Santa Cruz Bicycles Highball Carbon R XC Complete Bike - $3,298.95

In the automotive world, mention cheap speed and hot hatches, and muscle cars, or Japanese sports cars quickly come to mind. It's a popular segment, and equally applicable to the land of mountain bikes. Not everyone needs a supercar to explore the limits of traction or a $7k 1/4ber mountain bike for that matter -- and, the Santa Cruz Highball Carbon R XC Complete Bike is an excellent example of what's capable when smartly spec'd components are combined with a highly refined chassis. Sure, this Highball hovers slightly above the three-thousand dollar price point, but keep in mind this is the same frame used in competition by professional racers. We're talking pure speed here, not versatility -- that's where the less expensive and adaptable aluminum Highball comes into play. The Highball Carbon is a racer's rig that provides excellent handling dynamics, lively response, and energy-conserving dampening. The secret to those appealing traits the Highball's one-piece carbon lay-up and curing process -- as opposed to assembling joints that require bonding or wrapping. In structurally important locations like the headtube and bottom bracket, continuous fibers flow around the junctions and spread throughout the frame. The layers are compacted from the inside as theyre applied, which eliminates voids, prevents delamination, and creates a smooth, stress-free interior with no waste -- in short, it cuts excess material while making the frame stronger. The resulting construction distributes lateral, vertical, and torsional loads throughout the frame to boost the Highballs performance. This design absorbs impact energy, while efficiently and accurately transferring bio-inputs like steering and propulsion. Translated into trail talk, this means the Highball loses nothing to flex when you stomp on the pedals, dampens high-speed trail chatter, and holds its line like a WRC champion. - $3,298.95