Santa Cruz's New Blur XC Bike - Review

Mar 20, 2018
by Mike Levy  
It was only a few years ago that cross-country bikes didn't need to do much more than be efficient while not weighing much, and, let's be honest, it's not all that difficult to nail those two things when that's all you need to be good at. But now it's 2018, and we expect more of our short-travel rigs. They still need to be light, and pedaling potency is ever-important, but they're no longer allowed to scare the piss out of riders on a proper descent. Instead, they actually have to be fun to ride rather than feeling like you're being punished for knowing what 'FTP' stands for.

Much more is required of the all-new, 100mm-travel Blur 3 cross-country weapon than its predecessors were ever up against, and Santa Cruz has included some contemporary features on their new race bike to help it meet the desires of new-school cross-country riders. Modern geometry is the most notable, of course, but less weight, a revised VPP rear end, and a host of other ingredients should make the new-gen Blur more bike than its forebears.


Blur 3 CC X01 Reserve

Intended use: cross-country / trail
Travel: 100mm
Wheel size: 29''
Frame construction: carbon fiber
Suspension: VPP
Hub spacing: Boost
Head angle: 69-degrees
Chainstay length: 432mm
Sizes: sm, med, lrg (tested), xlrg
Weight: 22.4lb
Price: $7,599 USD
More info: www.santacruzbicycles.com





Construction and Features

Let's talk about the previous Blur platforms before we get to the new one, just for a bit of perspective. The first time Santa Cruz used the Blur name was on a 115mm-travel, aluminum model that debuted in 2002 and lived until 2005. Back then, this was a sort of cross-country / trail bike machine that still had V-brake mounts, a max fork travel of 100mm, and a 70.5 to 71.5-degree head angle. Reach? Who knows - that wasn't a thing back then, but I bet it was short.

We'd probably think it was scary if we rode it now but, as I said above, we all had lower expectations for this genre back in the early 2000s. The LT1, with 135mm, was next and it was around from 2005 to 2007, and we can't forget the spunky Blur 4X that was one of their earliest off-the-shelf short-travel hoonigan rigs. That thing is legendary.


Santa Cruz Blur V1
Santa Cruz Blur 4X
The OG Blur (left) was born in 2002, but it's the Blur 4X (right) that is probably the most loved iteration.


The next version saw some updates, but it wasn't until 2008 that Santa Cruz completely re-worked the Blur from a cross-country bike to a 140mm-travel, burlier trail machine. The Blur LT2 was still aluminum, but a carbon version, the LT2C, was debuted in 2009 that stuck around until 2013. There was also the racy Blur XC2, with 105mm, which lived from 2009 to 2013.

The 29'' wheeled and 27.5+ compatible Tallboy of today, with 110mm of travel, also plays a part in the story, but that machine is more of a quick trail bike than a cross-country weapon.


Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
Looks like a... Santa Cruz? The new Blur follows the same design language as most of the US brand's other offerings.


Santa Cruz needed a bike for those FTP-knowing, suffer-seeking cross-country types, and that brings us to the all-new Blur.

The carbon CC-level frame, which is said to weigh 2,060 grams with all its ancillary bits, looks every bit the Santa Cruz that it is, with a rear triangle attached to the front via its two short VPP links, and the shock mounted to the underside of the top tube. But while the old Blurs (and the current Tallboy) forgo a vertical carbon element on the drive-side of their rear triangles, the lighter weight Blur sees that treatment on both sides, presumably to increase rigidity.


Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
There's a vertical strut on both sides of the Blur's swingarm.


It's also not compatible with front derailleurs which, at the risk of pissing off those clinging to the past, makes a ton of sense for a bike of the Blur's intentions. If you need two chainrings, this ain't the type of bike for you. There are two bottle cage mounts, with enough room inside the front triangle for the largest of large bottles, and the second being on the underside of the downtube.

Cables and hoses go inside the frame, including the one for a dropper post if you're not a crazy person and choose to install one, and in typical Santa Cruz-ness, the bottom bracket shell has threads in it. What else... Boost spacing out back, and there's a bolt-on downtube guard to keep rocks from making speed holes in your expensive frame.


Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
The Fox shock's remote cable (left) disappears inside the toptube, but I'd like it to disappear altogether.

Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
A bolt-on rock protector (left) adds a few grams but keeps the dents and holes to a minimum.


You can get the new Blur in small, medium, large (tested), and extra-large sizes, and Santa Cruz says that the fancypants XX1 Reserve version comes in at a more than reasonable 21.9lb. My test bike, which came with the slightly wider Reserve 27 wheels and X01 Eagle running gear, weighed 22.4lb on my scale, which is also damn reasonable. That's with the stock and very light Syntace straight post and Santa Cruz handlebar, and sans pedals, but still, I'm impressed.

The other number that you'll want to know is the price: This Blur 3 CC X01 Reserve test bike goes for a not paltry $7,599 USD. That's with the high-end carbon frame, Santa Cruz's own carbon wheels, and all the things, don't forget. There are six complete bikes to choose from, with the $8,999 USD XX1 Reserve version sitting at the top of the list, but you can also get on a base-level Blur for $3,699 USD. That sum gets you the slightly heavier C frame and the R build kit, or you can pick up a Blur 3 CC frame (with a Fox Float Factory shock) for $2,999 USD.



Geometry and Sizing

The way to make a new-school cross-country bike fun isn't exactly a secret: a big part of it is to simply choose numbers that don't include a 2000s era 90-degree head angle and a tight reach or wheelbase. Santa Cruz's 27.5+ compatible Tallboy sports just 10mm more travel out back (and 120 or 130mm in stock form up front, but people often waaaaay over-fork that bike) and also rolls on 29'' wheels, so let's compare their more trail-oriented 29er to the new Blur.

As you'd expect, the Tallboy is slacker all around, with a 68-degree head angle and 73-degree seat tube angle compared to the Blur's 69-degree front end (with a 100mm fork) and 74-degree seat angle. The steeper seat angle makes sense due to the Blur's longer reach (460mm versus 450mm, both in large) and more efficiency-minded intentions. The Blur's roomier front end, likely to be paired with a slightly longer stem compared to what you'd find on the average Tallboy, is certainly more racy, too. Both have 432mm rear-centers, but the Tallboy has the longer wheelbase due to that slacker head angle.

The Tallboy was never meant to be a cross-country race bike, of course, but rather a wheel size-swappable trail bike with 110mm of travel. That said, many riders use it as a race rig with a not too long fork up front, but I've also seen people over-fork the bike to the point of wackiness.
Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore

The Blur, on the other hand, is simply not that type of rig; it's a cross-country bike that, as you'll read about below, feels stout and ready for some relative rowdiness, but it doesn't possess the Tallboy's versatility. Hey, you need to specialize in your trade if you want to be good at it, right?



Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore

Suspension Design

You're probably familiar with VPP suspension, and while they likely could have saved a relatively decent chunk of weight by employing a single-pivot design on the new Blur, VPP is what Santa Cruz uses on all of their high-end full-suspension bikes... so that's what's you'll find on the back of the Blur. That's not to say that the new bike's VPP isn't a top performer - it certainly is - just that Santa Cruz wasn't only counting the grams when they were sorting out their new cross-country machine.

Just like on their other VPP bikes, the Blur's rear end is controlled via two short, stout counter-rotating links, and the rate has been tuned to suit the bike's intentions and, er, lack of travel. With not much suspension on tap, it needed to be tweaked to get the most out of its tiny shock.
Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
The VPP layout gets sleeker looking every year.

The lower link is captured within the front triangle and swingarm, and the shock is driven off up the upper link rather than the swingarm itself. The whole thing delivers a very cross-country focused 100mm of travel.



Specifications

Specifications
Release Date 2019
Price $7599
Travel 100
Rear Shock Fox Float Performance Elite DPS Remote
Fork Fox Step-Cast 32 Performance Elite 100 Remote
Headset Cane Creek 40 IS Integrated Headset
Cassette SRAM XG1295 Eagle - 12spd, 10-50t
Crankarms SRAM XX1 Eagle DUB 34t - 170mm (S), 175mm (M-XL)
Bottom Bracket SRAM DUB
Rear Derailleur SRAM X01 Eagle 12spd
Chain SRAM X01 Eagle 12spd
Shifter Pods SRAM X01 Eagle 12spd
Handlebar SCB XC Carbon Flat Bar - 31.8x750mm
Stem Syntace LiteForce Stem
Grips ESI Chunky Grips
Brakes SRAM Level TLM
Hubs DT 350
Spokes DT Competition Race
Rim Santa Cruz Reserve 25 Carbon
Tires Maxxis Aspen TR - 29x2.25
Seat WTB Silverado NiCro
Seatpost Syntace P6 Carbon HiFlex Seatpost - 31.6mm



Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore






Test Bike Setup

Because flying somewhere to ride an unfamiliar bike on unfamiliar trails is a sketchy way to get to know a new rig, I skipped the whole press camp shebang and instead managed to convince the folks at Santa Cruz to send me the fresh Blur a little early. I got to put a bunch of miles on the bike (in both stock and modified form) on my local trails because of this, and it also gave me the time to do a cross-country stage race on the bike. That was handy because, you know, it is made to be a cross-country race bike, after all.

