When Santa Cruz announced the revamping of the Highball we were eager to see what there was in store for the featherweight cross-country machine. The idea of lightening the already feathery bike gave us worries of fragile, noodly frames that bend under pressure, but we're pleased to see the domination and power that comes from the Santa Cruz Highball Carbon CC X01 Eagle Complete Mountain Bike. It demonstrates composure in terrain that has most hardtails feeling twitchy and unreliable, thanks in part to its ultra-stiff carbon layup, and updated geometry. But don't be alarmed, we won't try to convince you that the Highball is an all-mountain slayer, it still retains its ultra-stiff cross-country prowess for podium-level domination, and blasting up climbs to earn KOM's on the daily.
Traditional beliefs would tell you that a feathery cross-country bike would be fragile, unnerving, and overly twitchy for all but the most experienced of pilots and professional racers. We're here to say you can have your cake and eat it too, at least when you're racing on the Santa Cruz Highball Carbon CC XO1 Eagle Reserve Complete Mountain Bike. Now don't get us wrong, we're not going to tell you this newest generation of Highball is going to be an all-terrain quiver killer or anything of that nature, but it will radically shift your preconceived notions of what a stupidly lightweight, ultra-stiff cross-country bike is capable of as you fly past slow climbers and dissect technical XC courses with high levels of confidence.
As we've seen year after year, Santa Cruz always manages to push the envelope in the design of their bikes and this third-generation Highball Carbon 29er is no different, weighing a half pound lighter than previous versions in their high-end Carbon CC lay-up. You read that right, the newest version of the Highball Carbon CC 29er is a half-pound, or some 226 grams lighter, dropping the frame's overall weight to just over two pounds, which is absurd when you think about it. Santa Cruz's composite engineers achieved this astoundingly low weight through a meticulous application of carbon in zones critical to stiffness and structural integrity, trimming the bike down in all other areas for the utmost in weight savings.
Because the Highball has the reputation to be one of the stiffest bikes in Santa Cruz's line, the engineers had a few tricks up their sleeves in muting trail chatter and excess vibration. Low-angle seat stays meet the seat tube just below the top tube junction, plus there's a bridgeless seat stay to absorb incoming vibration over rugged race courses. Santa Cruz then uses a 27.2-millimeter seat post diameter for extra compliance, so you don't feel every bump and terrain inconsistency for days afterward.
Although the third generation of Santa Cruz's Highball 29er makes no qualms about its dedicated racing purposes, it's distinctly Santa Cruz in nature, meaning you can dare to tackle more technical lines on the XC course that would leave you questioning your sanity on other cross-country bikes with steeper head tube angles. For this third-generation Highball 29er, Santa Cruz slackened it out a hair. Instead of the previous head tube angle of 70/70.5 degrees, it's now 69.5 degrees for more confidence on descents and rugged sections of trail, all without compromising the razor-sharp handling and snappy directional changes of the last generation.
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 on descents, plus the ability to run a modern bar/stem combo. Santa Cruz realized the low-slung 12.4-inch bottom bracket and snappy-short 16.9-inch chainstays made the previous Highball an absolute hoot to blast around corners and hairpin turns, so they retained these figures, as to not dramatically alter its spirited handling characteristics.
Despite all these changes in the third-generation Highball 29er, Santa Cruz managed to preserve its unwavering stiffness and reliable strength you've come to love from the Northern California brand. This means every ounce of energy will be directed into rocket-like acceleration the moment you start turning the pedals. And because racing speed isn't the only thing needed on a bike of this pedigree, you'll find all the thoughtful design accoutrements that define Santa Cruz Bicycles. These features include a threaded bottom bracket for creak-free reliability, three bottle mounts for hydration convenience, internal dropper compatibility if you'd like to go that route, and full internal routing of all cables to keep everything looking tidy.
- Ready yourself for total XC power with this lightweight race machine
- Santa Cruz shaves a 1/2 pound from previous Highball frame
- Bridgeless seat stay and 27.2mm seat post mute trail chatter
- Carbon CC frame retains ample torsional stiffness for racers
- 69.5° head tube angle balances snappy handling with composure
- Threaded bottom bracket for creak-free reliability
- Huge gear range from X01 Eagle offers a gear for every climb