Santa Cruz Bronson XO1 AXS RSV Review
Cons: Build tested is very expensive, too much bike for mellow XC terrain
Manufacturer: Santa Cruz Bicycles
Compare to Similar Products
Santa Cruz Bronson XO1 AXS RSV
|Price||$9,849 List||$7,299 List||$7,299 List|
$7,299 at Backcountry
|$4,300 List||$5,899 List|
$5,899 at Backcountry
|Pros||Very confident in aggressive terrain, playful and responsive, nimble rear end, outrageous build||Excellent climbing abilities, impressive downhill performance, high fun factor, tremendous build kit||Outstanding all around performance, more capable on the descents than its predecessor, great climber, excellent build||Highly adjustable geometry, adaptable for terrain or riding style, SWAT storage, plush suspension, very stable and confident descender||Lightweight, playful, well-rounded, modern geometry, solid component specification|
|Cons||Build tested is very expensive, too much bike for mellow XC terrain||Expensive, pivots came loose a few times during testing||Expensive, still not a full-on enduro bike, a touch on the heavy side||Overkill for tame trails, Fox 36 Rhythm fork, moderate weight||Not a brawler, Fox 34 fork can be overwhelmed|
|Bottom Line||Updated geometry and a move to mixed wheels make this aggressive trail bike better than ever||A fantastic trail bike that blends superb climbing abilities with fun and well-rounded downhill performance||The new and improved Ripmo V2 is the best all-around trail bike we've ever tested||A heavy-hitting longer travel trail bike with an innovative, highly adjustable geometry||We loved the old version, but believe it or not, the new Ibis Ripley is even better|
|Rating Categories||Santa Cruz Bronson...||Yeti SB130 TURQ X01||Ibis Ripmo V2 XT||Specialized Stumpju...||Ibis Ripley GX Eagle|
|Fun Factor (25%)|
|Downhill Performance (35%)|
|Climbing Performance (35%)|
|Ease of Maintenance (5%)|
|Specs||Santa Cruz Bronson...||Yeti SB130 TURQ X01||Ibis Ripmo V2 XT||Specialized Stumpju...||Ibis Ripley GX Eagle|
|Wheel size||MX (29" front, 27.5" rear)||29"||29"||29"||29"|
|Suspension & Travel||Virtual Pivot Point (VPP - 150mm)||Switch Infinity - 130mm||DW-Link - 147mm||FSR - 150mm||DW-Link - 120mm|
|Measured Weight (w/o pedals)||30 lbs 7 oz (Large)||29 lbs 9 oz (Large)||31 lbs (Large)||31 lbs 14 oz (Large)||28 lbs 14 oz (Large)|
|Fork||Fox 36 Float Factory - 160mm||Fox 36 Factory - 150mm 36mm stanchions||Fox Float 36 Grip 2 Factory 160mm||Fox 36 Rhythm - 160mm||Fox Float 34 Performance 130mm 34mm stanchions|
|Shock||RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate||Fox DPX2 Factory||Fox Float X2||Fox Float DPX2 Performance||Fox Float Performance DPS EVOL|
|Frame Material||Carbon Fiber "CC"||Carbon Fiber "TURQ"||Carbon Fiber||FACT 11m Carbon Fiber||Carbon Fiber|
|Frame Size||Large||Large||Large||S4 (Large equivalent)||Large|
|Frame Settings||Flip Chip||N/A||N/A||Flip Chip and Headtube angle||N/A|
|Wheelset||Reserve 30 V2 Carbon with Industry Nine 1/1 hubs||DT Swiss M1700, 30mm ID w/ DT Swiss 350 hub||Ibis S35 Aluminum rims with Ibis hubs, 35mm ID||Roval 29 alloy rims with Shimano Centerlock hubs, 30mm id||Ibis 938 Aluminum Rims 34mm ID w/ Ibis Hubs|
|Front Tire||Maxis Minion DHF 2.5" EXO 3C Maxx-Grip||Maxxis Minion DHF WT 29 x 2.5"||Maxxis Assegai EXO+ 2.5"||Specialized Butcher GRID TRAIL T9, 2.6"||Schwable Hans Dampf 2.6"|
|Rear Tire||Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4" EXO 3C||Maxxis Aggressor 29 x 2.3||Maxxis Assegai EXO+ 2.5"||Specialized Eliminator GRID TRAIL T7, 2.3"||Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.6"|
|Shifters||SRAM GX AXS||SRAM XO Eagle||Shimano XT M8100 12-speed||Shimano SLX 12-speed||SRAM GX Eagle|
|Rear Derailleur||SRAM XO1 Eagle AXS||SRAM X0 Eagle||Shimano XT M8100 Shadow Plus 12-speed||Shimano SLX 12-speed||SRAM GX Eagle|
|Crankset||SRAM X1 Carbon 32T||SRAM X0 Eagle Carbon 30T||Shimano XT M8100 32T||Shimano SLX 170mm||SRAM Descendant Alloy 32T|
|Saddle||WTB Volt Medium||WTB Volt||WTB Silverado Pro 142mm||Specialized Bridge Comp||WTB Silverado 142mm|