It also gave me the opportunity to make some changes to my test rig in the name of smiles and skids. Because I'm not demented, I ditched the very lightweight Syntace carbon seat post for a 150mm-travel e*thirteen dropper. Given the bike's intentions, I can't begrudge Santa Cruz for not spec'ing a party post, but my own intentions definitely called for that addition. I also popped on a 50mm stem and 780mm wide handlebar, both from Race Face, for the same reasons that the dropper went on.

The bike's 100mm Fox 32 Step-Cast fork suits the Blur and matches its travel, so it made sense for me to keep that black fork on for awhile, but I also rode and raced the bike with a 120mm 34 on the front as I suspect that many potential Blur owners will be considering over-forking their ride as well.

Mike Levy
Mike Levy
Location: Squamish, BC, Canada
Age: 37
Height: 5'10
Inseam: 33.5"
Weight: 157lbs
Industry affiliations / sponsors: None
Instagram: @killed_by_death
The bike was still very much a cross-country whippet after those changes, but it better suited my style of riding that's equal parts FTP and FUN. It also went up from the 22.4lb of the stock build to 24.4lb.


Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
While it's not the best technical cross-country climber, the Blur still won't give you any excuses for not making it up a tricky pitch.


Climbing

I'm not sure if I'm going to tell you anything about how the Blur climbs that you probably don't expect to know already, but let's go through the motions anyway. Is it efficient? It's a 100mm-travel race bike, so yeah, it's really freakin' efficient. So much so, in fact, that the Fox shock's remote lockout was kinda useless to me, even in a race setting with a ton of gravel roads. Pushing the go-button on the remote does drastically firm the Blur's rear end up when you're giving the bike the ol' stationary squish test, but the short-travel VPP system essentially doesn't activate under pedaling loads anyway.

So push the button if you want, maybe during your finish line sprint for 17th place in the local expert class, but I pretty much forgot it was even there.

The Blur's geometry really worked well for me during long days in the saddle and during climbs that felt like they lasted the whole damn day, too. The large's 460mm reach is roomy but not overboard, and it paired well with the shorter-than-stock stem that I installed. It used to be that putting a stubby stem on a bike would pretty much wreck its serious climbing abilities, but that's no longer the case. Nowadays, you can pop a shorty on a bike like the Blur and it doesn't turn into a wheelie machine that requires you to put your face onto the handlebar to get up and around something tricky.

Technical climbing on the bike was a joy... Er, as much of a ''joy'' as that task can sometimes be, but it certainly wasn't a handful, even relative to other cross-country bikes that I've spent loads of time on. The 69-degree front end (slacker with the 120mm fork) can be easily guided up and around the tightest of switchbacks at any speed, but I did have to pay a bit more attention than I did when on the Scalpel or Element. It's not lazy - not even close - just a bit less pointy in the ultra-jank that I've been told no one really likes to ride anyway. That said, I'm a chronic jank-er, and I gelled with the Blur's handling just fine.


Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
Pure cross-country bikes with short stems, wide handlebars, and dropper posts are a blast, and the modified Blur is no exception. It's not too shabby in stock form, either.


Descending

So, does having excellent climbing manners have to equal sketchy descending manners? It used to, but bikes like the Blur are challenging that notion. Sure, it's every bit a cross-country bike, but there were many times when I'd get to the bottom of a fast, fun descent and think: ''Huh, I didn't once feel like I was about to die, and I enjoyed that more than I would have on a long-travel bike.'' You can certainly get reminded of the type of machine you're on, but that can happen when you're on any bike that's not in its ideal setting.

A big part of the Blur's relatively strong descending abilities is how solid it comes across; there's no strange chattering of the back end when you're cornering over rough ground, and the bike doesn't feel like it's 'winding up' when you slam it into a berm or get it in an awkward situation. If I'm honest, I've never been one to get too excited about rigidity - just as long as the back end stays behind me - but there's something to be said for a lightweight package that doesn't make you think of toilet paper rolls held together with not enough LePage glue.

The bike's solid feeling ride really lets you get into a good descent, and while 69-degrees might sound steep AF to the enduro crew, I'd describe the handling as being more responsive than nervous. With the stock 100mm-travel Fox fork, you definitely need to keep from getting too cocky and up over the bike's front end or it can quickly go from carving to wanting to knife, but it's surprising how hard you can push until it finally gets to that point. There's a sense of stability to it that not many quick handling, short-travel bikes can brag about.


Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
When in doubt, manual it out... even if your face looks stupid while doing it.


And it's the Blur's relative surefootedness that impressed me most. All cross-country bikes have a snappy, fun personality that's really just a byproduct of their sharp geometry and low weight, but point them down some nastiness and even me, a big proponent of little bikes, can admit that they can feel nervous and loose. The Blur, however, felt more planted, more composed in those settings. Of course, it's still a sharp steering machine, so you can get a good scare if you're in over your head, but there were times when the bike was less of a cross-country whippet than you might expect.

The un-cross-country-like traction and solidness will really let you be a goon on this thing; you know, if you're into that sort of stuff. Unlike some race bikes that seem to scream "JUST PEDAL, YOU TOOL" while you want to have fun, the Blur says to you, ''Hey, you want to pop over that lil' bump and slash the next corner? Me too, hombre, me too.'' So that's what you do because that's what you should do, regardless of if you're smashed from your silly intervals or not.

What about the rear suspension? Well, there's only 100mm so you can find the end of the stroke if you really want to, but it won't happen unless it's supposed to happen when you're running 25-percent sag. I bounced between 20 and 25-percent, but the bike pedals so well, and there didn't seem to be more bottoming moments at the larger number, so that's what I went with. It's also comparatively supple on top, but you might not think that if you're used to more travel.

Regardless, as far as cross-country rigs go, this is a well-sorted 100mm that you can get busy on without clanging off the end of the stroke. That fact contributes to the Blur's willingness to be tossed around more than you think would be suitable.
Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
The Blur is a cross-country whippet, but it'd also make a great all-day down-country bike.

All those kind words don't mean that Santa Cruz has struck some sort of mythical do-it-all-ness with the Blur. It's a light, efficient package that you can ride the socks off of, but the 100mm-travel Step-Cast fork will remind you that there's a difference between a trail bike and a cross-country bike, as will the quick handling. That brings me to my only real issue with the Blur: It's such a fun-loving little bike that I often found myself a little too sideways, or going a little too fast, for what I was riding. As you might expect, that can end badly, but I'd call that rider error before actually laying the blame on the bike.


Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
100mm will always be 100mm, but Santa Cruz did well with the Blur's VPP suspension.


Technical Report

Reserve 27 Wheels: These are Santa Cruz's middle of the road wheels as far as width goes, with a 27mm internal width that's 2mm wider than their lighter weight option (can you guess what those are called?). The rims weigh a claimed 455-grams, and the set, with DT Swiss' DT350 Boost hubs, is 1,755-grams. Not exactly super racy, but not hefty, either. More importantly, they didn't crack despite me being an absolute idiot while using them. It turns out that Israeli desert singletrack can be full of all sorts of rocks and square edges, and jumping blindly into washes isn't the best idea. I did get a flat and knocked the rear wheel out of true a touch, and a giant pointy rock went through a spoke (can't blame the spoke) when I cut off the trail to pass a rolling roadblock of cross-country racers on a rowdy descent, but the rims themselves are scar-free.

SRAM Level TLM Brakes: I'm a fan of how controllable SRAM brakes are, and the Level TLMs performed flawlessly during my time on the Blur. More than enough power despite the small rotors, a ton of modulation, and they didn't make a peep of noise, either.


Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
The Reserve 27 rear wheel got knocked out of true a bit, as well as suffered a broke spoke in a separate incident that was 100-percent rider error, but the rims themselves held up well.


Eagle X01 Drivetrain: I don't think anyone needs 12-speeds, and most riders that I know don't need a cog the size of a pie plate, but I can't argue that this stuff works really, really well. Shifting was bang-on without any tinkering required, and I didn't drop a chain once. I only used the 50-tooth cog when the bike was on the work stand while I was building it, but hey, it's there if you feel you need it.

Things I'd swap out: I already talked about the addition of a dropper post, and Santa Cruz makes the swap a relatively easy job thanks to the large opening under the downtube shield that keeps you from having to yell at the bike while futzing with its internal routing. Speaking of cables, I'd love to be able to ditch the Fox shock's remote lockout lever. I know that Santa Cruz pretty much has to have one on the bike because headcase cross-country racers think they need it, but they don't. Too bad the Fox shock reverts to being locked out when you undo the damn cable, though.

And that's it. Other than those two admittedly style-specific tweaks, I don't think I muck around with anything.
Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve Photo by James Lissimore
Ugh, a remote lockout. I cracked the clamp when I had a sweet scorpion moment early in the testing, and ended up sliding the remote inboard and mostly never touching it.



Pros

+ It's more solid feeling than any other cross-country bike I've ridden
+ Handling is race-friendly but also good fun on relatively serious terrain
+ Doesn't have to be a race-only rig


Cons

- Can't remove the lockout
- Cross-country purists might not understand it


Is this the bike for you?

