Vital Rides the All-New 2019 Santa Cruz Bronson and 5010 17

...and we had a blast doing it! Learn what makes both of these fresh rides tick.

Vital Rides the All-New 2019 Santa Cruz Bronson and 5010

Picture this: you load up your riding gear, travel a few hours from home, and spend the next couple of days riding new trails with your buds. You ride harder and longer than normal, you drink a tad too much in the evenings, and despite being absolutely blown; you are somehow more energized than ever. This was our experience with Santa Cruz and the introduction to the next generation Bronson and 5010.

This may not be your typical First Ride. It isn’t slick, our shots were relegated to the garage and hiding behind trees, but unlike other First Looks, we spent a ton of time actually riding the bikes and gaining a feel for how the folks at Santa Cruz operate. We were the only media present which made us the unchallenged belle of the ball.

Seb Kemp, Santa Cruz Brand Manager, snagged us from the Salt Lake City airport in a clapped out rental van for our short trip up to Park City where we would spend the next couple of days doing what we mountain bikers tend to do: act like the inner children we are while playing on bicycles.

Our introduction to the bikes at hand consisted of walking into the living room and saying, “Oh, those are sweet looking.” Prior to throwing a leg over the bikes that would be ours to flog, there were no slideshows, marketing presentations, or much talk of numbers. In fact, not a single stat, measurement, or spec was given to us until the morning of our departure.

One needn’t be Inspector Clouseau to connect the dots as to what direction the Bronson has gone after laying eyes on the new chassis.

Seb shared with us that the story of our modern mountain bikes should not be contained to reach numbers, head tube angles, or bottom bracket drop. We use these bikes to ride in (sometimes) remote places, get in touch with what makes ourselves tick, and load the mind with great memories with friends. Though we'll certainly dive into the tech, this was the mission of the bike launch and the real story of the new Bronson and 5010.

With that, it was time to set sag, adjust seat posts, and start riding. First on the list was the heavily revised and revolutionized Bronson.

Discovering The New Bronson

When riding the Bronson, one tends to conjure up images of Charles Bronson. Tough, bold mustache, and just a touch of kung fu. The namesake however is a reference to the bike company’s original address on Bronson St, which they were moving from as the bike was due to be launched. In its inception, the Bronson was to be a 26-inch wheeled trail slayer but the closer the team got to finishing the bike, the more 27.5 took hold of the industry. In a last minute call, Santa Cruz decided to make the Bronson a 27.5 bike and go all in. It was a choice that proved most fruitful as the Bronson is credited as propelling Santa Cruz as a brand. While the Bronson has undergone some mild updates since inception, it is this third iteration that is the most dramatic. Seb and Garen see this as more business as usual for the brand. Riders are demanding more and more of their 150mm bikes, it was time to respond.

One needn’t be Inspector Clouseau to connect the dots as to what direction the Bronson has gone after laying eyes on the new chassis. The new lower link design has this Santa Cruz classic looking a whole lot like the larger, meaner, recently madeover Nomad. Santa Cruz loved the results of the new lower link design on the Nomad and set out to bring it to the Bronson straight away. All of the brand's bikes share common DNA and no project operates in isolation.

Fork travel has been bumped up 10mm and now pushes 160mm. Rear travel remains the same at 150mm. The mismatched travel is a bit of a departure for the Santa Cruz team but the decision was actually made after a bit of real world testing. The revised suspension and geometry overpowered the 150mm fork and so the front end was extended to keep the ride balanced. 

 

Readers may notice a mismatch of suspension choice in eyeballing the Bronson. A RockShox shock out back a FOX fork up front is rare for most any brand. In discussing this choice, the decision was pretty basic: RockShox offered a bearing mounted shock which worked best with the new lower linkage design and FOX did not. The use of bearings in the shock mount for this particular design yields preferable feel on trail, easy as that.

The Bronson’s head angle has been slackened over half a degree in the high position to 65.4-degrees, and the seat angle steepened by one degree to 75. The seat tube was also cut down an inch. Reach has grown by 15mm for each size in the roster. Longer, lower, something something Dark Side… Santa Cruz made the bike more aggressive and it certainly looks the part.

