For my first ride on my new, bigger wheeled, longer wheelbase bike I thought I'd take it easy on myself and opted for a couple of loops at Bike Park Wales. The first thing I had to get to grips with was the SPD pedals/shoes that I had decided I wanted to try. I had never used SPDs before but I had used clips on my road bike, So in principle I was happy that I knew how to clip in & out when required but was a bit apprehensive about what I would do when I wanted to dab my feet momentarily...
As it turns out I had probably been holding back my riding by avoiding SPDs - I had vastly more control on the bike, instead of the bike skipping around in between my legs on the rougher terrain the SPDs held my feet firm and I could use my legs to throw the bike around with greater ease. Also to boot I can once again do bunny hops once again! Hopefully my control on the bike should now only get better with a bit of time to get used to the set up.
Now for the question everyone asks... "How does the carbon feel/compare?"
In all honesty, I can't give a proper comparison because I've not ridden an aluminium Bronson. However, In comparison to my 7 year old Specialized SX Trail that has seen better days the most welcome difference for me is the weight reduction, my SX currently sits at around 36/37lbs whereas my Bronson is 29.5lbs. The frame feels firm underneath the rider yet supple when hitting bigger impacts, I can't decide if this is just the suspension or just a great marriage of frame, suspension & wheel size.
The 27.5" (650b) wheel size plays a big part in this bike; in the Bike Park it accelerates like no other bike I have ridden, I can once again keep up with my mates that I have been noticeably slower than since I've been a one armed mountain biker. Needless to say I am soo chuffed with this! On the other hand, when the tracks get a bit more technical and tight the bigger wheels do make it more difficult but I don't think this outweighs the positives the bike brings, I just need to learn to ride better.
When riding the Bronson the bike feels firm yet plush, going from Fox DHX 5 shock & Rock Shox Sektor dual position coil forks on my SX to the 2014 Fox Float air forks & Float X shock, the air suspension feels less spongey, when climbing in the saddle this is a welcome feel the bike glides up inclines with minimal effort and maximum comfort this "tightness" can be increased with a quick flick of the CTD lever to change from Descend to Trail mode. When descending in Trail mode the suspension feels firm until it is "awakened" by a force coming up through the bike, when in Descend mode this tightness is reduced and the bike feels plusher. The suspension never felt as if it was blowing through the travel as many people reported with the 2013 Fox Forks.