There are still those times and places where the best way to light the fuse and blow everyone else into the weeds is by riding a hardtail. Bigger wheels have revived the venerable double diamond design, and by mixing the smooth rolling hoops with a feathery 2.4-pound carbon fiber frame, we’ve come up with a potent race weapon. Anyone who complains about a bad day climbing while riding this bike needs to find another sport. The Highball is insanely light, razor sharp, nimble but surefooted, stiff as a plank, and designed to do two things: 1. Race. 2. Win.
Tapered head tube
Curved seat tube
Dropouts, disc tabs molded into frame during proprietary one piece layup – lighter, stronger, stiffer.
2.45 lb frame weight
21lb as pictured
Available in Matte Carbon/Grey or Gloss Carbon/Red
Geometry based on 505mm fork axle to crown with 15mm stack height
Preços ??? 1.899 US$ MSRP frame only - Complete bikes from 3.099 $US ......
"The Highball is top-of-class in terms of weight and stiffness, which make it extremely fast, but the chassis lacks built-in comfort"
By Matt Pacocha, US editor, in Boulder, USA
The new Highball represents many things for Santa Cruz. It’s their first cross-country hardtail and also their first non-full-suspension bike to be made from carbon fiber and have 29in wheels. First and foremost, though, it's a tool to win races. Throw a leg over the Highball and within a couple of pedal strokes you’ll get what we mean; it only takes a few to get the bike up to speed, even with the big wheels. Any rider looking to pound on the pedals and pound out the miles will feel immediately at home.
Ride & handling: Dialed geometry, super-stiff in steering and pedaling, but a harsh ride
We've reached a point where most manufacturers have nailed the angles that work with 29in wheels – a slacker head angle (compared to first generation big-wheelers), low bottom bracket and short chainstays – and started to produce well mannered bikes, and the Highball is no exception. Yes, it's slower handling than a bike with pure, razor sharp 26in cross-country geometry, but it falls in line with many slightly slacker cross-country racers and shorter-travel trail bikes.
In the true test — riding it — the Highball shines in both tight and twisty walking-speed singletrack and the faster, flowy, bermed out buff stuff. It goes where pointed without too much muscle and just a hint of understeer. Considering its intended use, we were surprised to find that it wheelies and manuals with ease too, likely due to the low bottom bracket and short chainstays.
From the first pedal stroke the bike squirts forward, with this responsive snap to attention when pedaled giving the first indication of its ultra stiff ride. This stiffness means the Highball offers point-and-shoot steering, thanks also to its 15mm through-axle fork. But some in-the-saddle comfort is sacrificed as a result.
The ride gives a harsh first impression, especially when compared to rivals like Scott’s Scale 29 RC. But it also makes the Highball feel fast – something racers will undoubtedly appreciate. We'll need to do further testing before we can confirm whether the end result, especially on longer rides, is increased speed or just increased fatigue.
The big bottom bracket junction offers lots of pedalling stiffness
Of course, switching from the supplied inner tubes to a tubeless setup would mellow it out, and the longer contact patch of the 29in wheels allows you to run lower tire pressures than on a 26in bike, adding comfort. While we appreciate that Santa Cruz have kept things consistent across their line by speccing a 30.9mm-diameter seatpost, it would be a simple modification to shim the seat tube to 27.2mm and run a carbon fiber post that’s slightly softer than the Thompson Masterpiece on our test bike.
All told, the Highball is a pure and simple race bike that has the potential to make any weight obsessed cross-country hammer very happy. It's up there with the likes of the Scott Scale 29er and Trek’s new Superfly in a growing group of ultra-light big-wheeled cross-country bikes. “It’s what most people are racing [in the US] these days,” says Josh Kissner, Santa Cruz’s product manager. “You don’t see a ton of full suspension bikes, it’s all 29er hardtails, really.”
Frame: High precision molding
A medium frame is claimed to weigh just 2.4lb (1,088g) with all of its peripheral pieces, including seat collar, derailleur hanger and bottle cage bolts. However, weight isn't the whole story; the Highball has been designed with strength and stiffness as key priorities, and has no rider weight limit. The frame is also cleared for use with a 120mm fork. As tested, our medium Highball weighed 21.93lb (9.94kg) without pedals.
The frame is made in the same way as all of Santa Cruz’s carbon bikes, using a style of tooled monocoque molding that allows extreme precision in regards to tube wall thickness. The frame is molded in three sections (front triangle and rear stays) then bonded together. Internally, Santa Cruz have eschewed several design changes that would have made the bike even lighter.
Santa Cruz use a finishing layer of woven carbon in the high-stress head tube area; the head tube itself is closed off with a bonded insert post molding so that headset removal tools can be used without worry
There are no in-molded carbon headset bearing races; instead, Santa Cruz fit the tapered head tube with an inset upper and external lower type headset, citing that the weight to be saved is less than most would expect because of the extra carbon that would be required. There's also a threaded alloy bottom bracket (BB) shell rather than a press-fit one; Santa Cruz believe riders prefer the compatibility the old standard offers. It also means racers can run SRAM’s XX crank with its narrow 156mm Q-factor.
Head tube length is an issue on many 29ers. On the Highball, Santa Cruz say they've specced the shortest head tube possible that will still take a tapered steerer – 100mm on the medium size. If you want a lower front end, there's always the option of running a negative rise stem.
Equipment: Smart (and racy) spec
Our test bike features Santa Cruz’s X0 XC build kit, made up of a SRAM 2x10 X0 drivetrain supplemented with Formula The One brakes, Easton EA90 stem and EC70 carbon handlebar, and a Thompson Masterpiece seatpost. Suspension is handled by a Fox F29RLC tapered steerer fork, while the whole package rolls on a custom 32-spoke wheelset with DT Swiss 240s rear hub, Chub front hub and XR400 rims, finished with Maxxis CrossMark tires.
All of the parts performed well. The drivetrain nailed every shift – though given the bike’s purpose we wished for the noticeably narrower stance of the XX crank. Easton’s new handlebar deserves mention for a very solid feel and comfortable bend and sweep. At 685mm it's wide for a race bar, but this means you can run a shorter stem while keeping a similar reach (you’re extending further laterally rather than forward). The result is better breathing comfort and steering performance, and in this case the ability to raise the front wheel easily.
Formula's The One brake is fixed to an entirely carbon brake mount, save for two T-style inserts in the brake mount, which allow facing
Formula’s The One brakes offer excellent power and modulation. However, their clamps don’t mate as neatly with the bar as Avid’s do. This only becomes an issue when you try to squeeze an additional lockout lever onto the bar. We also took issue with the range of The One’s reach adjustment — finding the lever too far out even when the adjuster was cranked to the inward stop.
Bom, escrevi há uns tempos no tópico da tallboy que era das poucas que não parecia uma "coisa" com rodas, isto por causa das proporções a que estamos habituados, é bom ver que estas novas já têm pelo menos a geometria mais pensada nas 29'r e pelo menos na estética já são 6*.