Our Head Coach at Dirt School, Andy Barlow, has swapped over from his Megatower onto the new Bronson from Santa Cruz for this season. With slightly less rear travel and, most noticeably, MX wheels, the Bronson is a slight departure from his normal choice of bike. With a few members of the Dirt School and Tweed Valley Bikes team having ridden the Bronson and loved the slightly more playful nature of the ride, how will Andy get on with his new bike?
Let’s find out his initial impressions and rationale for choosing his new Bronson below...
Having spent the last four years riding a full 29er setup, ironically when they first came out I wasn’t really sold on the idea. The ones that I tried at the time were long travel XC bikes, and although they rolled better the handling felt tall, awkward and clumsy. The Santa Cruz Hightower was the turning point. After that bike hit the market everything changed. The slow handling associated with 29ers had become stable and now inspired confidence, the larger wheels gave you more time to react, and the longer wheelbase meant that once rolling it was able to track choppy ground with control.
Since then, the mid to long travel 29er platform became my go to choice for a bike. Having all of the stable handling characteristics of a 29er has meant that I can trust the bike to remain calm, and adopt a confident riding position. This is possible by securing your neutral riding position to the stable front end of the bike; this in turn leaves your lower body free to let the bike dance around, and suits modern technique and styles well.
The pros of a 29er are definitely that it rolls better, so if you are above 6 feet, or racing enduro or downhill it’s more efficient. Also, in unfamiliar territory you could say that a 29er means you can make mistakes and get away with it. However, the pros of a 27.5” bike are that you can throw it around easier and that feels more playful. This probably doesn’t mean that it’s any faster though - even though your perceived exertion might tell you otherwise, but, it tends to be the go to for riders that aren’t worried about being on the clock and just want to have fun.
Which leads us to the mixed (MX) wheel size option now available. Why wouldn’t you want a smaller rear wheel? After all, at 177cm I’m just under 6 foot, so having a smaller rear wheel would mean I could carve tighter, manual easier, and move around easily with more range. It’s stable up front: meaning that you can rely on that same strong neutral riding position that’s become so crucial in recent years, but it remains playful at the rear meaning that you can have more fun! Is this the perfect compromise? I’ll be honest, I’ve been MX curious for a while now.
As soon as you start leaning this bike over to turn you notice that it wants to carve tighter. There’s something about the front end that remains stable, but the rear of the bike wants to drive you on. It was initially very noticeable but the more time I’ve spent on the bike the less I think about it.
With the Megatower you can lean it over in a turn and you don’t really have to do that much. It just charges on and carries speed no matter what it’s hitting. With the new Bronson it’s definitely more lively in those same turns, but it keeps you balanced and feeling like you have control. When you drive your weight into the trail through your pedals with your legs, the feedback is just a bit quicker, but because of the stable front end it never feels twitchy or exposed. It’s definitely more playful than the 29/29 set up, and seems to bring out the best in your riding, always encouraging you to just play more.
The more I’ve ridden this bike the less I’ve noticed the mixed wheels and the more that I’ve started to just trust it. It’s definitely a more playful bike than the Megatower, which for someone like me who doesn’t race is great! Is it the perfect balance between playfulness and stability? I think it might be.
If, like Andy, you find yourself MX curious, drop into our shop in Innerleithen, or give us a call on 01896 831429 to arrange to demo a Bronson for yourself.