Bike Check: Rab Wardell's Santa Cruz Blur

Dec 4, 2020 at 11:38
by Daniel Sapp  

FKT's, or, fastest known times, have been a thing in ultrarunning and other sports for decades now, becoming more popular in recent years. It seems that recently, especially since COVID took hold, mountain bikers have joined the ranks, competing to complete feats of endurance in record times.

The bikes being ridden in these feats are purpose-built for the specific attempt, and Rab Wardell's Santa Cruz Blur is no exception. The bike is made to be both an XC race machine and an endurance hammer at the same time, and it's what he used to snag the FKT of The West Highland Way, a 95 mile trail with over 10,000 feet of vertical.

The frame is the top tier CC model, size large. It has RockShox suspension and SRAM's XX1 AXS Eagle drivetrain. Santa Cruz Reserve rims, Industry 9 hubs, and Continental tires along with CushCore XC inserts keep things rolling.
Rider Name // Rab Wardell
Age: 35
Hometown: Dunfermline
Height: 5'10" / 178cm
Weight: 145lbs / 65.5kg
Instagram: @rabwardell

Pre FKT attempt, set up in the "Pain Cave" as seen in Walk the Talk. Rab using a complete Wahoo Kikr system

After 95 miles.
Santa Cruz Blur Details
Frame: Santa Cruz Blur CC
Shock: Rockshox Delux RT3 100mm travel, 195psi
Fork: Rockshox SID Ultimate -110mm travel, 95psi
Wheels: Santa Cruz Reserve 25 rims, Industry 9 Hydra Hubs, and CushCore XC front and rear
Tyres: Continental Race King 29" x 2.2 ProTection, 20psi front and 22psi rear
Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS - Quarq power meter, 34t chainring, 10-52 cassette, Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11 pedals
Brakes: SRAM Level Ultimate - 180mm front rotor and 160mm rear
Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb AXS 125mm
Cockpit: Santa Cruz Flat Bar, 680mm, Syntace Lightforce 80mm stem, and Fizik Tempo Argo R1 saddle
Size: Large
Weight: 25.4lb / 11.5kg including Wahoo ROAM computer, pedals, power meter, and frame bags.

bigquotesThe goal of this bike build was to strike the perfect balance of being fast and lightweight, yet robust and capable. The West Highland Way is 95 miles of rough terrain, technical climbs, and gnarly descents. Every part of this bike was carefully considered for the demands of the route.Rab Wardell

Rab has his bars cut to 680mm. He has ridden wider bars over the years, but as a smaller rider he doesn't feel any benefit in going wider.

Quarq Power meter paired to a Wahoo ROAM were paramount to helping Rab pace his effort to make the most of his energy reserves over 9 hours of riding.

Rab sets his bike up based on what helps him feel more confident, and usually run things a little bit harder than recommended. For nutrition, he used Secret Training Energy products during his record attempt.

CushCore tire inserts were one of the items which add weight to the build, but Rab feels being able to run the tire at lower pressures is worth it. He's confident that although they add a little weight, this set up is definitely faster than running without. They also saved him when riding into Kinlochleven on a flat!



  • 73 7
 More xc endurance bike checks please! I'd love to see the trek procalibre of the previous record setter
  • 16 0
 It was a SuperCaliber 9.9, I think it was fairly standard spec (if you could call 9.9 standard!), Fox factory, XX1 etc. The crazy thing is that Gary didn't run a dropper. I rode the full WHW in a day in August as well on a fairly aggressively built Top Fuel. I felt fairly pinned on the descents, but I was slower than him on pretty much every descent!
  • 7 0
 @Paluzas: his bike handling must be amazing, given he's also the Scottish Moto trials champion. You don't grow up in Kinlochleven and struggle with technical trails!
  • 39 1
 All the pictures were kinda blurred.
  • 11 0
 u got me! i actually scrolled up to see if they are.
  • 13 0
 They're all definitely in black and white though not blurry.
  • 1 0
 Got me
  • 16 0
 “As a smaller rider...”? He’s 5ft10!
  • 4 0
 Guess it in how one defines smaller. I am 6’ and 240 lbs so to me he is a smaller rider. Weighing that much less makes a tiny difference on those hills.
  • 5 0
 ya but 145 is small at any height
  • 4 0
 It's in the context of bar width, so it probably means his shoulder width is "aerodynamic".
  • 6 0
 hes probably talking about his frame. Hes not barrel chested and broad shouldered which would require wider bars and that is what hes talking about.
  • 14 0
 How did he do it so fast with no pedals?

