In the messy backlog that has become the Dirty Drafts folder, there is one post which is both well overdue, but also highly conspicuous by its absence – The Blur 4 long term review.
Given I’ve blown well past the 1,000km minimum mark long ago, now closing in on the 2,000km marker next, this draft needed to get the fuck out of the oven ASAP before it tips over into the black hole of total irrelevance. And this is important, because, this bike is anything but irrelevant, starting with it being a fucking work of art*:
*If you think this colour is hot, wait until you see the newly released silver option – Ohh La fucking La
Since being drafted immediately into Dirty service the moment the first batch hit the deck in NZ, the latest iteration of the Blur has seen an array of filthy Bandito frothing, not to mention more trail riding than you’d give it credit for, but with a race plate on it’s been subjected to the following to establish it’s credentials:
- CHB MTB Challenge race
- The Prospector stage race
- The Volcanic Epic stage race
Awkwardly I have to walk a line here, as it wasn’t that long ago that I was stroking myself to a banditogasim about the Blur 3, and when I went back and re-read that write up, not only did I realise that I shot most of my best material on this topic all over your eyes already, but I ran the very real risk of repeating myself deep into loss of credibility territory.
I mean, naturally the question that’s always posed is does the latest iteration justify the upgrade? Surely if I’ve waxed lyrically about the Blur 3 to the point of being a biased cheerleader, isn’t the 4 just the same, but slightly better? No… That would be like saying Bryn Atkinson & Jill Kitners van is the same as the Rodfather’s because it has a mattress in it. To be noted, only one of those vans comes equipped with handcuffs.
So then, how to get some separation… Well, 1560km’s later, this is actually very easy to achieve and it goes like this:
The Blur 3 is an excellent XC bike, but the Blur 4 feels like what I would think racing a World Cup XC bike would be like
Er… Care to unpack that vibe? Sure! The Blur 3 was fucking excellent, you can tell that from the dribble coming out of my mouth as you read the long term write up. But getting on the Blur 4 you can instantly tell this is a whole different beast, and dare I say, one engineered solely for the purpose of winning World Cups.
Lucky for it that it did last season then right? Yes, a World Cup XC win was suspiciously absent from the Santa Cruz racing Pedigree, a gap it’s large balled brother the V10 would often point and giggle at (Shhh, no mention of Enduro podiums here please) as it jammed it’s Bandito brothers into a rubbish bin, but it helps sets the scene for my point that this bike has now won or been on the podium at multiple world cup rounds in 2022, not to mention what Keegan Swenson does on his one in the US.
So what exactly do I mean by that notion that this feels like how I would imagine a World Cup XC winning race bike to feel like? Well, a few things pop out:
- It’s smoother than a Vincent Vega foot rub, to the point that it almost makes it’s previous incarnation feel a bit wooden… The way the new lay-up rear stays, with their flatter shape, eat up chatter and vibration is eyebrowing raising in a “Damn, she said yes” kind of way
- The acceleration is even more impressive than the Rodfather seeing a sale for something he doesn’t need or want – This bike legitimately transfers every ounce of effort you want to give it into an acceleration result that instantly makes you feel fitter and fresher than you are in reality
- Its proper light – Not than the 3 was a porker, but this is now definitely in that world cup honey hole weight wise, something you will appreciate it even as you roll up to the start line 7kgs over your own race weight
- The shape of this thing is something else… The way the down tube meets up with that crazy shaped and baller seat tube, to the thick AF chain stays and those flat seat stays – The way it’s constructed and finished is fucking outstanding.
While you may also be thinking “Yeah, and it looks fucking great with tan sidewall tires“, an astute observation, it’s really the amalgamation of these three points which make this bike absolutely fucking addictive to ride on a lot of the tamer trail that many of us have at our disposal… Especially when it’s pointing upwards:
Without equal this is the best mountain bike I’ve ever ridden up a hill, particularly rewarding of out of the saddle efforts in a way that encourages more of such high energy antics. Its extremely rare that I feel compelled to use the lock out, but the way it returns investment on an out of the saddle burst is both smile inducing and feels like some dark magic given how much the B4 also like to pretend it’s really a trail bike when it’s time to head down.
Its so good in fact as a trail bike, something I hadn’t expected, that it inadvertently ended up becoming an assassin… And worse than that, it was responsible for the demise of its own brother. Yes, built up into it’s TR mode with a 120mm fork and proper brake rotors, I became more and more enamoured with reaching for the Blur 4 for a lot of the rides and trails I had time to squeeze in. This meant that I wasn’t reaching for the Tallboy with anywhere near the same regularity, as alarmingly, I just didn’t feel I needed to.
Riding a light, short travel, but strangely capable, rocket like this is intoxicating not just for how it makes you feel, but also for how much you get to avoid that horrendously dragging feeling of being overbiked on trail that really doesn’t warrant it. Yes, granted it’s as terrifying as someone from work finding your Only Fans account when said tame trail turns nasty and you find out the operational limits of 100mm of travel, but as cunts at work who are trying to motivate drones like to say: “Nothing awesome ever happens in your comfort zone“, or some such wank weasel words to that effect. The B4 is more than happy to party wherever you feel like sticking it:
I have to admit that it’s fucking weird how much I enjoy riding the Blur 4, so much so it got to the point where somehow I hadn’t ridden my Tallboy for almost a year. What a total down-cuntry conundrum – Your promiscuous XC bike behaving in a manner where it becomes impossible to justify your trail bike gathering dust…
This all ultimately resulted in a case of marrying your mistress, with the Tallboy making way in the shed as it passed it’s duties over to the new hottie and was banished to a life of having the Rodfather change literally every part bolted to it, yes, even the linkage, as it became yet another excuse for him to reinvent himself (Update – His ROI on that caper currently tracking at -50%).
