I remember when the first Santa Cruz Blurs hit the streets of Marin County, California. Twenty six inch ruled the world. My best friend had a Superlight and he forever reminded me that his Superlight saved grams by laser etching logos into its light alloy tubes while my steel hardtail sporting lowly stickers was a pig. Then along came the Blur and his welterweight single pivot was promptly antiquated. His elitism was relinquished. I was stoked.
Trail bikes weren’t decisively a thing and the blur the lines between trail and XC adage had yet to take effect but Blurs bubbled up in Marin with rampant abandon. They matched the hues of Patagonia puff jackets. I knew that if I wanted to be cool, I needed one. So I never got one, but they sold like crazy in the shop where I worked.
I then sold Blur LTs to customers who didn’t know what they wanted but knew they wanted a good mountain bike, so they got an LT, and I remember the XC carbon coming, then the LTc, a 4X thrown in there somewhere, even everyone’s favorite, the TR, a blur of Blurs.
Where are we now? It’s 2018, the Blur has been hiding. Twenty-nine-inch rules the world of XC. Yes, you can argue otherwise and I won’t listen. The Tallboy has come, evolved and done trail-ified itself—he’s all grows up now and the Blur is still missing.
So it isn’t a complete surprise that Santa Cruz has elected to fill the XC void the Tallboy has sidestepped—the Tallboy arrives standard spec with a Maxxis Minion DHF front tire now, certainly a stone’s throw and three degrees slacker than its cross country beginnings. Leaving the Blur.
Since the Blur TR left the party without saying goodbye to anyone in 2014, there haven’t been any successors. So how XC did Santa Cruz go? Did they go ‘full XC’?
It’s funny that the last Blur was the Blur TR because, wheel size and travel aside, these geo numbers aren’t too far off. The Blur TR had a 68-degree headtube angle, a 72.5-degree seat tube angle, a 333-millimeter-bottom-bracket height and a 428-millimeter chainstay. It had 26-inch wheels and 125 millimeters of travel. The new Blur has nearly the same chainstay length, a degree and a half steeper seat tube angle, a noticeably longer wheelbase, a hint lower bottom bracket height and 29-inch wheels. Perhaps the new Blur is as Vince Vaughn put it, all grows up with geo that made the TR popular and today’s vogue wheel size of modern XC … hmmm.
Santa Cruz took us to Skeggs (El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve) to test the latest iteration of the Blur because they hate us. I’m attempting humor, but really, they must hate us. Skeggs is a drainage. You climb your way contouring effortfully downward, you climb your way arduously upward. Every climbing descent is rewarded with a climbing ascent. You climb both ways. So it’s a great place to test a 100-millimeter XC bike with a lever that locks both the front and rear suspension simultaneously.
Jokes aside, Skeggs boasts relatively smooth, tight redwoody singletrack that can carry speeds somewhat faster than normal for very narrow trail (proof is in the pudding, rangers historically camp out and issue speeding tickets) and it occasionally heaps small bouts of brief tech-like features in without forewarning. Perfect for brushing the edges of the XC category, whatever it may be these days.
The Uphill Down
So, without really any instruction on what we should be feeling or why such-and-such design is superior, off we descended, climbing downward inevitably pressed toward a wall of up. The upside down of trail riding.
The bike is light. It flutters near the nervous XC feeling without succumbing to skittish. This again might be attributed to a longer wheelbase combined with an over-the-top lightweight build paired with a decreased offset, 44 millimeter fork. For slow-speed, last-second, tight, choosey trail riding in Marin, I’ve long been a fan of increased-offset-51-millimeter-29-inch forks, hyphens and all. They create quicker handling without steepening headtube angles, almost allowing the contact patch of a 29-inch tire to break more freely. When transitioning from 26-inch to 29-inch wheels, I thought of it as providing 26-inch attributes for 29ers, it allowed immediate line choice when positioning a tire within roots having just seen them while rounding a tree. It was great.
But at higher speeds, there might be something to this decreased offset argument. Both the Highball and the Blur did not falter as one would imagine XC bikes might as speeds rose. Also perplexing, both favor more of a lean the bike over, arc the turn approach, much less of a steer your direction through handlebar positioning alone. The Blur is a light enough bike—Santa Cruz claims just shy of 22 pounds (with a 2,060 gram frame weight) for the CC XX1 Reserve Build—that in a tighter, lower speed setting, one could throw this bike around, there’s not much to it. We encountered a couple slow speed maneuvering line choice moments; the Blur was adept. Not necessarily confidence-inspiring like a trail bike, but it was capable.
I did perceive a bit of lateral flex, but again, I’m a heavier rider and this is to be expected. It didn’t feel flimsy, yet it was there, often hard to ascertain when riding something so light and nearly unavoidable when playing the true gram-crunch game.
We were granted our long climb so I had ample time to switch back and forth between locked and unlocked with the Remote beneath the front brake lever. While there’s certainly merit to very smooth climbing, particularly on lower angle ascents or paved climbs, I have a hard time preferring the locked setting on anything steeper or more technical. I attempt to get as low as possible over the front end when climbing anything steeper. Locking out the front freezes the fork at full mast, hoisting it as high as possible. The Blur is an excellent climber so it also never felt as though this business-first upright approach was necessary.
I was impressed with the feel of the suspension overall. We don’t get overwhelmed by 100 millimeter travel test bikes here at the office so it’s easy to get caught up in the perceived phobia of travel insufficiency. One hundred wasn’t plush, wasn’t bottomless, certainly didn’t ride bigger than the XC category, but it wasn’t overly harsh and it didn’t abruptly bottom out. It ramped nicely and felt like it made good use of its four inches for traction while appropriately firming, what one hopes for in an XC bike.
So who is the Blur for and is it the second coming of the TR? First the TR: No, it’s not the dawn of a new TR day but this was a bike not intended to meld its way into the mix of slacked-out, dropper-equipped trail-bike-opia. See below, build kits do not come with a dropper. No sense of humor allowed. Punishment only. But of course, there are provisions for a dropper.
Ideal candidate? Someone after efficiency wanting a bit more capability and stability at speed without giving up on speed between point ‘A’ and ‘B’ assuming that, like Skeggs, it’s uphill both ways. For those after a trail bike or plus bike, look to the Tallboy. For those after the utmost in power transfer but wanting a smoother ride than expected, look to the Highball. For those in-between, the Blur is for you. santacruzbicycles.com