2018 Santa Cruz Blur Initial Impressions & Review

BrianGT3

Active Member
Team MTBNJ Halter's
#1
Santa Cruz Blur Review

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A bike that wants to go fast - everywhere

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Back in mid June of this year (2018) I made my way over to Six Mile Run State Forest for a Santa Cruz Demo Event hosted by Halter’s Cycles. I rolled in a little late, but they were able to get some pedals, air up the shock and send me out there. They told me to be back in 15 minutes because they were packing up for the day. It’s tough to get a good impression on a short ride, but I ran a quick little loop on the red and white trails of 6MR. I immediately felt comfortable aboard the Blur, it wanted to go fast! I left there in no rush to run out and buy one, but certainly made up my mind, yea that’ll be my next bike. Two months later I just finished the final H2H race of 2018 in Port Jervis NY with a Cat 1 win in my class. It was a high and a low, because unfortunately the race course killed my frame and the season wasn’t over! At the time I was riding a 2015 Specialized Epic Expert Carbon. Being that I picked up the bike used at the start of ’17, there was no shot I’d be able to get warranty coverage. A week after the race the process of bike shopping began. I decided to make the jump and go new, choice #1 - SC Blur. I stopped in Halter’s, put the order in and had the bike ready to go right after labor-day weekend.

After picking up the bike from there shop I looked to Blur over. I really like the build quality of this bike as well as the simplicity. Not only a good-looking bike but a great design. Silly thing I noticed and appreciated, you can access all of your suspension pivot bolts on the non-drive side. I can’t tell you how many bikes you have to pull off your crank to access this stuff! Everything on this bike is very thoughtfully laid out for ease of maintenance and accessibility. For me, that’s a big thing.

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2018 Blur C – S Build – Initial Impressions

The bike we’re reviewing here is a 2018 Santa Cruz Blur C with the S Build. This will probably be the only review you’ll find online review one of Santa Cruz’s “Lower End Builds”. I demo rode a higher end build, and most online reviews feature a top of the line XTR or XX1 builds. They’re great to read about, but not the bike most of us will run out and buy. After a solid ride last week and a weekend race with a podium finish, I’d argue it’s anything but “low end”. This bike is incredibly capable and well spec’d. I feel the Blur C with S build or the Blur CC X01 build are your best deals depending on what your objectives are (more on this later) I will also mention this will be the only review you’ll probably find online that is written after racing this bike. It’s a bike designed for XC racing after all!

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My first outing on the Blur was around the trails of Chimney Rock, which features a mix of terrain, climbs, technical riding and descents. CR has an abundance of challenging segments with rocks and roots. A perfect place for a shakedown ride. If you’re looking to train for XC Racing, CR is a great place to ride. It features everything you’re most likely to find at an event here in the Northeast. I was riding with @pooriggy who will definitely push you at this park. Right of the bat I noticed how great this bike climbs, and how much fun it is on the downhills. Iggy rode his Santa Cruz Tallboy that day which had little more travel, but I was able to hang on the downhills! It’s the first time an XC bike, or any bike for that matter made me smile. First impressions were fantastic and I was able to get the bike a little more figured out. I was pumped to get back out on the bike on Sunday and race in Upstate NY in the NYSMTB Series.

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The Race was held at Reindelbaur’s Resort in Round Top NY which I’ve never raced here before. The course had some small climbs with a variety of terrain and areas with loose shale and rock gardens. On my initial sighting/warmup lap it seemed certain this course would be fun at speed. This build comes with a 1 x 12 SRAM GX Eagle Drivetrain. I really appreciated that big pizza cutter gear in back, I was able to take my time on some of the climbs during my pre-ride and not risk nuking my legs. The bike felt great everywhere, it seemed to do everything right. What I noticed during my chill pace pre-ride was how compliant the Blur felt. Looking back at past “XC Race” bikes that I’ve owned, they generally don’t like a chill pace. They can be finicky, twitchy angry bikes that punish poor line choices and your lazy riding. They never felt right, unless you’re at full gas and picking precise lines. The Blur was more like, “hey bro, do whatcha’ gotta’ do, I’m here when you’re ready to race!” I liked it, the course looked awesome and pre-ride psyched me up to hit the trails at speed.