Having won that tussle, it was time to get busy doing what the Blur 4 enjoys the most – Stage racing!
Combining my fever for this bike with having the excuse to race it 4 days in a row at the Volcanic Epic only served to reinforce all the points that caused me after my first ride on it to call Bandito inclined member of the DN Global Collective and issue a rare “Buy now” certification… My justification being that the upgrade was so compelling performance wise that once word got out it was going to rapidly depress the second hand Blur 3 market. Every member who’s jumped across has viscerally reinforced this sentiment, a further echo chambered validation that Santa Cruz have got a classic on their hands here.
Getting to race it back to back each day on the Volcanic Epic is the best way to deep dive into some intimacy with your machine, the immersion on a daily basis giving you the time and thinking space to assess its various qualities and quirks. Its usually during such times you also get to focus on any niggles or aspects that just drive you fucking nuts… Especially when grinding solo mid race in the middle of nowhere. Its a ringing endorsement then that I came out of those 4 days with not a single tweak, concern or issue with the Blur 4 – Indeed, quite the opposite.
Yes, it was a reinforcement to me not only how good the bike is, but also helped me to describe perhaps the culmination of all the elements I referred to above about why I froth on this rig: Its freshness. Every time you get on it, it feels fresh and alive… It’s eager to reward your input and pay a premium dividend out to you for any investment you send its way.
TLDR – Nothing distracts from the repetitive suffering of a stage race quite like the pure joy of riding your Blur.
Of course, there’s a good chance you’re here because you want to escape the Middle management mid-pack mediocrity of the other bike options on the market, and in that regard, the Blur is definitely your ticket out of the sea of mainstream options that make up this segment. The masses gravitate to the model from another Californian brand (Yawn), you penny pinching muthafuckas generally end up on a Giant Anthem or, worst case, a Merida, while the hipsters with long socks and elongated stories about craft beer/coffee bean grinding/how bad vegan food options are in the provinces will usually be spotted on a Cannondale Scalpel. If you feel compelled to not surrender to those cliches and type casting, the Blur awaits.
Some Technical stuff
So, enough about the vibe – How about some technical shit. Er… It’s all pretty straight forward to be honest, which again is one of the nice things about these machines. Set up is simple and out of the box it’s ready to hunt quicker than a Clicker looking for fresh meat.
I did the lazy parts swap over from the Blur 3, with little to no changes other than a bit of an XTR drive train refresh. I have debated swapping the rear shock out to a longer travel Fox model (Same eye to eye, slightly more stroke), but haven’t felt compelled enough to overcome my apathy for such an upgrade – Something I’ve now made harder since passing the Tallboy onto the Rodfather.
Yes, the 100mm version still comes with the lock out scenario – So do yourself a favour and immediately upgrade to the Bontrager dual control situation, because that’s about as tidy and functional a scenario as you can hope for… Fuck, it must be good if I’m giving something from Trek the thumbs up:
The only other change was to ditch the Rekon Race on the front and move back to a straight Rekon – Not exactly the full bandito credentials there, but fuck, you try keeping up with the Professor as he tears down ridiculously fast and loose Alexandra 4WD trails… I needed a bit more side knob to keep him in sight during the Prospector. I’d never really gelled with the Rekon Race upfront as it was, so the extra firepower has been appreciated.
So far in the 1,593km’s we’ve covered together there hasn’t been a single technical issue at all… Nothing loose, no rattles, no knocks, just continual smoothness. The build quality of the frame and the way it’s laid up around the BB and those flat seat stays confirming some legit engineering and quality control has gone into the final product, all to our significant benefit.
I haven’t yet had to do anything bearing wise either – Which is an important point, as if you’re going to invest the countless fucking hours required for the type of race effort the Blur loves, you want your shit to work and do so reliably. In all the races I’ve done so far, not once did I have to think about the Blur from either a set up or maintenance perspective – exactly how you want life as you hate your own face thinking about having yet another fucking banana.
The Blur now has some serious competition in the “Riiiiide me” stakes, with the Nomad 6 naturally doing it’s best Roman impression to win parental attention, and yes, admittedly it’s mulleted antics are what excites me the most… But I also know that based on the trail I have at my disposal, the thrill of the lightweight world cup winning trail rocket is fucking difficult to walk past most days…
Like I’ve said before, the bike we want is seldom the bike we need, and while I suspect that most people buy this machine as an XC race bike, I also predict most won’t have expected it to feel like an absolute trail missile as a fantastic byproduct.
Riding the Blur at full gas on a trail you’d usually reserve for a bigger bike is as thrilling as it is surprising, and precisely the reason I’m already frothing for summer as I flip back and forth between this full spectrum polygamy set up.