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Cross country hardtails still have a place. The lightweight ride and efficient pedaling is a god-send on many race courses and if the majority of your riding is done on buff trails. We feel pretty privileged that our mountain bike tutelage came on hardtails. We feel like having to pick lines a little more carefully makes you a more competent rider and when you do jump back on the full-squish, you can absolutely fly. The 2018 Santa Cruz Highball Carbon 29 R Complete Mountain Bike is the bike to have if you are looking to dabble in some XC racing or want a nice low-maintenance rig for training. A fairly relaxed headtube angle, for a racier 29er hardtail at least, and short chainstays will have you riding terrain and will surprise you that this hardtail is as capable. The R build kit consists of SRAM's workhorse NX drivetrain, Level T hydraulic brakes, and WTB wheels. Other quality touch points include the Race Face seatpost, handlebar, cranks, and stem. You'll be able to get this carbon rocket on the trails for way less than you thought possible.
This frame can rip race courses with brutal efficiency and under the right pilot, it can pull double duty and take on some pretty rugged adventures too. The big wheels roll with great efficiency and climb with great urgency when heading uphill. On the way down, we simply lean back and let the bike pick the right lines again letting the wagon wheels do the work. The Rock Shox Reba RL fork is set at 100mm but Santa Cruz gives its blessings to go to 120mm if you want to slacken the headtube another half-degree for marathon efforts and more surefootedness.
The 12 x 142mm rear axle is plenty stiff and ensures that every watt goes right into the rear wheel and provides solid tracking when slaloming high speed through Aspen groves. We are glad the industry has returned to 27.2mm seatposts since the added compliance and flex is welcome on hardtails. Perched atop that post is a WTB Volt saddle, a perennial favorite at Competitive Cyclist.
This Highball Carbon C frame uses a slightly lower modulus carbon than the top-end Carbon CC models. More material is required to achieve the same stiffness and durability but those few grams come with a big decrease in cost. The whole frame is constructed in the same manner with fibers continuously wrapped 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.
- A responsive XC hardtail
- Short chainstays for precise handling
- Brutally efficient and lightweight
- 29in wheels handle obstacles with ease
- Santa Cruz's more affordable Carbon C construction
- SRAM NX drivetrain provides a wide gear range
- Item #SNZ00DT