The Blur is interesting because while it's made to be a lightweight cross-country race bike, it's more capable and fun than you might think. That doesn't make it a trail bike, however - the Tallboy fills that role - but it does mean that it might be an option for you if you race on the weekends but ride some proper trails when the clock isn't ticking. It'll do just fine if you're an old-school racer who just wants his stem to be as long as his fork travel, but there are other bikes out there if you're that kinda cat.


Pinkbike's Take
bigquotesIt used to be that cross-country bikes weren't all that much fun to ride. Fast and efficient, sure, but would you be smiling at the bottom of a proper descent? Well, you might be happy to still be alive, so maybe. But the Blur will make a cross-country racer smile because as great as it feels to crush a climb or place well in a race, we all know that it feels even better if you can do all that while also having a hell of a good time on the fun parts of the trail. Mike Levy







218 Comments

  • + 102
 Seems like a cool XC bike, but I'm confused by this review: "things I'd swap out: the seat post." But earlier you said you swapped out the bar, stem, and fork too. As far as can tell, your niggles with the bike were all based on attributes the bike has because it's an XC race bike. I see two options here: one is to review the bike as it comes and for what it is: an XC race bike with bar, stem, fork, and seat post included. Or call out these companies for not making these bikes what they should be. And why not call them out? can someone explain to me why an XC race bike can't have a wide bar, short stem, and 67 degree head angle? On the other end of the bike spectrum we are getting bikes that can climb decently and descend dang near as well as a downhill bike. I can't believe the same isn't possible on the XC end of the spectrum; climbing machines that can descend as well as a trial bike. Seems like XC designers are hell bent on moving in this direction one degree and one millimeter at a time. I guess I just don't see any reason why the average Strava warrior, or even semi-serious racer, shouldn't ride a bike that kills it at weekend races AND Wednesday nights with the boys. Alright, that oughta gives us a little to argue about. Have at it Pinkbike!
  • + 4
 It's about marginal gains - these are intended for Olympic level XCO, and the courses they tend to have, so every trade is weighed in that context.
  • + 3
 How about a Scott Spark?
  • - 10
flag WAKIdesigns (Mar 20, 2018 at 5:26) (Below Threshold)
 i’m sure it’s aimed at crowd that doesn’t lift their bum off the saddle too often, even on descends, and they stand for majority of mountain bikers. Otherwise there is nothing a 5010/ Tallboy wouldn’t do for you that this thing does. If I was to have a 5th bike and still some disposable income left to attend 2-3 XC races in a year, I’d buy the latest Spark over this bike any day. It’s 90% in the tyre choice anyways. A 120 bike with xc tyres will climb faster than 100 bike with intermediate tyres.
  • + 8
 I'm relatively new to actually reading PB articles (made an account way back but eventually couldn't be bothered reading from a computer screen) so I don't know what PB reviews were like in the past, but it appears they seem to have had an odd approach at testing and discussing XC bikes. It was pretty much standard approach in bike reviews by Dirt magazine to "swap the silly stem and bars for something proper short and wide" and "swap the tires for some proper rubber" before they even started testing. For big bikes yes, but also for ten year old reviews like for the Cannondale Rush and Specialized Epic. There was nothing stopping you from doing that back in the days just like there is nothing stopping you from doing it now. Actually stating this as something new in this review makes me wonder whether they missed this option back in the days. Sure reach may have been shorter back then and bars may not have made it up to 800mm wide, but 40mm stems were common and reach on those Cannondale bikes really wasn't all that bad.
  • - 11
flag nvranka (Mar 20, 2018 at 7:15) (Below Threshold)
 Oh hey, it's another joey claiming AM bikes can decent almost as well as a DH..../wave poor fella

Agreed with your point, but ya triggered me all the same.
  • + 70
 So, in summary, this was a review of $7600 Blur that was turned into a $9000 Tallboy.
  • + 10
 I was hoping that Santa Cruz would move in the same direction as intense did
  • + 6
 There's unno xc bikes with 67 degree angle but they are out of reach for most people, more companies could follow in a year or so
  • - 16
flag headshot (Mar 20, 2018 at 9:47) (Below Threshold)
 The lack of water bottle in the triangle is an Epic fail.
  • + 5
 @headshot: look at the pictures since researching is too hard.
  • + 26
 Good point! Why not let a XC bike be a XC bike, and not sprinkle "bro" on it till its a trail bike.
Sometimes I want a one trick pony! What's the problem with that?
  • + 1
 @McNubbin: You hit the nail on the head.
  • + 41
 Because this is Pinkbike, and Santa Cruz's marketing department was all "hey PB, make it sound 'rowdy' to get the PBers excited", and "hey Bicycling, make it sound like a purebred XC racing bike for the lycra set", and "hey Radavist, put some Klampers and extraneous bottle cages on it for the hipsters", and voila, SC got all their bases covered.
  • + 4
 @TheOriginalTwoTone: Oops, need my eyes checked. Only saw the one in the crud catcher position.
  • + 4
 Looks like you could pedal that to the moon and back. 21-22lbs,,,, my only issue is the price tag,,,, next.
  • + 13
 Us XC racers spend most of our time and effort climbing and trying to do it as fast as possible, all the while enjoying it. The bike is gonna need to be balanced and optimized around that. Remember as you head uphill your HTA and stem effectively slacken and shorten. The opposite happens as you head downhill.
In my experience, steep xc climbs on a short-stemmed 67degree bike are not as pleasant or efficient as steeper angles. Are they doable? yes, of course. Are they better downhill? Yes, of course. If you just want a do everything just 'ok' bike isn't that what the Trail category was for? But hey, if 67degree hta bikes get more of you to feel safe enough to come race with us then so be it, love to have you.
  • - 4
flag WAKIdesigns (Mar 20, 2018 at 23:52) (Below Threshold)
 @riedelk: except that XC bikes are getting into AM/ Enduro geometry direction only keeping the travel. Spark is only the beginning of the trend, and having Nino as a poster boy, it will only continue. Spark has geometry of a 2014 120 bike. Even by 2012 seat angles were still 72/73 at best. Expect 75 and shorter stays by 2012. There is no benefit to longer stem and narrow bars what so ever. This changes as well, bars on XC WC racers bikes just get wider. They all reacted to 2010 wide bar trend.

I’d take camber over epic for steep technical climbing any day because it is easier to move over the bike and keep balance. Epics front wherl wanders more and gets hanged against rocks due to steep head angle.

XC/ Marathon is the biggest market for mid and high end mountain bikes, possibly bigger than all other combined, with least skill Thus interest in handling performance and understandably so. You can’t shock them as you will scare them away. Hence progress is happening at snails pace.

Same with road bikes but much worse. Are 99% of people better off with gravel bikes? Hell yeah, could you make such geos and tyres and call it a road bike? No, you’d lose sales, but call it a new thing and here you go.

The point being, don’t base your opinion on conservative patterns.
  • + 3
 @riedelk: Safe enough? Ha. I have raced XC on a trail bike and the only thing that made me feel unsafe was how hard I had to slam on my brakes when I came up on all the dirt roadies tip-toeing their way down the hill! To your point, I agree, let XC bikes be what they are for those who want to maximize the climbs. Mad respect to you guys. That's my beef with the review though, he struggled to review it for what it is. That said, I still believe XC bikes could be more competent descenders without sacrificing on the climbs. Cheers!
  • + 1
 As an (armchair) spectator of XC racing I'm under the impression that XC races require pretty all round mountainbike riders. Yes you need to climb fast. But considering the tiny winning margins at the top, you need to be quick (and safe) on the descends too. Those pictures of the trail Mike rides in the article don't seem out of place on a modern WC XC race either. So it takes a bike that allows you to do that. See, there is already quite something you can get away with on a regular 26" wheeled XC hardtail. If that 26" wheeled XC hardtail had 80mm travel in the rear, there was even more you could tackle. If you buy something with 100mm travel in the rear, you expect to be able to charge even harder. Again, think of what that hardtail allows you to do, then add 100mm travel in the rear. Now, what we have here is a bike with 100mm travel too, but also with big 29" wheels. Never ridden with wheels that big, but from what I've heard (from marketing experts and reviewers) the roll over obstacles a bit easier. So then, this bike would be able to tackle quite something. And it should. XC races are getting more technical and to be competitive athletes need bikes that are quick and are safe to be quick. That does imply that the rider is going to change the fit in order to be comfortable. I think you're pretty much always going to adapt the stem length. That's the added value of a good lbs that has a couple of cheap stems available to borrow until you've found the length that feels best. So if Mike is used to shorter stems, he could ride it with a long stem but he won't be able to test it the same way as someone who's used to riding with longer stems. Now I do get the point that short stems and slack head angles could become an issue on steep upslopes, but on most trails I've seen the descends are more technically demanding than the climbs. Which is a shame, because I love technical climbing (as seen from riders like Jeff Lenosky and Chris Akrigg). So yeah, once trails develop to the extend that climbs really become that technically demanding, we may see more of a shift towards trials bikes. Which I'd love and applaud. But with the ways trails are now, the demands on organized racing aren't quite as such.

