Santa Cruz Bicycles Highball Carbon - $2,097.95

Aside from skipping the complexity and weight of rear suspension, hardtails also forgo long wheelbases for the lightest, most nimble 29er platform. Sure, there's terrain that favors an FS platform, but in its element, nothing's going to match the speed and rewarding behavior of a nicely spec'd Santa Cruz Highball Carbon. Santa Cruz dialed its carbon craft on its latest round of full suspension designs. And here, Santa Cruz put its knowledge and experience to good use in order to create a super-light, race-ready 29er hardtail. With the Highball Carbon, Santa Cruz employs all of its proprietary molding techniques to achieve a groundbreaking level of stiffness and strength. By using a one-piece lay-up, as opposed to assembling joints that require bonding or wrapping, Santa Cruz eliminated any excess material and weight. This one-piece process incorporates continuous fibers around the tube junctions, resulting in a structure that can efficiently distribute loads and absorb impact energy. The net-shape lay-up has been compacted to promote an optimum cloth/resin ratio, and to ensure that Santa Cruz can control the outside shape as well as the inside shape. The frame looks as good on the inside as it does on the outside. Even the cable and hose guides are incorporated into the original layup. There's nary a rivet to be found. To enhance stiffness and tracking, the Highball utilizes the same mixed tapered headset as the Blur LT Carbon and Tallboy. This headset format offers benefits and a few options that are worth considering. The zero stack upper bearing assembly has a minimal stack height that allows a slammed, cross-country handlebar position. And while we might normally pair this frame with a traditional 1.5in lower cup that would accept a tapered steerer, there is always the option of running a zero stack lower bearing assembly with a straight 1-1/8in steerer. This can steepen the head angle a bit if that's the way that you like it. - $2,097.95