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Ready to race or trail ride.
The Santa Cruz Highball Carbon XE Complete Mountain Bike proves that hardtails are still quite alive and well, and if you value a lightweight and proficient steed that won't hold you back during cross-country races while still retaining a fun-factor on weekend trail riding exploits, you don't need to look much further. This XC rocket is a blast on fast flowy singletrack and its agility is a boon when navigating twisty trails and that mad dash to the choked down trail where the real racing begins. And while the lack of suspension contributes to the featherweight build and brutal efficiency, it's by no means a harsh ride. Santa Cruz built in higher levels of compliance with the new frame design so you'll stay fresher during races even if they favor the endurance side of the spectrum. This model comes with an intelligent mix of FOX Performance fork and Shimano XT components to keep the price reasonable and the value high.
It seems like the design team never rests at Santa Cruz and it manages to somehow refine the design of its bikes and this third-generation Highball Carbon 29er is no different. Now, only available in a 29-inch wheel size, it weighs in at right about a half pound lighter than the previous versions. Yep, an astonishing 200 or so odd grams lighter, meaning this Carbon XE build barely troubles the scales at just over 22 pounds, something you'll definitely notice on the climbs and putting in those last kicks at the end of a race to distance your rivals. It achieved this absurdly low weight by optimizing the layup of the carbon fiber in critical zones so as to not sacrifice stiffness or structural integrity while trimming the fat down in all the other areas for the utmost in weight savings.
A light, efficient bike isn't doing anyone any good if it's pin-balling off every trail feature and rattling you on rough descents, so the composite engineers knew they had to instill features to help mute trail chatter and excess vibration on this third-gen model. This version gets bridgeless seat stays that meet the seat tube further down so the jolts are directed through the frame rather than directly to the seatpost and up to you. Santa Cruz also wisely specs a 27.2-millimeter seat post diameter for even more compliance so those 24h solo races aren't as much of a bruiser and the post has the ability to flex a bit for a smoother ride.
In typical Santa Cruz fashion this new Highball, while built to excel where lycra is the norm and number plates are tied to the bars, doesn't shy away from its ability to tackle more technical lines, be it on the XC course or your frequent training rides and it'll surprise you with its capability. Santa Cruz kicked back the head tube angle of the outgoing Highball's 70/70.5-degrees to a more confidence inspiring 69.5 degrees giving you more control when the terrain becomes steep and over really rough sections of the course without compromising the razor-sharp handling of the last generation. Key to keeping the handling snappy and nimble is the new 44-millimeter fork offset, which increases the bike's trail and puts more of your weight on the front wheel for more traction while you're picking a line across technical features and on fast cornering.
Other notable 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 at higher speeds and the ability to run a more modern wider bar, short stem combo. Santa Cruz kept the same low-slung 12.4-inch bottom bracket and snappy-short 16.9-inch chainstay recipe that made the original Highball an absolute riot, as altering these might have deterred from what we loved about the original bike.
Tweaks to the frame's geometry and increased compliance aside, Santa Cruz kept the high levels of stiffness and reliable strength that's a hallmark of the Northern California brand. These high levels of torsional and lateral stiffness mean every pedal stroke is rewarded with rocket-like acceleration and Santa Cruz is so confident about its strength, it backs it with a lifetime warranty—all without any rider weight limits. Thoughtful features include a threaded bottom bracket for creak-free reliability, three bottle mounts for extended rides, internal dropper compatibility for getting rowdy, and internal routing of all cables to keep everything clean and looking tidy.
- An XC race bike that's lighter and more compliant than ever
- Santa Cruz shaved a 1/2 pound over previous Highball frame
- Bridgeless seat stays and 27.2mm seat post silent trail chatter
- Carbon C frame provides ample stiffness and saves dollars
- The 69.5° head tube angle blends agile handling with stability
- The threaded bottom bracket provides creak-free reliability
- Three bottle mounts and internal dropper routing versatility
- FOX 32 Step-Cast fork has a remote lockout for quick starts and climbing
- Item #SNZ00GO