|Seatpost||RockShox Reverb Stealth||Fox Transfer 150mm||Bike Yoke Revive (185mm size large)||X-Fusion Manic 170mm (S4/S5), 34.9 diameter||Bike Yoke Revive 160mm|
|Handlebar||Santa Cruz 35 Carbon 780mm 35mm rise||Yeti Carbon - 780mm||Ibis Adjustable Carbon 800mm (30mm rise)||Specialized 6061 alloy, 30mm rise, 800mm width||Ibis 780mm Alloy|
|Stem||Burgtec Enduro MK3||RaceFace Aeffect R 35||Thomson Elite X4||Specialized Alloy Trail stem, 35mm bore||Ibis 31.8mm 50mm|
|Brakes||SRAM Code RSC||Shimano XT M8000||Shimano XT M8120 4-piston||Shimano SLX 4-piston||Shimano Deore 2 Piston|
|Measured Effective Top Tube (mm)||623||628||632||625||625|
|Measured Reach (mm)||475||477||475||475||475|
|Measured Head Tube Angle||64.7-degrees H/64.5-degrees L||65.1-degrees||64.9-degrees||63-65.5 (adjustable)||66.5-degrees|
|Measured Seat Tube Angle||76.9-degrees H/76.5-degrees L||76.8-degrees||76-degrees||76.9-degrees||76.2-degrees|
|Measured Bottom Bracket Height (mm)||344 H/341 L||335||341||340 (adjustable with flip chips)||338|
|Measured Wheelbase (mm)||1249||1231||1238||1247||1210|
|Measured Chain Stay Length (mm)||438 (varies by size)||438||435||438 (S1-S4)||434|
|Warranty||Lifetime||Lifetime||Seven Years||Lifetime||Seven Years|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Should I Buy This Bike?
Mullet hairstyles may not be quite as common as they once were, but mullet bikes have steadily been gaining popularity for the past few years. When it came time to update the Bronson, Santa Cruz made the somewhat bold move to mixed wheel sizes. It may not be a Hemi, but we think Joe Dirt might still say "Daaannngg" when he saw it. The switch to mixed wheels (MX) along with an updated geometry have made the new Bronson more confident in aggressive terrain while retaining the versatility and maneuverability of its predecessor. With 150mm of rear-wheel travel paired with a 160mm fork, it fits squarely in the aggressive trail travel bracket, and the added length, slacker head angle, and mullet wheels have done wonders to enhance its downhill prowess. We found the Bronson to get better the harder you push it, with great stability at speed and composure in steep and rough terrain. The 29-inch front wheel provides a business-minded approach, while the 27.5-inch rear wheel keeps things lively and fun. Steep, skiddy trails and slashy corners were where we felt the Bronson excelled, but it proved to be tons of fun on moderate, flowy terrain as well. While it may not be most supple, the VPP suspension design performs better than most on bigger hits and provides a supportive platform to push off when popping side hits or blasting out of corners. Like most Santa Cruz bikes, it has a very calm pedaling platform that renders the climb switch nearly useless, and it proved to be an efficient climber capable of tackling anything we put in front of it. It isn't necessarily the fastest bike up or down the mountain, but it does strike us as one of the most fun we've tested in a while.
The Stumpjumper Evo is a similar bike in that it's an aggressive trail bike that sports 150mm of rear travel paired with a 160mm fork. The Stumpy is designed around matched 29-inch wheels, although Specialized makes a "mullet link" so you can switch to a mixed wheel setup if you like, although you'll need to buy the link and a new rear wheel. In its stock configuration, the Stumpjumper is perhaps a touch faster all around than the Bronson, but it can't quite match its snappy feel. The Stumpjumper is far more adjustable, so you can better match the geometry to your riding style or terrain, while the Bronson sits in the sweet spot for most riders with a very small range of adjustability. Both bikes are very versatile and can stand up to some seriously aggressive riding, but to us, the Bronson seems like a bit more of a niche bike aimed at the rider looking for a purpose-built mixed-wheel fun-hog of a bike. The Stumpy EVO takes a more business-like approach with a very high level of versatility achieved through its adjustability.