tl;dr: I think @mikelevy has tested the bike in ways that make sense for the kind of (multi-stage) XC racing you see at the top level nowadays. If he can demonstrate the far end of the spectrum, you also know what lies within it. If you expect to stay far and clear off these ends (the actual ends might actually lie even further) you may also consider a more specialized (no capital) bike. As for the changes he made to his contact points, if that is what it takes for him to ride that bike properly then it is all good to me. If this really bothers readers and PB intends to review more XC specific bikes, they may want to attract a tester specifically for that who's comfortable with the standard hardware and fit. Like some ex WC XC athlete.
  • - 5
flag WAKIdesigns (Mar 21, 2018 at 3:25) (Below Threshold)
 @vinay: I don't think XC bike makes any sense for an amateur living in area with mountains higher than 100m... also since tyres dictate performance to greatest degree, if you toss anything bigger than Larsens/ Rock Rons/ bonty XR2 on your XC bike, you may as well ride a 120-140 bike because your climbing performance goes out of the window anyways with heavier and slower rolling tyres. As an amateur you may as well run a modern short travel trail bike and put on semi slicks for the racing. In an era where suspension technology got so good, sayin that 100mm is more efficient than 120 from the perspective of an amateur is plain silly. Best example of suspension effectivness is how much diversity there is among different WC racers opting for HT or FS on same race. And sometimes people run HTs for really gnarly sht. So an amateur entering a XC race with 120 bike with XC racing wheels and tyres is more than fine, while he gets much better geo for every day riding.

However I don't agree with insinations as if running short and wide cockpit was detrimental, at least as long as you don't race every second weekend on narrow singletracks. Just look at Marc Baumonts take on it on GMBN.

I think Mike runs a short travel bike only to train for BC race just because he tries to humble a few Strava heroes. othewise why would he, living in BC, would run a fkng 120 bike?! How fun is riding gravity fed trail on short travel, where you just can't miss the fact that bike is holding you back every 3 seconds after you let off the brakes.
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Not sure there. With my limited experience on full suspension designs, I always felt that the rear suspension made the bike less predictable. The geometry changes as it goes through the travel so if you don't anticipate that properly, you're going to exit the corner not where you really wanted it to. I don't feel I have that as much with the front suspension, not sure why. Anyway, more suspension is only going to exaggerate this effect, wouldn't it? Either way, if someone feels more comfortable on a 100mm travel bike there isn't much reason to size up to 120mm. I agree the 100mm travel bike isn't much lighter because you still need a shock, swingarm and maybe even a linkage. But there is more to it than weight. If 100mm feels right and 120mm feels like a handful then there is nothing against a 100mm travel bike suited to your geometry demands. I doubt 100mm is going to hold you back on your everyday rides, even on hills higher than 100m. How high is Isaberg? It didn't feel particularly high (is it over 100mm high even?) but the rocky sections reward good (and much) suspension. I've also been on trails in the alps that were much higher than this but would have been just fine on short travel. I think the upper section of the Megavalanche Alpe d'Huez (below the snow limit) are quite rough. The qualifiers maybe even more than the actual race. But once you go past Alpe d'Huez (at 1800m) I think 100mm should be just fine. Good geometry is going to help you though.

In fact, some blokes in the UK are currently welding this up for me:
www.pinkbike.com/photo/15714606
Designed for 120mm travel forks for this very reason. They feel longer forks would upset the geometry when deep in the travel. But it is still getting the appropriate geometry. Just use a longer headttube. This one has a 150mm headtube. I think they're correct so they've got my money now.
  • - 2
 @vinay: I cannot agree that full suspension does anything to balance Wink and it definitely corners better, simply because it has more grip. The only reason 4x dudes use hardtails is the gate start. Take it as read. You are just not used to fs bikes. In fact it is hard to call a 100mm XC bike a FS bike since their suspension is so hard (some run 10% SAG) that it only takes some edge off the hits. Also if the track is bumpy to a bigger degree, FS will roll more efficiently since there is less vertical displacement of the rider. My trails are bumpy as hell, when I’m into over 1 hour into ride with my faster friends I really feel it on my HT how beaten up I get by constant rolling over rocks and roots. Furthermorr I can’t pedal as freely as on FS (talking of my old Blur TRc at 120). I have to be focused on pedal timing otherwise I just bump around. There can be no extra pedal strokes to keep momentum through a longer rough bit Especially on flat pedals. I have those flashbacks daunting on me, of gasping for momentum on HT when rolling on flat root covered ground, staying behind my friend who just pedals away as soon as a few consecutive fatter roots come along.
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: As for pedaling performance full suspension is probably much more efficient and comfortable than a hardtail indeed, especially for those who do seated pedaling. And yes I have to time my strokes but I like the challenge. What I just could get my head around is how the geometry changes when hitting corners. If the front wheel stalls in a hole or soft spot, not only does the front end dive but the rear end rises too. This changes the geometry hence changes the radius of the corner. Grip isn't such an issue but I want to have some control over where I'm going to end up. Same with landing drops. On a hardtail you absorb the landing, which is pretty predictable. On a fully you absorb the rebound which takes some advanced timing. Especially after having fully bottomed it out. It is either the progressive nature of the air spring or maybe the end stop, but after a bottom out the shock rebounds extra hard which sent me over the bars a good few times. Yeah for straightlining through the rubble whilst pedaling then indeed rear suspension is superior. But for what I mentioned above, I prefer the hardtail. I'm actually stripping part of the fully to keep the current hardtail going for the time being (the chain needs to be replaced and the fully chain isn't worn yet, stuff like that) and I'm picking my favorite bits for the next hardtail. But I'm going to reassemble the fully with other stuff I've got kicking around. It definitely has its time and place but it doesn't deserve some of the good parts (like brakes) I've got bolted to it. So these will end up on the next hardtail which is going to see most use. But yeah, I know full suspension bikes can be good at times so I will invest some time into it again, but not now.

Either way, I may also be a bit lost with all the nomenclature. I considered XC racing and Enduro racing typical racing disciplines. And when you do similar riding but not in a race format, it would be called "trail" and "all mountain" respectively. Isn't it? Pretty sure if PB would be riding those WC XC trails in South Africa they wouldn't say they were out XC riding. They were doing some proper trail riding, right?
  • - 2
 @vinay: actually geometry changes more naturally on FS because compressed angles are closer to SAG angles (given bike has more or less same amount of travel front and rear). So with HT the front is diving in steepening the head angle. Same with G-outs or worse on steeps. HT's handle badly (in comparison to FS) on steeps because the front dives in while the rear kicks you in the butt. That is the reason why for me a HT should have a fork set hard as fk with little travel, so that fork dive is minimal. So Ht going into a berm will compress into the apex nicely, giving you nice steering but then as the rebound kicks in will get understeered. It happens intuitively but in reality, if you are really loading the corner dynamically, you must turn a bit more with HT that with FS. When I'm snapping a tight 90 degree corner on a HT I am literally grabbing it by the bars out of it by overturning to the inside, whereas longer travel FS can be turned a lot using hips alone. Furthermore FS spreads the loading of the corner on a longer patch, whereas HT, even long travel one needs to be snapped, because the period between compression and rebound is much shorter, thus you cover less distance while loading the bike. That is off course bollocks in terms of 100mm XC bike that is set hard as fuk
  • + 2
 @BiNARYBiKE I can't say that I bought the new Tallboy 3 instead of the Blur, because I bought it a few months ago, but I can say that your opinion that you "...shouldn't ride a bike that kills it at weekend races AND Wednesday nights with the boys" really speaks to me.

I tend to skew towards the endurance xc side of things, which, nowadays, can mean races as short as 30 miles (lame, but it happens) or as long as 12 hours, but my sweet spot tends to be 6-8 hours. I chose the Tallboy 3 specifically because the thing pedals well, holds speed well, and works perfectly for after-work rides and weekend rides with my friends.

The Blur looks amazing, but tons of people are going to put a 120 fork on their, especially because they're not that much heavier than a 100mm. Putting a 120 fork on this bike would make the geometry very similar to the Tallboy 3, no?
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Well yeah, that's the theory and I get that. But it only works if you stay centered during the complete turn. But if there is something that pitches you off center, the geometry either goes steeper or less steep. And in my experience the rear suspension exaggerates the effect. On the hardtail I know what it is going to do and compensate for it. But yeah, it's been a while since I've been riding that full susser properly. Last few times my girlfriend has ridden and she loves how you can keep pedaling over obstacles. But she isn't that deep into mountainbiking and doesn't really push it in the corners. So what I wrote is my experience from quite a while ago and only on this single bike. I need to get out again sometime and see whether I still struggle with it.

