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First Ride: Santa Cruz Highball

  • By Zach White
  • Published Mar. 29, 2011
  • Updated Dec. 7, 2012 at 3:27 PM EDT

Editor’s Note: Singletrack.com’s Zach White is out in the wilds of Utah with the Santa Cruz Bicycles gang. And besides the likely debauchery taking place, everyone is out on Gooseberry Mesa for a reason: To ride SBC’s newest offerings. ZW is filing dispatches as desert connectivity allows. Here’s his first take on SCB’s new 29er hardtail — the Highball.

The brand new Santa Cruz Highball on its first hot lap down in St. George, Utah. Photo by Zach White

CHECK OUT THE HIGHBALL GALLERY

Just 2.4 pounds, for a 29er? According to Santa Cruz front man Mike Ferrentino, that’s all the company’s new carbon fiber hardtail frame weighs.

And while there hasn’t been a chance to strip one down and weigh it while the crew isn’t looking, the less accurate test of picking one
up certainly doesn’t make the claim seem inconceivable. We were, however, able to weigh a medium Highball, sans pedals, and it came in at 21.78lbs with SRAM X0 2×10.

One fun little ride on the trails of St. George, Utah Monday afternoon isn’t enough to stake huge claims on the Highball’s traits, but it was enough to gain a first impression.

First and foremost, this is one light bike. That said, and knowing it was pushing the limits of any mountain bike frame weight, much less a 29er frame, the new Santa Cruz also rode surprisingly stiff. Not stiff for its weight, but flat-out impressively stiff regardless of how few ounces it registers on the scale. More time needs to be put in the saddle to see if the stiffness will be a true issue with ride comfort, so stay tuned for a long-term review.

Geometry-wise, our demo featured shorter, 17.3-inch chainstays that allowed a very playful feel, especially for a 29er. One of the keys to getting away with such short stays is the shaped seat tube, allowing the rear wheel to stay close to the front triangle, while still keeping a normal rider cockpit. This was also done without using awkward seat angles, as the 71-degree result above the bend in the seat tube is about as standard as it comes.

Head tube angle is 70.5 and feels quite stable, at least for ripping flowy Utah singletrack. And in combination with a slightly lower 12-inch bottom bracket height, the Highball feels quite comfy through turns. Although the price of a lower bottom bracket is lower crank arms, which were bounced off a few rocks.

First ride impression is that the Highball seems like quite an impressive addition to the growing 29er hardtail market. It definitely has a race-bred ride and feel, but also comes with geometry that’s just relaxed enough to allow a bit of playfulness as well.

Stay tuned for more…

FILED UNDER: 29er / Bikes and Tech / MTB TAGS: /

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