By Ryan LaBar
SANTA CRUZ BLUR XC CARBON
Price: $7,370 /
As soon as I had heard Santa Cruz was updating the Blur XC Carbon, I called dibs, and would have probably thrown a tantrum had I not gotten to test it. Thankfully, nobody had to witness that. You see, I tested the original Blur XC Carbon three years ago, and was nearly brought to tears when I had to send it back. I've tested and ridden countless cross-country bikes since then, but I'd often find myself wishing I was still riding the Blur. I didn't know it at the time of that first test, but the Santa Cruz would become a sort of benchmark for me—a bike by which I judged all others.
For this revision of the XC Carbon, Santa Cruz optimized its carbon process, fitted the frame to match current trends and still managed to cleave some weight off. The most noticeable addition to the updated frame is its tapered headtube.
This allows for a larger-diameter downtube and a tapered-steerer fork—both of which boost front-end stiffness. These, combined with its optimized, one-piece monocoque carbon layup, make the Blur XC Carbon one hell of a laterally rigid bike. It rivals—if not beats—a lot of all-mountain bikes on the market. And with a frame weight a few ticks over the 4-pound mark (with shock)—about a third of a pound lighter than the old version—this is a pretty damn impressive
The XC Carbon remains one of the most capable cross-country race machines I've ever swung a leg over. Its geometry is unchanged in this rendition, however, it now comes stock with a 120-millimeter fork—an upgrade I made after writing my previous review of this bike. Over the test period, I found myself riding lines on the Blur that usually make me nervous on 6-inch bikes.
Climbing on the Blur is a treat, thanks to the efficient VPP linkage, stiff chassis and sub 24-pound (as ridden) weight. This is one bike that actually had me wishing for false summits and bigger climbs. The changes to the Blur XC Carbon don't, in my opinion, warrant an upgrade if you already own the old Carbon version, but they do help to make for a bike that's near impossible to beat, as both a full-blown racer and an everyday trail bike. The price for the full XTR kit, which I tested, is rightfully steep, but those with shallower pockets will be happy to know that complete versions of the bike start at $3,800 (or $2,500 for just the frame and shock).