2019 Bronson Highlights

  • 27.5 and 27.5+ wheels
  • 150mm VPP rear travel // 160mm fork
  • Available in CC carbon, C carbon, and aluminum
  • Adjustable high/low geometry setting
  • Lower-link mounted shock
  • Easily serviceable, reliable, lifetime bearing replacement
  • Dual uprights on rear triangle
  • Internal cables (fully channeled on front triangle, guided on rear)
  • Threaded BB
  • Bolt-on shuttle guard
  • Rear shock cover
  • ‘Chunnel’ for shock - Still useable seat post insertion and internal routing for droppers
  • Bottle cage inside the front triangle
  • Frame clearance up to 2.8-inch tires
  • 2.6-inch tire options available on 35-37mm rim width
  • Santa Cruz Reserve 30 and Reserve 37 carbon wheel option on S-kit and above
  • Five sizes: XS-XL
  • Also available as the Juliana Rubion
  • MSRP: $3,499 - $9,899 (complete builds)
  • Lifetime warranty on frame and Reserve wheels

2019 Bronson Geometry

On The Trail - Bronson

A few hours after landing, our merry tribe was ready to hit the trail. Garen Becker, Head Slayer at Santa Cruz, played shuttle driver and team mom. Seb was the lead dog and setup guru…of sorts. For those that don’t know, Seb is an insanely talented rider and an absolute treat to see move down the trail.

Our first ride was a shuttle that featured an overall elevation drop punctuated by some climbs. Each run was a 6.3-mile long affair that consisted of loose chunder, smooth singletrack, steep bits with root ledges in the corners, a dirt sidewalk of a drift track, some overgrown natural trail, and a near mile long boulder field that made our camera freak out. We hit some jumps and railed all sorts of berms. In essence, it was a wildly eclectic mix of riding in a short bit.

Initial setup on the bike was a standard 30% sag in the rear and recommended FOX fork pressure. Compression settings were fully open. Within the first quarter mile or so, the Bronson felt a bit too soft, too active, and in all cases something that may not be our cup of tea. The buffed singletrack and mellow corners left us feeling as though the bike was transmitting feedback like a cheap mattress. We upped the compression damping but decided to keep air pressure the same. Once the trail started to liven up and grow rough, that soft-ish ride had us feeling like the kings of traction, accepting our new-found lot as terra bound. Much like cars of the 1970s, that smooth ride came with tug boat handling and a propensity to start smoking Marlboros. We pulled over to lower the bars on the test rig. With nearly 20mm of spacers underneath the stem, some spacers had to get swapped. With 5mm under the stem and a nice sternum smasher up top, we were ready to get back to business. Straight away the Bronson’s cornering sped up for us and the chicanes that lay ahead proved no issue. We also came to grips with the Bronson’s need to stay glued to the ground and track track track! Through the overgrown, final bits of the trail we even started working with the bike to pump and build speed over whatever lumps lay under the foliage. To end our first run, it was heels down and straight on through the mine field. As we rolled up to the van one thing was clear: we were only at the foreplay, heavy petting end of things. This Bronson had more to give, much more.

Push into a corner and the Bronson will move through it, stay assertive and you’ll get no sass from this machine. Heading into the rocky bits, the VPP did its job wonderfully and the Bronson tracked far beyond initial expectations.

We pulled out the ‘pension pump and added some pressure to the suspension. The “hammock” theory was laid out by Garren as he described the sweet spot in the suspension curve on Santa Cruz’s prior, upper link VPP bikes including longer travel models like the Nomad and Bronson. The revised lower link Nomad and now the updated Bronson feature a progression rate that is more of a straight line than the heavily curved “hammock” shape of yore, and the range of sag can have a pronounced effect on the bike’s on-trail behavior. To that point, we pumped another 20 PSI into the rear shock but sat nearly imperceptibly outside of the 30% range. Our second run on the bike was about to prove to us just how much a 3% change in sag can have. The FOX 36 GRIP 2 was far and away the most off-the-top supple FOX fork we’d come across, even after we threw some more poundage in it. Then we were off, back to the top for round two.

