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First Ride Review – Santa Cruz Blur CC Carbon

March 20, 2018
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Today, Santa Cruz announced the return of one of its most iconic bikes, the Blur.  The mythical Blur has come in many forms over the years and this new Blur shares some DNA from each of them.  This is the lightest 100mm VPP suspension bike Santa Cruz has ever made. Now replace lightest with toughest and 100mm with flawless and the true picture of the new Blur emerges.
 

Background

Since it arrived on the scene back in 2002, the Blur has worn many hats with XC, 4X, TR and LT badges on them.  These early Blur models were fundamental in progressing the Santa Cruz line into the diverse offering we see today.  “All of our suspension bikes can trace their lineage to the original Blur, which was our first VPP trail/XC bike.” says Josh Kissner – Product Manager, Santa Cruz Bicycles.  With the 5010, Tallboy, and Bronson now answering the call of more aggressive trail riders, Santa Cruz was free to reintroduce a no-holds-barred Blur.

Santa Crux Blur CC Carbon XX1 Reserve Sunset

 

When Santa Cruz launched the Tallboy 3, I think they inadvertently lost a few staunch XC riders who found the newer model a bit too ‘bro’ for their taste.  I’ve had both the previous and current models, which I compare in this Tallboy review. I absolutely love the new Tallboy but believe many were still hoping for a lighter, more XC/marathon version somewhere down the road.  The Tallboy 3 is ready for a cross-country cage fight any day of the week but when you compare it to this 10kg Blur, it’s clearly in a different weight class. “We certainly learned a lot about the leverage curve we want from the Tallboy.  Since it’s only 10mm less travel, the Blur has pretty similar suspension.  As far as differences, since we made the Blur 1x only, the structure can be lighter and more efficient: simpler cable routing, no FD mounting points, and a more symmetric swingarm.  Of course the geometry is a bit different too – one degree steeper and just generally a touch more nimble.” explains Josh Kissner.

 

Construction and Frame Details

The Blur is a no excuses, purebred XC race bike intended for those looking to leave it all out there. All excess has been removed to produce a bike that’s only purpose is to deliver when it counts. While it gives little up on the Tallboy in its trail manner, it provides the performance edge elite racers demand. The Blur is well suited for long days in the saddle and can be pedaled smoothly and efficiently over rougher terrain. Coming out of those sections fresh and ready to bridge the gap to the next one. The Blur answers the call of riders who want a bike that can be raced on any course or be ridden from sunrise ’til sundown, then get up and do it again. It won’t be hard to spot the new Blur at the races, it will be under the rider smashing the enduro line, laying waste to riders on pogo sticks about to get scorpioned in the dirt.

There is no doubt you will see this bike built up with a burlier fork, wide bars, short stem and a dropper post. I can’t say I wasn’t already doing that in my head the second I laid eyes on this Blur. But if you were going that route straight out of the gate, I’d still recommend the Tallboy. Making those changes will get you to Tallboy weight in a hurry. While the two bikes are only separated by 10mm of travel and a few degrees, those differences are what define them. There is no doubt we’ll see riders racing the Sea Otter Dual Slalom and Downieville All Mountain races on one but where the Blur will shine brightest is way out there, finding out what you’re made of. The XC purist may still struggle to wrap their head around the Blur but sometimes I think they just like to struggle.  Save the suffering for the ride, this bike is a winner.

 

Santa Cruz Blur CC Carbon, XX1, Reserve Specifications

Frame: CC Carbon 29” 100mm Travel VPP™
Shock: FOX Float Factory DPS Kashima Remote
Fork: FOX Step-Cast 32 Factory 100 Remote
R. Derailleur: SRAM XX1 Eagle 12spd
F. Derailleur: N/A
Chainguide: N/A
Shifters: SRAM XX1 Eagle 12spd
Brakes: SRAM Level Ultimate
Rotors: SRAM CLX Center Lock – 160mm
Crankset: SRAM XX1 Eagle DUB 34t – 170mm (S), 175mm (M-XL)
Cassette: SRAM XG1295 Eagle – 12spd, 10-50t
Chain: SRAM X01 Eagle 12spd
Handlebar: SCB XC Carbon Flat Bar – 31.8x750mm
Stem: Syntace LiteForce Stem
Grips: ESI Chunky Grips
Headset: Cane Creek AER IS Integrated Headset
Seatpost: Syntace P6 Carbon HiFlex Seatpost – 31.6mm
Saddle: WTB Silverado Carbon
Front: Tire Maxxis Aspen TR – 29×2.25
Rear: Tire Maxxis Aspen TR – 29×2.25
Front Hub: DT 240 – 15x110mm, 28h
Rear Hub: DT 240 – 12x148mm, XD, 28h
Rim: Santa Cruz Reserve 25 Carbon – 28h
Spokes: DT Competition Race
Weight:21.9lbs. / 9.9kg
Price: $11,799 CAD
 

