Apparently the Santa Cruz Blur LT is Santa Cruz’s best-selling bike, although whether that’s worldwide, in the US or in the UK we’re not sure. The current bike, launched in 2005, took the original Blur’s VPP short-link back end, pumped it up to 135mm of travel and attached it to a beefed up and more relaxed front.
Since then, most of the rest of the SC range has been revamped and updated, and recently it’s been the single-pivot bikes that have been getting most of the attention. Behind the scenes, though, SC’s designers and engineers have been working on an all-new Blur LT for some time, with the first whiteboard scribbling happening in the middle of 2006.
It’s an important bike for Santa Cruz, particularly in the UK. Lots of riders are looking for something with a decent amount of travel but without getting into the “too much bike” category that most people tend to put, say, Santa Cruz’s own Nomad into. The presence of RockShox’s venerable Pike fork on the front of the new Blur LT in the pictures tells you a lot about where the bike is at – it’s a fork that’s been around for a long time, but it’s only really in the last couple of years that people have noticed that a not-quite-6in, not too heavy, through-axle single crown fork is a fantastic thing to have, and a frame to go with it would be quite a good idea.
But we digress. There are some obvious visual differences between the angular old Blur LT and the curvaceous new one. We don’t mind admitting that when we first saw these pictures we felt faintly unwell – the top tube curve looked over the top, the shock was at an awkward angle, there was a general sense of the back end having caught up with the front at high speed and not quite stopped in time. However, having had a few days out of the office doing other stuff before getting round to writing anything about the LT seems to have had a beneficial effect, as to our eyes the bike now looks pretty damn good.
Part of that may, of course, be down to having a better handle on the changes that you can’t see in the pictures. Knowing how much effort has gone into the details always makes the result look better. One of the most important changes is that while travel has only gone up slightly, from 135mm to 140mm, the shock is now a 2.5in stroke unit rather than the old 2.25in stroke. That’s an average leverage ratio of 2.2:1 rather than close to 2.4:1. That doesn’t tell you the whole story, though, because the VPP setup is notable for the huge (bordering on ridiculous) range of options that the designer has for manipulating the change in shock rate through the stroke.
Without getting too detailed, the new LT actually varies the shock rate less than the old one, which should result in a more active feel in the early part of the stroke and more linearity towards bottom-out. Maximum chain growth (often cited as a negative point by VPP’s critics) is considerably less so you should experience less pedal feedback.
The other key change to the suspension is that the whole linkage/pivot arrangement has been completely reengineered. The upper link is now moulded carbon fibre. The 12mm aluminium axles and steel bolts have been replaced by 15mm axles and titanium bolts, with the axles featuring expanding collett heads at one end to lock them in to the frame, preventing loosening and slop.
Bearings are now angular (rather than radial) contact types, which should handle side loads better. And – joy of joys – SC has come up with a new bearing seal that keeps goop out but also allows a grease purge from within. Yes, the lower link now has a pair of grease ports on it – stick the supplied grease gun on there every so often, pump in fresh grease, old manky grease comes out, job done. All of this should extend bearing life considerably, and that’s something that most VPP owners will welcome.
As for the rest of the frame, the geometry is designed around forks from 140 to 160mm of travel, with quoted numbers for a 515mm axle-to-crown fork being 69° head and 72.5° seat. Top tube lengths start at 21.5in on the Small and go up at 1in increments through Medium, Large and XL. The super-swoopy top tube yields 60mm of extra standover clearance. At the back, the new swingarm is (as tradition dictates) stiffer than the old one while also having better tyre clearance. It also has a replaceable dropout rather than just a replaceable hanger.
The new Blur LT will be available in mid-April with a choice of all the usual powdercoat colours plus anodised black and something called “skidmark”. UK prices are to be confirmed, but we’re told to expect something like £1,450 for a powdercoated frame and £1,599 for an anodised one. Keep an eye on www.santacruzbikes.co.uk for details.