We're all used to hearing the saying "the right tool for the job" and if the job at hand consists of cross-country racing or your kicks come from hammering it up every climb and finding your flow while deftly picking lines down some tricky singletrack, well we can't think of many tools better than Santa Cruz's Highball Carbon CC Mountain Bike Frame. With a host of upgrades on this third generation of its carbon hardtail, it drops weight while improving the ride quality and this new Highball is poised to supercharge your singletrack experience and get you on the podium. The Highball makes for a great addition to the stable if you already own a trail bike but don't want to be at a disadvantage on the cross-country course or a primary rig if the majority of your riding is on smoother, buffer trails where you really don't need the added weight and complexity of a full-suspension bike.
Santa Cruz doesn't adhere to a model year format with its frames, so when a new version comes out, we can count on the fact that it took its time to refine the design, offering substantial improvements, rather than just rushing to get one to market. On this latest generation Highball, Santa Cruz shaved off an almost unheard of 200-grams, or nearly half a pound, from the previous version of its top-tier Carbon CC lay-up. If you've taken the time to read this far into a product description about a carbon hardtail frame, we feel safe in placing you firmly into the weight weenie camp. If you're not, our apologies, but if you've come to terms with your condition, we think you'll be just as excited as we are with this frame's weight dropping down to just over two pounds. It seems like not too long ago, this was an impressive feat on a road frame. Santa Cruz's engineers achieved this absurdly low weight by starting out with the finest carbon fiber and resins it could get its hands on and worked out an incredible layup schedule of carbon in critical zones, adding increased stiffness and structural integrity while trimming away any superfluous material for maximum weight savings.
Folks generally opt for hardtails for their brutal efficiency and lightweight build, knowing that comfort usually comes secondary. But a bike that isn't comfortable or wants to buck you off when the trail turns rough isn't going to be fast in the long run, so Santa Cruz wisely sought ways to increase the compliance during the redesign. The bridgeless seatstays meet in a wishbone design lower on the seat tube than the previous version to send incoming vibration into the frame versus up to the rider over rugged race courses. Additional comfort comes from Santa Cruz's selection of a 27.2-millimeter diameter seatpost to further bolster compliance saving your lower back from repeated jolting.
And while this Highball was built mostly for dedicated racing purposes, at the end of the day it is a Santa Cruz after all, meaning it doesn't shy away from more technical lines on the XC course that would leave other cross-country bikes, hardtail or otherwise, with steeper head tube angles nervously tip-toeing down the trail. Santa Cruz slackened out the head tube angle a hair on the new Highball and instead of the previous head tube angle of 70 or 70.5-degrees, it now sits at 69.5-degrees for a bit more surefootedness on the descents. It was able to get away with this slacker angle without compromising the razor-sharp handling of the last generation by spec'ing and recommending a 44-millimeter fork offset, which increases the bike's trail so you'll get unflappable stability at downhill speed without losing the ability to handle slow-speed maneuvers up tight uphill switchbacks.
A few other geometry changes include a moderately longer reach and wheelbase (increases in reach and wheelbase for a size medium are 0.9 and 1.4 inches, respectively) for a bit more composure on descents and over rougher terrain, and the ability to run a more modern wide bar and short stem combo. Santa Cruz realized the low-slung 12.4-inch bottom bracket and snappy-short 16.9-inch chainstays made the previous Highball an absolute hoot to blast around corners and hairpin turns, so they retained these figures, as to not dramatically alter its spirited handling characteristics.
Despite these changes in the frame's geometry, weight loss, and its ability to mute incoming vibration, Santa Cruz managed to preserve the high levels of torsional stiffness and reliable strength you've come to expect from the Northern California brand. High levels of stiffness mean every ounce of rider energy will be directed into rocket-like acceleration and its reliable strength is backed by a lifetime warranty—all without rider weight limits imposed by other manufacturers. And because racing speed isn't the only thing desired on a bike of this pedigree, you'll find all the thoughtful design features that define a Santa Cruz. These features include a threaded bottom bracket for creak-free reliability, three bottle mounts, internal dropper compatibility, and internal routing of all cables to keep everything looking tidy.