As for the hardtail, I must admit that I am indeed running these 130mm forks quite hard. The chart says I should run it at 4.5bar for my weight, I'm running about 7bar. The forks are quite linear so I might not get that much sag. Not sure how much it is but this works nicely to keep it stable and avoid harsh bottom outs. The next frame has a longer front end which is going to redistribute my weight considerably. I'm currently running 130mm forks, about 69deg head angle (unsprung, guess) and 375mm reach with 420mm chainstay and 50mm stem. Next frame will get 120mm travel forks, 63deg HA and 460mm reach with 415mm chainstay and 35mm stem. I definitely felt I currently have my weight too much forwards (I usually stand up riding) ever since I moved to Catalyst pedals when they came out (and shifted my feet forwards). I was already on the limit of what I could safely control and this shift (effectively 30mm more CS and 30mm less reach) pushed it way beyond. I love the comfort of the larger platform vs my older concave pedals, but the consequences of the forwards shift got me looking for a different frame.
  • - 1
 @vinay:how is geometry on FS getting steeper than on HT when loading a bike into a corner? no can do how. And if it was so you'd get oversteer and you say you get understeer (bike exits earlier than desired). I wasn't talking about staying centered. I was talking about dynamically loading the bike, which means you first compress front more and then shift backwards. Corner, even flat one is a effectively a through between rollers on a pumptrack. So if you stay centered, you'll be going over the bars if the turn is tight enough. As you would if your rode into a roller staying centered. Most of us mortals ride too far back, hence we get away with lousy style as long as the front wheel doesn't wash out.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: But there can be a benefit to longer stems (with wide bars and slacker head angle)
WIthout changing front centre, or seat to handlebar reach, for every degree slacker head angle the top tube needs to be ~10 to 20mm shorter and the stem ~10 to 20mm longer

I find putting a short stem and wide bar on an XC bike makes the front end feel light and squirrelly, like it has very little trail (even with a much wider than normal for me handlebar; whereas, long stem with wide bar feels more stable)

you can even use a longer stem, slacker head angle and more reach/offset and end up with a bike with longer front centre and less wheel flop
  • - 1
 @taprider: nah, i thought so as well some time ago, but if you compensate with slacker head angle you can keep short stem. Also it may be an issue with 26-27.5 but 29ers are so inherently stable I don't think you need it. You may simply add reach and slacken head angle. That adds weight your your rear tyre given same chainstay, so you can steepen the seat angle giving you better bio-mechanical position to pedal when seated, engaging your glutes more. I can ride a 80mm stem with 720 bars, but I'd rather go 750 on 50 (for XC 29er). But well, that's just me Wink
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Nah, I'm not saying the geometry is getting steeper when loading it in corners. It gets steeper when you loose speed in a corner because it is soft or just so tight and steep (descending) you can't really load it like that. A smooth level (not descending) berm doesn't take something special. When you loose speed due to a soft spot though the front end is going to dive as always. But on the full susser the rear end comes up too. I don't think I said anywhere I was getting understeer. In fact what I'm getting is that I end up riding the corner too tight which in turn gets even more load over the front. Considering I've never heard anyone else with this issue riding full suspension bikes (the consensus kind of seems, if you can ride a hardtail then you'll be fine on a fully too) so again I might need to give it another go. But my confidence is higher on the hardtail than on the fully because it is more predictable.

As for my weight distribution, I think I'm usually pretty much on the front of the bike. Not sure why mortals would ride too far back as I don't mind losing the rear end but I really want grip from the front wheel. Obviously also due to the geometry of my current bike I just quite simply end up pretty far over the front. So good thing is I usually don't loose the front. When straightening out I indeed shift backwards again especially if the rear end is already losing it. Downside obviously is that I feel that my forwards weight bias kind of causes more drag. Not sure about it but I do feel it on really soft terrain. When terrain is loose or muddy and I need to pedal hard I lean back to unload the front a little and get some more traction from the rear.

So yeah again sure under smooth conditions I can corner a full susser as well as a hardtail. It is rougher conditions where the hardtail is more predictable than the fully. Both steepen when suddenly losing speed there though but my experience is that the raising rear end of the fully steepens it considerably more. And the steeper geometry sends me into an even tighter turn that puts even more load on the front and less on the rear.

Now again it doesn't bother me too much as I think I'm having enough fun on the hardtail. But as I have the bike already and it is great for some riding, I might indeed put in some time indeed and try ride it in some more tight stuff and anticipate to its quirks. Maybe it just has too much travel (140 or 160mm up front, 140mm in the rear). I once got to ride a bike with 100mm front and rear in South Germany. I think it was from Focus. Unfortunately the pedals I got were those stamped steel ones with a clip system on one side (with me riding in flat shoes). I was surprised to find out that even with those pedals I could do quite fine and the geometry remained stable. One other option would be to get a DMR Bolt long frame. Pretty much everything from the Prophet fits straight onto that one and reviews claim it rides like a hardtail. So that should be good. What put me off was, if I want to ride it like a hardtail I may just as well just ride a real hardtail.
  • + 3
 Are you still talking about this? Move on!
  • + 1
 They forgot the blur trc in the blur history lesson.
  • + 0
 @will54869: maybe because TRc had fkd up, too progressive suspension layout made even worse by Fox CTD piece of sht of a shock. Those shocks were so bad that even PUSHing them wasn’t helping. While most SC VPP bikes are known for feeling like they have more travel than in reality, Blur TR felt like it had less. I know because I owned one and the only time it felt good when it was in a 11kg setup with super light tyres and 120 fork. The only thing that I can say was great about it was how strong it was for the weight.
  • + 4
 Good question. I did swap out a few things, but I also rode the bike with the stock 100mm-travel fork. I'm going to put a dropper post on any bike I test that doesn't come with one - I don't think I remember how to high post anymore! But as for calling out a company for not spec'ing the bike with a dropper, I don't think I can fault Santa Cruz for that... Most XC types still aren't on droppers, at least from what I've seen, and an XC race bike not coming with one is excuseable.

I think the stock stem is a 70mm (I'll have to double check that), which also isn't out of line for this bike and its reach number. Pure XC bikes don't have slack-ish head angles because, as anyone who has had to climb something while completely gassed or in a race setting knows, it only makes it more difficult to control the bike on a steep, technical ascent. I'm not saying that those angles won't happen someday, but they don't make sense on an XC race bike right now. But yes, when it comes to the average racer/weekend warrior, a slacker bike is probably more rewarding.
  • + 36
 Mike, your comment on the Blur 4X is bang on. I've never had a bike that encouraged hooliganism quite like that bike did. A bike ahead of its time, and the one I owned the longest and the only one I wish I never let go.
  • + 12
 I feel that way about the 5010. Owned quite a few bikes over the years. That one's a keeper.
  • + 2
 Yeah, loved mine even though it was waaay too small for me.
  • + 22
 Pink Bike feature idea: bikes you sold in the past but wish you could get back!

Mine would also be a Santa Cruz, but for me it's the Bullitt. Looking back the geo is probably awful, but I had so much fun on that thing. Rode it everywhere
  • + 5
 @IllestT: the Bullit was indestructible.Mine took years of very,very hard abuse and kept on going strong.
  • + 2
 Intense 5.5 - that thing was lightening fast through tight singletrack, but seriously unstable at speed in a straight line. Put that thing between the trees and nothing could keep up with it.
  • - 4
flag WAKIdesigns (Mar 20, 2018 at 4:12) (Below Threshold)
 I rode 4X not so long ago, it’s cool as hell but that is because it’s a slope style bike that can ride in the woods. It was short and tolerably steep. Add intermediate tyres and you got a recipe for a hell of an exciting ride.

Now that was a playful bike, so next time someone talks about playfulness as an argument against 29ers but thinks 160 Gemetron in 27,5 is fun - think again.

Blur TR wasn’t already as good in that department as 4X
  • + 2
 @IllestT: Our family garage includes a 5010, an original Blur and dear old Bullitt. Given that I'm bad at selling bikes and that only the 5010 gets ridden much, these are the bikes I've owned and loved the most.
  • + 2
 2 ATF’s in the blur family as well - blur xc carbon with a fox 36 @ 120 (first xc bike coming from bmx :p

And

Blur 4x - trying to get off the race addiction and play around - then old geezer bmxers started texas enduro ad racing was back.

Those 2 bikes Id definitley stil like to have.

Maybe I was just fitter but the 26” blur xc was a rocket up and handled descents and stupid lines with no fuss.

This new blur may be a Bday idea over summer if i can earn some pennies!
  • + 13
 I still have one of the 1st 8 prototypes of the 4x in my stable and still love it. Its been everywhere from Whistler to Ray's out in Milwaukee. I worked at the frame MFG facility and personally machined over 14,000 of the original frames. the Blur was by far one of my favorite bikes to make.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: I rode the original Blur a few weeks back when I swapped out with a friend to let him try my Jeffsy since he is in the market. It was scary shit! The suspension was mostly not there, the V-Brakes were nearly useless until I rememered I had to use more than a finger, and the size and geometry made me feel like I was riding a kids bike. But, once I got used to those things, I had a grin on my face.

