The new Santa Cruz Blur is, according to the company, “the most serious race bike” it has ever made, and gets simplified Superlight suspension for effortlessly fast, lightweight performance. It’s still tough enough to take the punches and powerful enough to dish them out too, making it one of the best XC race/distance bikes we’ve ever ridden for those lucky enough to be able to afford it.
Design and geometry
The Blur frame is all-new but unsurprisingly it shares a lot of DNA with Santa Cruz's other latest generation frames. The low head tube is stocky for a strong connection onto the big squared top and down tubes. The cables and hoses plug into individual blisters that feed into full internal tubes for easy routing. The massive chainstays swing off broadly spaced DIY-serviceable ‘lifetime warranty’ collet bearings. There’s armor under the belly where you’ll also find a third bottle mount and thick ribbed rubber chain slap protection on the top of the drive-side stay. There’s a minimalist One Up chain guide as standard, and it uses a screw-in bottom bracket that gives room for a 36-tooth chainring and 2.4in tires, while the frame gets Santa Cruz’s industry-leading ‘no questions asked’ lifetime warranty too.
What is new for the brand however is the use of flex in the seat stay and a single alloy shock driving linkage rather than the normal twin linkage VPP (Virtual Pivot Point) setup. The shock also stays high under the top tube rather than buried in the guts, so it looks visually different to the rest of the range. The reason for that is purely to save 289g over the previous frame according to Santa Cruz, bringing a size large CC frame in at 1,933g including shock and all the hardware. ‘Cheaper’ Blurs use ‘C’ grade carbon composite which gives the same ride-feel and strength, but for a roughly 250g weight gain depending on frame size.
That’s more impressive as Blur 4 is 10mm longer than Blur 3 too, with a 470mm reach on a large frame, 100mm fork XC version. That does reduce to 458mm on the 120mm fork TR version, which also uses a longer stroke shock (45mm rather than 40mm) to grow rear travel from 100mm to 115mm. This XC version is steeper angled too, with a 68.3-degree head and 75.8-degree seat angle, but that’s 0.7 degrees slacker and 1.8 degrees steeper than Blur 3 respectively.
While all bottom bracket heights are a fraction over 330mm un-sagged (a rise of 3mm), chainstays are now proportionate to the mainframe size, rather than being the same across all sizes. There’s only an 8mm difference between the S and XL though, and currently no XS or XXL sizes either. The Juliana Wilder bikes (based on Blur TR with different color options and contact points for female riders) range uses the same S-L sizes too.
Components and build
We tested the X01 AXS RSV option which uses SRAM’s mid-range AXS wireless gear system with carbon cranks and SRAM’s lightweight Level TLM brakes with 160mm rotors. The small front rotor allows a direct mount onto the drastically dieted, 32mm legged RockShox SID SL Ultimate fork. The reduced power makes you less likely to skid the minimal tread front tire or overload the sub-1,320g fork with brake strain. Fork and matching SIDLuxe rear shock are linked to a twist-grip-on, push-button-off remote lockout, which leaves the left underbar clear for the lever for Fox’s lightweight Transfer SL 100mm stroke, two-position dropper post. The bar they sit on is Santa Cruz’s own 760mm carbon flat bar held by Syntace’s superb Liteforce stem in a 70mm length
The RSV in the name means it gets the new Reserve 28 SL carbon rims which continue the super light (they’re 385g a rim) but still with a lifetime warranty theme. Our bike came with the slower reacting, heavier DT Swiss 350 hub set rather than the Industry Nine Hydra hubs listed on the website. The chubby 2.4in Maxxis Aspen triple compound tires are a modern race favorite for dry conditions and they come set up tubeless as standard, bringing our complete large test bike in at 10.4kg without pedals on our scales. That’s properly light even for a race bike and it’s actually less than Santa Cruz claims for a medium with i9 hubs. The price tag is undeniably hefty, but it’s only 130g heavier than the $2,150 more expensive XX1 version.
