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We'll admit that having full squish on certain trails is a blast, but on all but the gnarliest runs it's hard to beat the sprightly responsiveness, precise lines, and effortless speed of a hardtail like the 2017 Santa Cruz Highball Carbon 29 S Complete Mountain Bike. Breaking the tradition mold, the Highball takes an aggressive stance with an elongated top tube and stable wheelbase that lets it tackle terrain that would make other hardtails stop in their tracks. The S build gets finished off with SRAM's GX one-by drivetrain, Level TL hydraulic disc brakes, and Race Face hoops to deftly conquer the trail.
Despite a new paint job, the latest frame is still the same rebellious answer to the super cushy, slacked out enduro trend dominating the news feeds as of late. Santa Cruz uses a lower modulus carbon for Highball Carbon C frame than that used in the top-end Carbon CC models, so more material is required to achieve the same stiffness and durability. The tradeoff is that those few grams also come with a big decrease in cost. The whole frame is a single layup instead of a jigsaw puzzle of individually-cured carbon tubes, so the fibers wrap continuously through structurally important junctures like the head tube and bottom bracket. This strengthens the frame by dissipating the force from impacts, and also more efficiently channels pedal input.
To accommodate its big wheels, the Highball 29's chainstays register at a hair under 17 inches, but a steep head tube brings the wheelbase to over a half-inch shorter than the smaller-wheeled Highball 27.5. The Highball 29 is nimble enough to gently pick through trail furniture and charge through berms, and still shines brightest when cranking up the watts to full throttle. The 12 x 142mm rear axle keeps the rear triangle's stiffness on point to ensure that every possible watt goes straight into the trail, and the slimmed-down 27.2mm seatpost helps alleviate chatter from the countless more miles of trail you'll be able to travers compared to the hulking six-inch mosters your buddies are on.
- A snappy XC endurance hardtail
- 29in wheels handle obstacles with ease
- Santa Cruz Bicycles' more affordable Carbon C construction
- SRAM's GX one-by drivetrain provides ample gearing options
- Steep head tube and short wheelbase for precise handling
- Steep front end stays on point while climbing
- Item #SNZ00AZ