Long Termer Review: Dave’s Santa Cruz Highball

by Dave Anderson 0

So here’s the getting to know you bit about my new longtermer, a Santa Cruz Highball.

Due to holidays, mag trips and deadlines I didn’t get time to write up the plans for this one earlier so here we go.

First off it’s fair to say that due to experiences with early 29’ers I didn’t really get them. They all seemed barge like and uninspiring, fine for fireroads and covering ground but lacking fun when they were ridden on singletrack. So I kept on riding ‘normal’ bikes and monitoring the world of clown bikes from a safe distance.

But then I rode the Highball at the Santa Crux press launch, and I liked the way it handled.

I liked it a lot.

Dave's Santa Cruz Highball
One sweet ride so far

After spending spring riding the Kona Kilaeua I’d fallen in love with the idea of light fast hardtails but there was a tendency to endo on steep local trails which ruined the dream. With the Highball offering a similar ride in tight singletrack I figure the bigger front wheel will solve the endo issue and I’d finally achieve the perfect hardtail for what I want to ride.

I’ve also a few long distance plans and the idea of  larger wheels dealing with small repetitive bumps while the forks manage the proper stuff sort of appeals.

After a rushed build the day before we set off, I’ve so far had two solid weeks of riding in the Bavarian Alps to get to grips with tweaking bike fit and getting a feel for the bike.

Thanks to the guys at SRAM for sorting out an aesthetically pleasing colour match on the XO Silver groupset, and the Sid QR15 fork and Reverb post. A Truvativ 60mm AKA stem and T30 10S 700mm carbon bar take care of steering.

Highball front end
I'm still tweaking bar height, but 60mm stem feels good

A Hope Pro2 Evo Sp wheelset with Stan’s Crest rims has been matched with the same but 29er flavour  tyres I’m running on the Cannondale Rush; Maxxis Ardent 2.25 on the front and a 2.1 Crossmark on the rear. I want to be able to compare traction and grip as well as how well it compares to a short travel 26er.

Highball rear
2.1 tyre gives plenty of mud clearance ready for a UK autumn

Gearing wise I’m running 39/26 up front and a 36/11 cassette on the back, everythings been fine so far though on long sustained alpine climbs I did find my right thumb wandering in the hope of one more gear. For UK rides I can’t see it being an issue, but I may play with gearing now more options are available.

On Bavarian rides involving km’s of forest tracks and singletrack and metre after metre of climbing the bike has been a real pleasure to ride. It just seems to eat both distance and height gain. Next stage it to put some miles in back home then report back.

More soon after a bit more local action on it.

More info:

SRAM XO silver

Hope Hoops

Highball Frame £1,699

From: Santa Cruz Bikes Uk

Review Info

Tested: by for

Comments (0)

  1. How are you finding comfort over longer distances? Vertical compliance seems to be the industry buzz word of the moment. Might be useful to know your height and weight too.
    Thank you

  2. “a tendency to endo on steep local trails”

    Some might say that has nothing to do with the bike… 😉

  3. “Some might say that has nothing to do with the bike…”

    Well that’s the only bike it happened on ;oP

    Binno – 12.5st 5’9″ ish and I’m riding a medium.

    Comfort has been fine on 5hour+ rides with the big wheels smoothing away small hits much like a 26″ soft tail would.

  4. Interesting. I’m 5.10 and found the large (24″ TT) to be just a tad short in reach with the fitted 70mm stem. Only a car park try, but the bike did spin up to speed nicely.

    In practice, i think the wide 29er style handle bars reduce the reach of the bike – is this the case? As I usually run a 23.5″ TT on a 26″ MTB.

    Finally does running smaller front chain rings assist in overcoming the initial sluggish ‘spin up to speed’ factor inherent in the longer wheelbase of the 29er geometry?

  5. binno – ime wider bars generally increase room on a short bike. They allow you to stretch out by moving your hands out rather than forwards like a longer tt / stem would.

    the increased wheel base has nothing to do with increasing the accel time, its the bigger rotation inertia of the larger wheels. Again, in my limited experience I didn’t really notice it, not nearly as much of a big deal as people reckon i think. The wheelbase on a tallboy is (significantly) shorter than my mega.

    As a general aside, I never thought I’d get on with a 29er…until I rode one (SC Tallboy) and loved it! Much more in the bike than on. Still could do with a slacker head angle or more offset fork to keep the front axle further away on slow steep stuff and make it feel less ‘tucky’ on corners. Can wait till more manufacturers make bikes that realise the potential for 29ers for all mountainy stuff rather than focussing on the xc mile munching (although we’re getting there; sounds like thats what transition have done with their bandit 29er)

  6. What’s the rear tyre clearance like?

  7. Hi Dave, I would be very interested to hear an update on the Highball.