. We have to imagine that with the revised suspension curve and geometry, this bike will be an absolute goat.

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Build Kit

Our test bike comes in at the upper tier of Santa Cruz's line. We would have been just as keen to test the GX or XT builds, but this is what was available and what we have. This is not the first time we are seeing the mixed FOX/RockShox on Santa Cruz but the prior year did run matched suspension. We're curious on the change-up. Otherwise, the parts spec is a near dream build for any rider. Reserve 30 carbon wheels on buzzing Industry Nine hubs, SRAM AXS drivetrain, and some sweet new carbon Santa Cruz bars are some lovely highlights here.

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Fork Performance

We'll be right to the point, we were not wild about this particular FOX 36. On its own, the performance was solid and delivered the traditional stiff feel we've come to expect from this fork. The issue is perhaps that when mated to a Super Deluxe rear shock, the two components seem out of harmony. The V3 Bronson had this same combo and we felt it somewhat back then as well. We would have liked to see a Lyrik at the helm to better jive with the supple nature of this bike.

Tire Performance

We were very excited to see a MaxxGrip front tire on this bike. From what we gather, part of the special sauce in a mixed wheel bike is the front end grip. Having a softer compound up front is a terrific call. We know there are plenty of riders who will not be excited about the EXO casing, and yes, at least EXO+ would have been ideal here.

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Wheel Performance

Reserve 30 wheels with...Industry Nine 1/1 hubs? In a clear break from tradition, our bike was not specced with the typical DT Swiss hubs we've come to expect. We took note of, and appreciated, the quick engagement and trail-clearing buzz of these hubs.

Drivetrain Performance

Our build features SRAM's X01 AXS drivetrain, albeit with a GX AXS shifter (old paddle). Just as with all of our previous testing, this setup worked quite well, accepting all sorts of late shifts into uphill grinds as fatigue set into our body. We will say, on a subjective note, we do prefer the 50T cassette over the 52T. The lower gear is nice but there are times with the jump is a bit much.

"Robots." - Brandon Turman

Dropper Post

We are accustomed to AXS drivetrains being paired with the Reverb AXS. We are also accustomed to seeing that pairing on bikes in the $12,000 price range. Santa Cruz just barely keeps things under the five-figure mark here and the cost differential between Reverbs is substantial. We found the 150mm drop to be sufficient for our purposes but will wonder if other riders will want to see the 175mm here.

Long Term Durability

Here is the thing, we've only just now taken hold of this bike and have just two rides on it. Around here, that is far from a fair shakedown and we'd be remised to sign off on any bike at this point. The 2022 Bronson MX has us wanting to put it through the wringer for several reasons. The first is price, the second is the mixed wheel setup.

The finish and parts choice on our X01 AXS RSV build is pretty darn nice. It better be for that price. While Santa Cruz will most likely sell every last one of every model, the topic of price can be contentious for some. Budget-oriented riders will likely be passing over the Bronson MX as it simply costs too much. Is the extra money worth it? Let's find out.

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Mixed wheels are moving out of the fad phase and into production. Initial impressions make us feel all lusty for the neat and different feeling. Will that bliss subside with time? What, if any, tuning and riding complications will arise? Is the best of both worlds or actually the worst when you start logging the miles? We shall see.

The Bronson MX will be with us for the rest of this season and all the way through the fall. We will bring a comprehensive ride report this winter and share our findings.

What's The Bottom Line?

We loved the V3 Bronson and delighted in the updates to the latest Nomad. It would seem the Bronson MX has taken both of these elements and added its own twist. Is the Bronson MX the future? It is too early to tell right now but we are definitely off to a good start. Fans of the prior Bronson should be doing flips over this latest update. As it stands now, the V4 Bronson MX is an even better bike in every way. We're quite eager to see where the next five months take us with this bike.

Visit www.santacruzbicycles.com for more information.

View key specs, compare, and rate the Bronson MX bikes in the Vital MTB Product Guide.

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