Oh, and SRAM brakes that don't make noise? I call bullshit. Wink
  • - 5
flag WAKIdesigns (Mar 20, 2018 at 8:24) (Below Threshold)
 @Poulsbojohnny: the BLur 4X is manageable on trails with low speeds and frequent up and downs. If you happen to live in such area, (like me) it will squeeze all the juice out of those trails. Now Capra is made for racing a track sketchier than most World Cup DH courses after a weekend of riding tracks sketchier than most dh wc courses and total 2500m of climbing.
  • + 2
 @codypup: So much this. I too still own, and ride (admittedly not often) an original Blur, along with a 5010. Never did own a Bullitt though. Love both of these bikes.
  • + 2
 @HalfAssedCyclist: That's awesome! Love my 4x- thank you!
  • + 6
 @IllestT: that’s a good point though. Maybe it shows that geometry tables aren’t the single most important thing about a Bike ????????‍♂️
I know that if I got on a bike, and took it out on my most ridden trails, I can’t feel the difference between a half degree change in the head angle.
Obviously buying an XC bike and wondering why it doesn’t feel like a dh bike would be stupid. Different bikes built for different purposes to those extremes will feel extremely different, as they should.
But maybe we spend too much time picking apart every detail and mm and angle, which I think can be shown by the amount of people that reminisce on their old bikes with “terrible,” or “unrideable,” geometry, but rode them into the ground and had a blast on them.
What do I know though, excuse my ramblings Smile
  • + 2
 I still have my slate anno gray 4X and it gets ridden regularly. From the first ride on that bike I immediately gelled with it! The only thing that I'd change about it is the ability to run a tapered fork.
  • + 2
 @StrangeDuck: Agreed, I'd love to put a more modern fork on mine in place of the Pike 426 uturn/coil that's on there. I just put a dropper on it to make it more trail friendly.
  • + 1
 @IllestT: Knolly Endorphin 26 for me. That bike was mad playful.
  • + 2
 My Blur 4x is now sporting semi-slicks and goes to the bmx track. Couldn't think of getting rid of it.
  • + 1
 @Grosey: Damn right. My 2012 blur XCc rides down fast on some pretty nasty trails. My fav trail bike. In fact Love it some much I got rid of my nomad and replaced with a v10
  • + 1
 Still have my blur 4x. Ex Nathan Rennie team frame old school pines ????????????????????????
  • + 1
 Damn auto correct
  • + 3
 @honourablegeorge: So true. I think everyone's bike was too small for them back then. I rode a 16" Remedy with a 50mm stem! Ugh.
  • + 2
 @IllestT: Killer idea. Thanks!
  • + 25
 "Price | $1"? No take-backs!

But in seriousness, and especially in contrast to the Nomad (which I like, by the way) - is this not the cleanest VPP iteration we've seen in years? The way the rear triangle's driveside strut tucks right in under the chainring is almost German. Very impressed by this whole new crop of XC machines. I feel a real renaissance coming on.
  • + 16
 @mikelevy @pinkbike In order to ditch your remote while keeping the shock from popping into ''locked mode''

1: Take off outer cable from remote (and ditch all that remote nonsense from the bars)
2: Keep the outer ferule in the lockout-tab on the shock as is.
3: Slide through the inner cable until the point that usually attached within the remote gets pulled into the ferule.
4: Turn the lockout-dial on the shock in the open position, While keeping it there tighten down the inner-cable.

5: Enjoy clutter free bars with an open shock, remove one of the ''cons'' in this review.

Really is an easy fix that I've done many times without problems!
  • + 10
 Good idea, but a backyard fix on a $7599 bike?
  • + 2
 I did the same thing on my new anthem 29. It’s not that hard and takes less than 15min to do the shock and fork
  • - 1
 @moose-tastes-good: So pay a premium for remote lockout features on a race bike, and then delete them? Makes perfect sense?
  • + 2
 I don't know what a ferule is, but google tells me: "a flat ruler with a widened end, formerly used for beating children."
  • + 1
 @mtb-journal: "ferrule" not "ferule", a.k.a. "housing end cap".
  • + 2
 Yes, I've done the same thing on some of my personal bikes before getting the shock converted. But I don't want to have to do that on a brand new $7,600 USD bike.
  • + 19
 LOL good luck telling the Blur, Tallboy, 5010, and Bronson apart.
  • + 27
 It all gets kinda blurry.
  • + 6
 @Boardlife69: It's a tall order.
  • + 2
 Seriously. It's a good looking bike, but it looks like every other SC besides the Nomad. Even down to the graphic level,
  • + 2
 As indicated in the review - "But while the old Blurs (and the current Tallboy) forgo a vertical carbon element on the drive-side of their rear triangles, the lighter weight Blur sees that treatment on both sides, presumably to increase rigidity."

The 5010 and Bronson lack this vertical carbon element as
well
  • + 1
 To be honest, I have the same thing with Specialized. I recognize it is their bike, but which one? Fair enough, I can imagine some have the same issue with hardtail bikes from Stanton.
  • + 18
 Gen 3 Blur 4X in time for Christmas, cheers Santa
  • + 3
 In a 26, I'd have to go N+1, no question.
  • + 12
 Great review Mike. I really enjoy the reviews on the shorter travel stuff just to mix things up a bit. Keep it coming. Looks like the Ikons gave the bike a bit more versatility than the stock Aspens. This bike brings back a lot of memories and with some tweaking, it still rocks.
  • + 4
 Would love to see a comparison between this, the Rocky Element, and one other, maybe the Spark?
  • + 1
 @rrolly: Throw in a 429SL for good measure!
  • + 1
 It actually came with the Ikons, I suspect because of availability and I needed to get my hands on the bike sooner rather than later. Turns out that I like the Ikons a lot.
  • + 1
 @mikelevy: how would you compare the Element and this bike?
  • + 9
 Can reviewers on this site for once ride a bike as the brand intend it to be sold?
The "780mm bar,50mm stem,dropper post" thing on all bikes makes me lose all interest on this articles.
Adapt to the bike,and take your conclusions in stock more,please.
  • + 4
 I completely agree.
  • + 3
 The stock stem is 70mm (I think) and the stock handlebar is 760mm (I think). I'd argue that both are items that many people swap out to adjust their fit and so the bike suits their terrain and style. I spend plenty of time on bikes with 70mm stems and skinnier handlebars, but I put the 50mm stem on as it suits my terrain, body, and the bike's reach.
  • + 0
 @mikelevy: Fair enough. There's always next time to try and test as the manufacturer sells it.
  • + 8
 I don't understand this wheelset. Why DT350's and not 240's at this price point? Especially with the $ they're saving with in house rims. I'm running Arc27 rims on 350's and that set comes in at nearly the exact same weight, so no weight benefit from the plastic rims at all?
  • + 10
 Plastic rims are only partially about weight. The major differentiator - especially with full suspension bikes - is the stiffness (to weight).
  • + 2
 Yeah that's pretty bunk, putting the lower end hubs on a $7,500 bike.
  • + 2
 The bike Levy rode wasn't truly to spec. As he said, the bike he had came with Reserve 27 rims instead of the Reserve 25s because he got an early peak at the bike, before the 25s had rolled off the assembly line in California. The same with the hubs. It was what was available at the time, and Mike made concessions for that in his review.
  • + 11
 It'd be nice to have you and RC compare the Sniper and Blur once RC has more time on it.
  • + 7
 PB would have to weigh advertising dollars before giving that opinion.
*now I wait for the negs....
  • + 7
 Truth: this bike would suit the way the vast majority of mountain bikers actually ride.

Fact: this bike will be outsold by a factor of 1000/1 in favor of bikes that are WAY over spec’d and over “geo’d”

Takeaway: buy the bike that suits the terrain you’re actually riding, not what the bike industry is trying to sell you. You’ll have more fun!

Disclaimer: I’m a convert to the short travel, “conservative” geo school of riding.
  • + 2
 You and I think alike.
  • + 7
 Huh, i bet theyll put out an updated bronson and 5010 with the same sort of stiff and vertical rear triangle (and lack of front derailleur mount) later this year. Idk why they even kept the derailleur mount around the last couple years on the bronson, I have yet to see someone using anything but a 1x and im sure we would all much rather have stiffness over a dual ring crankset.
  • + 1
 Agreed, the Bronson has been on a 3 year lifecycle, which is up this summer as the B2 came out summer 2015. Interested to see what they'll do with it as a B2 owner. My guess is they'll bump travel up to 160 given the new nomad's long legs, slack it out to around 65 HTA, but keep it 27.5 as the HTLT is very similar but 29. Other than that it's really still a pretty modern enduro bike.
  • + 1
 @tgent: i dont think they have the need to bump it up to 160, when they were talking about the making of the N4, they specifically said that the bronson has that whole area covered. And a lot of riders keep the 150mm fork on there. I could see a 65.5 degree HTA but i think most of the changes will be for increased stiffness and aesthetics, probably a metric shock too.
  • + 2
 @sosburn: Could be, we'll see. I think they will feel they need to do something more, such as increase travel to differentiate between the B2 and B3. Also the HTLT has 150 covered now, though granted only in 29. Metric shock is a good call and I would say almost certain as well.
  • + 6
 Do XC racers actually prefer 12 speed over 11? The cassette is quite a bit heavier in the weight weenie world and I would think an XC racer would never use the 50t since its too slow. 11 seems perfect for XC while 12 is better for us plebs who want an even easier granny or bigger chainring for faster top speed while on the road to the trail.
  • + 4
 Yeah as an XC racer the only benefit of Eagle that I can see is being able to keep your heart rate/power way down in Zone 2 when you're riding steep climbs on what should be an easy day. That range is totally worthless in a race.

