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Supercharged singletrack slayer.
Don't call it a comeback, 29ers have been here for years and with recent suspension designs and geometry tweaks, wagon wheels are now roosting into primetime for the trail, enduro, and even downhill segments of the market. 29ers have been the go-to wheel size for cross-country riders for over a decade and if you've ever ridden one, there's no real substitute for the speed and agility of a steeper angled 29-inch hardtail. Santa Cruz Bicycles has done its own work on the 29er suspension front, but the Highball 29 Carbon CC Mountain Bike Frame remains a pure cross-country speed machine. Riding a hardtail is such a treat because, with no squish and the reduced weight, the bike is so efficient and easy to propel uphill. Santa Cruz's Carbon CC construction also maximizes weight loss and stiffness, further contributing to the rocket ship qualities that made us first fall in love with 29ers all those years ago.
The Highball 29er's frame is a single-piece layup of carbon fiber instead of a jigsaw puzzle of individually-cured carbon tubes. This allows Santa Cruz to wrap the fibers continuously around structurally important junctures like the head tube and bottom bracket, strengthening the frame, dissipating the force from impacts and pedaling loads, and allowing for comparable strength with less material. Translated into trail talk, this means it blasts forward when you stomp on the pedals, damps high-speed chatter, and carves corners like it's on rails. All of that while coming in at a low weight that'll give any full-suspension bike an eating disorder.
The Highball does somewhat address the lack of rear suspension with a diminished seatpost, slimmed down to 27.2 millimeters. While this doesn't quite equate to the square-edge hit capabilities of the Tallboy or a Hightower, it does help to muffle trail chatter that will otherwise accumulate over the course of a long ride. Up front, the 29-inch model has a sharper head tube angle than the Highball 27.5 so it dances nimbly through switchbacks and technical sections. Although it has longer chainstays than the 27.5 version, The Highball 29er actually has a shorter wheelbase, courtesy of that head tube angle, which contributes to the confident and nimble handling when quarters get tight.
Finally, Santa Cruz's approach to the carbon layup process deserves a quick mention before we sign off. The carbon is compacted from both inside and out, eliminating voids, preventing delamination, and creating a smooth interior. While that level of aesthetic perfection is a nice idea, even if we can't see it, the real-world benefits of a perfect interior include no resin pools or unintended material abnormalities, which can structurally compromise a frame over time and add unnecessary weight.
- Purebred cross-country machine for competitive racing
- Carbon CC frame saves 280 grams over standard-spec carbon
- 29-inch version offers the best rollover in chunky terrain
- 70.5-degree head tube angle balances agility with stability
- 16.9-inch chainstays for quick handling in tight corners
- Internal cable routing for clean and snag-free set-up
- Threaded bottom bracket eliminates annoying creaks
- Cage mounts for two full-sized bottles
- Item #SNZ00FM
- Q & A
Is possible to mount a dropper post AND route the cable internally?