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No Santa Cruz model can match the balance of weight and stiffness of its signature 29er hardtail -- the Highball Carbon. And with those frame credentials matched up to the SPX XC complete mountain bike build, sporting a Shimano XT build with hand-laced, tubeless wheels and a Factory Series FOX 32 FLOAT, it's going to be hard for other 29ers to keep pace with this potent cocktail.

The secret to the feathery weight of the Highball is a one-piece carbon lay-up and curing process, as opposed to assembling joints that require bonding or wrapping. In structurally important locations like the headtube and bottom bracket, continuous fibers flow around the junctions and spread throughout the frame. The layers are compacted from the inside as they’re applied, which eliminates voids, prevents delamination, and creates a smooth, stress-free interior with no waste -- in short, it cuts excess material while making the frame stronger.

The resulting construction distributes lateral, vertical, and torsional loads throughout the frame to boost the Highball’s performance. This design absorbs impact energy, while efficiently and accurately transferring bio-inputs like steering and propulsion. Translated into trail talk, this means the Highball will hit the bricks when you stomp on the pedals, dampen high-speed chatter, and hold lines like a cat on carpet.

Complementing those inherent characteristics is Santa Cruz's performance-oriented SPX XC build. Starting out, a Factory Series FOX 32 FLOAT Fit CTD with a tapered steerer tube and the 15QR thru-axle ensure 29ers’ dreaded steering deflection is a thing of the past. The Fit CTD damper offers distinct settings for climbing, trail, and descending, which makes for a simplified user interface and performance. If you haven’t stood on the pedals of a carbon hardtail with a Fox in the climb setting, you’re in for a g-force surprise.

The meat and potatoes of the SPX XC kit consist of Shimano's reliable, performance-oriented XT components. A stiff, hollow aluminum XT crank spins 26/38 chainrings, which, through a HG 74 chain, twists a M771 11-36T cassette. This offers all the gear ratios a strong rider needs to get around the mountain quickly and efficiently. The XT trigger shifters’ precise actuation quickly directs XT derailleurs to your selected ratio. The Highball’s speed is kept in check with powerful, light XT hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm IceTech rotors.

For wheels, Santa Cruz hand laces WTB Frequency Team i19 TCS rims to DT Swiss 350 hubs with 14/15-gauge double butted spokes. Maxxis Crossmark tires provide an ideal balance of low rolling resistance with traction. Finishing off the build is an Easton EA70 bar and stem, and Thomson seatpost topped with a WTB saddle.

The Santa Cruz Highball Carbon SPX XC Complete Mountain Bike is available in Medium through XX-Large sizes and comes in Black/Green, Black/Black, Matte Carbon/Silver, or Carbon/Red.

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SC Fast and Fun

  • Familiarity:I've put it through the wringer

I bought the SLX equipped version of the HighBall from Comp Cyclist for an amazing deal and rebuilt with XT parts I had on hand with Stan's Crest/KING hub wheels, a Fox TALALS/Terralogic fork and slapped on an ENVE carbon bar (cut down 20mm). The build was intended to replace an outgoing 29er (Gary Fisher SuperFly HT) as my

SC Fast and Fun

killer looks with speed to match

  • Familiarity:I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

Right out of the box, you feel how light the bike is. After assembly, I when for a ride on various terrains and climbed a couple small hills. What power and agility, you can feel it from the first pedal stroke. The components worked flawlessly and the tires had plenty of grip. I can't find a single thing to change or complain about. It's a great bike!