The carbon Santa Cruz Blur LT takes the lessons that Santa Cruz learned in development of the Blur XC2 and applies them to the popular 140mm platform. Geometry is unchanged from the aluminium LT (which runs alongside the carbon model in the range), but it’s rendered in curvaceous carbon fibre. Constructional details abound, like the steel plate to ward off chainsuck damage, the integrated chainstay protector, the cable guides moulded in to the monococque rather than glued and riveted on and so on. The head tube is tapered and takes an integrated headset, so you can run either 1.5/1.125in tapered steerers or good old 1.125in. The array of O-rings, locking collett-head bolts, angular contact bearings and grease ports holding the LTc’s back end together are carried over from the aluminium bike, which seems to hold up well in the field.
Out on the trail and it’s immediately apparent that Santa Cruz’s stiffness claims are entirely justified. Although the LTc frame doesn’t look as voluminous as some, it’s amazingly stiff. It’s most noticeable through big rocky sections, with no distracting twist along the length of the bike. Up and over off-camber slabs the wheels stay in line and gripping. It’d be impressive in a heavy frame, but for a 2.5kg (5.6lb) 140mm chassis it’s nothing short of amazing.
Santa Cruz’s original VPP implementation was damn good at the time, but it was also finicky – get the shock pressure 5psi off in either direction and you fell out of the performance sweet spot, and while sprightly it did have distinct pedal feedback in some gears. The current generation is a lot more forgiving of setup, to the extent that you can run it a little firmer or softer than the recommendations if that’s your taste. It’s also a lot more transparent – there’s clearly a hint of chain growth, but it’s suitably controlled and manifests itself as a lively feel and useful trail feedback rather than actually fighting the pedals.
A lot of the time the LTc doesn’t feel like a long-travel suspension bike, but in a good way – there’s hardly a hint of wallow or pitch, and the bike responds to weight shifts rather than just swallowing them up. Combined with the hugely impressive stiffness, this makes the LTc a hugely rewarding ride. With the confidence of knowing that it’ll end up where you put it and that the back end will faithfully follow the front, this is the bike to nail those tricky bits that you’ve never quite got the hang of.
We never really quite took to the aluminium LT, which always felt a little steep to us. The LTc we rode, though, was spot on. Given that the geometry’s the same this was a bit of a mystery until the penny dropped that the 150mm RockShox Revelation fork is a bit longer than the prongs on the LTs we’ve ridden. It’s a pretty tiny difference, but it’s enough.
In many ways the LTc is a return to the days when there were just mountain bikes, rather than everything being slotted into XC/AM/FR or travel increments. It’s not a bike designed for one thing, but it’s hard to see where the compromises are. You get plenty of travel but no wallowing, startling light weigh and stiffness at the same time and a general do-anything demeanour that makes you want to ride more and harder. Which is, after all, what it’s all about.
Something has to give, of course, and it’s fair to say that the LTc occupies a premium price point. The Blur LTc is available in Carbon Silver or Steel Blue at £2,399 (in line with BM prophecy) for a frame with a RockShox Monarch 3.3 shock. Or you can upgrade to a 2010 Fox RP23 (complete with DHX-style boost valve) for an extra £110. Complete bikes start at £3,600. Find out more at www.santacruzbikes.co.uk.