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Come race time, this is where the Blur comes alive. This is a bike that want to go fast, everywhere. Steep seat tube angle, VPP Suspension, crisp shifting drivetrain, this bike accelerates hard when you apply power. Remember 26” wheeled bikes? Remember how much faster 26” wheeled bike accelerated compared to a 29’er? That’s how the Blur feels, it just goes. Coming out of tight corners, up punchy climbs, apply power for insta-acceleration. Blur also features a remote lockout for both the fork and shock which helps in the acceleration department. I used it frequently during the race on the open field start/finish area and the road section of the course. Noticeable difference locked out which makes the bike feel like a full rigid, it’s a great feature and cable actuated. No worries about a hydraulic system suddenly not working anymore.

Moving onto suspension, the S Build comes with a Fox Step Cast 32 Performance Fork and Fox Float Performance DPS Shock. I honestly never bothered to check sag! I went off of Santa Cruz’s recommended shock pressure settings and Fox’s recommended fork settings. Set the rebound fairly quick. Visually it looks around 20% sag. Combined with a low bottom bracket height, this bike loves hitting corners. Lap after Lap I was getting a little more brazen and dumping it into turns. The bike freaking grips and I also learned, fairly forgiving! A few times I asked a little too much of the front tire concerning traction availability. When it began to let go, the bike provided me ample feedback for a quick solution. Quick ‘lil weight shift and steer out of it, or use a gentle foot tab to keep it upright and be on your way. I never felt like this bike would bite, which is a first for an XC bike. Whatever Santa Cruz did with the geometry, they did it right. This bike turns fast - but not at the cost of being super unforgiving, or launch you over the handle bars with a steep head tube angle turn fast. I also discovered the suspension, head tube angle, pedaling efficiency, short stem with wide bar all work together in beautiful unison when you hit the gnar. As long as I kept feeding the bike power, it absolutely ate up nasty rocky and rooty terrain. As if I was no longer on an 100mm XC race whippit, but a burlier 130mm+ trail bike. When you’re bike feels dialed on that type of terrain, big confidence booster. It’s all over the Northeast and I love it and the Blur rapidly eats it and asks for more.

On the topic of trail bike, when the trail goes downhill the Blur lives up to it’s name. I think the only thing that held me back was concerns about killing my tires or bending my rim. At one point I hucked the Blur off of a rock drop at speed in front of a bunch of spectators resulting in one of them yelling “Yea SEND IT!!!”. This bike wants to go when the grade drops. I keep hitting the high-speed corners faster and faster and blasted down railed single track getting over 20 mph. The Blur hauls and feels connected to the trail and composed the entire time. I believe you could throw some burlier tires on this bike, a 130 fork and compete in a few enduro races with no issue! This does not feel like a XC bike on descents, it’s deceptive. Not all that surprising considering Santa Cruz’s background with trail and downhill bikes, the DNA is present in this bike. When it’s time to slow down, the Blur comes with Level TL brakes. The feel is similar to the guides I’ve run in the past, they work, that’s all that matters! The TL’s allow you to adjust lever position, I never had any issues with brake fade or modulation. The Level TL brakes work, but tough to get a read one because most XC courses don’t involve heavy braking.

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My only nitpicking about this bike is the rear hub and steep climbs. The DT 370 Hubs have a 3-pawl system so the engagement tolerance is pretty high. Noticeable to me coming from bikes with ratchet hubs. However, the reason I get this S build as opposed to X01 was so I would have extra funds to pick up a spare set of carbon wheels for racing which resolves the hub issue. My second niggle is when pedaling hard up a grade or super steep climb it’s easy to spin the rear tire. You have to be mindful to drop your heels, pedal smooth, similar to riding a hardtail. it’s a small thing I will have to be mindful of as time goes on. Very small issues with easy solutions.

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To wrap this up, after getting in a ride and a Cat 1 race with a 2nd place finish, I’m incredibly happy with this bike so far. It’s a bike that gets me excited to ride again and is hands down one of the most fun bikes I’ve ridden. I’m looking forward to racing ’19 on this thing and getting more seat time to unlock it’s capabilities. I will continue to update this threat with longer term reviews. Big thanks to Halter's Cycles in Montgomery NJ for helping get this bike!

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Santapez

Well-Known Member
Team MTBNJ Halter's
#7
Your comment about the suspension design is spot on. I looked at a few bikes before settling on my Tallboy. One of the things that Santa Cruz has done on pretty much their whole line of FS bikes (Blur/TB/5010/Nomad) is design a suspension that works well but is also designed simply. Threaded no-nonsense bottom brackets, clean insert headset bearings complete the package.

