Bronson Carbon, Fox 36, Steel Hardtail (again)

And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth.

Genesis 6:17

Yes I just quoted you a Bible verse.  Don’t worry, it’s not what you think.  It’s been raining for 7 days.  Which means I’ve been off my bike for 7 days.  And it’s supposed to rain 5 of the next 7 days.  Sure there are times when I could have ridden during breaks in the storm – but I was either working or it was still just too muddy to want to take the Snot Rocket out for a ride.  I’m stuck feeling that going out in this heavy mud will just work away at the bearings and pivots of my Bronson.  It’s now a top-teir bike, and I miss my steel hardtail that I would take out in any weather.  I do not enjoy being a fair weather rider.  Vernon Felton (again) speaks my mind.  I swear this man is my spirit animal:

Vernon Felton “The Web Monkey” – The Cold Truth

I’ve got a few things for you today.  First is an update on the carbon Bronson frame, dubbed “the Snot Rocket”.  Second is an update on the destruction of a second pike and the arrival of its replacement, the new Fox FLOAT 36.  Third is my lamentation of not keeping Darth Goat, and my new obsessive quest to find a new suitable substitute.

2015 Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon:

Working at a bike shop is, for certain reasons soon to be apparent, dangerous for me.  I love bike stuff.  I love parts, frames, accessories, clothes, whatever.  New stuff is exciting.  For better or worse, I’m a model consumer.  Except for the fact that I was a grad student for years ad never had money.  For that reason I dabbled in gear that was a couple years old when other riders bought the new and fancy.

Now, working at a shop, I have access to lots of lovely stuffs.  I still have to pay for everything I review here out of my own pocket, but it costs just enough less to be affordable to me. When I had the chance to pick up a new carbon Bronson CC frame (the high end carbon) for cheap, I set about making it happen.  Still cost me a few dollars to make the swap, but I was able to sell the alloy with a Kashima shock and mount the carbon frame up with my Cane Creek Double Barrel Air, keeping the original rear Evolution Fox shock for a spare.

I’ve got about 200 miles on the new frame and it rides the same, feels mostly the same, but is quite a bit lighter, same build with a RockShox Pike got down to 27lbs 6ozs (without the Cane Creek).  The ride characteristics are more muted I would say. Less chattery.  I would not really have thought it worth it if I were not working for a shop.  I definitely prefer the older color scheme!  But it’s an amazing bike, the weight savings have made a difference on climbs, and the frame has had a couple spills without any real damage.  Durable, light, not cheap carbon.  The carbon frames still have threaded bottom brackets (NICE), and the seat collar is not quick release.  All in all every part bolted straight from one frame to the next. I should note that you cannot buy the lower end carbon as just a frame.

We’ve built and sold a couple now and they feel pretty spot on, and the half pound weight penalty is well within reasonable for the almost $1000 savings (or more , depending on build) from the high end “Carbon CC”.  I also want to note that Santa Cruz hasn’t provided a way to differentiate the frames on looks alone.  Both the low and high end carbon frames say “Bronson C” so beware buying used.  You’d have to weigh the bare frame to really know I think.

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Death of a Pike, and enter the Fox FLOAT 36:

