There’s a very small list of bikes in my mind currently that I most anticipate riding with great relish, and one of those bikes, the Santa Cruz Highball, has just arrived in the office. Goody.
The US company hit the 29er nail on the head with the launch of its carbon Tallboy a while back. It proved hugely successful for them and has gone a long way to convert many to the (supposed) benefits of the bigger wheels.
But where 29ers seem to be really popular at the moment is not with full suspension, but ridiculously light carbon hardtails, if a look over the pond at the American mountain bike scene is any barometer of success. From marathon and 24-hour racers to Leadville winners and World Cup contenders, the 29er hardtail is dominating.
So heads naturally turned when the Highball arrived.29ers don’t have the best reputation in the looks department (or is it just us?) but this bike goes a look way to improving their image. The Highball is beautiful
As well as getting their 29ers dialled from the start blocks, Santa Cruz has made a successful move into carbon manufacture in the past couple of years. The company’s expertise in carbon really shows in this frame, each made using a one-piece layup process for the front triangle, the rear stays then bonded into place. There’s a tapered head tube, wishbone stays, and it’s light, just 2.4lbs (1.08kg).
Pulling it out of the large cardboard box it arrived in and pushing aside the bubble wrap reveals one of the sexiest bikes I’ve ever seen – and I don’t use that word very often when describing bikes. This sample is fully loaded with an XTR XC 29 build kit that includes a full Shimano XTR groupset (with a triple ring chainset), Fox 32 F29 100mm forks, Easton EC70 bars, EA90 stem, Thomson Masterpiece seatpost, Formula The One 160mm discs, WTB Thinline saddle, Mavic TN719 rims on Hope Pro 2 hubs and Maxxis Crossmark 2.1in tyres. Weight on our scales is a couple of ounces over 22lbs (10kg) without pedals.
A quick spin around the block to get the photos you see on this page reveals a startlingly lightweight package that accelerates with blistering responsiveness and handlings is direct and communicative. Should be just the ticket for the Stanmer singletrack that features in this weekend’s Brighton Big Dog.
I got some off-road miles on the Highball at Santa Cruz’s UK launch in Gisburn Forest earlier this year, read my my first impressions here.
£1,699 (frame only) from www.santacruzbikes.co.uk.