I recently realised that Meat Loaf gets hardly any airtime on radio. Well, not the broader range of his epic, almost operatic, balls-to-the-wall rock marathons. I suppose the issue is that they are ‘marathons’ and not neat little numbers that fit into three minutes with a couple of repeats of the chorus. In the spirit of research I did a 150-minute ride while streaming his music, and ever since then I can’t get the raise-the-dead chorus of Bat Out Of Hell
out of my head.
Since Thursday last week my brain has been similarly active, getting to grips with the experience of riding the Santa Cruz Blur. When I took delivery of the Tallboy in December, I knew that a top secret, super-light marathon bike was on its way. The timing didn’t quite work out for us to ride Cape Epic on Blur, but I’m pleased I had that time to bond even more closely with the Tallboy.
I felt extremely conflicted to hand it over in anticipation of the Blur taking its place, because, well, Tallboy. That bike just takes whatever you throw at it in its stride (assuming that a bike could have a stride, of course).
While waiting for the Blur to arrive, I was back on Yeti for a couple of weeks, which gave me a gradual transition. The Yeti is a bit lighter than Tallboy, and the Blur is lighter still, weighing under 10kg.
It might be an exaggeration to say that Newton’s Second Law rules my life, but not by much. The weight carried by racehorses (i.e. jockey plus saddle and any lead added to get up to the weight the horse has been allocated to carry) has a measurable drag effect. Over 1600m this equates to 2 lbs per length (approximately 8 foot), which gets scaled in either direction. So, the drag effect over 1200m is 3 lbs per length, and 3200m is 1 lb per length. Weight also enters the equation via weight-for-age (WFA), whereby horses of different age are allocated different weights to make up for the difference in maturity (younger horses carry less weight).
Similarly, a lighter bicycle enables you to go faster while expending the same effort, or to take it a little easier and still ride at the same pace. So, my post-Epic rides on Yeti delivered a bunch of new PRs on sections that were flat or uphill. I wasn’t necessarily a slow coach on the descents, but I had to think about it a lot more than when riding Tallboy.
Then I rode the Blur. I purposely rode the same routes as I’d ridden with the Yeti. The times improved again, and not by marginal degrees. By a lot. I smashed my remaining 2015 PRs, from when I had close to 100% of my breathing capacity (and I was still in my 40s).
If this seems like vanity, please forgive me, but there is another angle to this. I could be taking advantage of the bike’s lightness to save effort. Making climbs easier is the reason why people ride ebikes. The Blur effect might be low on the scale of percentage power provided by an ebike, but up to a point it does the same job.
Riding the Blur, compared with the other bikes I’ve ridden, is like putting your car into Sport mode. It’s just so responsive to even gentle turns of the crank. And, of course, if you put the hammer down it flies. When you feel you want to take a little break on a climb, the bike’s lightness enables you to expend less energy getting to the top.
That it’s lighter and faster is measurable. The rest of what follows is my experience/opinion. I’m not a pro rider, so bear that in mind when reading my comments on the experience of riding the Blur.
If you’ve ever sat on a racehorse in full training (i.e. fit and geed up) you’d have some sense of the feeling that absolutely anything can happen at a moment’s notice. Plus, looking down on the horse’s muscular neck between the reins accords with the sleekness of the Blur’s design.
Following on the experience of bonding very closely with Tallboy, it’s not unexpected that I’d be looking at the Blur’s descending capabilities first. Coming from a stable that has downhill in its DNA, I knew it would be there.
Thus far, I haven’t ridden really sketchy trails, but on everything I’ve done thus far, it’s been quick on downhills as well. The difference is that I found myself being more conscious of using body weight to keep everything under control. It’s definitely a more cerebral experience, in the sense of me having to think more about what I’m doing.
Which brings me to the tyres. The standard kit for Blur is 2.25 inch tyres. I’m a big fan of riding 2.35, because one can ride them softer. It took me a little while to get in tune with the rhythm of riding the Blur (i.e. for my body to adapt to the point of being able to subconsciously anticipate how the bike is going to respond to the trail). Now I just want more of it.
I started off questioning Santa Cruz’s choice of 2.25 over 2.35, because I think the wider tyres ridden at lower pressure will give a better ride. However, the 2.25s give more than enough traction, and one does get used to the slight bit of extra bounce of the harder tyres on rocky sections (I think I’m still going to change the tyres, though).
I love how responsive the bike is to small shifts in body weight, especially on twisty-turny trails.
The Blur’s single lock-out for both shocks works well, leaving the bike pretty much as rigid as a hardtail, for times when one is out of the saddle.
I’ve done a bit of comparing of Tallboy and Blur, which isn’t entirely fair, because they are built for slightly different purposes. They are both great bikes, it just depends what kind of riding you want to do. Which is not to say that there isn’t crossover – we had a great Epic on Tallboys, and there will be plenty of casual trail riders picking the Blur because it’s easier to ride up hills.
The Blur experience is more racehorse than rock music, but it goes like a bat out of hell.