Compared to a couple of other Santa Cruz bikes we've tested, the 5010 and the Hightower, the Bronson has a personality all its own. The 5010 has 130mm of rear-wheel travel, rolls on matched 27.5-inch wheels, and is one of the most playful and fun bikes we've tested. The Hightower, on the other hand, is more of a purebred trail bike with matched 29-inch wheels and 145mm of rear-wheel travel. The Bronson feels a bit like a cross between the two, just with a touch more travel and slightly more aggressive geometry. Its got the confidence and stability of a 29er with the snappiness and maneuverability of a 27.5er. You could call it the best of both worlds.
The Bronson has been a mainstay in Santa Cruz's lineup for nearly a decade, and it got a major overhaul for the 2022 model year. It shares many similarities with the previous version but is now purpose-built for the mixed wheel (MX), or mullet, configuration with a 27.5" rear wheel and a 29" in the front. S-XL frame sizes come with the MX setup, while XS frames come with 27.5" wheels front and rear. Our XO1 AXS RSV test bike is built around the high-end Carbon CC frame with 150mm of VPP (Virtual Pivot Point) rear suspension with the now ubiquitous low shock mount orientation. The Bronson is also offered in the slightly heavier but less expensive Carbon C frame. Currently, there are no aluminum frame options. The frame has clean lines like the rest of Santa Cruz's line and features sleeved internal cable routing, integrated downtube, shuttle, and chainstay protection, and plenty of room within the front triangle for a full-size water bottle. Santa Cruz's sister brand, Juliana, also makes the Roubion, which is essentially the same bike with different color options and touchpoints.
The Bronson has 150mm of low-mount VPP rear suspension paired with a 160mm fork. This VPP platform is the same as that found on virtually all of Santa Cruz's trail and enduro bikes with the shock mounted low on the downtube, passing through a hole near the bottom of the seat tube and attaching to the lower link. The lower link connects the front triangle and the rigid rear triangle just behind the bottom bracket and the upper link is attached to the top tube just in front of the seat tube, and to the top of the seat stays. Flip-chips in the lower shock mount allow you to make very minor adjustments to the Bronson's geometry. The Bronson is only offered with an air shock, but it is compatible with coil shocks as well.
Geometry-wise, the new Bronson is a departure from the previous version, but not wildly so. The new geometry falls squarely into the aggressive trail/all-mountain bracket. The chainstay length/rear center is size-specific in an effort to maintain a balanced ride across the size spectrum. The rear center starts at 427mm on the size XS and grows to 442mm on the size XL, and our size Large measured 438mm. Low standover heights across all sizes allow the rider to pick a frame size based on their preferred reach, and our Large test bike came in at a comfortable 475mm, along with a long-ish 1,249mm wheelbase. In the high setting it has a relatively slack 64.7-degree head tube angle and a comfortably steep 76.9-degree seat tube angle. Flipping the chips slackens the head tube angle by 0.2-degrees to 64.5-degrees, and relaxes the seat tube angle by 0.4-degrees to 76.5-degrees. The bottom height sits at 344/341mm in the high/low settings, respectively.
- Carbon C or Carbon CC (tested) frames only
- Mixed wheels, 27.5" rear and 29" front (size XS comes with matched 27.5" wheels)
- Frame designed specifically for the mixed wheel configuration
- 150mm of VPP rear suspension
- Designed around a 160mm fork
- Full sleeve internal cable routing
- Integrated downtube, shuttle, and chainstay protection
- Complete builds range in price from $5,049 to $11,399
- Available as Carbon CC frame only for $3,699
The Bronson really comes alive on the descents with a bit of speed or when the trails get steep and rowdy. The move to mixed wheels provides a confident front end for stability and plowing over the rough stuff while the 27.5-inch rear wheel keeps the bike feeling snappy and easily maneuverable. The updated geometry allows for some seriously aggressive riding yet remains fun on a wide range of terrain, and the 150 rear and 160mm of front travel provide enough squish for the majority of situations. It goes without saying that the high-end build we tested performed marvelously on the descents.
