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We'll admit that having full squish on certain trails is a blast, but on all but the rolling hills and punchy climbs it's hard to beat the sprightly responsiveness, precise lines, and effortless speed of a hardtail like the 2018 Santa Cruz Bicycles 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 is finished 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 industry news feeds as of late. Santa Cruz uses a lower modulus carbon for the 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 additional grams also come with a big decrease in cost.
The whole frame is also 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 reinforcing vulnerable joints, dissipating the force from impacts, and 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 pick through trail furniture and dance through berms, but it still shines brightest when cranking up the watts to full throttle. Toward that end, 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 traverse compared to the hulking six-inch monsters your buddies are on.
- Blast through miles of singletrack on this snappy hardtail
- 29in wheels handle uneven trails 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 that doesn't wander on climbs
- Item #SNZ00DU