Straight away the bike felt immensely better. Our input resulted in a direct output, no more ’76 Eldorado second bounce. Push into a corner and the Bronson will move through it, stay assertive and you’ll get no sass from this machine. Heading into the rocky bits, the VPP did its job wonderfully and the Bronson tracked far beyond initial expectations. Saints be praised, the bike no longer gobbled lips and we could send it! Sitting with a firmer ride, pot holes and root ledges were dealt with but never harsh. The big payoff was a section we dubbed Dickingham Palace: a green circle that was true flow trail. We had the place to ourselves and treated this trail like our own personal drift track. Rollers were nose pressed or hucked to flat or sent to the side hill. It made no difference what a rider chose to do, the point was to act like a complete derelict. Moving on down the trail, the Bronson behaved better in every way compared to our previous run. Yes, the rider could still keep the bike to the ground and run the bike aggressively, but now there was the option of bonus hits and more liberal trail interpretations. Even in the last stretch of the boulder field, one needn’t drop heel and hang on, you could load up and hop bits of trail. The smoothest line is in the air, right? At this point, we had become pretty accustomed to the Bronson’s new attitude and we liked it…a lot.


Discovering The New 5010

Using the setup philosophy learned from the Bronson, we shifted attention to the new and improved 5010. This meant lowering the stem a bit (we kept a 7.5mm rise) and finding the stiffer end of 30% sag. With less travel to spare, we opted not to give the 5010 to Eldorado treatment. Garen was pretty excited to us to throw a leg over this bike as it was a clear favorite of his. 

The latest iteration of the 5010 received similar geometry treatments as the Bronson, while maintaining the upper link VPP system. Development is more subtle and reminiscent of the updates we are used to in other lines. Still, the changes are responses to rider-driven demands. Reach grows by 15mm across all sizes, seat angle steepens to 75-degrees, and the head angle is slackened to 66.5-degrees in the high setting. Like the new Bronson, the new 5010 has a flip-chip to help it accommodate the 2.6-inch or larger tire sizes (the frame will take up to a 2.8). One can order either bike in a 2.6-inch configuration with the Reserve 37 wheels. 

Straying off trail in the boulders was not a concern on the Bronson, but it takes focus and forearms to make the 5010 do the same dance.

The 5010 was actually billed as the long haul, backcountry bike, despite the demographic of that market tending to grab 29ers. Oh well, at least Danny Mac can use it to ride on massive bundles of hay.

 

2019 5010 Highlights

  • 27.5 wheels
  • 130mm VPP rear travel // 130mm fork
  • Available in CC carbon, C carbon, and aluminum
  • Flip chip for optimizing geo for bigger tires (> 2.6-inch) and/or rider needs
  • Upper-link mounted shock
  • Easily serviceable, reliable, lifetime bearing replacement
  • Dual uprights on rear triangle
  • Internal cables (fully channeled on front triangle, guided on rear)
  • Threaded BB
  • Two bottle cage mounts
  • Frame clearance up to 2.8-inch tires
  • 2.6-inch tire options available on 35-37mm rim width
  • Santa Cruz Reserve 27 and Reserve 37 carbon wheel option on S-kit and above
  • Five sizes: XS-XL
  • Also available as the Juliana Furtado
  • MSRP: $2,699 - $9,499 (complete builds)
  • Lifetime warranty on frame and Reserve wheels

2019 5010 Geometry

On The Trail - 5010

Despite the updates, the angles on the 5010 were decidedly sharper than the Bronson. We instantly noticed the rider’s weight being shifted forward for the initial climb. Once we cut into the woods, things were a bit less welcoming and the 5010 had to remind us our place. After straying a tad off trail and knifing the front end, we scorpioned ourselves into the weeds. Point taken. Precision trumps force and one must pay attention to the task at hand when laying it down on this ninja bike. We eased off the gas for the next couple of miles to get our bearings, but after a few more minutes aboard the 5010 we regained composure and got back up to pace. By the boulder-riddled drag strip, it was all bets off. Despite being a smaller bike, the 5010 kept pace with Seb (aboard the new Bronson) right up until we went off line again. Therein lies the difference in the bikes: straying off trail in the boulders was not a concern on the Bronson, but it takes focus and forearms to make the 5010 do the same dance.

