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Cross-Country

Santa Cruz Introduces the New Blur and Blur TR

One less pivot

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There may be no bike in the past 20 years that has had more influence on rear suspension design than the Santa Cruz Blur. Granted, its VPP linkage was second-hand, third-party technology, licensed from a small forgotten brand called Outland. But VPP was going nowhere on that bike. It worked great on paper, but it was notoriously fragile once you got it out in the real world. Santa Cruz refined and simplified VPP enough that it would actually last, and the rest is history. The Blur finally proved the VPP concept, and with it, that of every dual-short-link design that would follow. Without the Blur, it may have taken ages for similar suspension platforms to find their way with brands like Ibis, Giant, Intense, Pivot and Niner.

And today, all of a sudden, the Blur has abandoned VPP. Probably more shocking than the Specialized Stumpjumper abandoning the Horst Link, it appears that the Blur has accomplished everything it could with the platform that carried it for (depending on how you count) nine generations. It’s now time for it to move on. Specifically, to move on to flex stays, a platform Santa Cruz is calling Superlight, in a nod to the single-pivot model that preceded the Blur.

Dual short-link designs like VPP are chosen for their precise control over axle path. Designers can build in complex anti-squat curves to suit whatever pedaling characteristics they want. Need a bike that’s quick and supportive at the expense of bump sensitivity while pedaling? You can have it. More concerned with making a bike levitate through chunder no matter how hard you’re mashing? You can have that instead. But dual-short-link designs will always rely on a fair amount of hardware in high-torque areas to pull it off, and that means added weight. A flex-stay bike is more simple where it helps for a bike to be more simple, and lighter where it helps for a bike to be lighter. The single pivot at the bottom bracket helps with stiffness and the lack of pivot at the dropout removes unsprung weight and improves suspension performance. And with only 100 millimeters of travel (or 115 in the trail version), Santa Cruz didn’t need to rely on VPP’s high anti-squat values for its get-up-and-go. A more supportive leverage curve was chosen to split the difference, keeping riders high in the travel without sacrificing small-bump sensitivity under load.

And flex stays offer designers the ability to add some natural ramp-up because they behave like leaf springs as the suspension compresses. This was an element of the Blur design that Santa Cruz had unique control over, thanks to their in-house carbon development lab. The net result is a frame that is a claimed 289 grams lighter than the previous generation Blur while offering the same travel, and two in-triangle water bottles as a bonus.

Another bonus is the Blur’s 115mm TR version, which swaps the RockShox SidLux shock and 100mm SID SL fork for a longer-stroke Fox Float DPS shock and 120mm 34 Step-Cast fork. There’s a pretty significant geometry change between the two. The wheelbase lengthens by 10mm and the head angle slackens by 0.8 degrees. Unfortunately, seat tube angle slackens as well, by between 0.9 degrees and 1.4 degrees, depending on size. Also depending on size is the chainstay length, with the Blur being the second bike in the Santa Cruz lineup to offer size-specific chainstay length, varying by about 3mm between frame sizes. In addition to the swap in suspension spec, the TR gets larger rotors and beefier tires. And although every build in the race-dedicated 100mm Blur comes with a dropper post, they are of the shorter-stroke variety that racers tend to prefer. Blur TR models come with full-length droppers. Speaking of dropper posts on XC bikes, Santa Cruz’s star cross-country racer, Maxime Marott, was an early adopter of dropper posts in world-cup racing. And he’s the subject of the Wes-Anderson-inspired launch video we got along with the new Blur. 

Offering the Blur in a TR version an interesting move given that the Tallboy offers just 10mm more front travel and just 5mm out back. But the two have significantly different characters. While the Tallboy is a short-travel shredder like what we’ve seen lately from Evil, Transition and Pivot, the Blur TR is more of a real-world XC bike. The Blur TR head angle is more than a degree and a half steeper than the Tallboy, and its stack is more than 10mm lower. Combined with the lighter build, the Blur TR an example that travel alone does not dictate what a bike is meant for.  

We’ve only just received our Blur for review, so keep an eye out for our first impressions. We’ve actually got a seasoned cross-country racer on it, so we’ll be putting it through its paces while race events slowly open up throughout the summer. Stay tuned.