Asking for my mum. Lol
  • 9 0
 I mainly clicked to see all the things attached.
  • 2 0
 Yep it would be really interesting to see the gear taken on the bike/ pockets to get a feel for what is needed for a supported big ride like this and just generally be nosy Smile
  • 8 0
 Who rides in a pain cave without a screen to stare at? Masochists that’s who.
  • 5 1
 680mm bars for a 'smaller rider' at 178cm? I know people sub 175 who desperately need their 820mm bars for rolling less techy terrain at snail-like speeds.
  • 1 0
 A smallish rider on a large frame.
  • 4 2
 "Rab... usually run(s) things a little bit harder than recommended."
Blowed the ring right off the shock and bottomed out the fork anyway.
That record is pretty insane though!
  • 1 0
 Most Fox air shocks have a custom tune ID for a particular bikes leverage curve. Go to the Fox website and type it in. Lot of discs, o-rings, damper tunes, Steel balls, shafts, metering rods, nitrogen, 36 exploded view assembly drawings, shim stack heights, completely blow away with the complexity of this one item that makes a full suspension MTB what it is. No wonder my LBS couldn’t help me out when I found oil all over my water bottle. Fox service guy was great. The Jenson replacement DPS is a little snug but I’m still riding.
  • 2 0
 Can someone explain me: lower bottle hangs in place where dirt from front wheel sprays directly to drinking valve, how is it ok?
  • 2 0
 @Socket: my science teacher used to tell me "It's just fiber, mate" Razz
  • 2 0
 I always like to see bikes that really get pummeled. They are meant to be used after all. Next up?: "A 5 Year Old Mountain Bike check"
  • 7 6
 While an amazing run it would have been way more awesome if it was unsupported.
  • 2 0
 It sounds like a negative comment but I have to agree that it looked a bit weird grabbing a spare wheel out of the car after puncturing. I have no idea of the water situation on that route but self sufficient stuff seems like the *proper* challenge. Maybe the positive spin is that there is even more challenge and suffering out there for the next person Big Grin
  • 1 0
 @BeardlessMarinRider: yeah I agree with you, and it's one of the reasons I was disappointed at the end. I was sticking to the same rules as previous record attempts, a there have even been bike changes in the past. I made the call to stick to what I consider UCI rules, but I feel like I need to go back and set a time for a self-supported/unsupported ride. Watch this space.
  • 1 0
 I see he is running a AXS group, but what is the twist shifter on the left side for? fork or rear shock lock out?
  • 1 0
 The The rockshox twistloc is only for his fork, he is not running a rear lockout
  • 2 0
 No bar end plugs??
  • 1 0
 may have got damaged during the event as they are visible in the "before" photos
  • 1 0
 Seems that he used a Gripshift for fork lockout. Strange!
  • 1 0
 Is that what's going on there? I thought I was crazy for a second. Thought maybe it was controlling his _wireless_ dropper post.
  • 1 1
 Fake news. There is just no way anyone can ride a mtb with 680mm wide bars.
  • 1 1
 Pretty good equipment choices. Those tires are the fastest. Only thing I would have added is some better fenders.
  • 1 0
 Do you really drink that red bull? What did you carry in the bags?
  • 2 0
 Yeah, I drink Red Bull and had a mix of RB and water in my last bottle. For the rest of the ride I drank Secret Training Stealth Big Energy. In the Zipp bag, I had energy gels, a derailleur hanger, chainlink, brake pads, insulation tape, and a dynaplug, as well as a tube, 2 x co2's and multitool in the gripper under the top tube.
  • 5 4
 An FKT...aka a KOM?
  • 32 21
 Yeah, but FKTs are somehow even wankier. Pick something that's both obscure and a generally big mission (helps keep competition down because most people don't go for 150km bike rides let alone race them), google it to see if anyone has ever tried to do it fast (ideally you pick something that's never even had a published recorded time, or at the very least make sure you aren't trying to outdo someone else who's actually a professional athlete), then go and basically race against a universe that wasn't trying to race you back. Then you get to brag in public about your "fastest known time" which may or may not have actually been something impressive to do in its own right. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this guy is not a beast or that what he did is easy, but FKTs can Far Kry Toff.
  • 28 0
 @Socket: racing against people who don’t know you’re racing them is really the spirit of Strava.
  • 5 1
 @Socket: Thank you for defining this sporting activity in detail. So the notoriety of your fkt depends on how braggadocious you are to a certain extent.
  • 4 0
 @Socket: nailed it! just go's the time honored and tested way to shut up bench racing!
  • 23 1
 @Socket: I don't understand this attitude at all. The West Highland way isn't an 'obscure' challenge, it's a very famous trail, and the previous record was very impressive in its own right. There's clearly a community of athletes who push each other very hard for FKTs. That this community is small probably lessens the kudos, recognition and money/sponsorship that you would receive for your accomplishments. That an athletic feat is performed outside of a formal competition does not invalidate it's accomplishments. See for example mountaineering, where people set records for first ascents outside of formal competition, but inside of a community of very driven athletes who are trying to beat them to it. In fact, in a year that has seen almost no formal competition, a FKT may be one of the few socially acceptable way to do athletic competition. Lastly, the guy made a video about the record in which he came across as not braggy, but challenging himself to do something that was important to him- and he was very clear in the video that the record is breakable.
  • 4 0
 @mattg95: I understand his attitude because he describes the negative part of FKT culture, and also understand your description of the beneficial side. They could both be true, which side dominates is the question I guess.