Build Options and Price (Prices listed in CAD)

More Information and build options: www.santacruzbicycles.com

 

Revised upper link with radial bearings. Dual uprights with additional cable guides.

Symmetric rear triangle with additional material added to stiffen bottom bracket area.

Internal cable routing for Fox 2-pos remote lockout.

 

The new Blur uses a one-piece carbon rear triangle with dual uprights, which are matched with a one-piece carbon front end. The two triangles are joined by stout VPP linkage plates that together form an ultra-stiff chassis. Other noticeable frame improvements include cable guides inside the uprights for the rear derailleur and brake housing.  The frame can carry two full-size water bottles, one each above and below the downtube. Internal cable routing now includes an option for the rear shock’s remote lockout. Oh, and it’s also a 29er. When asked what the greatest advancement on the Blur frame was, Josh Kissner had this to say: “Stiffness to weight ratio!  By concentrating on every detail, and making the structure as simple and smooth as possible we were able to make a frame that’s a pound lighter than the Tallboy, but just as stiff.”

 

Geomerty

 

Riding the Blur

After an amazing ride on the new Highball the previous day, we headed north up the coast to El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve to ride the dense Skeggs trail network.  We had very little in the way of information on either bike prior to riding them. The pre-flight announcement was pretty much “Welcome! Here are the bikes, enjoy.” Personally, I’m really happy they did it this way.  Feeding us all the pie charts first would have filled us up before we got to taste what the bikes really had to offer. There is no better way to get an impression of a bike than to go in dumb and ride it blind. It was interesting to later match up what I felt against the factsheet.

We had Fox technicians on hand both days to help with suspension setup.  For the Highball, they helped us out at the factory prior to heading out, but for the Blur they joined us at the trailhead.  We had the opportunity to do a test loop to ensure the bike was properly set up before heading off for the day. For me, that meant adding more air pressure to the fork after my trial lap.  At 165lbs, my final setup was 210psi in the Fox DPS shock and 91psi in the Fox 32 fork. Those pressures landed me at roughly 25% sag front and rear. I didn’t feel a need to adjust it further anywhere along the ride.  Open Mode Adjust settings were middle of the range and rebound was a click or two slower than prescribed; sorry I don’t have an exact number here as these were adjusted on the fly. Like the Highball, the size medium Blur fit perfectly with little adjustment required other than saddle height and lever position.   Tires were pumped up to 23psi front and rear.

Riding the Blue at Skeggs – Photo: Forrest Arakawa

Photo: Forrest Arakawa

 

The Skeggs trails were an absolute blast on the Blur.  We started up top and experienced seamless, zigzagging bench cut trails amid the old-growth redwoods.   The loop incorporated a respectable amount of climbing, nearly twice as much as the previous day. The payback was sweet with a mix of natural, technical singletrack and screaming fast water bar-laden descents.  You can really get motoring in spots and speeding tickets have even been handed out there on busy weekends.

We had the pleasure of having 2002 X-Games BMX Dirt gold medalist Allan Cooke lead the ride at Skeggs.  I didn’t pay much attention to the bike for the first part of the ride as I was busy watching the show in front of me.  Allan is a serious bike honch’ and his pace and style set a perfect tone for the day. Once the adrenaline wore off and I focused on the task at hand, I started to really appreciate just how impressive the Blur was.  The Blur feels like a little slalom bike and can hold a line that you’d struggle with on another bike in its class.

