Do-it-all bikes are popular these days but quite often you'll find that a bike designed for a specific purpose is actually fantastic at everything - a brilliant bonus. Santa Cruz's Blur 4X is one of those bikes. It's the little brother of the popular Blur and Blur LT trail bikes, but it's designed for 4X racing. That makes it lower, longer and slacker than the Blur for stable turning and predictable handling when riding on the edge.
The Blur 4X frame is made from 6069 aluminium and shares similar lines to its relatives, but it's slightly burlier with geometry designed for getting out of the gate quickly, changing direction like a gazelle and popping over jumps like a dolphin cresting a wave!
The frame features 115mm of Virtual Pivot Point-actuated travel - the fantastic suspension platform used by Santa Cruz and Intense bikes that turns wallowy suspension rigs into efficient-pedalling, bump-gobbling monsters. The system uses chain tension to hold the rear wheel within a curved axle path. This means the suspension isn't affected by pedalling forces and is only compressed by bump forces.
The geometry also encourages idiotic riding. A low 12.6in bottom bracket height combined with a long wheelbase (44.25in with the fork set at 100mm travel) and slack head angle make the bike feel like a nimble miniature downhill rig.
The Blur 4X comes as frame only but distributors Jungle can do custom builds. Light but subtly burly was my spec plan, so I started with Hope Pro 2 hubs laced to Mavic X321 rims and Tioga Yellow Kirin tyres. Avid Juicy Seven brakes ensured stopping was on a dime.
Shifting was ably handled by a Shimano Ultegra cassette, Connex chain and the amazing SRAM X.0 shifter and mech combo. A tidy set of Truvativ Stylo cranks on a Truvativ Howitzer bottom bracket combined with an e.13 guide ring and MRP System 3 chainguide kept things running faultlessly, topped off with my battered but trusty Easton Flatboy pedals.
An air sprung RockShox Pike 454 fork spun faultlessly in a Hope headset and was turned by a RaceFace Diabolus bar and Easton Havoc stem set-up. ODI Ruffian Lock-On grips finished off the controls and a neat SDG Bel Air I-Beam saddle and seatpost combo kept my rear end out of trouble.
From the moment I first rode the Blur 4X, I knew it was something special. It has the same stable feeling as a downhill bike, which encourages ballsy moves and allows you to pull off things you didn't think you could. I've been riding everything on it - BMX tracks, dirt jumps, downhill and XC singletrack. Whatever you do, it wants more.
The geometry feels spot on for most riding, although you might grumble about the low BB height for XC riding - clouting the pedals on the ground can happen regularly in such situations. If you ride XC a lot you'd be better off going for a regular Blur.
This bike handles like a dream, though. It rails singletrack and it's long enough to cope with gnarly downhills but light enough to ride up hills without too much effort. It also loves to be treated to jumps and bumps yet it remains elegant and minimal.
The large size suits me (I'm 6ft 3in) for all-round thrashing; the medium will suit most riders, unless you have short legs. That said, a little birdie tells me there's a smaller frame with a dropped top tube in the pipeline...
I can't stop riding this bike.