Santa Cruz Bicycles Highball D XC Complete Bicycle - $1,549.95

Sure, carbon 29er hardtails are on the wish list of every racer from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. But, for those that like to shred without stats like nutritional intake and trail KOMs, there are sensory-pleasing rides like the Santa Cruz Highball. Packaged here as the D XC Complete Bike, it sports a SRAM X5/7 drivetrain, RockShox Recon fork, and WTB tubeless wheels at a price that still leaves room to play. The Highball rolled out last year as Santa Cruz's first full-carbon hardtail, and it was received by the masses like a conquering hero. This year, Santa Cruz has utilized its renowned expertise with hydroformed aluminum to create a frame that mimics the ride quality of the carbon version, only at a friendlier price point. Additionally, the geometry of the Highball Aluminum is identical to that of its carbon brother. Speaking of geometry, there's a good reason to love the Highball. Its short, 17.3in chainstays put your center of gravity more over the rear wheel. This position provides a surprising amount of flick'ability that separates the Highball from the typical, lumbering feel of some 29ers. It pops out of corners and navigates tight, technical lines with glee. For this reason, if you've been considering moving up to a big wheeler, but you've been wary of some the common objections like reduced maneuverability and slower accelerations, this bike will make you question the validity of claims about what a 29er can't do. To be clear, this is a race-oriented machine. You'll be responsible for absorbing most of the bumps when you're in the saddle as you roll over technical terrain. For a cushier ride, you may want to look at a bike with longer chainstays. Adding to the aggressive, race feel of the Highball is a short head tube -- only 3.9 inches in the Medium and Large frame sizes. This gives you a compact front end that allows you to get into a powerful cross-country position. - $1,549.95