Riding the Blur, I had to constantly remind myself just what I was on.   These were proper trails and some sections would have felt pretty slow and awkward on a traditional XC bike.   There is a lot going on to make the Blur feel as capable as it does. Frame stiffness, slack head angle and flawless suspension all add up to a bike that you can ride fast over some pretty rough terrain.

Photo: Forrest Arakawa

 

Without knowing the figures while riding, I commented several times on how perfect the head angle felt.  The 69° head angle really gives the Blur a trail bike personality. The bike felt very stable and wasn’t easily knocked off track. For a chunk of the ride, I was following Santa Cruz Brand Manager, Seb Kemp, through a narrow section of trail, crammed with endless rollers that crisscrossed through the woods. As we were bobbing and weaving like Mohamed Ali, punching out of the corners, trying not to get knocked out by a tree, it hit me.  This is unlike any other 29er I’ve ever ridden.

Photo: Forrest Arakawa

 

The trails had plenty of options to collect your Airmiles on.  Everything from small lips sprinkled throughout the trail to natural gaps and clamshells that will send you as long as you want to go down a wide-open track.  Through the singletrack, the Blur can sail over anything with little input required. Whether popping out of a hole, loading the suspension or pulling on the bars, the bike will have you flying first class.   Smiling from ear to ear after our final descent, we now had our work cut out for us with a 45 minute climb back to the top.

While the Blur rides as well as some of the dedicated trail bikes out there, it is at its core a cross-country race bike.  The frame is amazingly stiff and any effort is immediately rewarded with forward motion.   The suspension is firm and progressive with lots of support.  It’s not really possible to compare this Blur to previous models for anything other than nostalgia. The refinements in the latest VPP 3 platform simply make that contrast too great.  “In the 7 years since the last Blur, we’ve improved VPP a ton.  Our leverage curve is much more supportive, as well as having better small-bump feel and traction.  Pedaling has improved, and the structure of the frame is more efficient too.  We learn something every time we make a frame, and we’ve made a lot of those in the last few years!” explains Josh Kissner.

Photo: Forrest Arakawa

Photo: Forrest Arakawa

 

I don’t typically use fork and shock lockouts and prefer to climb in open mode.  I was encouraged to try it and did use the Fox 2-pos remote lockout on several occasions.  No doubt it was a godsend on the climb out but it did rob me of traction on choppier terrain.  Having it be so easy to flip at your fingertips certainly made the remote lockout more user-friendly than at the shock.  I think it’s a pretty nice option to have whether you’re sprinting to the finish line or on a mixed surface epic. With more time on this bike, I think I’d use the remote lockout pretty regularly.

 

Conclusion

This Blur is truly inspiring, it makes me want to buy one and enter the most epic races on the planet. If you want to line up and test your fitness against the best, it’s got your back. It’s hands down as capable as anything out there in an out-and-out battle to the finish.   Anyone serious about cross country racing, multi-day stage races or just crushing their local trails would be happy on the Blur.

If you’re in the market for a Specialized Epic or Giant Anthem, the choice just got Blur’ed.   Just saying the name Blur out loud is a siren call for old school, cross-country, retro-grouches everywhere.  This may very well be the bike that puts that old grin back on their faces and sees them embrace the modern cross-country bike.

Marc Landry is a Toronto, Ontario based action sports photographer. Honing his skills on local and World Cup cycling circuits, Marc has since expanded his subject matter to include several outdoor adventure sports. Marc is in his element when surrounded by the energy that top athletes radiate. The relationships he forms with his subjects is apparent in his images and is part of what defines his look. He is most at home in the mountains and his preference for long glass and elaborate lighting setups has become his signature style. Born and raised in Ottawa, Marc now lives in Toronto with his wife and daughter

Fox 34

3 Comments

  1. Yes, please!

  2. As an OG Blur owner I really like the update, but I’d gladly drop the lockout in favour of a 34 and Dropper. I get that’s not the specific lazer focused purpose and no doubt there’s an argument to be made there to jump to a Hightower, but an XC oriented bike with a bit of “party mode” feels like a pretty natural “TR” build kit.

  3. Not straight to the Hightower but the Tallboy sounds like a better fit if you’re after a rowdier bike with a Fox 34 and a dropper.

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