The Rockshox Pike is a fork with an amazing feel on the trail.  It has gotten almost universally rave reviews.  Almost every rider in my area who upgrades anything on their bike, or buys a new bike, wants a Pike on it.  It’s light, it’s buttery smooth. I, however, have gone through 2 of them, the second having two distinct problems.  My first Pike was a 26″ Dual Position that had a failure in the Charger damper after 50 miles.  I had to send it back, and bought an X-Fusion Slant while I waited, then sold the Pike when they sent me a new one back.  I was paying retail and was a little pissed.  When I bought the alloy Bronson I upgraded straight to a Solo Air Pike, 150mm.  It was great.  I loved the feel.  Then it developed a -clunk- when the fork topped out.  SRAM service said there was a tolerance issue with the air shaft that caused a bushing to hang up.  I should note for full disclosure that the performance of the fork was not diminished at all, but rock gardens had me freaking out that my headset was loose.  Disconcerting to say the least.  But – SRAM sent me a new air spring and I installed it, no problem.  Back on my way.  The process is simple and can be done without much fuss at home if you have basic fork service tools. During a ride in Tahoe, the -clunk- came back.  Keeping in mind that I was at 7500ft and the temperature topped out at 27 degrees that day, I chocked it up to the temp and elevation.  When I got back home I bleed the air out and cycled the lowers a couple times to equalize the pressures, and when I went for the next ride a slight -clunk- was there, but on larger hits to smooth surface, or cycling the fork while standing, there was a -clunk- followed by a dull -whump- from inside the fork.  Ok, irritated again.  SRAM required the fork back, and would need it for 10 business days at least.

Screw it, I’m buying a Fox FLOAT 36.  I was wooed by our Fox tech during an in-house clinic. I sent the Pike back 16 days ago and still don’t have it back.  It is supposed to arrive Monday, 18 days later.  The Fox FLOAT arrived in 2 days from placing the order. 2015 Fox FLOAT 36 160mm 2015 Bronson with Pike 2015 Bronson with Fox 36 I have only had about 30 miles in Oroville and 13 miles in Napa on this and setup isn’t complete.  The fork weighed in at 4.28lbs with cut steerer, start nut and axle – and the 160mm version is 5mm higher axle to crown than the Pike 150mm so geometry doesn’t feel affected, plus more travel.  I’ll update with a full review once I’ve had the chance to get it out in a wider range of conditions. First impression was simply that I had too much air in it and the rebound and compression adjustments have a WIDE range.  And I was not dialed in where I should be – YET.  Not sure if I’m going to add volume spaces or drop the travel to 150mm, but the box came with all I needed to do both. STAY TUNED.

I may be selling my PIKE and also my CANE CREEK DOUBLE BARREL AIR on Pinkbike if anyone is interested.  Look up REACHCONTROL’s Buy Sell.

Missing Darth Goat (I’m buying/building a new steel hardtail):

With the weather being what it is, I’ve missed a couple opportunities to ride because I’m a pansy and don’t want the mud and grit to destroy my pivots and bearings prematurely.  I am pretty much against washing a bike after seeing how much quicker it forces maintenance on suspension moving and load-bearing parts.  If anything I let my bike dry, then use a soft brittle brush to get the mud off.  Brushes can be found at pet supply stores or anywhere brooms are to be had. I had an awesome steel hardtail and I sold it because I didn’t think I was going to use it much and I don’t like having things sit around collecting dust.  I’m sure it’s being well loved and trail-beaten up in Washington and that’s great.  But with the weather like this, and presumably staying like this for some time, I need something to ride on the couple trails that don’t really close.  I’ve got two options:  use parts that I already have and build a fresh steed from the ground up or sell parts and purchase something mid-range as a complete.

Potter Ravine and Potter Point

Potter Ravine and Potter Point

I have these parts on hand:

  • the Pike when it comes back (150mm)
  • Chromag Contact pedals
  • Race face half nelson grips
  • Bontrager Rhythm Pro 50mm stem
  • WTB i23/SRAM wheels from Bronson alloy
  • a few 650B tires around and about
  • old 750mm specialized alloy bar
  • RaceFace 32t narrow wide chainring (blue)

As you can see, I would still need cranks, cassette/chain, brakes, shifter, rear derailleur and headset to make it work.  A solid chunk of parts and money, AFTER buying a frame.  It also means I have to have a tapered head tube and 142×12 axle spacing (the rear SRAM hub isn’t convertible). Plus 650B.  I really don’t want a 29er.  Being able to swap parts between my two bikes is a HUGE plus for me. Still, I’ve looked at the following frames:

Now the TransAM isn’t available for over two months due to issues in manufacturing, the Soma is only rated for a 120mm fork and I’d have to get dropouts from Paragon Machine Works to make the 142 axle work, and Chameleon isn’t steel, the Surly is what they call “26+” and not really designed for 650B, we don’t sell Kona and I don’t want to rock a competitor shop’s bike, and Chromag hasn’t gotten back to my me yet.  And I can’t lay hands on an NS at the moment.

