Santa Cruz have brought back the Blur! But just how new school is this XC whip?
Words: Ryan Walsch | Images: Tim Bardsley-Smith
Santa Cruz was the first brand to bring 29 inched wheel to the World Cup DH scene, it is only fitting that this forward thinking company would try something a little different on this new school XC rig. It shares technology shared straight from the V10, has a dual lock out and challenges what we could think to be normal about an XC whip, sometimes harsh and very down to business.
The Santa Cruz Blur is the 100mm cross-country race bike that hails from a long line of finely crafted bikes that use Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension. There are 4 build kits available in Australia and the CC frame set sells for $4749. The two lower models come with the C carbon, and start at $7999 and topping out at our extremely light XX1 Reserve model at $12749.
Santa Cruz claims that the Blur is going to ruffle feathers amongst the XC crowd, let’s see if it can be pulled off. The Blur is going up against some stuff competition such as the Specialized Epic, Trek Top Fuel, Giant Anthem, Yeti SB100 and more.
With a distinctly Santa Cruz VVP look about it, you could be mistaken that the all new Blur was a Tallboy or even a High Tower. That is until you gaze upon the scant and highly machined links, slender tubes and Fox 32 SC Factory fork. When the Blur started its life in 2002 it was equiped with 115mm of travel on an all alloy frame with disc brakes and V-brake options, matched to a steep 71 degree head angle and a do-it-all attitude. Up until 2013 the Blur saw many iterations, such as the 135mm LT (Long Travel) model, a 4X model and even a XC race model. With the trail market growing the longer travel Blur fizzled out and became the Tallboy and Hightower leaving the Blur to get back to its roots of a capable XC bike.
Despite all the absence of material and excess girth the rear triangle does gain a similar approach as the bigger bikes Santa Cruz offer such as the V10. The one piece rear has parallel vertical struts on both sides joining seatstays and chainstays together which is no doubt there to keep the 2060gram frame/shock tracking like a dream on the trail. How all this is packed into the Blurs slender chassis is a mystery and something the Tallboy is absent of.
With the familiar VPP configuration of two small links holding a one piece masterpiece to the again one piece carbon mainframe, the shock runs neatly on the underside of the top tube leaving ample room for a full 800ml bottle.
The top tier XX1 Reserve model which was an XC fans wet dream. The all new SRAM XX1 DUB cranks with XX1 Eagle 12-speed, SRAM Level Ultimate brakes and Reserve 25mm Santa Cruz rims rolling on DT Swiss 240 hubs, there wasn’t anything to really hold the bike back in any regard.
Unique to the Blur is a Push to unlock dual lockout system from FOX, the cable routing is internal for the system and very neat. We do question Fox's decision to build this system around a push to unlock rather than the push to lock we are more commonly used to. If a cable stretches, fouls or snaps we would rather the system to be “Unlocked” rather then stuck in a teeth rattling locked position, we will watch this closely over the course of the test.
With this 100mm XC weapon, we went with Santa Cruz’s 25% recommendation of a 20-25% suggested sag range and found this to be bang on. With the VPP system, even stamping down on the pedals hard out of the saddle does not upset or bog down the suspension and we found little need for the dual lock out save for a fire road sprint or two. Setup the sag correctly and you can have a bike that pedals like a dream with traction galore, so simple.
We were tempted to install a dropper post for the test, we stopped ourselves as while we have grown lazy and accustomed to the beloved dropper it was a refreshing absence of bar junk and a chance to relearn to ride a bike in the purist form and we liked it. Santa Cruz has equipped the Blur with an internal routing port especially for a stealth dropper, and if you cast your eye across the top 10 of World Cup XCO races, there are plenty of droppers being used.
The Blur CC XX1 Reserve we had on review was an as claimed 9.94kgs and while there are lighter dual suspension rigs out there, Santa Cruz has added something a bit special to this one, a bike that not only goes up but comes down with composure and confidence.
