Santa Cruz Blur TR Tested by Jamie Edwards, photos by Jacob Gibbins
So the Blur TR – it’s Santa Cruz’s aluminium framed, 26″ wheeled, 125mm travel bike that was designed as a more wallet friendly version of the Blur TR carbon. But can a bike with more gears and less travel than most hardtail trail bikes really cut it?
First things first. I really like this bike. It’s not the fastest bike I’ve ever ridden on flat, pedally, surfaced trails and it is not the ‘one bike to do everything’ that we all seem fixated on but – far more importantly – it is a hell of a lot of fun and it’s a bike that I’ve spent 90% of my riding time on since getting it. It’s fun, it fits me and it’s fast on tight, natural, technical trails – particularly where there’s a bit of gradient. My first ride took me high up above Innerleithen on some tight, gnarly, technical trails chasing Santa Cruz rider Mark Scott. The long, hot climb was hacked away with surprising ease and it took one flick of the shock to ‘Descend’ and a turn of the cranks to be having a blast. The bike instantly felt fast, comfortable and fun.
So we know it’s fun … what is it not? Santa Cruz UK’s answer to that question was “who cares?” I agree with them after a month on board the Blur but for the sake of a detailed review I’ll indulge. It’s not an XC bike. It’s a bit slack, a bit low and a wee bit heavy off the peg for that. It also comes with components that invite a kicking like a bash guard, High Rollers and a Fox CTD shock that is tuned soft when flicked to ‘descend’. It’s also not an out and out ‘all mountain’ bike. It’s got a modest 125mm of travel at both ends, a not-slack-but-not-steep 68degree head angle and 20 gears. In fact, it has more gears and less travel than my hardtail trail bike!
The aggressive build and the confidence inspiring tune on the shock make it really fun to push hard. The VPP suspension charges on really nicely through rough, uneven, nasty rocky trails meaning it carries speed well and equals fun. You’ll want to go faster, ride gnarlier trails and see what sort of trouble you can get into on this thing. Hacking through fast, rough Scottish trails on the Blur I couldn’t help but grin, let off the brakes and push to go faster.
Given that it only has 125mm of travel and an air shock you quickly find the limits of what feels ‘comfortable’ but the effect is really fun indeed. You’ll get into some wild shapes and get loads of feedback from the trail – all while still being able to throw it around and easily manual, hop or pump. You can push it hard and the size and shape makes it fun and manoeuverable on tight, twisty trails.
So what were the drawbacks of the bike? Weight is the main one. On the really flat, pedally trail centre stuff it feels that – despite being a short travel bike – it wasn’t the fastest or least tiring. I definitely can feel myself losing pace on those sections but that slight disadvantage quickly fades away when you get into bigger, rougher terrain.
The tune on the shock was also an interesting one – but that’s probably more a comment on the limitations of air shocks in general. The Fox CDT offers 3 levels of adjustability – Climb, Trail and Descend. I couldn’t quite get the balance right despite a bit of fettling and I found that where ‘climb’ and ‘trail’ felt very firm, ‘descend’ felt a bit too soft. It didn’t spoil the bike at all though and really I’m picking at details, but it did maybe stop a great bike being really, really great.
Enough grumbling though – what was good about this bike? A lot of things and I’m sat here seriously considering putting my hand in my pocket for a frame. The Blur TR is a great bike. With the shock on ‘descend’ it’s fast and very fun on rough terrain, mainly thanks to the super good VPP suspension platform. There’s a particularly rocky section of our local trails that throws about 100 yards of fast and very rocky trail at you – the Blur flies down there, eating up the sharp edged rocks and screaming out for more. It was fast and fun. If hooning around the woods and having fun is your main aim you’ll have a great time on this bike. It’s great for gnarly trails. It likes jumps, drops, technical singletrack and steep, twisty descents. The super low top tube means you can really move around on the bike and wriggle around tight, twisty awkward stuff really confidently. Despite being light on travel I’d happily take this to any UK trail ride and feel confident it could tear the trails to piece if I had the minerals to spur it on. Would I ride ‘downhill’ trails on it? No – probably not – but then that’s not really what the Blur is all about.
What about the price? A frame with a Fox CTD will cost you £1799 and a complete bike from around £3199. Our complete build sported an upgraded Fox fork and Hope BB and headset bringing the price up to somewhere around £3500. Not cheap – particularly when the bike is pitched as ‘a more affordable option’ – but when lined up against the competition it comes out as good value for money.
It would be easy to assume that the Blur is a sort of ‘mini enduro’ bike as if it has been given short travel and 26″ wheels to keep the weight down and XC speed up. That’s missing the point of the TR. I think it is how it is purely because it’s fun and the effect on the trail is a fast, agile bike that feels great in rough terrain. It’s a brilliant – if ever so slightly chubby – example of why 26″ bikes should stay firmly on the menu. That may not be what you need in your trail bike, but for me it really works.
Thanks to Santa Cruz UK for making this test possible.