First Ride: New Santa Cruz Bronson and 5010

In: BIKES, First Impression, Inside Line, REVIEWS By: Justin Steiner On: September 11, 2015

Santa Cruz has redesigned two of its most popular models. See how the new bikes stack up.

Roughly two and a half years after the initial release of the Bronson and 5010, both bikes have been updated with more progressive geometry and the third iteration of Santa Cruz’s VPP suspension design. The 5010 and Bronson have been hugely successful for Santa Cruz, so updating these popular models was a serious undertaking.

Last year’s release of the Nomad was, in hindsight, an indicator of the direction Santa Cruz is headed. The previous version of the 5010 and Bronson offered arguably middle-of-the-road geometry figures within their respective categories. Since the release of these bikes, the trail segment has marched steadily in the direction of longer, lower and slacker. This current redesign pushes both bikes to the progressive end of the scale.


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Version one of the Bronson was a killer bike, and I greatly enjoyed my time aboard. But, when the new Nomad came to town, I was left wondering how much it would cut into Bronson sales. After all, the Nomad was nearly as light and its updated suspension arguably pedaled nearly as well as the Bronson. Not only that, but the steep seat tube angle and resulting up-over-the-pedals riding position really facilitated climbing.

The Bronson’s update has certainly leveled the playing field. Like the Nomad, the Bronson has been given 20-25 mm longer top tubes, a slacker 66-degree head tube angle, steeper 74-degree seat tube angle, lower 13.4-inch bottom bracket height and shorter 17.0-inch chainstays. The wheelbase on a medium Bronson is now a rangy 45.8 inches.

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Similarly, the revised suspension design utilizes a new recessed lower link and upper swing link configuration. Combining the recessed lower link with 148 x 12 mm rear hub spacing (Boost 148 standard) allowed Santa Cruz to trim 0.3-inches from the chainstays. Speaking of Boost, bikes will begin shipping with Boost 110 equipped Pike forks in November. Unlike the Nomad, the Bronson will accommodate side swing front derailleurs.

Suspension kinematics have also been revised to retain good small bump compliance while providing a more supportive and progressive mid-stroke. Ramp up to bottom out has also been increased.

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Three versions of the Bronson will be offered. The lightest CC model, the slightly heavier and less costly C version as well as aluminum in April of 2016.

Santa Cruz has hit its stride with the “mild” and “wild” paint schemes. This year the Bronson will be available in the understated black and grey combo as well as the stunning Kalimotxo.

Bronson Black Hero Bronson Kalimotxo Hero

Bronson First Impression

Santa Cruz chose to show off the new Bronson on the legendary Downieville Classic course. This descent drops nearly 5,000 feet in 14 miles over a mix of terrain from flowy to rowdy, with around 660 feet of gain to give us a taste of the Bronson’s climbing prowess.

From the first moment I swung a leg over the new Bronson, I felt immediately at home. All of the geometry changes make for an up-over-the-pedals riding position that’s ready to attack climbs, while the other geometry changes, 800 mm-wide Santa Cruz handlebar and 150 mm-travel dropper post encourage more aggressive descending.

Speeding down Butcher Trail really highlighted the Bronson’s versatility. From large, chunky rock fields to jumps and drops to the occasional smooth section, the Bronson was composed and very confident. The new geometry blends high-speed stability with low-speed maneuverability very well.

The revised suspension design offers a ton more mid-stroke support, which helps to keep the bike settled in aggressive terrain. The new Bronson rides higher in its travel, being much less eager to venture deep into mid-stroke until called upon to do so. It also offers quite a bit more bottom out resistance. The liveliness of the rear suspension really encourages popping trail obstacles at every opportunity.

The previous Bronson was no slouch when it came to turning pedals up hill, but the new bike is a marked improvement. Throughout our limited climbing, I never felt compelled to switch out of Descend mode as there was very little pedal-induced motion and the traction and small bump absorption was excellent. According to Santa Cruz, small bump compliance has been improved thanks to a higher initial leverage ratio.

