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When Santa Cruz stepped onto the 29er playing field, it did so with highly refined geometries in carbon chassis. Those bikes quickly became the industry standard for weight, strength, and handling, but it meant that they came with carbon fiber's predictable price tag. However, those days over. The Highball R XC Complete Mountain Bike shares the same geometry as its carbon cousins, only it uses aluminum to keep its ticket of admission more palatable.

This isn't a cheap seat, however. Equipped with the R XC kit, the Highball sports Shimano Deore and SLX components, a tubeless wheelset, the FOX 32 FLOAT 29 CTD 100 fork, and Shimano Deore brakes. With this stellar package, the Highball is capable of carrying competent riders to any XC podium. And while the almighty black weave has become the favored medium for "high-end" mountain bikes, Santa Cruz's renowned hydroformed-aluminum expertise results in a responsive and lightweight frame for these components to hang off of.

At the rear end of the Highball, you'll find adjustable dropouts for either singlespeed or geared use. They've been connected to shapely, large-volume-tire clearing seatstays and stout chainstays. This gives the aluminum frame excellent dampening on choppy trails and extremely responsive acceleration over a variety of terrain. At the bottom bracket junction, you'll discover an asymmetric, forged chainstay yoke that provides maximum strength and stiffness while ensuring adequate tire and chainring allowances.

Connecting the rear triangle to the front triangle are material-optimized, hydroformed top and down tubes. In addition to these, Santa Cruz also incorporated a stout, tapered head tube. This combination ensures the best mix of strength, weight, and stiffness. But these design features would be useless if the geometry was cobbled from inexperience or archaic industry norms. Instead, its short 17.3-inch chainstays put your center of gravity over the rear wheel for a surprising amount of flick'ability out of a 29er chassis. Adding to the aggressive race feel is a short head tube -- only 3.9 inches in the Medium and Large frame sizes. This, combined with the 70.5 degree head tube angle, gives you a compact, fast-steering front end that allows you to get into a powerful cross-country position.

The Highball R XC Complete Bike comes with an Evolution series FOX FLOAT fork that has a 15mm thru axle, 100mm of travel, and the easy-to-tune CDT damping system. The wheels consist of WTB tubeless i19 TCS rims laced to SRAM MTH 716 hubs, wrapped in Maxxis Ikon 2.2in tubeless tires. The cockpit contains a Race Face Ride seatpost, stem, and bars with a WTB Volt Race saddle.

Shimano SLX shifters direct an SLX rear derailleur over an SLX 11-36t cassette. Both the front derailleur and crankset come from Shimano's Deore groupset, with the crankset carrying a triple chainring setup. Finishing off the build is a set of Shimano's respected Deore brakes.

The Santa Cruz Highball R XC Complete Mountain Bike is available in four sizes from Small to X-Large and in the colors Gloss Black, Gloss Red, and Traffic Blue. Please note that Santa Cruz states that with a 22-inch top tube length and 28.3-inch standover, the Small size of R XC is a little shorter and lower than your typical X-Small sizes.

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