First Look! Santa Cruz Superlight 29er & Highball Alloy 29er Mountain Bikes
Santa Cruz has added two new alloy 29ers to their lineup, bringing the venerable Superlight to the big wheel party and giving hardtail fans a value-oriented option. Oh, and the new Highball-a will have optional singlespeed dropouts!
Both models will come in Small through XL sizes, and Santa Cruz is claiming their Small frames offer a shorter top tube and lower stand over height than most other brands’ extra-small offerings. Both bikes pictured here are Small frames, and they do indeed look plenty compact. In fact, the stand over on the Small Superlight is lower than the tire height. They were getting a lot of demand for smaller sizes, so they added the size to these new bikes. Depending on how sales go, they may add a small size to the Tallboy lineup. That said, engineer Joe Graney said designing a VPP suspension to span small to XXL would basically require two entirely separate suspension designs, so don’t hold your breath.
Other shared characteristics are hydroformed top- and downtubes and asymmetrical stays, although the reason for that is different on the two bikes. They also share very common standards like a threaded bottom bracket and standard IS rear brake mounts. While these may not provide drool inducing bullet points, marketing front man Mike Ferrentino says they’re easily serviceable and parts are widely available without having to figure out any proprietary standards.
Now, let’s see what’s new…
Up front, the Superlight has a stout looking tapered headtube designed with an external lower cup in mind. Graney says you’d have to make it even bigger to run an internal bearing and use thinner walls. The downtube meets the headtube a bit higher than the headset in order to provide ample fork crown clearance without putting a severe bend in the downtube.
Standard external cup bottom bracket keeps it simple and relatively inexpensive. So does the tried and true single pivot design. The Superlight has been one of Santa Cruz’s best sellers since being introduced into its lineup in 1997 (originally called the Heckler, became the Superlight in ’99) largely because a) it works and b) it offers Fox suspension at entry level price points.
Like their new “APP” bikes, the Superlight 26″ got the Collet Axle upgrade for it’s pivot in 2010 and the 29er does, too. It uses angular contact bearings. The axle is adjusted from the driveside, but access isn’t hindered by the chainrings.
The small has one bottle cage on the underside of the downtube, the medium, large and XL have another mount inside the front triangle. Front derailleur mount is a standard clamp around the seat tube.
Travel is 100mm (4″) and the geometry is designed primarily around a 100mm fork, but it can be run with a 120mm fork.
Like the 26″ version, the stays are asymmetrical in that the drive side chain stay is a bit higher to allow proper chain clearance. The non-drive side is lower to give it better triangulation and make it stronger overall. The small and medium Superlight 29ers share the same smaller rear triangle and a custom tuned Fox Float RL shock with 1.5″ stroke. They designed it with a higher leverage ratio and lighter tune to make it supple under smaller, lighter riders. The large and XL get a 2″ stroke shock and larger rear triangle.
Dropouts are standard QR with IS brake mounts and a replaceable derailleur hanger.
The seat tube has dual front derailleur cable guides to make it friendly with either Shimano or SRAM mechs. All of Santa Cruz’s stock build kit options use Shimano derailleurs, but the option’s there. The top tube has guides for a dropper seat post remote.
Claimed frame weight is 5.9lbs for a medium with shock.
Frameset with shock is $1,050, and it’s available with any of their stock or custom build kits. Complete bikes start at just $1,850 for the D/XC build (Shimano Deore, Avid Elixir 1, Easton cockpit with WTB saddle, Rockshox Recon Silver fork). The R/XC with a Deore/XT/SLX mix with Reba RL fork is $2,350, and it goes up from there. All of the builds use name brand components, making the package deals even more attractive. No house-branded generic parts are on the list. Frame colors are black with green (shown) and orange with white.
Initially, only complete bikes will be available. The good news? They’re available now for both of these models. The bad news? Framesets won’t be available until all initial complete bike orders are fulfilled. Santa Cruz’s website should be updated to offer these models any time now.
SANTA CRUZ HIGHBALL-a 29er HARDTAIL
The Highball-a follows the footsteps of their Tallboy, taking the initial carbon frame and giving a wallet-friendly alloy option. And while the carbon Highball remains a super stiff, race-oriented geared bike, the alloy model has replaceable dropouts and a singlespeed option. Other wise, geometry is the same.
It shares the same tapered headtube with external lower headset cup. The top- and down tubes on both of these bikes are squared off where they meet the headtube. The downtube rounds off, but the top tube remains square-ish while getting a bit thinner as it goes back.
Cables are hidden under the top tube using a nice triple stop routing.
The seat tube is slightly bent to tuck the rear wheel up closer and maintain a tight wheelbase. Chainstay length is 17.3″ and wheelbase on the small is 44.5″ (1063.2mm) and goes up to 44.5″ (1129.2mm) on the XL. The seat stays get a wishbone curve and monostay upper section.
Simple standard external cup threaded BB. Both the Highball-a and Superlight are designed for use with either a double or triple crankset.
The chainstay yoke is asymmetrical to give it proper chainring clearance. The drive side is a forged piece and a small bridge keeps it all stiff without comprising tire clearance too much.
The non-drive side has a brake brace between the stays to stiffen it up and reduce (they say eliminate) brake chatter. I haven’t been able to ride it thanks to injury, but I also haven’t heard any brake chatter on any of the bikes here all week. The Highball-a will ship with standard geared dropouts as shown here. The derailleur hanger is built into the dropout, so should things go wrong you would need to replace the entire dropout for about $25.
The singlespeed swinger-style dropouts will be available aftermarket for around $80, and they’re pretty trick. The top bolt threads directly into the dropout and acts as the pivot. The lower bolt threads into a semi-captive square nut to hold things in place once you’ve got your chain tension set.
To adjust tension, you insert a 4mm allen key and twist. That bolt is captured by a larger 6mm bolt (center pic) The tension bolt threads through a barrel that has it’s own little nest in the frame (right). We’d like to see the square nut be more captive so it wouldn’t get lost if things get loose on the trail, but overall it’s a pretty nice looking design. Total adjustment is 13mm, which equals one chain link length.
Frames are $649 and come in two stock colors: Blue with orange (shown) and white with black. This one will be available through their custom color program for an additional charge, which should be going live on their website anyway. Complete bikes start at $1,499 (D/XC kit) and $2,099 (R/XC) and go up from there. Claimed frame weight is 3.9lbs for medium with geared dropouts.