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Aside from skipping the complexity and weight of rear suspension, hardtails also forgo long wheelbases for the lightest, most nimble 29er platform. Sure, there's terrain that favors an FS platform, but in its element, nothing's going to match the speed and rewarding behavior of a nicely spec'd Santa Cruz Highball Carbon Mountain Bike Frame.

Santa Cruz dialed its carbon craft on its latest round of full suspension designs. And here, Santa Cruz put its knowledge and experience to good use in order to create a super-light, race-ready 29er hardtail. With the Highball Carbon, Santa Cruz employs all of its proprietary molding techniques to achieve a groundbreaking level of stiffness and strength.

By using a one-piece lay-up, as opposed to assembling joints that require bonding or wrapping, Santa Cruz eliminated any excess material and weight. This one-piece process incorporates continuous fibers around the tube junctions, resulting in a structure that can efficiently distribute loads and absorb impact energy. The net-shape lay-up has been compacted to promote an optimum cloth/resin ratio, and to ensure that Santa Cruz can control the outside shape as well as the inside shape.

The frame looks as good on the inside as it does on the outside. Even the cable and hose guides are incorporated into the original layup. There's nary a rivet to be found. To enhance stiffness and tracking, the Highball utilizes the same mixed tapered headset as the Blur LT Carbon and Tallboy. This headset format offers benefits and a few options that are worth considering.

The zero stack upper bearing assembly has a minimal stack height that allows a slammed, cross-country handlebar position. And while we might normally pair this frame with a traditional 1.5in lower cup that would accept a tapered steerer, there is always the option of running a zero stack lower bearing assembly with a straight 1-1/8in steerer. This can steepen the head angle a bit if that's the way that you like it. As is, with a traditional cup on the bottom, the Highball has a 70.5-degree head angle.

The Highball tubes don't stray too far from simple rounded shapes. To us, it means that the design and engineering team at Santa Cruz were bent to make this thing all business. While its demure styling has its own quiet appeal, it's obvious that the Highball is all about function. And that purpose has to do with putting the power to the ground.

The chainstays and seat tube are a great example. They've been optimized for supreme uphill traction and nimble handling in twisty singletrack. To achieve this characteristic, the stays use a short 17.3in design. This has been made possible by Santa Cruz putting a subtle bend into the seat tube just a few inches above the bottom bracket to allow more rear tire clearance.

The tapered head tube (44mm to 49mm ID) requires a mixed tapered 1-1/8 x 1-1/2-inch headset. It also takes a 30.9mm seatpost and a 34.9mm high-clamp, top-pull front derailleur. The 12x142mm QR rear dropouts come with an axle, and they have ISO disc brake tabs. For those of you intend on using SRAM XX, know that the Highball has ample clearance to run the narrower Q156 crank.

The Santa Cruz Highball Carbon Mountain Bike Frame is available in four sizes from Medium to XX-Large sizes and in the colors Black/green and Black/black.

The frame has a five year warranty against manufacturing defects. Please note that US Santa Cruz dealers are prohibited from shipping Santa Cruz bicycles outside of the United States.

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  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

medium frame - 2.42lb (1,102g)

This is still one of the best/fastest frames I've ever ridden. Its as smooth and nimble as a hardtail 29er can get. I've owned superflys, Niners, and a number of FS bikes and I have to say this is a race winning machine on most courses. If you have any questions or would like help with a build I'd be happy to help. or 801-736-6396 ext 5630

I like PBR, but a Highball will do.

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This Spring I put together a custom configuration with the Highball Carbon, XX1, Reynolds carbon wheels and Sid XX Word Cup fork. The total weight came in at 20lbs with pedals and cages. I was overjoyed. I am exceeding weight conscious on my bike. So step one was complete, build up a light hardtail. All of this weight loss would be useless if the bike can't perform. The summer trails in the Park City, UT area consist of long, long, long climbs and screaming descents. The trails are well maintained and range from completely buff to very technical. The Highball handled all of it. Of course the lightweight helped on the climbs, but the lateral stiffness was apparent when I stood up and laid down the power. This lateral stiffness was also apparent on the downhill, which allowed me to rail the berms and let the bike go. The only downside to the Highball would come in extremely technical, rock gardens. The frame never felt out of control in these situations, but it takes a lot of skill to handle the tech sections and the Highball never hindered my performance compared to other non-suspension bikes. I would highly recommend the Highball if you are looking for the fastest possible frame for the climbs, but still offers the performance on the rougher trails.

I like PBR, but a Highball will do.

Winner- Best Carbon Hardtail

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I have hundreds of miles on this bike now and from day 1 I can say its the best I've ridden- and I've owned more bikes than i can remember in my last 15 years of riding. From the solid, stable geometry, to the bullet proof construction and design, there is absolutely nothing I would change on this bike,

Longest ride to Date on the bike: 73 miles with 13k ft of climbing.