On another note, rock climbing also has this, and there's a major debate on it because on the upper end of the sport it has caused accidents, and doesn't conform to some people's climbing philosophies. The whole style nowdays is about speed, everyone wants to do the Nose in a day, not 3 days. Fast and light is also the style in mountaineering overall, alpine's always better than a siege. It makes sense because the number of unclimbed routes has decreased and techniques have kinda plateaued. Styles come and go, I wonder when it will change. Personally I don't care about style, I just want to get to the top.
  • 1 0
 @lostinstates: right?! Real, head to head XC racing is so much better, I’m having a blast at all of the great XCO and endurance events being put on right now.

Oh wait...
  • 5 1
 @Socket: where to start. 1. Blowing out someone else's candle does not make yours burn brighter. 2. WHW is far from obscure if you live in the UK it it very mainstream. 3. Sub 10 hours for the WHW is awe inspiring and inspirational. 4. Like it or not bicycle riding can be competitive. 5. The whole FKT thing is a great marketing angle for the sponsors that have helped fund the attempt.
  • 1 2
 @PaulFarley: 1. Likewise, lighting a candle in an unlit room then proclaiming your candle to be the brightest does not mean a thing, and that is exactly what a lot of FKTs actually are. I don't compete in or particularly care about endurance racing of any description, so it's an utter straw man to claim that I'm shitting on someone else to appear better myself, nobody is about to mistake me for an elite athlete.
2. I wasn't even specifically referring to Rab or this effort, I was talking about FKTs in general - I don't know or particularly care about the WHW as it's not so famous that I'd ever heard of it before.
3. If you care to actually read what I wrote, I was quite clear that I was not commenting on his athletic prowess or this particular effort.
4. No shit, it's called "racing". At least, that's what it's called when more than one person enters.
5. Depends who you ask, because sponsoring a rider I've never heard of, to perform a particular feat I've never heard of, and beating nobody I've ever heard of in the process, means absolutely zero to me personally. Doesn't mean it was easy, doesn't mean Rab isn't an animal on a bike (I don't know the guy or mean him any ill will), but it does mean I have no interest in people winning "competitions" that basically nobody else took part in.
  • 2 0
 @Socket: Hey guys, let's not take this too seriously. I don't want to suggest that setting a time on the WHW is the same as winning bike races. But it was a cool day out and it helped me stay motivated to get fit during a pretty average year.

I love head-to-head racing, but they were all cancelled for me this year. It's been a while, but I've raced World Cup XC and other big races in the past. I know I'm not the best rider, and I know people can and will beat me at stuff.

I'm proud of how this ride/film/project turned out. In my opinion, the WHW is a cool trail worth celebrating, and it shows off Scotland. I'm happy that the majority of people seem to have enjoyed this film. There's been a lot of feedback that it makes people want to get outside and ride, and that's what I hoped to do.
  • 1 1
 195 PSI? That's what a rear shock with 35mm of stroke will make you do...
  • 2 0
 My Float X2 has 260 psi in it with a 65mm stroke. Then again I weigh 245.
  • 2 0
 Monarch Plus has 350 PSI max. I have 57mm stroke and run 290-300 PSI at 170lbs.
  • 2 0
 @shredjekyll: same weight same shock but I run 275. Would run higher but couldn’t get it to feel right with a harder spring. Particularly rebound.
  • 1 0
 For reference, I believe Santa Cruz recommends about 175 for a 140lb rider, albeit with a Fox shock. So a little high but not unreasonable. And then he's got all that gear on.
  • 1 0
 @bulletbassman: ya I run that pressure for somewhat mellow trail riding on my older slayer which has 165mm rear travel and is a lot happier pointed straight down. If i know ill be on a lot of chunkier trails i tend to reduce psi a bit since like you mentioned the rebound is tough
  • 1 1
 Looks like he sure got some good use out of that 52T cog
  • 3 4
 Nice rig just wish the blur was a bit more modern with respect to geo.
  • 1 0
 Have you ridden one? Rides better than the numbers suggest
  • 2 0
 I bet Santa Cruz has a new one in the works. Especially given they’re getting back in the World Cup XC scene next year in time for the Olympics.
  • 1 0
 @chase2wheels: I hope it has a modern 79deg sta and 65deg hta!
  • 1 1
 Gash rear brake routing.
  • 1 4
 why is it so heavy
  • 5 0
 It isnt considering the cushcore and frame bags
  • 5 0
 25.4lbs in actually not that heavy for a Large frame and weight includes the computer, power meter, pedals and frame bags. Bike also has a dropper post and cush core tire inserts. I gather weight also includes the 2 water bottle cages?
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