I’ve thought about bikes like the Chumba Rastro and REEB, but I think that’s going to cost too much for a bike that I just want to flog in bad weather. I would have chosen the TransAM and ordered yesterday, partly because they coat the insides of the frames to prevent corrosion (BONUS!) but the lack of availability was just not doing it for me.

Another concern of mine is head angle.  After having the 65.7 degree angle on the On One 45650B and feeling how this part of the geometry defined the ride of the bike, I am hard pressed to get a hardtail that has a steeper head angle.  Think about sitting on a hardtail – the fork compressed, steepening the head angle.  On a full susser, both front and rear sag to help maintain the stated geometry.  MBR.UK discusses this in their review of the Whyte 905 here.

I’ve also considered getting a different rear hub, eliminating the 142×12 requirement.  I could go back to On One at that point.  I’ve also looked at buying a complete Raleigh Tokul 4130.  Good parts spec for what I want, and I can get pretty damn cheap.

Help me decide!

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About RCS

An interested, often crass fellow. Likely found on a bike or wandering in a seemingly aimless fashion in the woods. Use caution when approaching, as the subject is known to be oblivious, and at times obnoxious.
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4 Responses to Bronson Carbon, Fox 36, Steel Hardtail (again)

  1. Luke says:

    Get the Surley. 27.5s fit just fine and basically match stock tire diameter. Burly steel frame, versatility, everything’s there for you. And start build with the parts you already have…I think it’ll come out much cheaper. Full disclosure: I’ve never ridden the Instigator and I have the Chameleon. I like the weight and responsiveness of aluminum but would prefer the versatility of the Instigator. Good luck and have fun!

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  2. RCS says:

    Haven’t updated any of this in a while, but I went with the Chromag Samurai 65 after prolonged discussions with several of the companies. It won’t be the cheapest, but I was able to get it exactly the way I wanted. On the other hand, one of my riding buds is planning on getting the Instigator after helping me out with all my research. He wants to do the 27.5+ – and for around here that might be the bomb solution!

    I’ll get a new post up with the updates on the build. Frame was handmade, and custom painted. Should have it next week some time.

    -Rob

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  3. Frank says:

    Great post! How did your HT build turn out? Super interested in an AM HT, and a lot of the bikes you mentioned are on my radar. Two main questions:

    – What’s your take on crazy-slack headtube angles on hardtails? I’ve seen the Stanton and Whyte theoreticals on why this seemingly makes sense, but it’s still a fringe idea and your Chromag is probably in the 68 range. Any regrets there after riding for a few months? Does it feel too steep when going down?

    – Did your buddy build up his Instigator? That’s my leading contender (just ahead of the Eccentric) and I’d be putting a 150 pike with 650b hoops on. Interested to hear if he did the same/what his thoughts are.

    Thanks!

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    • RCS says:

      So I’ve had the One One 45650B, with a HT of 65.7 static. The Chromag had a measured HT angle (with my Manitou Mattoc set at 140mm) of 67.4, also static. The 45650B had a Revelation with 150mm of travel. Ultimately they were both killers.

      The larger stanchion diameter of the Mattoc (34mm) led to a definite feeling of increased stiffness over the 32mm Revelation, and despite the slacker head angle and longer travel on the 4560B, the Chromag was an overall better ride. They both handled the chop well, and both were fun rides with fast times on the same trails.

      I could keep going with comparisons, but in the end I chose each at different times due to price. The 45650B was fun and cheap, the Chromag came at a premium price, but was for sure a more polished ride. I still count the Chromag as my favorite bike of all time, though I’ll likely be able to afford building another 45650B much sooner.

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