Right on the heels of the three bikes we just launched, we quietly slid a new Blur XC out into view of the public at the Sea Otter Classic last weekend.
To most outward appearances, the differences between the new bike and its predecessor are not easily evident, but there are some pretty big changes to be found under the hood, and they are worth crowing about:
First, and most apparently, there's now a tapered head tube at the front of the bike. This allows a greater range of forks and headsets to be used, tapered steerer forks increase steering precision and tracking, and the extra material around the head tube enables us to enhance the stiffness of the frame.
Second, since we had a larger head tube, which acts to "anchor" the down tube and top tube, we increased the size of the down tube and top tube as well. This in turn led us to stiffen up the bottom bracket area with a flared seat tube. Overall, the stiffness of the frame has increased dramatically. The carbon Blur XC was already a very strong and stiff chassis, but we are pretty firmly convinced that there isn't really a case for not wanting to make things stiffer or stronger if given the chance.
Third, in spite of the added muscle, the new bike weighs LESS than the old one. We did this by further optimization of our precisely controlled layup process, and by using a higher modulus carbon fibre. Frame and shock weight for a medium is a hair over four pounds, which is still at the pointy end of things when it comes to comparing race bikes that have actual links and pivots and a usable, active 4" of travel. This is a very light, very stiff and strong bike, which also happens to have a very highly evolved VPP suspension design that works with enough refinement to fool people into thinking it has a bunch more travel than it really does. And its low maintenance too!
Fourth, we gave the new bikes a couple of real pretty paint jobs.
Now, in light of some interesting conversations we found ourselves having during the Sea Otter, we'd like to talk a bit about some of the things we didn't do, and why we didn't do them:
We didn't use a press-fit bottom bracket. Could've saved a few more grams if we had ditched the trusty old thread-in standard BB, but we still cling to the outdated notion that bikes should enjoy a long life, be easily serviceable throughout that life, and be able to be serviced by people with regular tools found in most bike shops. That may have cost us a few grams, but we are okay with it.
We didn't go to a 142x12mm rear thru-axle. We're still using good old fashioned 135mm q.r dropouts. Since we have a suspension design that features a very solid one-piece rear triangle, there isn't any measurable benefit to be gained (for us) from going to thru-axles. We've tested the heck out of them, with and without, and the difference in strength and flex is negligible (for us). Thru-axle wheels also tend to weigh more than q.r wheels, so while it may be a good call on bikes that have several individual pieces of frame that are all bolted together at or near the rear axle, it doesn't make that much sense to us yet. Also, in XC race thinking, we feel the ability to swap out training wheels for race wheels, or fix a flat lightning fast, or slap a spare wheel in from another bike in a pinch, is still something worth holding onto.
We didn't use a post mount for the rear brake caliper. Nothing against the things, unless you have a need to face your brake mount, or if you accidentally strip out the threads in the post mount hole. The casting precision on modern forks is pretty impressive, but we're still not convinced that going post-mount on the rear is necessary - zero weight savings, and a whole new dimension of added headache if a caliper isn't machined just right or if the mount isn't exactly where it is supposed to be, or if a rider wants to run a rotor size other than what came with the bike.
We didn't build an integrated seat mast into the frame. Being able to adjust your seat height is rad. Being able to fit your bike into a bike box is rad. Being able to one day sell your bike to someone who isn't your clone is also rad.
here’s a common theme with all these points. It’s not a sexy theme, and it is real hard to fit it into a bullet point on a brochure. Basically, we believe that function trumps fashion. It is more important to us that our bikes are sensibly built, that parts can be easily sourced, and that our bikes can be easily serviced, than it is to jump on every new market trend that comes along in the hopes of snagging a few more sales. We throw a massive amount of technology into our bikes - our carbon fiber process is at the peak of how that technology is being applied to bicycles, our pivot hardware is the most sophisticated in the industry, and our suspension technology is second to none – but almost all of that technology is aimed at quietly doing its job and making our bikes ride better. We think that matters more than trend hopping.
More information: www.santacruzbicycles.com