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Ride, handling and performance
With barely treaded tires on both ends, super light rims and super light overall weight, the effortless ease with which the Blur accelerates isn’t a surprise. What’s impressive is how it can do it from every rev range or trail position. There’s an occasional sense of twist from the rear wheel if you’re really piling on the watts across an off-camber or through random rocks and roots, but it’s only ever momentary and the fore-aft stiffness and drive feedback is dramatic. That means those massive chainstays and the broad pivot stance can heave an improbable gear from an almost stationary stall without flinching. This pedal positivity makes kicking hard out of corners totally addictive even when we were hours into an overnight epic and it's all the sweeter when you know how much it’s hurting anyone trying to keep pace.
It’s the same upfront too as while the fork definitely hits a point where it’ll tuck and twist if you ask too much of it, the mainframe is still muscular enough to force the bike to stay on target. It also lets you take surprising liberties with what’s essentially a voluminous gravel tire on the front even in slippery, random surface situations. The extra bit of length, slightly relaxed head angle, 760mm bar and shorter offset fork adds enough time and stability to give you a second chance if you mess up the first. This is rare in a category where flexy frames and shorter, twitchier geometry typically punish any mistake severely so you can take bigger chances and braver lines. However, it’s not so ‘downcountry’ long and slack that it makes control promises the componentry can’t possibly keep. Santa Cruz obviously has the Tallboy if you want a short travel shredder. That meant while we did try the Blur with different wheel and tire setups to really explore the envelope, the Aspen was still useable upfront when the weather turned wet if we knew the overall speed advantage was worthwhile. The steeper seat angle and impressive rear-end connection meant we never even thought of swapping the rear tire either.
Swapping wheels also underlined how good the new Reserve 28 XCs are in a super light but control-boosting context. There is some flex from them torsionally when compared to stiffer, heavier wheels but that’s deliberate rather than a downside. That’s because the slight compliance combines with the extra volume of the 2.4in tires and rock-solid tubeless connection even at low pressures to add serious float and traction as well as dulling the vibration and chatter that can really get into your bones if you’re pushing hard over 100km or more.
The wheels are just the ground connection point of an extremely impressive suspension setup too. Considering Santa Cruz are new to flex stays, it's used its in-house composite lab to come up with a really sweet balance between pivot point placement and the inherent spring of the stays. To be precise they’ve actually reduced the anti-squat reaction that would stiffen the suspension under power which lets them use a flatter spring curve through the 40mm stroke. On the trail that means there’s enough resistance off the top to keep it feeling sharp under power and supportive through corners. There’s still excellent rollover and connection through chatter though, making it a bike you’ll deliberately take the rougher, more technical lines on, just to put those behind you in trouble. It’s still progressive enough to keep that last 10mm until you really need it to catch a landing or slap through a big block sequence without stalling.
While it works very well for most courses and conditions with a stock 25 per cent sag setting, the flatter curve also means you can set it anywhere from 20 per cent sag for a tighter, sharper overall feel without choking in the mid stroke to 30 per cent for a deeper, softer character that still doesn’t hit the stops often. The fact you can lock the suspension instantly for even a couple of pedal strokes also expands the bandwidth of useable pressure. You will need to meter the rebound on the rear damper though (you can pull the rebound hex key out of the fork to adjust the SIDLuxe rear) to make sure the spring of the rear stays don't hiccup when there's a gap in the freehub pickup on the DTs. This should be less of a problem on the much faster reacting I9 hubs it should come with, and the reduced anti-squat means that instant pickup won’t add unwanted rough terrain stutter to the back end as it could with the older VPP designs.
Once it’s bedded in, the SID SL Ultimate fork offers a really well-matched performance upfront with remarkable composure deep into ugly descents considering the tiny damper used to keep weight so low. Not only is the bike remarkably quiet and calm to ride for a racer but it’s also startlingly stealthy if it’s on your wheel too, a sure sign that it’s rarely on the ragged edge even on rocky red runs.
