Brighton-based endurance specialist Rob Dean has established himself as one of the big hitters of the enduro scene (and not just because he’s 6′ 4″) and he now races for the exclusive Santa Cruz / The North Face partnership.
Last year he opened his race account with a win in the Set 2 Rise 12-hour enduro and got back up after being knocked off from second place at Original Source Mountain Mayhem to smash the South Downs Double Singlespeed record, going close to the overall record; clocking the second fastest time in the process.
Rob has famously campaigned on his immediately recognisable Santa Cruz Tallboy, affectionately known at the General Lee. This year however, he’s lucky enough to have a new option to help him to further to success; Santa Cruz Bicycles much talked about, newest arrival Highball 29er carbon hardtail.
Here’s a rundown on his shiny new race bike, which he’ll be using to kick-start his injury delayed season that saw a not yet fully recovered shoulder force him to retire from the lead, 13laps into last weekend’s TwentyFour12 24 solo category, in his own words:
Rob Dean’s XXL Santa Cruz Highball
The bike was built for me by the great guys at Santa Cruz UK, who made sure that the build was just so for endurance racing, with a careful eye on the all important contact points but a large nod to lightweight due to the massive amounts of climbing that can be involved in a 24hr race on a more technical course.
Wonderfully fast, light and capable though the Tallboy is, there are moments when pedaling finesse must be thrown out the window and only the raw speed and direct feel of a proper, lightweight, race day hardtail will do. It was with this in mind that the Highball was built.
As with my Tallboy, to allow me to carry maximum speed though a trail with a stiff front end, I am delighted to have a tapered steerer specified and have followed this through with both a QR15 front hub and OS stem and bar, giving up a few grams for extra steering precision.
As with my Tallboy I have tried to trim unnecessary grams by using rubber grips, spraying titanium and aluminium bolts all over the bike in the less stressed areas and by choosing light parts where durability can be maintained. One of the highlights for me, as an engineer, is the glorious work of art that is the XX cassette shaving weight and allowing a lightweight double ring setup up front.
Although it’s early days, I am chuffed to bits with the bike and, whilst I’ve always maintained “never, ever use anything new on race day”, it is with the Highball on hand that I line up on the start line at TwentyFour12 for 24-hour solo on Saturday, just six days after collecting the bike from Pedal & Spoke in the Surrey hills. I suffered a couple of punctures and immediately jumped on the Highball to punch in a couple of fast laps to make back the time lost.
What has impressed (and delighted) me most with this bike is not just its climbing ability and stiff power transfer. A lightweight carbon bike with stiffness designed into it, in the right places, is always going to give that to a certain degree, but how well the bike handles fast, tight technical trails.
An afternoon spent grinning manically in the Surrey Hills has confirmed that this bike is fast no matter which direction you point it; up, down or round a tight corner, making it much more than a race day special. It is, like the Tallboy before it, a truly capable trail bike too, and I am one very happy rider indeed.
Here’s a rundown of the full spec:
Frame: XXL Highball 29er with a “full size” 26” top tube
Fork: Fox F29 100mm RLC QR15 fork with taper steerer for maximum steering stiffness but still low weight
Wheels: Chub QR15 front hub & DT Swiss 240s rear hub for light weight & reliability laced onto Mavic TN719 rims with tubeless strips & valves fitted for weigh saving & reliability
Tyres: Maxxis Icon 2.20” 29er eXception lightweight tyres, non UST, run tubeless with sealant
Skewers: Santa Cruz rear skewer
Brakes: Hope Race X2 brakes, alloy lever bolts, ti caliper bolts, non-braided hoses fitted for minimum weight. 160mm Ashima rotors front & rear with ti disc bolts
Shifters: SRAM X0 fitted with ti clamp bolts
Mechs: SRAM X0 2×10 front & rear, top swing front mech for durability and rattle-proof-ness
Cassette: SRAM XX 11-36 10s a true race day no compromise product
Chainset: SRAM X0 carbon 26/38 double
Chain: SRAM 10s
Pedals: XTR M970
Bottle Cage: Lezyne CNC alloy, fastened with ti bolts; holds the bottle securely and great for getting the bottle into and out of at 3am in the dark by a tired rider! Unused bottle cage bosses blanked with alloy bolts
Seatpost: Thompson masterpiece & Santa Cruz lightweight seatclamp (ti bolt added by me)
Saddle: WTB ti-railed Silverado
Stem: Easton EA90 OS stem, face plate fitted with ti bolts
Handlebar: Easton EC70 carbon low-rise bar
Grips: Syncros Deep Relief dual compound, hair-sprayed in place (lighter than lock-on)
Headset: Cane Creek & carbon headset spacers, grooved internally to shave weight (not a lot saved, but I know it’s there)
Misc: Headset cap from The Long Good Saturday, my first ever solo to remind me of happy memories, fitted with lightweight alloy tightening bolt. The Exposure light clamp even has the stock steel fastening bolt swapped for a titanium one to shave the last gram from the bike, which currently weighs in a whisker under 22lbs. NoTubes Crest rims are on their way, together with (importantly colour matched red) alloy nipples and black revolution spokes to shave that final chunk off the weight to get to a final number starting with 20.
Rob Dean – www.bigrobracing.co.uk
Read Bikemagic’s first ride review here and reader John Tait’s review here.