by Karl Rosengarth / June 1, 2015 6:38pm
As we reported in February 2015, Santa Cruz has added a 27.5 option to its 2015 Highball lineup. The original 29er model also received minor geometry tweaks, but in both wheel sizes, the hardtail remains true to its cross-country, racy roots.
The CC designation denotes an upgraded carbon frame that, thanks to some nips and tucks, shaves 280 grams compared to the base C model. My very first impression came when I hung the Highball 27.5 CC XX1 on our scale and rubbed my eyes at the 19.7 pounds on the display (w/o pedals). A sub-20-pound mountain bike is not front-page news, but even as a spoiled-rotten magazine guy, it’s not every day that I get to ride such a svelte steed.
On the trail the feathery carbon frame felt flex-free when cornering or accelerating hard. It’s almost expected that each new generation of carbon frame ups the light-yet-stiff ante, but I still find myself shaking my head when I stop to think about the engineering that goes into a bike like the Highball.
The Highball 27.5 CC is available in a frame-only option for $1,899 (all that gee-whiz technology doesn’t come cheap). Complete bikes start at $4,299 (with an XT kit) and max out at $6,799 for the XTR build—with our XX1 review bike not far behind at $6,299.
Highlights of the XX1 build kit include: Fox 32 Float 100 mm Kashima fork, SRAM XX1 rear derailleur and shifter, Race Face Next SL cranks and bottom bracket, Shimano XTR M9000 brakes (160mm rotors) and DT Swiss 240 hubs (142×12) laced to WTB Asym i19 TCS rims.
This is my first review bike with SRAM’s 1×11 gearing. So far the XX1 rear derailleur has flawlessly run the chain up and down the 10-42 cassette. The shift-lever’s action felt a little “heavier” than I’d expected, but I’ve gotten used to it and haven’t thought much about it since my first few rides.
The carbon Highball frame has provisions for a high direct-mount, bottom-pull front derailleur. Of course, the 1×11 model we have in for review requires no shifty bits up front. Rather, there’s a Race Face Next SL crankset that features a 32t narrow/wide spiderless chainring. Haven’t yet dropped a chain, and really don’t expect to.
The derailleur cable (or cables, depending upon the drivetrain/model) and rear hydraulic hose are internally routed, with the later getting its own internal guide tube, which keeps the hose from rattling. With the 1×11 drivetrain keeping chain slap in check, the Highball glides with ninja-like stealth.
Here’s a look at the underside, showing the detachable plate that allows access to the internal cable routing. Also note the external bearings of the threaded Race Face bottom bracket.
The size large 27.5 CC XX1 model that I’m reviewing has a 69 degree head tube angle, 16.7-inch chainstays, a 24.6-inch top tube, 12.4-inch BB height and 44.1-inch wheelbase. While this is not a full-blown bike review—that’s coming soon in print—I will say that my first impression is that the geometry translates into a well-balance ride.
The Highball’s snappy steering response and short rear make it a joy to flick around at low-to-moderate speeds—while at higher speeds the bike has a long-and-low feeling of stability that inspires confidence in sweeping curves, or when pointed straight down a chute.
I’m still racking up the miles on the Highball and will have more to say in print. In the meantime, pop over to the Santa Cruz website for all the gory details on the Highball lineup (they’ve even got an aluminum version for metal-heads).