After a season on the Santa Cruz TRc it remains my favorite trail bike to date. It’s light, flickable, tears up climbs and descends well; even on terrain that would challenge other short travel machines. For a bike with a minimal amount of rear suspension travel it’s surprisingly capable. I love how light it is, (and feels) and how every undulation on the trail is a chance to play. Frame geometry is dialed for ripping turns at high speed, and although it only possesses 125mm of rear suspension movement, the quality of the travel is top notch. I’ve never felt like it held me back while riding with friends astride 140-150mm travel trail machines, thanks to how well the rear shock ramps up. In fact, I generally ride it in the same fashion as my longer travel, and more capable Nomad, as the ride is so confidence inspiring.
Other than the cockpit and seat post, my build hasn’t changed much since the initial post. Drivetrain duties consist of a 2×10 Shimano XT/XTR group, with the brakes and derailleurs upgraded to XTR. With over 1000 miles on the drive train, shifting and braking is still dialed, although the XTR clutch spring now needs re-tensioning. The chain moves around quite a bit more than it used to. The clutch mechanism in the rear derailleur has performed impressively, and kept chain derailments to a minimum, without the need for a chain guide. Although I’ve spoken out against the need for 10 speeds on the rear, the 2×10 drivetrain has held up well, and other than a hiccup 300 miles in with a twisted link, (replaced courtesy of Shimano at the Ashland Enduro last year) I haven’t had any major issues. Having run a clutch derailleur, there’s no way I’d go back to riding without one on my trail bike unless I’m also running a chain tensioning device.
The build began with XT brakes. When X-Mas came around, I decided to treat myself to an upgrade to XTR BR-988 Trail disc brakes, and they are nothing short of amazing. Reliable, with a great feel at the lever, they are easily adjustable (same as the XTs) but have the addition of a bit of knurling on the brake lever. While there really isn’t much of a major performance upgrade, (weight savings is about 46 grams over the XT BL-M785 brakes) they look amazing, and they’re like, really, really good-looking. And they’re XTR, and XTR is freakin’ sweet. Assuming you can afford it/ justify it.
At this point I’m a Shimano fan through and through; the components are reliable and durable, easily serviceable and light weight. I wish I could say that for the components I’m running on some of my other bikes. In fact, my only complaint would be on the black XT cranks. Unlike SLX or XTR, the all black crank doesn’t feature the machined center area, and my feet have rubbed much of the anodizing off to the point the crank arms look like total crap. If the silver option had been in stock in my length (I run 170mm as the bb is already low enough; I’m also accustomed to the shorter length from my DH/ All Mountain Bikes) it would have been my pick. If I ever get another XT crank like this in black, I’ll make sure to find some kind of plastic adesive protector for the finish, although I personally I think I shouldn’t have to— the SLX cranks on my Nomad are two seasons old now and look just fine. Shimano, implement a solution already.
One of the highlights of the build has been an upgrade from a Gravity Dropper Turbo to a 5″ Travel Fox DOSS adjustable height seat post. Having run a few other adjustable height posts in the past, the DOSS is by far the best performing and most reliable of them all. Unlike the Gravity Dropper or my Rockshox Reverb, it hasn’t required any service, and is still working flawlessly 9 months later. I wish I could say the same for the Reverb, which has seen multiple bleeds and a broken remote switch. I’ve also found that the housing on the Reverb has been coming in contact with the rear tire, and will need to be replaced at some point. Similarly, the Gravity Dropper, while serviceable, has seen a number of the components in need of replacement. At this point the DOSS gets a glowing recommendation as my favorite seat post to date.
Wheel-wise, I bounced back and forth between Sun Ringle’s Black Flag XC wheels and their Charger Pro All Mountain wheels initially on the build. The irony is that because the Blag Flags were such a pain (at least without a compressor on hand) to set up tubeless, I ran them with tubes. The heavier, wider and more capable Charger Pros are set up tubeless, and interestingly enough, the weight of the build with the more capable all mountain wheelset stayed within a quarter pound of the weight of the XC wheels with tubes. Decision made— moving forward I started running the more capable, much more confidence inspiring all mountain wheels with the weight of the complete bike hovering around 27.5lbs as pictured below. With a short 50mm stem, the bike was amazingly light and playful at a weight that left my Nomad behind in the dust any time pedaling was involved.
At one point the Chargers were needed to make my Nomad ridable, so I laced up a set of hubs with WTB i23 rims to have a second all mountain rated wheelset on hand. I elected to run a 2.2 WTB Wolverine tire in the rear matched to a 2.3 Bronson in the front with a tubeless setup to see if I could drop some weight. It ended up being a bad call, as I continued to ride the TRc like a mini-Nomad down our local DH(ish) trail and blew a hole in the tubeless casing of the brand new 2.2 Wolverine on the first ride out. Lesson learned— my aggressive riding style clearly requires larger volume tires. Credit goes to the TRc though, as I’d never attempt to ride as aggressively on an a different trail bike with similar suspension travel. In hindsight, running the smaller air volume tire was a bit silly, but I was aiming for a Blur XC advantage on the uphills. The beauty of the TRc is that you can go with a stupid light build, or swing the other direction and build it up more like an all mountain bike. If you’re an aggressive rider though, you’ll want to stay conservative with the rubber; the TRc wants to rip down the trail.
