Mullets are back in fashion, and not just on people’s heads! While more and more brands are releasing new bikes with MX wheel setups, the Bronson is the only mullet bike in this group test. In last year’s enduro test, it impressed our test team as a nimble trail weapon. How does it fare in our 2022 trail bike group test?
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best trail bike of 2022 – 14 models in review
The Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01 AXS is the rolling proof that categorising bikes doesn’t always make sense. Combining 160 mm travel at the front and 150 mm at the rear, the Bronson has already competed in last year’s enduro bike test but fits in equally well with the bikes in our 2022 trail bike group test. This makes the € 9,999 Bronson CC X01 AXS the only mullet bike in the entire test field, combining a 29″ wheel at the front and smaller 27.5″ at the rear. Unlike many other MX bike models, the 14.1 kg Bronson was developed specifically around the mixed wheel size concept. Moreover, Santa Cruz is the only manufacturer in this test to pair suspension components from RockShox and FOX.
The spec of the Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01 AXS
As the name suggests, the Bronson CC X01 AXS features Santa Cruz’s high-end CC frame, which, compared to the standard C frame, relies on a larger proportion of higher strength fibres, allowing for the same degree of stiffness at a lower weight.
The relatively small down tube protector is complemented by a shuttle guard that prevents scratches and paint chips when you throw the Bronson on the back of a pickup. The seat stays and chainstays are covered with a generously sized rubber protector while a small fender shields the shock and link from dirt and mud. Unfortunately, the Bronson has neither a tool mount nor a storage compartment, although the down tube would be beefy enough to accommodate one.
Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01 AXS
Fork FOX 36 Factory GRIP2 160 mm
Rear Shock RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate 150 mm
Seatpost RockShox Reverb 175 mm
Brakes SRAM CODE RSC 200/180 mm
Drivetrain SRAM X01/GX AXS Eagle 1x12
Stem Burgtec Enduro MK3 45 mm
Handlebar Santa Cruz Carbon 800 mm
Wheelset Santa Cruz Reserve V2 29/27.5"
Tires MAXXIS Minion DHF, 3C, MaxxGrip, EXO/MAXXIS Minion DHR II, 3C, MaxxTerra, EXO 2.5/2.4
Size XS S M L XL
Weight 14.1 kg
Tuning Tip: more robust tire casing like MAXXIS’ DoubleDown | bigger 200 mm rotor at the rear
The name of the bike also gives away some of its components: the drivetrain consists of a wireless SRAM X01 Eagle AXS drivetrain, albeit combined with a cheaper GX AXS paddle shifter which doesn’t have any drawbacks compared to its high-end counterpart except for weighing 3 g more. Weight weenies beware! Braking is taken care of by SRAM CODE RSC brakes with tool-free bite point and reach adjustment. The high-end RSC model employs SRAM’s SwingLink lever, which was designed to minimise deadband and increase control. The brakes are paired with a 200 mm rotor at the front and a small 180 mm disc at the rear: we recommend upgrading the latter to a bigger model to improve braking performance and modulation.
RockShox also supply the 175 mm Reverb dropper post, which offers just enough travel for a trail bike in size L but ensures smooth and intuitive action thanks to the hydraulic actuation. The cockpit consists of Santa Cruz’s own-brand 800 mm carbon handlebars and Burgtec MK3 stem. The mixed suspension consists of a highly-tuneable FOX 36 Factory GRIP2 fork and RockShox Super Deluxe shock. The Bronson’s kinematics are tuned specifically for this shock and we see no reason not to combine suspension components from different manufacturers. For the wheels, the Californian manufacturer relies on an in-house Reserve V2 carbon wheelset with Industry Nine hubs and MAXXIS tires, combining a Minion DHF with soft MaxxGrip rubber compound at the front and Minion DHR II with harder MaxxTerra rubber compound at the rear. While combining a soft front tire with a harder rubber compound at the rear makes perfect sense, Santa Cruz are still one of the few brands in this test to rely on this setup – awesome! Unfortunately, both tires come in the puncture-prone EXO casing. We recommend upgrading to tires with a more robust casing, e.g. MAXXIS’s DoubleDown, which protects the expensive carbon rims from nasty impacts and allows you to run lower air pressures for more traction and support.
The geometry of the Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01 AXS
The Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01 AXS is available in five sizes, XS to XL, offering a suitable option for all riders between 142 cm and 196 cm. The smallest XS size rolls on two 27.5″ wheels. Chainstay length grows with the frame size, providing consistent handling across all sizes, while a flip chip in the shock mount allows you to alter the head and seat tube angles by 0.2° and 0.6° respectively and the bottom bracket height by 3 mm. Santa Cruz pair a 475 mm reach with a very short 430 mm seat tube, which ensures plenty of freedom of movement together with the dropper post that can be fully inserted into the frame.
|Seat tube||370 mm||380 mm||405 mm||430 mm||460 mm|
|Top tube||536 mm||570 mm||599 mm||623 mm||653 mm|
|Head tube||110 mm||100 mm||110 mm||120 mm||135 mm|
|Chainstays||432 mm||432 mm||436 mm||439 mm||443 mm|
|BB Drop||32 mm||32 mm||32 mm||32 mm||32 mm|
|Wheelbase||1.154 mm||1.189 mm||1.222 mm||1.249 mm||1.285 mm|
|Reach||405 mm||430 mm||455 mm||475 mm||500 mm|
|Stack||595 mm||619 mm||628 mm||637 mm||651 mm|
The Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01 AXS on the trail
The pedalling position of the Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01 AXS is very comfortable and thus suitable for long tours. Riding uphill, the front remains planted on the trail even on steep technical climbing sections, where the active rear suspension generates excellent traction. However, the latter bobs slightly when pedalling but still works efficiently – we only reached for the climb switch on very long climbs.