No doubt the previous Bronson is a stellar bike, but the new version is a pretty significant step forward. Very early on in my ride it was clear this new bike has been improved in every way. The sum total of many incremental changes add up to much more than the sum of their parts.

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For many riders, bikes like the venerable 5010 are the Goldilocks trail bike. Just enough travel and stability to tackle a wide variety of terrain without feeling under- or over- gunned for much of it. All of the lower, slacker, longer updates that have trickled to the 5010 strive to maintain that same balance, while keeping pace with the progression of both bikes and riders.

The 5010’s head tube angle is now 67-degrees (same as the previous Bronson), seat tube steepens up to 73.8 degrees, bottom bracket drops to 13.1 inches and chainstays have shrunk to 16.7 inches. All numbers that make this 130 mm-travel bike sound like a whole lot of fun. The 5010’s wheelbase has grown to 44.9 inches on a size medium.

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Similar to the Bronson, the 5010 utilizes the 148 x 12 rear hub standard, and will ship with Boost 110 forks beginning in November.

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Rear wheel travel has been increased from 125 mm to 130 mm and the kinematics have been tweaked too. A higher initial leverage ratio increases small bump compliance and the spring curve is much more progressive to improve mid-stroke responsiveness and bottom out resistance.

Like the Bronson, the 5010 is compatible with side swing front derailleurs.


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Three versions of the 5010 will be offered. The lightest CC model, the slightly heavier and less costly C version as well as aluminum in 2016.

The 5010’s color options may be a little more subdued than the Bronson’s, but they’re both great looking bikes.

5010 Black Hero 5010 Blue Hero

Justin 5010-1

5010 First Impression

Like the Bronson, I quickly connected with the 5010. Climbing or descending, the revised riding position inspires confidence and efficiency.

Our day aboard the 5010 took to us to the relatively new Mills Peak trail, which starts above the ridge between Downieville and Graeagle, California. From the shuttle drop off, we climbed for 20-30 minutes before dropping into the singletrack that runs mostly downhill into Graeagle. We have the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS) to thank for this amazing trail. If you have a chance to ride this trail, don’t miss the opportunity. And, if you do, consider supporting SBTS.

On the way up, it quickly became apparent the 5010 is a stellar climber. Even in the Fox Float EVOL’s open setting, the revised suspension moves only ever so slightly while pedaling. Trail and Climb settings firmed things up to suit various tastes, but I never felt compelled to swap out of Descend mode.

As you’d expect, the real fun started when we dropped into the singletrack off of Mills Point Lookout. For “just” a 130 mm-travel bike, the 5010 sure rips. All of the changes make the bike a very confident descender, without hampering its versatility in any way. The shorter rear center certainly makes it feel very lively, happily manualing through any dip in the trail. With a considerably longer front center, the 5010 certainly rewarded conscious weighting of the front wheel in the dry and loose terrain of the launch.

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Not only does the revised suspension pedal better, but it’s much more responsive through the mid-stroke and ramps up at the end of stroke to prevent bottom out much better too. Overall, the rear suspension feels much livelier than previous iterations of VPP.

With just one day’s riding aboard the 5010, this verdict is far from conclusive. However, my first impression was extremely positive. These changes yield improvements to every aspect of a great bike and add versatility with no discernible drawbacks.


With the release of the new 5010 and Bronson, Santa Cruz has created a potent trifecta of bikes when you factor in the Nomad. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of these machines, simply pick the bike that best fits your riding style and terrain and ride off into the sunset.

Carbon Bronson and 5010 models will begin shipping to dealers on Monday September 14, 2015. Aluminum models will ship in the beginning of April 2016.

More Photos

Action photos courtesy of Santa Cruz.

Keep reading

Santa Cruz’s women’s brand, Juliana, also released its versions of the new bikes today. Read more about them here.

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