On The Trail
The new Blur is offered in small, medium, large and extra large and we chose the large for our 178cm (5ft 10) test rider. The 460mm reach and 621mm top tube is longer in reach than the more trail oriented and 27.5+ compatible Tallboy. This did aid in the ability to get forward and open up the lungs on longer climbs with a roomy reeling rather than feeling cramped. The Syntace stem and post were nicely matched with the Santa Cruz in house 750mm carbon flat bar which gave us heaps of control and maybe a little too much leverage for the petite Fox 32 SC forks. Bars come stock wide but remember to get your Santa Cruz dealer to get your fit spot on. Wider isn't always better.
What sets the Blur apart from other 100mm XC rigs is just how planted and composed it sits on the trail, with a 69 degree head angle, longer front triangle, short 432mm rear stays and dialled VPP kinematics the Blur does feel like it’s a bigger travel bike with a surprisingly bottomless feeling. Finding yourself at the bottom of a descent and scanning up the next climb is very pleasant, was it the XX1 or the light and responsive 25mm SC Reserve wheels? Sure they helped, but the combination of the 750mm sweeping bar, long reach, a super planted feel and bob resistant VVP rear end had us finding traction over the rough and keeping a smile on our dial. The Blur is appropriately matched with the Fox 32 SC fork, however the frame is just that bit more capable and composed than the fork, we would have loved to try the Fox 34 SC Factory fork on as a comparison to really open it up on the Blur and push the boundaries of what it is capable of.
Santa Cruz owners and their friends might be familiar with the VPP creak. The VPP design does add more bearings and like any bike and suspension system they need maintenance. Santa Cruz have one of the best customer support programs out there. Original owners get lifetime bearing warranty, lifetime frame warranty and yes you read correctly: Santa Cruz Reserve wheels have a lifetime rim warranty!
There is no doubt that the Blur is well suited to XC and excels on the ascents but how it achieves that is not what we would say is the norm. The Blur is not the lightest, and it's not the steepest geometry with you sitting right on top of the BB. Rather, it is a tried, tested and highly tuneable VPP platform and a “new school” geometry that keeps the bike composed giving you traction. And it is via this traction and well-mannered nature that just makes climbing easier. I found myself trying tech lines that made little sense for the sake of it and with out the typical bounce and buck just kept on trucking through.
With all that composure there is a downside, I found that this lead to getting a bit over zealous into sections and being reminded by the Fox 32 SC and lack of dropper that this was in fact not a trail bike, but a cross-country race bike that will bring the best out in you racing or on all day rides. And sure, a 34 SC and dropper might just extend it's capabilities. But as it is this thing is all about XC.
Overall the latest iteration has lived up to Santa Cruz’s claim of an A-line taking XC race bike, dipping its toe into the realm of the Tallboy without getting too rowdy. There aren’t many race whippets quite like this.
The Blur isn’t just a cross-country race bike, it is far more new school if you let it be. The push to unlock dual lock out, is far from a deal breaker but something you need to watch. Stay on top of your cable maintenance as if that cable fouls or jams it is going to be a bumpy ride.
What really sets the Blur apart is the Santa Cruz build quality. it is really hard to top, the finish is top notch and no matter how much abuse they take, they always roll out from a service feeling great, they are a real pleasure to work on from a mechanic's point of view. The Blur reall suits cross-country racers, marathon riders and riders looking at stage races like the Cape Epic, The Pioneer, Singletrack 6 or other multi-day events. The Blur suits riders wanting a versatile lightweight mountain bike. It probably isn't the bike for the trail crowd – Santa Cruz have plenty of other options for that. Same if you're after all the features for the lowest price – that's just not what the Blur CC delivers on. But if you are looking for a truly capable and high quality bike for cross-country, marathons, fast days out and multi-day events – then Santa Cruz have built the bike you want.
Weight 9.94kg (as tested)