Otherwise you're totally right, it just adds weight at the expense of durability. I've seen three people snap their Eagle chains and faceplant on the sprint off the start line, and that was never an issue that I saw back in the 10/11 speed days.
  • + 1
 The only benefit for a XC racer is being able to go with a bigger front chainring for more top-end speed, while maintaining the same climbing gear as on an 11 speed. The bike does come with a 34T to take a step in this direction, but I would expect most pros, or serious Cat 1's to go with a 36 or 38T. Otherwise, you're right, the 50T is just extra weight that you're not going to use if you have a 32T up front.
  • + 1
 racers still preride courses or do easy recover rides, so lower than race gears are needed unless you want to change wheels every time you want any easier gear
  • + 9
 “Pure cross-country bikes with short stems, wide handlebars, and dropper posts are a blast” - This.
  • + 10
 It's called the BC XC setup Smile
  • + 5
 $3000 for CC frame. Intense Sniper frames are $2500 and $2000 with the better JS Tuned vpp. With 100 or 120 travel options. But there are two bottle cages on Blur (even if one is underneath, better than nothing for bottle cap swaps).
  • + 5
 Uh, did I miss something or did he not talk about riding the bike with a Fox 34 @ 120mm as mentioned early in the piece and shown in one of the pictures (orange)?

Oh, and I love when a 157 lbs. waif of a man makes blanket statements on how many gears anyone and everyone should or shouldn't need.
  • + 3
 Probably the first time I've been called a waif, but I'll take it as a compliment - thanks. And yes, I think a 50-tooth cog is pretty silly, especially the awkward jump up from the cog below it. The gap is just too big.
  • + 1
 @mikelevy: Not a compliment or insult, just an adjective. Just like when I'm called a Clyde, it is what it is.

Fair enough to disagree on the 50T, works great for me.

What I'm much more interested in is the Fox 34 120mm fork and how you think it worked on this bike? I'm interested to know because the Step-cast is just too flexy for my Clyde-ass.
  • + 7
 The Intense looks more rad now!
  • + 4
 So people who rides with normal seatpost are demented? Sorry but i dont need a dropper post that will break during marathon race. Mtb journalists these days are so scared to ride XC bikes without dropper and big bars haha
  • + 7
 If you’ve ridden where he’s testing the bike you would see that the mods he made make complete sense
  • + 3
 Once you get used to riding with the faster, more aggressive style that takes advantage of a dropper to actually make it useful, it's hard to go back to a normal seatpost. It just feels awkward. You can still ride it of course, and adjust, you just have to go a little slower due to physics, but I prefer the funner, safer, rowdier cornering style that a dropper post allows compared to the traditional, roadie-based cornering style. That's probably why downhillers and BMX'ers ride with dropped posts. I'm pretty sure it's not because it's slower. It's not about being scared, it's about wanting to go faster and have more fun.
  • + 2
 I used to high post it all the time and now I know better. I can do it, but it's just not as fun or safe. Also, I can recover better on the descents when I'm not worried about the seat having anal sex with me. I don't have Nino's skills.
  • + 3
 Having owned a Blur 4x back in the day its great to see the blur still around.

As for the changes to the bike to take is from an XC bike to a trail bike, good to see some changes, but would be cool to leave as intended and review as the bike is delivered rather than as a short travel enduro bike. Seems you are really reviewing the frame and not the bike...

I run my old Ironhorse Azure with a 150mm rev up front and have it pretty solid, a 50mm stem and a 711mm bar, anything wider just isnt right on an xc bike. She is 23lb and a rocket ship, no need for a dropper post, they are for enduro and this is an XC bike. Would be great to know how the geometry works without one, does the saddle get too much in the way etc.
There seems to be a trend of people moving away from the dropper post just now which isn't a bad thing as its a compromise on climbing efficiency and the old school QR lever never fails (I don't even have that on the XC bike, just up or up unless I take a tool with me).
  • + 6
 "Shootouts" don't seem to be a Pinkbike thing, but I'd love to see one between the Blur, Sniper, Epic and Spark.
  • + 5
 I'll have an XC bike comparo at some point in the future, likely with this thing, the Element, the new Intense, and a few others. I'm not a shootout fan, to be honest, but we can certainly compare reviewed bikes Smile
  • + 4
 The lockout is useful when a xc racer is properly slaying a WC style XCO track. Aka 500-700 watts up climbs and out of corners violently out of the saddle. Not super useful for 250-300 watt tempo or tech climbs.
  • + 7
 f*ck the Police?
  • + 5
 I thought file transfer protocol. We may never know.
  • + 2
 I mean yeah I would have done the same exact thing and turned this bike into more of a trail bike if I was riding it. But , once you throw the 120 on there now the bike HA is more like 68. Then a couple more lbs from adding different stem and bar and the heavy e-thirteen dropper ( I have it ,it's heavy ). And now you have taken the xc out of this thing. Its a light trail bike at this point.
  • + 4
 To be fair, I also rode the bike loads with the stock 100mm-travel Fox fork. I certainly didn't ride it with the straight post, however haha
  • + 5
 Intense sniper. More versatile. More progressive geo. Modern inverted trunnion shock. Cheaper frameset too!
  • + 2
 Glad I wasn't alone wondering why a bike designed for XC-riders wasn't put in the hands of a tester who rode and reviewed from an XC-rider/racer's perspective.

"Because I'm not demented, I ditched the very lightweight Syntace carbon seat post for a 150mm-travel e*thirteen dropper. Given the bike's intentions, I can't begrudge Santa Cruz for not spec'ing a party post, but my own intentions definitely called for that addition. I also popped on a 50mm stem and 780mm wide handlebar, both from Race Face, for the same reasons that the dropper went on. "

Clearly Mike had no intent on testing it for the purpose of xc-riding so he skips the press release rides and turns the test bike into a Tallboy 2.5. Guess what? It's not ready to shred the gnar like a Hightower...Shocker! I get it, the bike doesn't serve much purpose for a majority of the PB audience, this review was probably to fulfill commitment to a paying advertiser. Other than a comparo hyperlink and yammering about the Tallboy over and over, there was little mention of the bikes the new Blur is intended to compete with.

Anyone looking for a trail bike wouldn't have this bike on their radar in the first place. Especially someone looking at the Santa Cruz lineup already full of excellent options in the trail category. Instead the conclusion is after adding an extra 2lbs of trail equipment and heavier wheels it didn't magically turn into a trail bike.

With the pics of the author in baggies and trail jersey, I was expecting a few comments about spandex commandos, but the generic snide remarks about XC racers filled the gap. Too bad he didn't review the new Highball at the same time, he really could have shit on that bike!
  • + 2
 So Mike. If you were going to get one bike and do longer bike races such as the Nimby 50 and the new one in Squamish would you think that there would be much drop off between the new Blur a la dropper and 120 34 fork and the tallboy 3 run with the same wheels 29 with a 130 34. Being a middle aged man with insulation if the bikes weights a few pounds more is not an issue. I tend to struggle on the steeper downhills so I was wondering how much better that tallboy would be. Given how much bikes cost now it’s hard to justify two bikes.
  • + 4
 If I was taking racing seriously (as seriously as us mid-packers can, anyway), I'd still choose the Blur. For me, I want a bike for me weakness, which is technical climbing while I'm gassed, not my strength, which is descending. Also, time on climbing is worth so much more than what you can make up or lose on a descent.

So, if you're racing and looking at it seriously, choose a bike based on your weakness, not your strengths. That's my 2c anyway Smile
  • + 3
 @mikelevy: Thanks - funny enough - I am better on the tech climbs even when gassed and suck on the downhills. Its pointing me toward the tallboy. Keep up the good work Mike! Love your reviews.
  • + 1
 @dldewar: Thanks! Tallboy it is.
  • + 1
 This looks like a really really fun bike. And you could build it into a fun back country/light trail bike with a dropper, wider bars, etc or go the opposite way with an ultra light race bike with a wheel swap and some other parts. Want.
  • + 1
 2018 Santa Cruz Blur CC 29er
2018 XTR Everything...literally everything (brake set, drive train and hubs)
Pro Koryak dropper 125mm, 780mm Carbon handle bar and 40mm stem
Stans Crest ZTR MK3
Maxxis XC tires
Fox factory 100mm step cast fork
Fox EVOL 100mm shock

Experience level: Expert (races master class locally on DH, enduro, XC and road.). I do podium (when I sand bag LOL!)
Uphill: 7 miles up SJT Ortega Highway up cocktail rock
Up SJ switchbacks - PR from all rides I did. Had to switch full open to full close from time to time with 13 hairpin turns but it doesn’t really matter. Pushed hairpins with no issue on a 29er. Climb was not a problem, rock sections passed like they dont exist. All thumbs up…I have 4! LOL
Lockout..this one is interesting, uses dual lock out level that locks both fork and shock in one go. Not that it matters to me but it really doesn’t matter to me. The best I can say about it is that no need to reach down when a steep climb is next in the horizon. So hit it and dang you have a rigid. The step cast factory fork and the rear shock fights like a boss.
Rest of the climbs are pretty much self-explanatory. Stand up and its go-time, the only limit really is me!

