Saturday, 25 May 2013

Highball Aluminium - A Bike For Riding

I am very lucky to have a few very nice Santa Cruz bikes, a Tallboy Carbon and a Highball Carbon for race days, a super light Highball Carbon as a singlespeed, and my favourite race bike of all time, The General Lee, my resplendent orange Tallboy Carbon.

However, superlight carbon race exotica isn't always what's needed, and a move to Munich and the Alps on my doorstep made me hanker after a "normal" bike; wide bars, shorter stem, big discs, a bigger fork, something I could hurl down the side of a mountain without worrying about shaving the last gram racing back up the other side. And then Santa Cruz brought out the Highball in Aluminium. I didn't hesitate to place my order, only this time "only" in a compact and whippy (for me) XL not my normal XXL, this was going to be a real trail bike and I couldn't wait......
.....that was a few months ago now, and me and my Highball are now the best of friends. This has become the bike I reach for by default, particularly over the winter. In fact, for day to day riding, I must make an effort to use my other bikes more. The longer travel forks, the shorter, wider cockpit all hanging off a stiff, light and direct frame spinning on some fantastically stiff Reynolds 29er XC rims, make this bike a blast. 

Winter Mountain Biking
Bavarian Style!
It's been through a lot in it's short life already, not only has it had to learn to ride on the right hand side of the road, but it's been subjected to sub-zero temperatures and deep snow in the local woods, and hauled up and down mountains in the Alps in (more) deep snow, as well as a visit to the local pump track, some man made trails in a small disused quarry 2km from my front door and finding a treasure trove of local singletrack in a thunderstorm. It's also encouraged me to explore the local woods as I find an increasing number of distractions on my hour's bike ride to and from work each day. Four months into 2013 and I've already ridden this bike in the UK, Germany, Austria, France and Swizerland!

Here's how my Highball turned out:
It all starts here, with the wide bars and short stem defining the handling
The teeny stem barely has room for my Garmin mount, additional tech courtesy of an analogue clock!
Teeny-tiny but super bright Exposure Revo dynamo light, with super bright off-road standlight, for days when I just want to keep on riding
180mm Ice-Tech rotor for big alpine descents (and a hydration pack full of cakes and pies)
And there's that MTB dynamo hub, it's as light as it is small
X-Fusion 29er Slide fork, with 120mm of Alp  flattening smooth travel (and  SP PD-8 Dynamo Disk Brake Hub)

Syncros FL saddle, tough, comfy, light and fitted to all my bikes, complete with rugged Krieg saddle bag
Green bits match the green graphics, seat clamp, skewers, grips, headset right down to KCNC green dustcaps!
Wheel turning and stopping duties are handled by the faultless, but not budget breaking SLX  drivetrain and XT servowave brakes
Extra ruggedisation, and a bit of bling added by some excellent XTR M970 crankarms 
The Reynolds rims are great, and deserve to be treated well, so in addition to the SP PD-8 Dynamo hub up front,
out back the rim is hanging from a beautiful DT Swiss 240s Rear hub..... I've always wanted one of these :-)
Optional kit: Non-standard Reynolds deep V snow MTB disk rims!

Oh, and this lovely piece of kit also comes with swappable dropouts, so I can even pop in swinging, singlespeed dropouts, for when I'm not killing myself p the side of an Alp! So, there it is, my new best friend and my answer to the age old conundrum of "one bike for all", my SantaCruz Highball Aluminium, in do-it-all trail bike build...... now, where's the summer :-)

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