Garen met us with sandwiches and bubbly water so we could jam up the hill and meet some more crew from Santa Cruz and ride the Wasatch Crest Trail. Since we were just getting on with the 5010, we decided to stick on that program. 

We like dicking about. It would seem the 5010 as well. Jibs, hops, and general dumb behavior are all welcomed.

Welcome to Puke Hill, elevation 7,500+ feet with an average grade of “WTF?!” At least it was covered in loose rocks… We made fast friends with the 5010 and it wasn’t until the final stretch of Puke Hill that we needed to go full Eagle. The high traverse was stunning, an amazing display of the ranges in Park City. The undulating terrain showcased the 5010’s ability to carry speed and mitigate the rocky passage, and it also let us know about the increased bottom bracket drop…mind your pedals. Most any traverse that we experienced in Park City had us cross a variety of terrain and soils. Aspen groves of flawless dirt gave way to red rock and moon dust which lead us to the pines and grey, smokey dirt underneath. Simply remarkable. 

As the miles started to add up, our impression of the 5010 went from a bit lackluster to pretty impressed. Throughout the ride, we were slowly pushed forward in the pack until instructed to take the lead. With a guy like Garen on your rear wheel, there’s a bit of self induced pressure to let it run. As it turned out, the 5010 was ready to answer the call. The remaining descent played out like the battle for Endor. Per our GPS, top speeds neared 30mph as aspens flew by in a most terrifying manner. There were several high-speed sweeping corners that let us lay into the 5010 and capitalize on that bottom bracket height. The bike made a slalom course of the mountain and blasted over rocks. We also had our chance to get the 5010 into some steeper, more technical bits. We checked up, scoped a quick line, eased in, and then let it go. Yes, the bike danced and Garen’s audible laughter echoed over the sound of rock scurry, but we came out the other side with nothing but a smile. The closer our tribe came to the bottom of the hill, the more uphill foot traffic appeared and it was agreed that we would all calm down a bit to lessen the risk of tattooing a hapless hiker with a Minion DHF. The lower speeds meant more dicking about. We like dicking about. It would seem the 5010 as well. Jibs, hops, and general dumb behavior are all welcomed. Something tells us a number of you already knew this.

Day one closed and we had put just about 30-miles underneath our tires. From here we made our way back to the condo. Beers lead to sushi which lead to saki, which lead to karaoke. which lead to shots and gin and shots and gin. Garen loves Shania Twain and Seb is 74% more of a man than most. Closer to morning than night, we found our beds with promises of a great ride to come. 

Day Two With The Bronson

Morning came and we felt terrible, it was officially a mountain bike trip. Garen made an awesome breakfast, and a few cups of coffee later things didn’t seem so bleak. Loc-dog Garson showed up at the condo and would be our guide for the day. Speaking only in trail names and terms like “really cool,” and a “great ride,” Seb signed off and we were ready to go. Having a firm grasp of the 5010, we reached for the Bronson on day two. Actually, being honest here, our hangover and need for a safety net drove our decision more than anything. The booze-induced decision proved fruitful in grasping the full scope of what the Bronson brings to the table.

The Bronson is at the aggressive end of things, and to appreciate what this bike has to offer one needs to be willing to let it hang out a bit. 

Garen dropped us off close to the Wasatch Trail and was then off to return home. When someone in Park City uses the term “punchy,” they aren’t meaning the brief, five pedal stroke features that many are accustomed to. They’re referencing a mile plus long wall riddled with loose pebbles. It was here the Bronson showed us that it wasn’t just another bruiser in primer grey – this is a balanced rig. We would later learn that the seat angle was on par with the 5010 (and several other progressive brands). Reaching for the compression lever on the Super Deluxe locked things up almost too much. For the remainder of the ride, we just left it open to optimize traction.