With its lively suspension and agile handling, the Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01 AXS is a mean fun machine.
Turn its nose into the valley, and the Bronson is intuitive, light-footed and easy to ride, getting you to the car park safely and with a chilled grin on your face, even after an epic 3,000 m descent. True to the playful character of the bike, the suspension of the Bronson is extremely lively but still provides good traction and sufficient reserves. However, the Bronson doesn’t shy away from fast trails either, where it feels composed despite its playful handling. The Santa Cruz awakens your inner child, encouraging you to play with the trail, popping off edges and drifting from one berm into the next. It’s incredibly fun to ride and puts a huge smile on your face with its playful handling every time you drop into the valley.
The Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01 AXS is the only mullet bike in this test but makes it clear that it’s designed specifically around the mixed wheel size concept, offering a very balanced ride. Moreover, it’s super agile, playful yet composed and offers plenty of reserves. Unfortunately, the brakes and tires don’t do justice to its character and the frame forgoes a tool mount and storage compartment. Nevertheless, the Bronson still impresses with excellent all-round qualities and top riding fun!
- very balanced, intuitive handling
- excellent all-rounder
- top fun factor
- spec leaves room for improvement
- no storage compartment or tool mount
You can find out more about at santacruzbicycles.com
The test field
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best trail bike of 2022 – 14 models in review
All bikes in test: Atherton AM.150 (Click for review) | Bold Linkin 135 Ultimate (Click for review) | Canyon Spectral 125 CF 9 (Click for review) | Canyon Spectral CFR (Click for review) | FOCUS JAM 8.9 (Click for review) | Mondraker Raze RR SL (Click for review) | Propain Hugene (Click for review) | Rocky Mountain Instinct C70 (Click for review) | ROSE BONERO 3 (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01 AXS (Click for review) | SCOR 4060 ST GX (Click for review) | Specialized Stumpjumper EVO S-Works (Click for review) | Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Elite Alloy (Click for review) | YT JEFFSY UNCAGED 6 (Click for review)
This scale indicates how efficiently the bike climbs. It refers to both simple and technical climbs. Along with the suspension, the riding position and the weight of the bike all play a crucial role.↩
How does the bike ride and descend? How spritely is the bike, how agile is it through corners, how much fun is it in tight sections and how quickly can it change direction?↩
Is the bike stable at high speeds? Is it easy to stay in control in demanding terrain? How composed is it on rough trails? Stability is a combination of balanced geometry, good suspension and the right spec.↩
This is all about how balanced the bike is and particularly about how well it corners. Balanced bikes require little physical effort from the rider and are very predictable. If a bike is unbalanced, the rider has to work hard to weight the front wheel to generate enough grip. However, experienced riders can have a lot of fun even with unbalanced bikes.↩
How sensitive is the suspension over small bumps? Can it absorb hard impacts and does it soak up repeated hits? Plush suspension not only provides comfort and makes a bike more capable, but it also generates traction. The rating includes the fork and the rear suspension.↩
This aspect mainly comes down to the suspension. How much pop does it have, does it suck up the rider’s input or is it supportive, and how agile and direct is the bike?↩
We don’t calculate value for money in an excel spreadsheet or based on how high-end a bike is specced. We are more concerned with how a bike performs on the trail and how the bike benefits the rider. What good are the best components if the bike doesn’t perform well on the trail? Expensive bikes with a lower-end spec can offer very good value for money – provided they excel where it matters. Just as supposedly cheap bikes with good components can get a bad rating if they don’t deliver on the trail.↩
No, it’s not about racing, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along flowy singletrack and gravel roads need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret XC more like the Americans do: big back-country rides instead of a marathon or XC World Cup with the ultimate in lightweight construction! Uphill-downhill ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
...also known as mountain biking. Classic singletrack with roots, rocks and ledges – sometimes flowy, sometimes rough. For this, you need a bike with good all-round qualities, whether climbing or descending. Uphill-downhill ratio: 50:50↩
Even more extreme and challenging compared to Trail riding, riddled with every kind of obstacle: jumps, gaps, nasty rock gardens, ruts and roots. For this, you need (race)proven equipment that forgives mistakes and wouldn’t look out of place on a stage of the Enduro World Series. Climbing is just a means to an end. Uphill-downhill ratio: 30:70↩
Strictly speaking, a 200 mm travel downhill bike is the best choice for merciless tracks with big jumps, drops and the roughest terrain. Those would be the black or double-black-diamond tracks in a bike park. But as some of the EWS pros (including Sam Hill) have proven, it’s the riding skills and not the bike that define what you can ride with it. Climbing? On foot or with a shuttle, please! Uphill-downhill ratio: 10:90↩
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Words: Simon Kohler Photos: Peter Walker, Mike Hunger