Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I'm Deeead Sexy. You Are Craaap.

Ok, so back to geeking out about bikes real quick... I got to ride a Blur XC Carbon last week (sadly only size L), and let me tell you it is dead sexy. DEAD SEXY. It also has the most balanced set of features on any of the bikes I've ridden so far; not the best in any category but really good at everything.

Actually I take that back, there is one thing it's really really good at: Climbing the bumpy stuff.

Every suspension linkage has a characteristic set of properties. A design can tweak the angles and lengths here and there to find a sweet spot, but a single pivot will squat under braking, a Horst-link will bob (minus the brain), etc. no matter what you do. In my test riding I was careful to ride the breadth of common designs: a single-pivot, a Horst 4-bar, and a seatstay-pivot 4-bar, with the Blur being the first and only VPP (virtual pivot point) style linkage (yes, I know there are many versions, but a guy only has so much time to test bikes). Of all the bikes I've ridden so far, the VPP bike far outperformed all the others when climbing my sample flight of stairs. The single-pivot and seatstay 4-bar jacked noticeably under pedaling, the Horst-link didn't noticeably jack, but felt lifelessly squishy. The VPP, by contrast, absorbed enough bump to take the edge off, but felt confidently rigid -- it was almost as if the stairs got half as big and I was riding a hardtail. Cool beans, I say.

So buy a Blur, right? If only it was so simple. Like the Epic, this thing has a lot going for it but is balanced by a few things that make me shy away (other than the price). There's still something that makes me uncomfortable about a shock that needs well over 200psi to get the right sag -- this could be totally irrational, but I trust my engineer gut on these things. (If someone can make a good argument for HP shocks, the comments section is calling your name...) It also only took 20 min for me to chip the clearcoat of the carbon on the bottom of the chainstay with a slappy chain. Imagine that after 3 racing seasons... Finally, the placement of the lower linkage makes it vulnerable to bashing if you don't run a big chainring (I often don't), which wouldn't be sooo bad if the grease port wasn't sticking out of the bottom of it in prime location to get whacked off by a log...

Conclusion: If I had infinite money or a sponsor and could buy two (one for when the other is broken), Blur all the way. In the real world, not so much.

Despite my skepticism regarding the durability of the Blur in the NE gnar, SC bikes ride darn well across the board. There's not much that beats my Superlight's suspension feel on descents, and I've owned it for eight seasons with minimal problems (half of the broken frame in '06 was my fault for having a seatpost that was 1/2" too short). That's a pretty good endorsement for continued support, especially when the new one is nearly 2" longer.

By the numbers, the SL and the blur look very similar, especially if you throw a 650B on the front (a mod under consideration - click image for big):
Additinally, I get to keep my Progressive 5th Element Air, which is IMO the best feeling MTB shock ever produced. They can still be serviced by Garageworks as well, despite the fact that Progressive ran from the MTB biz, licensing their great design to Manitou who butchered it with a rusty cleaver (I know, I have a S-Type SR SPV and it feels like a chunk of wood by comparison to the 5th).

New Superlight gets here in a week...

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