Throwing a leg over the Bronson for the first time, it became apparent to our testers that riding a mixed-wheel setup feels slightly different than a full 29er. While it isn't a major departure from a matched-wheel bike, it does take a few minutes, or maybe a ride or two, to get used to. Considering the fact that Santa Cruz designed the frame specifically for mullet wheels, the majority of the geometry feels relatively normal. We did notice, however, that the front end of the bike felt somewhat high, and we compensated for that by lowering the stem about as far as it would go. Even with the handlebar lower, we did find ourselves needing to consciously weight the front end a little more than usual in corners on more moderate terrain. This was, however, something that we got used to pretty quickly. Interestingly, the Bronson has roughly the same stack height as the Hightower, which didn't give us the same feeling. We assume this is a result of the smaller wheel in the back and difference in axle to ground heights front and rear. The flipside is that the Bronson feels super comfortable when riding down steep trails. The difference in wheels sizes automatically gives you a slight rearward weight bias, and the tall feeling front end feels like it keeps you in the driver's seat, providing confidence and composure for the rider. Not to mention the fact that it's less likely to buzz your butt with the rear tire, and it feels great slashing turns.
Beyond that quirk, the updated geometry is longer and slacker than the previous version, but right around the sweet spot for modern aggressive trail bikes. It's wild to think that just a few years ago the Bronson's geometry would have been quite extreme, but it's almost moderate when compared to some other bikes on the market today. We found the 64.7/64.5-degree head tube angle (high/low settings, respectively) to provide a confident front end that avoids being too slacked out. The 475mm reach on our size large is comfortably roomy without feeling too long. The size-specific chainstays, 438mm on our large, aren't exactly short, but they do provide good stability, particularly when combined with the long-ish 1,249mm wheelbase length. Despite that length, the Bronson remains easily maneuverable, and the smaller rear wheel really comes around in the corners. It rails through berms and performs really well in tight, twisty, and steep trails. We also found it to feel almost eager to get off the ground, and it was notably comfortable and balanced in the air.
Suspension travel remains the same as the previous version, with 150mm in the rear paired with a 160mm fork. We feel this travel length strikes a great balance, with enough to handle virtually any situation, but not so much that it feels like you're pedaling a full-blown enduro bike around all the time. The low shock mount VPP suspension design has excellent mid-stroke support and adequate progression to prevent blowing through the travel on bigger hits or drops, and it stays remarkably composed when deep in its travel. We feel it doesn't have the best small bump compliance compared to some other designs, though the frame is compatible with coil shocks for those who wish to make it a little more supple off the top. While somewhat difficult to clean, the low-mount VPP design is sturdy and it makes for a nice, stiff interface between the front and rear triangles. The super beefy downtube and head tube junction add to the bike's burly and stout feel.
As expected, the XO1 AXS RSV build is stellar on the descents. The Fox 36 Factory fork is stiff enough and the Grip 2 damper offers both high and low compression and rebound adjustments for dialing it just how you like. The RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock performs well at the back of the bike as well. Our test bike rolls on Reserve 30 Carbon rims laced to Industry Nine 1/1 hubs. The beefy wheels have a reasonably low weight, balanced ride feel, and they come with a lifetime warranty. The Maxxis Minion DHF in the front is paired with a Maxxis Minion DHR II in the back for an aggressive trail riding combo that provides excellent cornering and braking traction. The EXO casing of those tires, however, might be a little under-gunned for some riders out there. Our testers tend to prefer Shimano brakes, but the SRAM Code RSC's provide good stopping power and modulation, and the 200mm front rotor helps you slow down in a hurry. A stout Burgtec Enduro MK3 stem clamps an 800mm wide, 30mm rise Santa Cruz Carbon handlebar for precise steering and control and excellent vibration dampening. A 175mm (size large) RockShox Reverb dropper gets the saddle low and out of the way on descents. Taller riders might balk at that length, as there is plenty of room to go longer, but we found it to be adequate most of the time.
Climbing aboard the Bronson is a comfortable and hassle-free affair. The geometry provides a relatively relaxed climbing position and the VPP suspension platform keeps things feeling efficient as we've come to expect from Santa Cruz's bikes. While it didn't feel like the fastest bike up the hill, there was nothing we put in front of it that it couldn't handle, within reason, of course.
