Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson XT XL 2021 Mountain Bike Review

Santa Cruz Bicycles Bronson XT XL 2021

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Santa Cruz Bicycles 467,814

Santa Cruz Bronson XT

Brand: Santa Cruz
Model: Bronson XT
Price: 6799 EURO / 6949 USD

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At a glance

The Bronson is Santa Cruz’s dedicated mullet bike. The heart of the carbon frame is the VPP suspension system delivering 150mm of travel. It is available in 2 colors, 7 build kits and 5 different sizes. We tried out the XL sized Shimano XT specced model.

About the brand

Santa Cruz was founded in 1993 by Rich Novak, Mike Marquez and Rob Roskopp. Rob was a former pro skateboarder and had a signature model with Rich’s skateboard company Santa Cruz. The two went into a partnership with Mike who had experience in bicycle suspension. Together with Tom Morris they developed the first Santa Cruz mountain bikes.

In 1999 they purchased the patents for Outland bikes’ VPP suspension design, and in 2015 the company was bought by the Dutch PON group, who also owns Gazelle, Cervelo and Focus. Currently the Santa Cruz frames are made in Asia. Frames are then shipped to their assembly location in Santa Cruz USA, before being shipped out to the clients.

They offer a lifetime warranty on manufacturing and workmanship errors, and interestingly enough a lifetime warranty on bearings. They also support local trail building initiatives with their Pay Dirt program. You can submit a project and get a grant from Santa Cruz in order to build more trails.

Sadly, on their website there is nothing to be found on sustainability, how they plan to limit waste, or other environmental issues.

The product

Mixed wheel bikes are all the rage these days, and Santa Cruz was one of the first to bring a dedicated Mullet model to the market. When looking at the geometry stats, there are a few interesting things going on.

First thing I noticed is that the chainstay length changes with the bike size. Bigger bike means a longer chainstay to maintain the same bike handling characteristics is their explanation. Length on our XL test model was relatively long with 442mm.

The bike is also equipped with a flip chip to alter the head angle from 64.7 to 64.5 degrees and the BB height from 344mm to 341mm. Although it’s nice to have this option, we would have liked to see a bigger difference between the settings.

Reach on this bike is 500mm on the XL. Not extreme, but nice and roomy compared to some brands who are running more classic geometries.

When talking about the spec, there isn’t much to say really. Shimano XT always performs amazingly well, especially when the season progresses. The 4 piston brakes do a great job of slowing you down, although we would prefer a 200mm rear disc on the rear to match the front.

On the suspension side we find the Fox 36’s Float Performance Elite forks, which are basically the same as the Factory forks but without the Kashima Coating. Our test bike had a Fox Float DPX2 rear shock, but according to the spec sheet, it should have been fitted with a RockShox Super Deluxe Select+.

The handlebars are Santa Cruz’s own, and the stem is supplied by Burgtec. On dropper duty we have a Reverb 200. The website mentions Industry Nine hubs on Race Face rims, but our test bike came with Santa’s own Carbon rimmed Reserve30 wheelset.

Out on the trail

With the basic setup done we headed out to our local loop for a first impression. Riding position on the bike felt quite high on the front end. Even with the stem mounted with no spacers, the bars felt higher then where I would like them to be. The top tube was long enough to not feel cramped but nothing too extreme to make tight corners awkward.

Climbing is definitely not the Bronson's favorite pastime. The high front end didn’t help with this and the seat angle was fairly slack. Even after moving the saddle all the way forward I still had the need to move to the tip of the saddle on the steeper climbs. Pedal bob was minimal, and I was happy to leave the shock in the open setting for all of my rides.

When pointed down however, it was impossible to not get a grin on my face. On the steep stuff, the bike felt totally at home. Slow, rooty tech stuff was a joy to ride with this bike. When you started picking up some more speed, you could really notice the playful character of the bike, as long as there was a decent gradient.

On the choppy big bumped rocky stuff, the Bronson started to struggle a little as the smaller rear wheel had more trouble rolling over the obstacles. Nothing you can’t get used to, but something you notice when you compare it to a 29’’ wheeled bike.

Where does this bike really feel at home? Besides the steep slow tech, the Bronson loves bermy, flowy style trails. The low center of gravity makes railing turns a hoot and the balanced geometry is great for getting some airtime.

On the flatter corners however, I felt I had to really put a lot of weight on the front of the bike, reducing the grip on the rear wheel. Perhaps a lower rise handlebar could help things with this.


The Bronson is a great bike for riders who are not chasing Strava KOM’s. Either on the up or the down this bike was never encouraging you to be the fastest. Instead, this is a bike for the riders that are aiming for fun on bikeparks and flow trails. There are plenty of spec options to match your budget, and all of the models come with the brand's high quality customer service. The mullet setup makes this a great ride for the not so tall riders amongst us.

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This review was in Issue 68 of IMB.

For more information visit Santa Cruz Bicycles


By Jarno Hoogland
Jarno's life has revolved around two wheels ever since he swung a leg over his first BMX at age 4. After a BMX and DH racing career, he moved on to work for bike shops, distributors and brands before ending up in the editors seat at IMB. Based in the ultimate testing ground in the Swiss mountains, he runs his guiding operation and makes sure every IMB issue is filled with top notch content.

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