The all new Blur and Highball – Next Gen XC Race Bike from Santa Cruz!

published by bktr on 22/03/2018 11:43:33

Highball Action 1

It’s fair to say that XC’s popularity has waned over the last few years. The ever increasing popularity of the Enduro race format, and the culture surrounding it, has squeezed good old fashioned XC bikes into the fringes. Maybe that’s just it. Maybe XC’s old fashioned approach has alienated the modern rider. Maybe the SRAM Eagle generation, with their crawling climbs and gravity powered descents, have moved past 2.2 inch tyres and slammed stems. Or, maybe we just needed a nudge in the right direction – a bike to convince people that XC isn’t a dirty word, a bike that’s as fun as it is fast. Enter Santa Cruz, with not just one but two new bikes ready turn XC racing on its head.

Blur 1

First up is the revival of an old classic. In its time the Santa Cruz Blur, and its extended family, was one of the most highly respected and highly coveted bikes on the market. Forward thinking geometry, a revolutionary new suspension format and a bold design propelled the Blur to the top of any riders wish list. Fast forward a few years and the Blur is back, this time in the guise of a race ready 29er XC whippet.

Blur Action 3

At just a nudge over 2kg, the Blur is the lightest full suspension frame Santa Cruz have ever created. Sure, they could have made it lighter by adopting a single pivot design (see Scott’s ultra-light Spark RC), but we all know that pedalling efficiency is down to so much more than weight alone. A sub 2kg frame will pedal well on its own, but couple it with Santa Cruz’s industry leading VPP suspension platform and you’ve got a bike which laps up climbs at a blistering pace. That’s not the end of the story for pedalling efficiency either – the Blur comes as standard with a remote fork/shock lock out, meaning you can squeeze every last drop of speed out of trails through direct control of the bikes suspension.

Blur Action 2

Efficient climbing is really the absolute minimum you’d expect from a premium XC bike – the real test comes in how the Blur descends. A quick glance over the spec sheet shows that Santa Cruz haven’t been timid in sacrificing a few the old XC tropes in favour of producing a more balanced bike. At 750mm the bars are as wide as you’d see on a lot of trail bikes, which should lend itself to enhanced descending control, while the low BB drop and short chainstays will give the bike a much more confident, responsive feel. The 69 degree head angle might be slightly steeper than the likes of the Scott Spark RC, but this is offset by a shorter rake, a trick which, in theory, should bolster the Blurs descending confidence.

Blur 2

The bike comes as standard with a 100mm fork, which will be bang on the money for XC racers. We’re anticipating a lot of riders opting for a bigger fork to rake out the front end and make the bike a little more trail hungry. If my year 11 trigonometry serves me right then a burlier 120mm fork *should* bring that head angle out to around 68 degrees – only a degree steeper than Cruz’s trail ripper, the 5010. It’s likely we’ll also see a few customers make the bike a little more ‘Lake District ready’ by reducing the Blur’s 70mm stem down to a more civilized 50mm or even 35mm. All these changes are going to be specific to where and how the bike will be ridden. The out of the box build will be great for any XC racer wanting to keep a the bike responsive and race-ready, however any riding on steeper terrain, or using the bike as a trail steed, and you might want to eak a little more playfulness with a few upgrades.

Highball 1 

Pairing up against the new Blur is the third iteration of Santa Cruz’s flagship carbon hardtail, the Highball. This classic XC racer has been completely overhauled with a wide variety of new design features. First up, lets talk about that drop tail. The old Highballs were infamous for their unrelentingly harsh ride, so it’s unsurprising to see a more comfortable frame design on the new model. To complement this there’s also a  more compliant 27.2mm seattube. Of course, this does mean that dropper post choice is limited, so if you’re looking to get rowdy then your best bet will be a KS Lev 272 dropper.

Highball Action 3

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the new Highball is Santa Cruz’s lightest ever hardtail frame, and while it might not be as light as the likes of the Scott Scale RC or Specialized Epic HT, it still builds up to a very respectable 8.7kg for the top end off the shelf model. As with the Blur, weight isn’t everything when it comes to XC. The Highball has a slightly steeper head angle than the Blur at 69.5 degrees, but once again has a shorter rake to compensate. A 120mm fork will again bring out that front end and make for a burlier, more capable hard tail, although be prepared for some dirty looks at you next XC meet. For those of you who ‘enjoy’ marathon racing and 24 hour suffer fests, the highball is well equipped with 3 water bottle mounts and a load of clearance for frame bags.

Highball Action 2

If this announcement has got you reaching for your lycra, then you’ll be pleased to hear that we already have a Highball and Blur in the shop, and we can’t wait to get them built up and get a proper look at them. The early ride reports in MTB media have been overwhelmingly positive, so it looks like they should be very popular! If you’d like more info on these bikes then please pop into our Ambleside store or give us a call, we’re always happy to help!

 

Joe