Seat tube angles are a hot topic in mountain bike geometry these days with them trending steeper and steeper. Santa Cruz didn't go too crazy here but gave the Bronson a fairly steep 76.9-degree effective seat tube angle (size large, high setting) that relaxes to 76.5-degrees in the low setting. Additionally, the actual seat tube angle is fairly steep, so riders at the upper limits of a bike's sizing won't end up with their weight too far back over the rear wheel. We found this lined the rider up nicely above the bottom bracket with an up-top position and direct power transfer straight down into the cranks. The 475mm reach is nice and roomy, but the steep seat tube and the tall feeling front end (mentioned above) made for a comfortable position that never felt too stretched out. The 438mm chainstays/rear center length (this length varies by frame size) and 1,249mm wheelbase are fairly long, but give the bike a balanced feel and it remained surprisingly maneuverable through technical sections and tight turns. Despite the bike's overall length and relatively slack front end, we didn't have any issues with steering feeling light or wander-y, even on the steepest of climbs. Even with the smaller rear wheel, the bottom bracket height is high enough that pedal strikes weren't really an issue.
We've tested several other Santa Cruz models with the low shock mount VPP suspension design, and we've always been impressed by its climbing efficiency. While there is the tiniest bit of suspension movement, it remains quite calm while pedaling when seated and standing. It feels like there is very little energy wasted, while still providing excellent traction on the trail surface. In fact, we left the climbing switch on the RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock in the open position nearly all the time save for a few paved and dirt road grinds. While it does feel very efficient, the Bronson never struck us as being particularly fast. Don't get us wrong, it cruises uphill just fine, but it doesn't do so with the sense of urgency that some other bikes have. Of course, this is an aggressive trail bike with a mixed-wheel setup, so that doesn't necessarily come as too much of a surprise. The 29-inch front wheel rolls over obstacles quite effectively, but the 27.5-inch rear wheel is a little more prone to hanging up than a larger wheel would be. This is by no means a deal-breaker, but it may take a little getting used to if you've been riding a full 29er.
The XO1 AXS RSV build performs exceptionally well on the uphills. Our large test bike tipped the scales at 30 lbs 7 oz, which is reasonably lightweight for a bike this burly and aggressive. The XO1 AXS shifting is a thing of beauty with crisp shifts and plenty of range, plus you can customize the shifter paddle through the app to be exactly how you want it. The Reserve Carbon 30 wheels are fairly lightweight, which helps to reduce rotational weight, and the Industry Nine 1/1 hubs have quick 4-degree engagement that simply feels great. The Maxxis Minion DHR II is a great rear tire that provides excellent pedaling traction in a wide range of conditions. Lastly, the WTB Volt saddle is a long-time tester favorite, and a comfortable perch to sit and spin away the vertical.
There's absolutely no denying the fact that the XO1 AXS RSV build of the Bronson we tested is expensive. That said, it's about as dialed of a build as you could hope for, and quite frankly, mountain bikes are expensive and that isn't changing anytime soon. Considering what you get for that price, we feel it is competitive with high-end builds from other major manufacturers. Of course, your disposable income and willingness to spend a lot of money on a bike will dictate whether or not this bike is a good value to you. There are several other less expensive build options (and one more expensive) available that will get you out on the new Bronson for thousands less. We think the current XT build hits the sweet spot of price and performance.
Having tested the previous two versions of the Bronson, we feel confident saying that the latest is definitely the greatest. With a move from matched 27.5-inch wheels to a mixed wheel setup along with updated geometry, the Bronson retains its versatility but inspires the confidence to ride much more aggressive terrain. The big wheel up front provides stability and composure while the smaller rear wheel keeps it feeling sporty and fun. If you've been wanting to channel your inner Joe Dirt and charging descents, slapping corners, and catching air is your idea of a good time, then check out the new Bronson.
The Bronson is currently offered in six complete builds including the XO1 AXS RSV we tested. The entry point is the Carbon C R that goes for a not-insignificant $5,049. It comes with a Rock Shox Lyrik Select fork, Fox Float X Performance shock, SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain, and alloy Race Face wheels.
The S and XT builds also come with the Carbon C frame and go for $5,949 and $6,949, respectively. The XT build also has the option for upgrading to the high-end Reserve 30 Carbon wheels.The XO1, XO1 AXS RSV (tested), and the XX1 AXS RSV builds all come with the Carbon CC frame. The top of the line XX1 build goes for a whopping $11,399 and comes as tricked out as you can get. It features XX1 AXS shifting, a Fox Factory fork, Rock Shox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock, RSV carbon hoops with Industry Nine Hydra hubs, and all the fancy odds and ends you can think of.
— Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens
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