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Description

The thrill of the ride without the agony of a second mortgage.

When we look at the Santa Cruz Highball Aluminum R XC Complete Bike, we see speed. We see rock gardens, steep climbs, and tiring competitors slipping behind us. Race-ready with a higher-performance build than the D XC kit, this bike takes no prisoners—yet for some reason, it has a soft spot for wallets.

The Highball rolled out last year as Santa Cruz's first full-carbon hardtail, and was received by the masses like a conquering hero. This year, Santa Cruz has put its renowned expertise with hydroformed aluminum to work to create a frame that mimics the performance of the carbon version, but at a friendlier price point. Additionally, the geometry of the Highball Aluminum is identical to that of its carbon brother.

And speaking of geometry, there's a lot to like with the Highball. Its shortish 17.3in chainstays put your center of gravity more over the rear wheel. This position provides a surprising amount of flickability—the Highball lacks the lumbering feel of some 29ers. It pops out of corners and navigates tight, technical lines with glee. For this reason, if you've been considering moving up to a big wheeler, but have been wary because of some the common objections—such as reduced maneuverability and slower acceleration—this bike may make you question the validity of claims about what a 29er can't do.

To be clear—this is a race-oriented machine. You'll be responsible for absorbing most of the bumps when you're in the saddle as you roll over technical terrain. For a cushier ride, you may want to look at a bike with longer chainstays. Adding to the aggressive, racy feel of the Highball is a short headtube—only 3.9 inches in the Medium and Large frame sizes. This gives you a compact front end that allows you to get into a powerful cross-country position.

In addition to dialing in the geometry, Santa Cruz incorporated several worthwhile finishing touches. A strut reinforces the brake-side rear dropout to provide confident, vibration-free braking. This is a feature you'll appreciate, considering that 29ers require more stopping power due to their larger wheel diameter and greater rolling mass. Look down near the bottom bracket of the Highball Aluminum and you'll discover an asymmetric, forged chainstay yoke that provides maximum strength and stiffness while ensuring adequate tire and chainring clearance.

The Highball Aluminum R XC Complete Bike comes standard with fixed dropouts for geared use, but they're removable. Santa Cruz offers swinger-style dropouts for single-speed conversion. Up front, you get a RockShox Reba RL 29 fork, which offers 100mm of plush, tunable travel through its Dual Air and Motion Control systems. This fork is also 100 grams lighter for 2012. The wheels consist of durable Mavic rims laced to Shimano hubs, and they're wrapped in Maxxis Crossmark 2.1in folding tires. The cockpit contains a TruVativ Stylo Race stem and TruVativ Stylo Team bars. Shimano SLX shifters toggle XT front and rear derailleurs for smooth, dependable shifting performance. A Shimano triple crankset ensures you'll have the right ratio for any terrain. Rounding out the package are Avid Elixir 5 brakes.

The Santa Cruz Highball Aluminum R XC Complete Bike is available in Small through X-Large sizes. Santa Cruz points out that the 22in top tube length and 28.3in standover on the Small size are shorter and lower than some competitors' X-Small sizes. The Highball Aluminum comes in two color options: Pearl White/green and Traffic Blue/orange.

US Santa Cruz dealers are prohibited from shipping Santa Cruz bicycles outside of the United States.


  • Swinging rear dropouts for geared or singlespeed use
  • Ultra-stiff tapered headtube
  • Sexy hydroformed toptube and downtube for a super-stiff front triangle
  • Asymmetrical forged chainstay yoke adds stiffness, strength, and chainring clearance
  • Threaded bottom bracket shell is the most easily serviceable and universal design

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Unanswered Question

Looking for a hardtail not necessarily a...

Posted on

Looking for a hardtail not necessarily a 29er, how does this ride perform? I am thinking of getting this SC or the Highball D XC. I miss the hardtail feeling but don't know if I should get the carbon or aluminum.

What does a small weigh?

Posted on

What does a small weigh?

Responded on

Hey Mike,

I unfortunately don't have an exact weight for you since it is not listed. Should definitely come in sub 26lbs tho.