With my cockpit, I changed my Shimano Tharsis bar and stem combo out for a more aggressive setup. (my girlfriend Inga inherits the 28″ wide Tharsis bar, and she loves them) My preference is to run a short 50mm stem with wider handlebars. Looking to run something wider than the 28″ wide carbon Tharsis bar, I tried out my Easton Havoc DH bar (750mm wide) I settled with the Answer ProTaper carbon DH bars in the low rise model.
I hate cutting bars down, but my preference is on 750mm/ 29.5″ wide bars for all around riding, (I run 785mm/ 31″ bars on the DH machine) and they’ve been serving me well. The Tharsis stem was also changed out to a Thomson model which was more confidence inspiring.
Go Solo? The Wheel Size Debate
Here’s where my love affair with the TRc ends. After a year of riding, I’ve decided that my medium frame is too small. I’m now rolling on a size large.
Although top tubes lengths were extended from the Blur LT, the reach of the medium Blur Trail is considerably shorter than medium frame offerings from other manufacturers. In fact, when stacked up with my brother’s (size medium) Stumpjumper Evo, although the effective top tube lengths matched up, the actual reach on the medium TR was about 1/4″ shorter. Effectively the difference between a 50 and 70mm stem. In order to have the same cockpit feel of the Evo, I needed a 70mm stem, and lost the ability to run the shorter stem. Coming from a BMX/DH background, my handling preferences strongly put me towards the 50mm. Although for all around trail use I can rip just fine with the 70mm stem, it is a compromise I’ve been pretty unhappy with. So much so I finally elected to part with the medium frame. Here’s where the issue lies: switching to the large frame also means giving up stand over height. The seat tube length of the large is 19.5″ center to top. Unless you have a 32″ inseam or longer, you’re going to be stuck running a 4″ dropper post, which in turn could possible put a huge damper on how rad you can get on advanced terrain. It appears to be somewhat common problem though. Saddle manufacturers like SDG have been working to develop saddles with lower stack heights to solve this very issue. I’ve complained about this off line quite a bit, and apparently I’m not alone, as subsequent model releases like the Bronson and Solo have addressed this by lowering the seat tube height a full inch on the large size frames for a managable 18.5″ seat tube length. In fact, the new 27.5/650b version of the TRc, the Solo also resolves this problem, making it a more appealing option, even if you aren’t sold on having larger wheels.
Personally, I have yet to be completely sold on the tweener wheel size yet. There are reports of plenty of riders running 650b wheels in the TRc. Since the bottom bracket height is too low for some riding styles, the taller wheels actually help. After a few quick spins on the Bronson, I decided larger, meatier tires were in order, and mounted up a set of 2.35 Hans Dampf tires from Schwalbe. At 995 grams each in the Super Gravity casing, the heavier tires easily add half a pound to the overall weight of the TRc, but the resulting ride quality offered a similar ride feel to the larger tweener wheels, and I’m planning to spend the next few month pounding the local trails with the more aggressive rubber to see how it goes. I’m hoping to do a head to head with the new Solo to see how it stacks up.
Mountain bikers looking to get their shred on used to choose between long travel trail bikes or all mountain bikes when seeking out the ideal rig for their optimal trail riding experience. There really wasn’t much of a difference in travel between the two options though- just a measly 10mm. The labels were more descriptions of what one could expect in terms of geometry, and descenting/ handling traits. Long travel trail bikes were generally spec’d with 150mm of travel front and rear, while all mountain machines had about 160mm. It wasn’t a very big difference, but all mountain bikes also had relaxed geometry, with head angles set at about 67º or so, while their long travel XC breathren had head angles 1-2º steeper. All mountain rigs were generally heavier, with 36mm stanchions on the forks that provided additional stiffness, and were confindence inspiring when descending. Long travel XC bikes had 32mm stanchions forks, and they weren’t as confidence inspiring, but their forks weighed in at a pound less. Until 15mm through axles were introduced, they also were too flexy for most.
It seemed to be pretty cut and dry. If your other bike was a DH rig, you had an all mountain bike and you dealt with the heavier weight going up to rip the downhills going down. The irony was that many of the lower end long travel XC machines had similar overall weights. But then forks were improved, and a lighter weight fork with a through axle became an option that was adopted quickly across the board. The Cane Creek Angleset changed the game as well. And those of us that live to rip turns rejoiced, as we could build up lighter trail bikes that handled similarly to the all mountain machines we loved to descend on. The difference was that if someone blazed past you on a climb in a lycra kit, it wasn’t the bike’s weight that was holding you back from catching up. These days we get the best of both worlds in bikes like Santa Cruz’s Blur TRc. With a frame weight that is just slightly more than the Blur XC, a flagship XC racer, it was possible to build up a bike that flew up climbs. With relaxed head angles, and a slack bottom bracket height, and shorter rear chain stays, it also handles amazing. On an average trail ride the 125mm of rear wheel travel meant the bike accelerated with the best of them, and it has just enough travel for local trails. I’ve been riding one for almost a year now, and aside from the sizing issues, it has been my favorite all around mountain bike to date.
Click here for Part One of the Blur TRc Review