Makes for a nice easy to maintain bike, nothing really proprietary or finicky.

Your comment about lower-end builds not being reviewed is spot-on. It's annoying that reviews and demos are of the higher end models. It's nice to go out and try the 7K bike at a demo day, but that's not really what I'm in the market for, how does the lower-end carbon feel? The working man's fork and shock?

I also found the GX and Carbon C builds to be the way to go. The jump in price to the higher end models is huge, but not really worth it. Just upgrade parts after crashes...

This bike seems to be a great example of how you can't use old school examples of what a bike's suspension travel is defining the usage of the bike.
 

stb222

Love Drunk
Jerk Squad
#8
Great write up!

Having gone away from FS bikes for 7-8 years (partially due to the maintenance of the pivots/bearings) and coming back recently, ease of maintenance of the SC pivots.bearing is refreshing. I have done my 5010 twice since December and it is a breeze.

Also, mine came with NX shifter / derailleur and I quickly bumped to XX shifter and GX derailleur since the shifter is the brains and feel and the derailleur is just a dumb part that moves the chain. I'm not really sold SRAM over shimano, mianly given the higher cost of sram, but it is what I am riding now.
 
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BrianGT3

Active Member
Team MTBNJ Halter's
#9
Another great write-up Brian, should consider getting this published. As a comparison to the Epic, what did your former bike do better than the Blur.
I liked how the Epic can hold 2 water bottles in the frame. Yes you can mount one on the Blur under the downtube, but I don't see that working too well, its more auxilary water storage down there. Not easily accessable, and bottle will get covered with dirt/mud. I'll have to build a traclside mount to grab bottles on the go when racing. I also rode round valley this past weekend, noticed I had some difficulty climbing steep wet rocks and keeping the rear planted. I'll have to play with tire pressures/sag to get that sorted as well as work on my riding.

This is written better than the vast majority of the Blur reviews I've read in the mtb sites/mags out there. I appreciated you including the tech details throughout it. What carbon wheels will you be going for?
What @MadisonDan recommended, Stan's Carbon Podiums SRD's. We're sponsered by Stan's Wheels

Thanks, awesome write up. Did you consider the Turner Czar? Those are my top 2
I know the CZAR is a good bike, both @jShort and @Kirt run them, Jeremy kicks ass on his. Blur was choice #1, I can get through a LBS (Halter's) which is 20 minutes away from me. That way if I ever have warrenty issues they can help me get it sorted

Your comment about the suspension design is spot on. I looked at a few bikes before settling on my Tallboy. One of the things that Santa Cruz has done on pretty much their whole line of FS bikes (Blur/TB/5010/Nomad) is design a suspension that works well but is also designed simply. Threaded no-nonsense bottom brackets, clean insert headset bearings complete the package.

Makes for a nice easy to maintain bike, nothing really proprietary or finicky.

Your comment about lower-end builds not being reviewed is spot-on. It's annoying that reviews and demos are of the higher end models. It's nice to go out and try the 7K bike at a demo day, but that's not really what I'm in the market for, how does the lower-end carbon feel? The working man's fork and shock?

I also found the GX and Carbon C builds to be the way to go. The jump in price to the higher end models is huge, but not really worth it. Just upgrade parts after crashes...

This bike seems to be a great example of how you can't use old school examples of what a bike's suspension travel is defining the usage of the bike.
I'd say the frame feels super solid, I'd imagine structurally the C and CC are equal. Apparently the carbon material is different, or maybe mine just has a little more epoxy in it during manufacturing.

The fork and shock feel fine, I think they key is to keep your sag/pressures set correctly and stay on top of maintenance and keeping fresh oil in the fork and shock. I don't have to ability to adjust (fine tune) compression on this setup. I wouldn't be surprised if some extra 32 mm fox low friction dust seals fit this fork.....
 

Juggernaut

Master of the Metaphor
#10
This is a fantastic review!!!! It’s refreshing to read a review that’s written like one of the ones you’d read in Mountain Bike Action but isn’t full of platitudes and marketing BS. An honest, super well crafted review... many thumbs up sir!!!!

The only thing is....
“It’s the first time an XC bike, or any bike for that matter made me smile.”
...this made me sad.
 
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