According to the company, the carbon Blur LT is the stiffest and strongest frame in its 16-year history. For US$2,300, customers in June will get the frame and RockShox Monarch shock.
"The carbon Blur XC was an exercise in seeing how light we could make a bike while maintaining certain ride characteristics, a given chassis stiffness, and a healthy degree of strength," Santa Cruz marketing director Mike Ferrentino told BikeRadar. "With the carbon LT, we took a lot of what we learned, much of which can be attributed to a very time consuming and carefully controlled proprietary molding process, and rather than see how light we could make an all-duty trail bike, the engineers decided to see how strong they could make it.
"If they wanted to go ultra-light and still be as strong or stronger than any similar competition, it would have been easy to shave another half pound or so off the frame," he added. "As it is though, the big goal here was to make a frame so insanely stiff and strong that it would erase a lot of preconceived notions about the alleged fragility of carbon fiber."
Some frame highlights include:
1) One piece lay-up and curing. By laying up and curing the front triangle all at the same time, and not assembling together pieces, Santa Cruz was able to decrease the amount of material used by eliminating overlapping joints that have to be bonded or wrapped with carbon. Less material means less grams. This method is extremely expensive to do, since each size has to have a lot of dedicated tooling, nothing is shared between each size.
2) Continuing fibres around tube junctions. The one-piece lay-up of the front triangle allows continuous fibres to be used that wrap between tubes, allowing the structure to distribute loads better, and absorb impact energy. Santa Cruz was also able to truly integrate the shock mounts, pivot mounts, dropouts and disk brake tabs into the structure, using all uni-directional carbon plies. The shock mount isn’t merely riveted or bonded on after curing, but an integrated part of the fibre lay-up. This makes the frame incredibly strong and able to absorb impact better than any other frames Santa Cruz has tested.
3) Net shape lay-up and fibre compaction. Santa Cruz's lay-up process allow them to control the outside shape, inside shape, and to compact the fibre layers during the lay-up. This eliminates gaps between layers, and keeps resin from migrating to the inside of the tubes, or allowing delamination during the molding process. You can’t see this without getting inside the frame, but Santa Cruz is more proud of how the inside of these frames look than the outside. No gaps, no filler or mystery material. No resin pools, or glued together sections.
"Light AND strong should be an unspoken guiding principle instead of a motto," Ferrentino said. "If both can be achieved, then make it so. If compromise is involved in one direction or the other, weigh the consequences very carefully.
"Taking the words "light" and "strong" and uncoupling them is easy," he added. "It's easy to make light bikes that are weak, and it's easy to make strong bikes that are heavy, relatively speaking.
"The challenge is getting both of those attributes in a bike at the same time, and doing it in a manner that doesn't totally alienate the rider in terms of feel, or finish, or cost, or incompatibility with everything else on the market."
Look for a complete overview of the new carbon Blur LT soon, plus a tech video from this weekend's Sea Otter Classic.
For more information, visit www.santacruzbicycles.com.