Long Termer Review: Dave’s Santa Cruz Highball

March 18, 2012

Dave has spent six months aboard his carbon big wheeler - it may be called a 'race weapon' but what's it like every day?

Santa Cruz
Highball Carbon
Santa Cruz UK www.santacruzbikes.co.uk
£1,699 frame only
by Dave for six months
Dave's Santa Cruz Highball
Dave's Santa Cruz Highball 6 Months in.

So I’ve been riding the Highball for 6 months now and I have to admit that nothing else has got a look in.

For what is marketed as a “potent race weapon” I’ve found the bike remarkably capable of tackling everything I’ve thrown at it; from long marathon style rides, fast and twisty singletrack to slow speed techy local rides, the stability and handling offered by the Highball is confidence inspiring. For a race bike it’s as unlike my previous test bike as you could get and all in a good way.

The front end
The front end

I’d originally thought a bit of tweaking would be in order but the 60mm AKA stem and T30 700mm flat  bars have proved pretty spot on for snappy handling without too much worry on narrower woodsy trails. Sram XO running gear has proved to be boringly reliable with no issues to report even through what seems to have been a wetter winter than usual. Even clogged with our peaty grit mix the shifting has stayed consistent.  39/26 up front and a 36/11 cassette has been fine for UK riding, most of the time staying in the big ring and just working the rear shift as needed. It’d be tempting to swap out to a 1×10 drivetrain but for the slight extra weight I’d rather have the option to spin home on longer rides when I’m feeling broken.

The back end
The back end

Santa Cruz recommend a maximum back tyre size of 2.3″ but I reckon a better compromise of ride quality, grip and clearance is a 2.1″. The Maxxis Crossmark I’ve been running in the rear has offered plenty of traction and seems to be a “fast” tyre that complements the nature of the Highball. Through the worst of winter I swapped out for Maxxis Beavers but the tight fit of the Stans Crest rims isn’t something that encourages much tyre swapping.

So would I make any changes? One thing I’d like to try are some 156mm q factor cranks, something the Highball is designed for, mainly to reduce the amount of pedal clipping on narrower sections of moorland singletrack.

The bike currently weighs in at 23.5  pounds with the Reverb.

With the introduction of the Highball Alloy, I’m tempted to jump ship from my Kona singlespeed to a 29er too.

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Long Termers