Frame: 2009 Blur LT, 140mm travel
Shock: Fox Float R
Fork: RockShox Pike 454 Dual Air. 140mm travel
Headset: Crank Brother Cobalt SL
Hubs: DT 240s
Spokes: DT Competition
Rims: DT XR 4.2d
Tyres: Kenda Nevegal DTC 2.35in
Crankset: SRAM Noir 3.3
Rear Mech: SRAM X-O
Front Mech: SRAM X-9
Shifters: SRAM X-O
Chain: SRAM PC-980R
Cassette: SRAM PG-990
Stem: Thomson Elite
Handlebar: Truvativ Team Carbon Riser
Grips: Lizard Skins Peaty
Seatpost: Crank Brothers Joplin R
Saddle: Fizik Aliante XM
Weight: 12.58kg (27.73lb), excl. pedals
The most obvious frame change on the 2009 Blur LT is the top tube, which reduces the standover height by 60mm. Santa Cruz has maintained a full length seat tube for slamming the saddle and a kink in the upper section of the down tube provides extra clearance for fork dials.
On the rear, the swingarm still uses a single vertical support but a small gusset now straddles the driveside seat-stays and chainstays. This offers a slight improvement in stiffness but its main function is to make the triangulated swingarm easier to manufacture. Gone is the replaceable dropout; instead the Blur LT now has a conventional replaceable derailleur hanger, albeit one that incorporates an integrated bottle opener.
Tyre clearance has been upped and the new back end swallows a 2.35in Kenda Nevegal with ease.
Seeing as all of Santa Cruz’s VPP bikes use subtly different suspension configurations, it’s not accurate to say that the arrangement on the Blur LT is a new design; it is more of an evolution. After building several different test mules with various amounts of anti-squat, travel and wheel/shock rates, the engineers at Santa Cruz finally settled on a 140mm set-up with slightly less anti-squat than the original Blur LT. The key thing to note is that the latest linkage configuration makes the suspension less volatile by reducing the amount of variation in the wheel rate. Also, there is less chainstay growth over the full range of suspension travel and combined with the lower Instant Centre, pedal feedback in the granny ring has been eliminated.
But what is more interesting than the precise configuration of the counter rotating links are the links themselves. The upper link is made from carbon-fibre, making it stiffer than the two-piece titanium link of old. Because the lower link bears the brunt of the load, Santa Cruz use a forged aluminium unit with grease nipples for each pivot shaft. The angular contact bearings in the link have no inner seals, which allows the grease to channel along the pivot pins and purge the bearing races. A dedicated grease gun is included with the frame.
Nuts and Bolts
After extensive stiffness testing the engineers at Santa Cruz found that being able to preload the pivot bearings has a massive effect on chassis stiffness. To achieve this, the new pivot hardware on the Blur LT works in a similar way to a 20mm axle on a RockShox Boxxer fork. A shoulder on the pivot axle preloads the bearings without compressing the linkage. A titanium M6 bolt activates the expander wedge to hold everything in place. It’s a simple and effective design that does away with the need for pinch bolts and bearing spacers. It also allows you to disassemble the rear end with a regular multi-tool.
The Blur LT was designed around a fork with a 515mm axle to crown length. The idea is that you can run a 140mm travel fork for more XC geometry or fit a 160mm fork for aggressive trail riding.
With the RockShox Pike in place the head angle is 69.5 degrees and swapping over to a Lyrik 2-Step knocks it back to 67.5 degrees while increasing the wheelbase by 0.75in and lifting the bottom bracket by 0.5in.
Santa Cruz will offer the 2009 Blur LT frame with a Fox Float R shock and powdercoat finish for £1,399. Colours are white, black, orange, liquid blue, gangrene, sand and lime. You can also have it anodised black or skidmark for £1,549. Shock upgrades are Fox RP23 and DHX 5.0 Air for an additional £80 and £190 respectively.
You have probably read a lot about the Blur LT in various media, but seeing as there are only two of these bikes in the UK — and we have one of them — most of that info will simply just be regurgitating the marketing bumph.
The good news is that the bike actually lives up to a lot of the hype. It has noticeably less pedal feedback in the granny ring than the original Blur LT or any other VPP bike that we have ridden. We’ll even go as far as to say that the 2009 Blur LT is one of the best pedalling full-sussers we have tested. So much so, it even inspires the laziest test riders to stand up and honk up hills. It is also pretty neutral under braking. Chassis stiffness is first rate and every detail on the frame is extremely well engineered. So far so good; with the new pivot hardware, even though we have been riding this bike for more than two months in appalling weather conditions, the only things to have seized are the rear gear cable and the Crank Brothers Joplin seatpost. All sounds good, and it is, but this is not the whole story.
The longer stroke shock, even with the lightest compression and rebound tune that Fox offers, feels slightly over-damped and this could be why it pedals so well, even though it has less anti-squat than the original. Also, the rear suspension isn’t very compliant for a 140mm travel bike. Again, this could be down to the shock tune or it may be the reconfigured links, or a combination of both.
Position-wise we felt a little bit perched on the bike, even with lower-profile tyres, and this is compounded by the fact that the suspension has a slight tendency to sit up when un-weighted. We don’t normally have a problem with heel rub, so were surprised to see the paint on the oversized seat-stays wearing thin after a couple of rides. Basically the stays are pretty beefy and they are spaced wide for improved tyre clearance. It is questionable if this bike needs all the clearance it provides, as the geometry is more in keeping with fast-rolling 2.1-inch tyres. Additionally, smaller tyres would better suit the rims. While we’re on the subject of geometry, designing a bike around two different fork lengths and build kits may sound good in theory, but in practice we found it introduces too many compromises.
With the 140mm fork the Blur LT feels a tad short (wheelbase) and steep. Then, when you fit a 160mm fork to slacken the head angle, the front end is too tall and the bottom bracket is lifted by 0.5in. Basically, changing the fork height affects the head angle, seat angle, BB height, front centre and, to a lesser extent, the chainstay length, making it impossible to design a bike around two different fork lengths. We are still experimenting to find the optimum set-up but at present we think the best compromise for the Blur LT is the large frame size with the 140mm fork, as the extra frame length adds stability by increasing the front centre, and the 140mm fork balances the travel front and rear while maintaining a sensible handlebar position.
Interestingly, nearly all of the average height guys at Santa Cruz ride the large frame size but with 160mm forks, zero-rise stems and low-rise bars. Why Santa Cruz didn’t make the Blur LT 140mm specific up front with the same head angle that you’d get by fitting a longer fork is anyone’s guess. That’s the bike that we were expecting to find and it’s effectively the fix that the employees at SCB are running. Maybe it was just too big a change for Santa Cruz’s golden goose.
The bottom line is that the 2009 Blur XC is a very sound, long-legged XC bike. But if your heart’s set on a lightweight 140mm Nomad with less quirky suspension, then you might possibly feel a tad disappointed.