Our savage climb lead us to the top of Empire, a somewhat neglected downhill track that bordered on straight up freeride. Super steep, crazy loose, and full of surprises; this is the sort of trail that not too long ago had us reaching for a downhill bike. The Bronson remained composed and gobbled up all in its path. The next 10-miles had us traversing the Mid Mountain trail, full of fun, natural features and awesome views; it’s the sort of endeavor that reminds us all why we get out and ride these bikes. During our traverse and (actual) punchy climbs, the Bronson’s pedigree shone through – this is a trail bike, moving easily even when gravity wasn’t our friend. Despite some clumsy maneuvers and off-timing, the Bronson was never hung up on square hits and was spritely when the front end needed to come up to clear ledges. We were grateful to have chosen the Bronson after several hours in the saddle, not for the descending prowess, but because we would not have given it a fair shake as an all around bike otherwise.

Part of our traverse had us riding through unrelenting shale and rock. The bumps and vibrations were taking their toll and the affair was growing rather fatiguing. Because this was a test and Seb was lugging along a shock pump, and because he didn’t like the chatter much either, we made some suspension adjustments. Yesterday we were riding full steam, full of fire and fury; today, well, less so. By this point we had already backed off the compression, so fork and rear shock pressures went down just a few pounds but not quite to full mattress mode. The ride from here was much less punishing. The Bronson further revealed the flexible characteristics that lay beneath the bulging muscular frame. The final off-road portion of our ride had us plummeting down the bike park at breakneck speeds. The slightly softer suspension gave way to the ground-sucking bloodhound characteristics of the Bronson. Though not a total party pooper, this guy just wanted to nuke. A spin on the bike path back to the condo saw us to about 25-miles on our day. It’s a good thing the two of us only packed one water bottle and a bar.

Following our all day adventure there was precious little time to snap some garage shots of the bikes and do the oh-so-coveted suspension compression videos before we had to run back out the door to get some action shots with Santa Cruz media man Austin Holt. Thank goodness we got our burritos to go!

What's The Bottom Line?

What was the takeaway? Well, first up would be that mountain bikes are radical and we should all try to make some time to spend a couple of days playing in the woods. With regard to these particular machines the answer is a bit more loaded. As riders, our choices for good bikes are almost innumerable. The latest trail rides from Santa Cruz were already on that list, but are now more better-er. Each bike is capable of all day adventures both up and down the mountains, the divide is really up to the rider and an honest reflection of how confident a bike handler they are.

The 5010 is an excellent example of the modern mountain bike. Riders can enter the local XC race and not feel silly about it. That same rider can hit the local park for an occasional lap as well as massive backcountry adventures. There isn’t much that this bike can’t tackle until things get pretty wild, at which point backing off the gas and making smart moves will suffice. There is a small tribe that will get the frame and make a nasty little slalom bike out of the 5010. All we can say to that is: long live slalom! 

The Bronson is at the aggressive end of things, and to appreciate what this bike has to offer one needs to be willing to let it hang out a bit. Inside drift lines, blind drops, brutal terrain; these are all areas of excellence for the Bronson should the rider be ready to go eyes up and all out. Heading out on an all day expedition is not outside of the Bronson’s abilities either, and riders certainly won’t kick themselves for doing so. Those living in rocky regions or who favor more natural trails for those big trips will find the Bronson an ideal ride. If charging hard isn’t in the cards there isn’t much sense in grabbing this bike, not when the 5010 will do so nicely.

Visit www.santacruzbicycles.com to check out all of the builds, and be sure to catch Ratboy's "trip" on the new Bronson.


About The Tester

Brad Howell - Age: 38 // Years Riding: 25 // Height: 5’9” (1.72m) // Weight: 160-pounds (72.5kg)

Brad started mountain biking when a 2.25-inch tire was "large," and despite having threads, bottom brackets sucked. Riding in the woods with friends eventually lead way to racing, trying to send it at the local gravel pits, and working in bike shops as a wrench to help fix those bikes. Fortunate enough to have dug at the past six Rampages and become friends with some of the sport’s biggest talents, Brad has a broad perspective of what bikes can do and what it means to be a good rider. The past few years Brad worked in the bike industry and got to see the man behind the curtain. These days, though, he likes just riding his bike in the woods with friends.

Photos by Austin Holt // Brad Howell // Santa Cruz

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