First Impressions: New Santa Cruz Blur and Highball

Many mountain bike cross-country courses are becoming increasingly gnarlier, demanding a fine balance between trail capable and lightweight race sleds. The recent Stellenbosch World Cup course is a perfect example. Riders are often choosing full-suspension cross-country race rigs over their hardtails for increased control, power delivery and taking on all that chunk at mach speeds. Santa Cruz needed to fill the gap between its highly regarded short-travel trail bike, the Tallboy and it’s designated cross-country race machine, the Highball.

Welcome back, Blur.

At a svelte 2060 grams for frame and Fox shock, the new Blur is the lightest 100 mm Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) frame Santa Cruz has ever produced.

Built around a 100 mm travel Fox 32, capable of running a 120 mm, but why would you? That’s what the Tallboy is for. Accented with a 69 degree head tube angle and 432 mm stays, on paper the Blur hits all the targets for a cross-country race bike that goes down as well as it goes up.

Blur

  • Full carbon frame, engineered in Santa Cruz, USA
  • 29-inch wheels with Santa Cruz Reserve carbon option
  • 100mm VPP® travel
  • 69-degree head tube angle
  • Dual remote lockouts (most kits)
  • Internal dropper compatibility
  • Two bottle cage mounts
  • Bolt-on downtube protector
  • 1x drivetrain-specific design
  • Internal cables, threaded bottom bracket
  • Boost axle spacing
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Weight: 21.9lbs. / 9.9kg (XX1 Reserve build)

Blur Geometry:

Initial Ride Impressions

After the kind folks from Fox dialed us in on the their suspension Santa Cruz took us out to beautiful wooded area of Skeggs Point to test out the full capabilities of the new Blur. We spent the day on an incredible 17-mile loop with roughly 3,500 feet of climbing. Consisting of a wide mix of long, fast, flowy, chunky, rooty descents followed by steep and punchy climbs including a final 1,000 foot climb to get us back to the vans.

I opted for the stock Syntace HiFlex post for proper cross-country testing and should note that I am equally comfortable riding a highpost as I am a dropper. This seems to be a rarity lately and even at this press camp I was the only media member without a dropper. Once I threaded in some SPDs, made a minor adjustment to my saddle height and brake levers, I was right at home. Within the first 15 minutes of riding the Blur I was as comfortable as I was on my personal bike.

In the past I’ve ridden cross-country bikes around that 20-22 lbs. mark that felt both overly stiff and brittle enough to snap at the first hint of a rock garden. This was not the case with the Blur. The bike is a smooth sailing rocketship but somehow still maintains to retain that playful, trail-capable characteristic that Santa Cruz is known for. While descending and boosting off the water bars, it was quickly forgotten that this is indeed still a cross-country bike with only 100 mm travel fore and aft. The Blur welcomes its rider to push it to the limits.

The CC build kits offer a dual remote lockout feature which I was initially not stoked on. Most remotes I’ve used in the past were hard to set up, took too much pressure to operate and would come loose at the worst times.. That’s now water under the bridge, the new Fox remote lockout worked without issues over the course of the day. After riding my rigid singlespeed to commute to work lately I was keen on climbing out of the saddle and I must admit, with the lockout activated, this felt just like my rigid hardtail.

Whether you seeking to get into long days in the saddle at endurance events, putting the hammer down at World Cup cross-country races or simply ripping around your local singletrack, the Santa Cruz Blur could happily fill your needs.

For all you hardtail enthusiasts out there, the Highball is Santa Cruz’s third rendition of the cross-country race hardtail. This thoroughbred offers a more compliant ride due to its newly designed bridgeless, low-angle seat stay which joins the seat tube below the top tube. Also new for this year is that Santa Cruz is eliminating the 27.5” Highball from its lineup and will be offering the size small frame size as a 29er.

Highball

  • 29-inch wheels with Santa Cruz Reserve carbon option
  • 100mm fork
  • 69.5-degree head tube angle
  • Internal dropper compatibility
  • Three bottle cage mounts
  • Bolt-on downtube protector
  • 1x drivetrain-specific design
  • Internal cables, threaded bottom bracket
  • Boost axle spacing
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Weight: 19.1lbs. / 9.9kg (XX1 Reserve build)

The Highball is roughly 2 pounds lighter than the Blur and provides the rider a half-degree steeper head angle at 69.5 degrees.

Highball geometry:

Initial Ride Impressions

After shuttling to Skeggs Point it was refreshing to start the ride directly from Santa Cruz HQ. We rolled out on the nearby bike path that led us to Wilder Ranch State Park where we spent the day on the Highball. Wilder Ranch offers incredible coastal views with open-field singletrack and redwood-shaded trails.

From the initial pedal stroke, it was evident this bike is meant to be a cross-country race bike. I was in a more aggressive riding position on the bike and it felt snappier than the Blur. While the Blur’s personality was more “get business done so we can party”, the Highball is strictly business and in bed by 9:00.

Photo by Gary Perkin

Whether it be coming off the full-suspension Blur the day prior or my own preferences of a more playful trail hardtail, I struggled to find my groove on the Highball. Don’t get me wrong, the bike seems like it would be one heck of a cross-country race bike but I think an everyday rider looking for a hardtail may be more apt to find themselves on the Santa Cruz Chameleon due to its versatility and relaxed riding position. I can’t speak to how the updated version compares to the previous Highball, but it feels less forgiving than other cross-country/trail hardtails I’ve been riding.

Photo by Gary Perkin

Santa Cruz has been out of the cross-country-race bike game for a long time, but returns swinging for the bleachers with these two bikes. It seemed like Santa Cruz had ceded the XC race market to other brands, and considering it seemed to be shrinking, that wasn’t a surprise. But the sharp minds at Santa Cruz must be seeing room for growth in this market and these bikes are ready and waiting to expand the Santa Cruz stoke over the Lycra and heart rate monitor crowd as well.

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