In terms of other kit, we’ve already noted that the cockpit is absolutely spot on, but the precision of the Syntace stem is a real gift considering how light it is. While the brakes are relatively weak compared to full four-pot trail sets, the 160mm front rotor is the right move to stop you from overloading the slick tire and skinnier fork (the TR version gets a bigger rotor and 34- or 35mm-legged forks). The binary up or down nature of the Transfer SL post works really well and the faster return speed and solid top-out clunk leaves you in no doubt that the post has extended. While a cabled transmission might be fractionally lighter, the immediacy and accuracy of the AXS shifting feels fantastic on a bike that needs feeding bigger gears in rapid-fire succession as soon as you put some pressure through the carbon cranks. The shift tuneability (and data collection if you use a compatible head unit) is great to play with too. Fitting a GX shifter on an X01-titled bike is cheeky though, even if the multi-direction function is identical. It’s good to see Santa Cruz fitting a larger than average 34-tooth chainring and smaller 10-50T cassette on a bike that begs for warp speed at every opportunity and only considers a winch gear when gradients are crazy or your legs are totally crushed.
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The Blur has had a pretty impressive debut month at the highest level of racing. In the UK Rob Wardell dominated the Glentress 7 marathon event, taking the solo and overall wins days after receiving his new bike. There were two Blurs in the top ten of the last World Cup XCO and Maxime Marotte has taken the French National Championships on his salmon-colored speed machine (you can get a black one too by the way).
We’re not actually surprised though, as Santa Cruz has produced a bike that’s effortlessly easy to go ridiculously fast on in every aspect. Not only that, despite a generic-looking design outline with a suspension setup that it's never used before, it somehow still has Santa Cruz’s signature positivity and swaggering speed too.
The handling is a fantastic balance of racer-friendly familiarity but with a useful dose of extra confidence so you can maintain speed even on technical trails in the rain in the middle of the night. The suspension is similarly sorted too, with a smooth, high traction speed sustain float and big-hit control under a skin of savage power kick. While the default set up will be spot on for most situations, it’s easy to change subtly just by altering pressure. Frame stiffness and suspension also handle serious hammer so well that its super-low weight often comes as a shock when you pick it up after pushing hard through prolonged jank.
The component spec from the superb 28 XC wheels to the appropriately super light but precision control Syntace stem is superbly curated to fully exploit the potential of the frame too. In fact, the skinny SID SL and slick front tire are the only obvious limiter on how hard you can push the bike. They’re entirely appropriate for purpose though and there’s obviously the TR version if you want a bit more grip and grunt between you and the ground but that comes with a 440g/1lb, $300/£200 penalty.
It’s not just about performance either, as practically it's excellent in terms of touches like full internal plumbing and frame armor, despite the sub-2kg complete frame weight. Even the price is potentially excused by the fact that the frame, wheels and bearings have a lifetime warranty most enduro bikes can’t match. In short, try as we might to find fault with Santa Cruz’s new Blur, if you want an ultralight, 100mm travel bike to put a race number on, or just blitz an epic XC ride aboard, this bike sets a new standard.
Tech Specs: Santa Cruz Blur CC XO1 AXS RSV
- Model name: Santa Cruz Blur CC XO1 AXS RSV
- Discipline: Cross-country
- Price: $9,149.00 / £8,099.00
- Head angle: 68.3 degrees
- Frame material: CC carbon composite
- Size: Large
- Weight: 10.4kg
- Wheel size: 29in
- Suspension: RockShox SID SL Ultimate 100mm travel, 44mm offset/RockShox SIDLuxe 100mm travel
- Drivetrain: SRAM X01 Eagle AXS 10-50T 12 speed gearing and 34T chainset with GX AXS shifter
- Cranks: SRAM X01 Eagle 34T chainset
- Brakes: SRAM Level RSC brakes with 160mm rotors
- Cockpit: Santa Cruz 760mm bar and Syntace LiteForce 70mm stem
- Wheelset: Reserve 28SL carbon rims with DT Swiss 350 hubs
- Tires: Maxxis Aspen EXO 3C 29 x 2.4in tires
- Seatpost: Fox Transfer SL 100mm dropper post
- Saddle: WTB Silverado Medium Ti Fusion saddle