Wednesday, 25 December 2013

One Armed Set Up...

Some of you might have noticed that I don't have your "standard" set up on my new Bronson. As I have a paralysed left arm I obviously can't have any of my controls on the left... So over the 7 years that I have been riding one handed I have perfected my cockpit set up to what you can see below. I've not used a dropper post before so its been pushed to the end out of the way - as you can see it gets pretty crowded all on one side! Also with the Easton Havoc carbon bars with 35mm clamp, the larger diameter of the centre of bar extends further than I am used to with smaller diameter bars, because of this I have had to run 750mm length bars instead of the 710mm that I am used to in order to accommodate all the controls on one side. Also pictured is the Hopey All Mountain steering damper, I have been using these for about 5 or 6 years now and for anyone riding single handedly they are a god send! Simply screw in the knob on the top to increase the resistance of the steering and help to keep you on the straight 'n narrow!

As pictured below; 
I run my rear brake the most outboard - I pull this lever with my second finger.
My rear gear shifter is mounted between the two brake clamps - both up and down shifts are done with my thumb.
My front brake is inboard of the gear shifter clamp - I pull this with my first finger.
My remote for my Rock Shox Reverb Stealth dropper post is the most inboard clamp - I also use my thumb to operate this when required.

After my first proper technical night ride on the Bronson in the Garw Valley, South Wales with the Garw Valley MTB Lads, I realised I wasn't as comfortable as I would like when it comes to the steep and technical stuff. Sure the larger 650b, 27.5" wheels make things a bit more challenging on the really tech stuff but I think I just need to learn the different line choices required to compliment the larger wheel. That said, I still thought that I could benefit from the following tweaks to my set up:

  • Tip bars back to give a better angle on the steep stuff.
  • Change the shuttle bumper in my forks back up to 160mm to give a better ride height on the front for the steep stuff. This may have a penalty for climbing but I'm happy to compromise - I'm a downhiller at heart anyway!
  • Change shifter from a Shimano M670 bar mounted shifter to a SL-M660-10R shifter fitted with a Trickstuff SRAM-Shimano Adapter on to a left handed Formula Mixmaster clamp. This has pulled the shifter out of my way of my thumb when I grip the bar in some positions.
These tweaks have given me a much more comfortable set up as pictured:

Monday, 9 December 2013

Bronson First Ride - Bike Park Wales

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.

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.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Bronson Delivery!

So the day finally arrived, I got the call I had been waiting for from Bromley Bike Company - my frame had at long last arrived!

I arranged with Bromley Bike Co that I would go down to the shop once the main bits of the build were assembled, mainly so I could get the bike set up as I like it - its not a run of the mill build! I couldn't fault the service I had from Bromley Bike Co, they really did pull out the stops so that I could get the bike built up in the short time I requested. It was reassuring to  watch Howard build the bike up, it makes such a difference to know that your bike is being assembled with professional tooling and that Howard took attention to detail as if it was his own bike. 

Build Details
Frame - Large Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon in Tennis Yellow/Black
Fork - Fox 34 Float 650b CTD FIT 15QR Black Kashima Coated fitted with 150mm Shuttle Bumper
Pedals - Shimano M785 XT Clipless SPD
Shock - Fox Float X CTD Kashima 200mm x 57mm
Headset - Chis King Tapered Headset Integral 44mm Top Cup, Traditional 49mm Bottom Cup Black
Stem - Easton Havoc MTB 50mm Stem Black 35mm clamp
Bars - Easton Havoc Carbon 35mm Clamp Black 750mm length x 20mm rise
Grips - ODI Ruffian Lock On Black
Brakes - Formula T1 Disc Brake Set 203mm Front, 180mm Rear, Both Fitted on Right Hand
Shifter - Shimano SLX M670 10 Speed Rapidfire Shifter - Right Hand
Rear Mech - Shimano M675 GS (SLX Medium cage) Shadow Plus 10 Speed
Seatpost - Rock Shox Reverb Stealth Seatpost 125mm Drop - Right Hand Remote
Saddle - Charge Scoop Black
Wheels - Hope Hoops Pro 2 Evo Black - Stans Flow EX Black Handbuilt by Howard at Bromley Bike Co
Tyres - Maxxis High Roller II 2.3" 3C EXO Tubeless
Tubes - None, Stans Sealant used in tyres
Chain - KMC X10 light 10 Speed - Silver
Cassette - Shimano HG81 SLX 10 Speed 11-36
Crankset - Shimano SLX M675 2013 10 Speed Hollowtech II 175mm Black
Chainguide - e.thirteen XCX+ ISCG 05 Chain Retention Top Guide Black
Chainring - e.thirteen G-Ring 33T Black
Steering Damper - Hopey All Mountain Damper with Zero Stack Mounting Kit
SPD Shoes - Shimano M088 MTB SPD Shoe

Saturday, 23 November 2013

New Bike Order

So you've read my introduction, which mostly gives an insight about my past, now for the present...

These days I tend to ride a mix of downhill and cross country, I have a Specialized SX Trail that I use as a cross-country come all mountain bike, admittedly it is a bit on the heavy side and a bit worn out. I also have an Orange 224 that I use for more aggressive downhill tracks.

Having read about the apparent benefits of 29ers I was particularly interested in their ability to smooth out the trail but wasn't prepared to loose the agility I'm used to with a 26" wheel bike. What I really needed was something in-between... cue the 27.5/650b fad/craze/hype and with it the release of the Santa Cruz Bronson.

I was hooked, it was the best looking bike I'd seen in a while and appeared to be the bike for me, I read a lot of reviews that all seemed to concur - this is a truly well designed bike.

So while I had some money burning a hole in my pocket, the urge wasn't hard to resist, I bit the bullet and ordered a custom built Bronson Carbon through Bromley Bike Company.

Next was the hard bit - waiting...

I ordered the bike mid August, as I wanted a custom build Bromley Bike Company placed an order for a Large Carbon Bronson in Tennis Yellow. At this point it I found out that every man and his dog had the same idea as me, Santa Cruz had something like 4 times the orders for the Bronson than they expected. I was gutted to hear that I was going to have to wait 4 months until the frame would be delivered, I just kept telling myself it was going to be worth it!

Saturday, 9 November 2013


So I've never posted anything like this before, but I thought my experiences could prove useful to others out there with a Brachial Plexus Injury or similar circumstances. 

I'm 26 years old and have been riding since I was about 13, when I was 19 I had a pretty horrific crash on my bike during which I tore all 5 of the nerves in the Brachial Plexus, C5 - C6 - C7 - C8 & T1. 

This left me with a paralysed left arm. 

There are a few videos about my accident and my riding, this one gives a good insight to my crash and my initial riding...

Since then I have kept the same bike but experimented with different forks and brakes, and played with my orange 224 downhill bike for my extreme riding. 

One thing that I haven't had much chance to improve is how I manage my paralysed arm, obviously I can't move it properly or hold on to my handle bar, so I've made do with my sling. Whilst my sling is helpful to hold my arm up out the way in the event of a crash, I have seen and I'm jealous of, the benefits fellow Brachial Plexus rider Tom Wheeler realises using his arm brace, which gives him a lot more support on the bike but does not easily detach when required. 

I have dabbled with braces when I was riding with Disability Sport Wales and British Cycling's Paracycling development team, although sadly these braces always failed when it came to the locking mechanism; either they fell off unexpectedly or they did not disconnect in the event of a crash. 

Thats enough about me for now, any questions?