Having translated all their existing models into lighter, stiffer carbon fibre versions Santa Cruz’s designers decided to treat themselves to the playbike they really wanted. The result is the unorthodox, borderline mental, Marmite trail missile that they’re calling the Blur TRc.
We liked the idea of the TRc on paper, but on the trail it’s even better. With its ultra-light weight and snap acceleration, but phenomenal stiffness, secure steering and long, low slung surefootedness it’s a mix of several contradictory bike characters. Somehow it manages to be exactly the right bike at the right moment wherever you are on the singletrack.
The low bottom bracket clearance and occasionally wandering front end will upset some riders, as will the rider-reactive VPP (Virtual Pivot Point) suspension. If you’re prepared to work with it you’ll find a punchy, blisteringly quick and outstandingly surefooted trail bike that’ll rip a grinning hole in your ride expectations up, down or sideways.
Ride & handling: Punchy, blisteringly quick and outstandingly surefooted trail bike
Even in the stock 130mm fork trim there’s still plenty of wheel out in front when you’re sat in the saddle. The shorter fork also means a lot tighter grip on the front wheel than there is with the more stretched reach of the 150mm version of the same Fox chassis. The whole handling character feels instantly right too. The immediate eye widening promise of the low slung, slack fronted fun that’s about to happen isn’t diminished as soon as the faffing is finished and you head for the first bit of singletrack.
The pedal stiffening action of the VPP suspension, rock solid frame rigidity and race-bike weight mean Millennium Falcon-style acceleration. Whether you’re spinning gears in the saddle or standing up and wrestling a big ratio round it launches down the trail, making snap singletrack passes or flat-outbetween-corner blasting the default group ride setting. Because it’s low weight not just stiffness that underlines the snap, the longer the climb goes on, the more of a killing you’ll make.
You have to work around its geometric eccentricities on more technical climbs. Until you learn to get your weight forward and really heave it round, the slack front end can wander off into the bushes on slow speed climbing turns. The ultra low bottom bracket means you have to pay close attention to your stride pattern, otherwise your feet, cranks and rings will come a cropper on a regular basis, causing stalls and grinds that’ll frustrate you on technical sections it would otherwise clear with ease.
The reason for the snake’s belly stance is obvious as you start punching into corners at speed. With your centre of gravity so low, outrageous lean angles and drifting are second nature, and it’ll create a slingshot berm out of the slightest bank, root bowl or row of rocks. Its combination of surefooted stability and snap 3D reactivity is even more obvious on groomed trail centre pump and hip sections.
While 125mm doesn’t sound much, the custom tuned shock sucks up big stuff remarkably well too. It gets caught out occasionally – particularly under power – but it genuinely feels like you’re running fat sticky rubber not a skinny semi-slick on the back when you’re taking straight line ‘through, not round’ line options. The more stuff you hit, the more you’ll realise how much it can handle and your concepts of reasonable racing, overtaking or just basically rideable lines will skew dramatically towards the really dirty. The shorter travel means none of the communication and acceleration numbing squat or wallow of some mid-travel bikes either.
Frame & equipment: Well proven practical aspects
While it has the same tapered head, curved tube asymmetric swingarm outline of Santa Cruz's other carbon bikes, the TRc has no direct ancestor. It’s got the same travel and 68-degree head angle as the Nickel 125mm alloy bike. It’s 0.5in lower in the bottom bracket and nearly 1kg (2lb) lighter in the frame. In fact, at 2.26kg for the frameset it’s only 0.22kg (0.5lb) heavier than the Blur cross-country race bike. Despite its deviant intentions it’s the same length as the cross-country bikes rather than downright short like the Nomad and Santa Cruz’s other nutters. It’s relatively short compared to most other trail bikes, although low overall stance and standover clearance means sizing up isn’t an issue.
The practical aspects are well proven. There’s room for up to 2.4in rubber and the VPP2 suspension with carbon upper link, easily adjusted angular contact bearings and grease ports in the lower linkage have been ticked off as trustworthy via thousands of trail miles on previous bikes. The custom tuned 200mm length Fox RP23 shock is a top spec Kashima coated unit.
The TRc takes a 30.9mm seatpost with frame guides ready for a dropper post, which is a smart idea on such an entertaining bike. A lack of ISCG (International Standard Chain Guide) tabs may irritate some, but the conventional bottom bracket means a cup clamping chainguide can be used. Santa Cruz still say that screw-through axle benefits aren’t needed on their frames, so the TRc’s got a conventional 135mm quick-release back end. Disc brake tabs are International Standard (IS) not post mount.
In terms of kit, the UK frame and shock price is £2,699, which is £200 more than the other Santa Cruz carbon trail bikes and our only major complaint. There are two ‘ready to roll’ complete bike options. The SPX tested here (Shimano XT, WTB wheels, Fox Float 32 quick-release fork) at £4,899 and the XTR XC kit at £6,699, with a Fox Float 130RLC QR15 Kashima fork. UK distributors Jungle also supply ‘custom’ build kits from RockShox Sektor/Shimano Deore level upwards, and the TRc will take up to a 150mm fork if you really want to slacken it out.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike