While we appreciate the various full suspension 29ers that have made our big wheel fetish more big hit friendly, there's some glorious quality of worm burning cross country speed that's lost when the rear end gets squishy. That's why hardtail 29ers like Santa Cruz's Highball Carbon CC Mountain Bike Frame will always have a spot in our knobby tire fantasies. The Highball 29er's frame is a single piece layup of carbon fiber instead of a jigsaw puzzle of individually cured carbon tubes. This allows Santa Cruz to wrap the fibers continuously around structurally important junctures like the head tube and bottom bracket, strengthening the frame, dissipating the force from impacts and pedaling load, and allowing for comparable strength with less material. Translated into trail talk, this means it hits the bricks when you stomp on the pedals, dampens high speed chatter, and holds lines like a cat on carpet all with a low weight that makes any full suspension bike look like a bloated downhill only machine. The Highball does somewhat address the lack of rear suspension with a diminished seatpost, slimmed down to 27. 2 millimeters. While this doesn't quite equate to the square edge hit capabilities of the Nomad or Bronson, it does help to eat up chatter that will otherwise accumulate over the course of a long ride. Up front, the 29 inch model has a sharper head tube angle than the Highball 27. 5 so it dances nimbly through switchbacks and technical sections. Although it has longer chainstays than the 27. 5 version, The Highball 29er actually has a shorter wheelbase, courtesy of that head tube angle, which contributes to the confident handling when quarters get tight. Finally, Santa Cruz's approach to the carbon layup process deserves a quick mention before we sign off. The carbon is compacted from both inside and out, eliminating voids, preventing delamination, and creating a smooth interior. While that level of aesthetic perfection is a nice idea, even if we can't see...
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