Downhill: 7 miles down SJIT….I forgot that I’m in an XC rig…nuff said.
  • + 3
 Currently racing on a Tallboy 2 C built to be pretty light. I want this to be my upgrade in a year or so but that new Intense is looking like the winner.
  • + 1
 It does look pretty sweet. I can't wait to see the new Yeti too. It will come as 100 rear 120 front, so that would be nice for my trails/races.
  • + 1
 I just rented one for The Sister Stampede in sisters Oregon.I rented the bike from Pine Mountain Sports in Bend ( very cool shop). It was a pretty flat fast course. I absolutely loved it. The bike was very light and very fast. Being able to lock out the front and rear at the some time with one click for the smoother sections was priceless! I was constantly in and out of lockout. I am sold!!!!!
  • + 1
 Maybe it's been covered, but is the frame set up for internal routing for the dropper? Even it's not specced with a dropper, they might have made this possible - anyone know? The pics, from what I can see, look like it's an internal post...thanks!
  • + 4
 Hmmmmm. I’d take the Intense sniper any day
  • + 2
 I'm stoked on short travel bikes for all trail riding. 100-120mm is so much fun. If you know how to bunny hop, even lame trails become a blast.
  • + 2
 Agree so much. I love these new-school XC bikes. They're like evolved and lighter weight Process 111s.
  • + 1
 And I’m just out here racing my 34 pound trail bike with 150mm up front on CA xc races. Then I’ll do enduro and dh races and realize I only have 130 mm travel in the back. It’s sad
  • + 2
 I remember seeing the Blur on a magazine back in like 2006. Definitely raised my eyebrows then, like it does now. Glad it's saying hello 12 years later!
  • + 4
 WTF is FTP?
  • + 5
 Come on dude, Functional Threshold Power. Get a coach and power meter, or you'll never enjoy biking.
  • + 1
 I'll bet the new version of the Bronson will adopt the one piece rear triangle since the new Nomad has adopted the 3/4 rear triangle...
  • + 2
 Location changed to Squamaladesh. Welcome to the worlds capital of ebiking!!!
  • + 1
 Someone's added the new Blur to Geometry Geeks... geometrygeeks.bike/bike/santa-cruz-blur-2019

...so you can easily compare side-by-side with your current bike.
  • + 3
 2 bottle cages people! 2! You happy now???
  • + 3
 Need at least 5 bottle cages, and a beer cooler.
  • + 6
 Well one is underneath down tube so that doesn't count.
  • + 4
 Under the down tube doesn’t count the unless you’re bikepacking.
  • + 4
 @bogey: agreed. About 10 years ago I can remember having to go to the hospital with a stomach bug after the test of metal put us through a horse pasture. The lower mount is only for tools etc unless you want to be on an IV and have no control of your bowels. It’s exciting times folks.
  • + 1
 @dldewar: I did that race also. I was one of the dorks with a big front mud flap and rear fender so I made out ok. People were amazed at how clean my bike was after the race.
  • + 1
 @dldewar: On longer rides I've used the trick of just swapping the lids between the two bottles when I switched to the bottle under the downtube. If it was a race, I'd use a Camelbak and the single bottle so as to not waste the time, but when trying to carry as much water as possible, such as doing White Rim in a Day in Moab, where's there's no water along the way 106miles, 6800ft vert, sub 8 hours, it was nice to carry more of the water on the bike, and still pretty quick to just stop and swap the lids quick.
  • + 1
 @TucsonDon: What I started to do was to wrap the bottom bottle in Saran Wrap or like then peel it off when I switched bottles but I just started storing the tubes etc.. down there and putting the bottle in my jersey. Too many memories of that IV...... cannot stand camel backs at all.
  • + 1
 I am!
  • + 2
 @mikelevy have you ridden the Hei Hei 29 for a comparison? This looks. Like a broadly similar bike.
  • + 0
 At least the Hei Hei has 68/74 angles with 120 fork. The Blur will have 68/73 with 120.
Blur reach slightly longer by 5mm and stack shorter by 10mm.
Big plus for the Blur: not the horrific Kona color options.
  • + 0
 @mikelevy I would have thought a cable tie and some shift cable would mimic the lockout remote, I managed to overcome a similar problem on a friends bike a while ago.
Just a thought...
  • + 2
 Yup, I've done that on some of my personal bikes as well. But not on a $7,600 test bike Smile
  • + 3
 What an utterly excellent review, Mike!
  • + 2
 Seems like the industry is kickin plus bikes to the curb
  • + 3
 Plus XC bikes that never existed, yes they still aren't making those.
  • + 1
 @tgent: My gripe is that I thought 148 hubs were to allow larger tire clearances. Now we've got manufacturers back to making XC bikes that can fit a 2.3 max, and tightly. Not everyone wants an XC bike for racing, some just want a lighter bike, and some want a light bike that can fit a 2.5 tire or a 275x2.8. I guess those folks will just stick with the Tallboy.
  • + 2
 @PHeller: Boost was also for stronger wheels, not just clearance, so you also get that benefit. If you're not after an XC race bike, then yes the Tallboy is a much better fit and still a light short travel trail bike.
  • + 1
 So you going to have a story on the stage race in Israel? That sounds awesome.
  • + 1
 Yup, I will soon. It was a good time, and there was unexpectedly awesome singletrack.
  • + 1
 This is the perfect all around racer for the SeaOtter classic, DH, Enduro, XC, 4X!
  • + 1
 And yet another Satan cruiser that moto brakers will have to scuff tape the side of their head tubes.
  • + 1
 I'm curious as to what fork length @mikelevy considers to be over-forked on a Tallboy
  • + 2
 I've seen 140 and even 150mm forks on the front of Tallboys. A little overboard if you ask me, but to each their own.
  • + 2
 I would like to over fork the mess out of this gem
  • + 2
 The best part... Levy is racing XC...
  • + 1
 Well I can't give you the bike, Mike, but I can let you have this little number for practically nothing. Only $38,000.
  • + 2
 I have an old blur and now soon to be a new Blur!
  • + 1
 @mikelevy - In a few words how does the Blur compare to your RM Element BC addition? They seem very similar.
  • + 3
 Perfect Park City bike
  • + 1
 Mike, how would you compare the climbing capabilities to say the RM Element?
  • + 2
 The Element has a more traditional XC feel to it, especially on technical climbs. Both feel super efficient to me, but the RM can be adjusted to handle quicker.
  • + 2
 you forgot the blur trc!
  • + 1
 Opinions are like ash$&*%es, everybody has one.
  • + 1
 I'm only interested in Blur 4X and anything Blur 4X related.
  • + 1
 how many it is "minimum" dents and holes in carbon frame ? Smile ))
  • + 0
 Soooo yea, can we get a new blur 4x next? Preferrably 27.5 please. That bike was a party on wheels
  • + 9
 Sure, it’s called the 5010 and it’s available right now.
  • + 2
 @lccomz: damn, true... got me on that one
  • + 1
 The Blur 4X was such a fun bike!!! That thing railed turns!!!
  • - 1
 @lccomz: Actually the Blur TRC was closer to the 4X.
  • + 1
 i love the new generation of XC bikes
  • + 1
 2012 Blur XCc with a 130mm fork. My fav trail bike.
  • + 1
 What's old is new again to simply sell more bikes. 26'rs are coming soon !
  • + 1
 I think it needs a coil shock man....
  • + 1
 7600 doesnt get you xx1 or a kashima fork, shit value
  • + 2
 Very sleek looking Big Grin
  • + 1
 It looks as though it Blurs the line between xc and trail
  • + 1
 Sounds like what I look for in beer.
  • + 1
 Can anyone explain the difference between Santa Cruz Blur C and Blur CC?
  • + 3
 250-300 grams from heavier carbon layup on the C. And price.
  • + 2
 ResidentSleeper
  • + 1
 All I see are the 420 and 69 in the size small geo
  • + 0
 Still doing the old zip-tie-cable-to-frame. Not a very elegant design, or even a current one at that.
  • + 1
 Blur LT soon?
  • + 6
 Would that be a Tallboy?
  • - 1
 they have lock out on rear so I would think the double stay would be for it to be stable when locked out and ad good weight.
  • - 3
 Good review. The VPP execution is super clean. Not for me, but seems really good at it's intended purpose. Santa Cruz is basically a Specialized for snobs now the way they are trying to cover every niche of bikes.
  • + 0
 Uhhh why is everone I know thats on a specialized a snob?? Hmmm.
  • + 0
 Why doesn't it look like a session?
  • + 1
 69, dudes. Whoa.
  • + 1
 XC weapon!
  • + 0
 Need to upgrade to a bigger garage!
  • - 2
 So the blur has double rear stay struts but the nomad and v10 are only single sided? Can someone please explain?
  • + 1
 v10 is has both sides.
  • - 3
 Quite possibly the most boring looking bike ever.
  • - 2
 Screw your XC, and your 650b!
  • + 1
 I'm going to build my own Lunar Lander! With Blackjack! And H***ers!
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