October will be here before you know it and with it, comes Grinduro, a different kind of bike race. After my pre-ride photoshoot, one thing became evident: the best rig for this race is a cross bike. Don’t even try to ride a road bike, because you’ll be walking and if you ride a MTB, you might clock in a better time on the descents, but there’s a 25 mile climb.
When Giro announced the Grinduro, Santa Cruz framebuilder John Caletti of Caletti Cycles began working on a cyclocross bike for the event. With bent seat stays, clearances for a 40mm tire, disc brakes and no-rattle housing, this bike is the ideal weapon for a day filled with Sierra Nevada gravel and crag.
My favorite detail on this frame in particular however is the Geoff McFetridge artwork. The evil mountain awaits and Grinduro is coming… Best get your rig ready.
ENVE’s just added two new essential, everyday items to their Gear list. A new Garmin mount that mounts to their faceplates and a multi-access bottle cage. Check out more information for their computer mount and water bottle cage at ENVE.
ENVE has recently redesigned their popular seat post to incorporate a two-bolt pattern, in lieu of their single bolt design. These new posts feature a patented two-bolt wedge system that are compatible with standard and oversized rails and allow you to adjust the saddle angle with ease.
I’ve been using one since NAHBS and can say this revision has drastically improved the clamp strength compared to the previous design. Before, especially during cyclocross races or trail riding, if I hadn’t torqued and carbon greased the ENVE post clamp enough, I’d get slippage and so far, so good with this new design.
Head over to ENVE for more information.
Moots have been making moves over the past year to redefine some of their lineup. Their Psychlo X got an overhaul and inspired the Routt, which then spawned the Routt 45 and while that might be exactly what you want, or need, they also offer custom designs.
This all-road is one of those custom designs and it features one hell of a build kit. That super tricked out ENVE GRD fork made its first appearance on this bike, as well as those new 12mm thru-axle King hubs (more to come on those). One other detail worth noting is the prototype ENVE seat post, with a double clamp mechanism – a vast improvement over the current design.
Overall, this was my favorite titanium bike at the show because it not only looks capable, it looks confident.
Shouts to Mike Cherney for making every. single. one. of those Moots head badges by hand!
Andrew Low has been building aluminum frames in San Francisco since 2010. While he’s best known for his track frames, in recent months, he’s branched out into cyclocross and now, road bikes. It’s been a long path for Andrew to get this point, but after many months of design, he felt ready to enter the road market.
This particular frame is a working prototype. The aluminum tube diameters, angles and measurements for production are still being worked out but you can expect a tapered fork and a GXP-style BB. This frame in particular is a 55cm.
SRAM Red 22 and ENVE’s made in the USA rims really vibe with the custom Cadence paint treatment, which was a collaboration between Dustin Klein of Cadence and Andrew himself. I have to say, while this bike wasn’t an official NAHBS bike (it was part of the Cadence clothing booth), it was one of my favorites at the show. Available this summer from LOW.
I’m not even going to tell you what GRD stands for, because I’m sure you can guess. The newest prototype fork from ENVE is not what it appears to be. Cross fork? Nope. Road fork? Not really. The GRD is a new axle-to-crown dimension, offering a little more clearance than a road fork, yet not as much as a cross fork, at a rake more friendly for road bikes.
It’s that nuanced, middle ground that enough frame builders have requested from ENVE and after a good amount of internal discussion, they’ve finally responded to their demands. Thru-Axle compatible and an integrated, yet removable fender to keep your downtube, feet and legs clean while you’re tearing through muddy, wet roads.
This particular Moots has a few nifty prototype items on it, which I’ll be covering later next week. Detail oriented readers will spot that thru-axle, disc, Chris King hub though…
Say, for argument’s sake, that you’re the owner of Henry James Bicycles, the main supplier of True Temper tubing, various lugs and tools. You know just about every framebuilder in the USA and have seen their work in great detail. So when it comes to select a builder to construct your dream bike, who do you call?
For Hank from Henry James, he looked to Santa Barbara’s Stinner Frameworks. When he found out about the beloved Mudfoot cyclocross bikes, he wanted in, but not being on the team, Aaron and painter Jordan Low designed Hank his own paint job.
Arguably my favorite from Low, this bike has pizzaz. With matte and glossy notes, a pearl top coat and yes, stripes with fades, Hank’s bike is a show stopper. SRAM Red 22, Chris King, ENVE and cyclocross tires with minimal tread will take on the fire roads, trails and tracks surrounding Henry James’ facilities in SoCal.
In fact, this bike looks so damn good, I might have to visit them to see it in the wild… If you’re at NAHBS, swing by the Henry James booth at #636 to see it in person.
For those of you who wish those ENVE stems were designed for mountain riding, or came in mountain lengths, today’s your lucky day. Just announced this afternoon, ENVE has developed a new stem, designed specifically for their M-Series wheels and component range.
The MTN stem is available in 40, 55, 70 and 85mm lengths, with a 6º or -6º rise and a 37mm stack height. MTN Stems are due to hit dealers any day now, so head to your local shop for ordering.
Sometimes, it’s the unexpected that delivers the most fun. Wheel size, when it comes to mountain biking, is a polarizing topic. People will swear allegiance to the 29r platform, without a blink of an eye and admittedly, I’m one that errs on that side. Being tall with long legs, I’ve kind of sworn off 27.5 hardtails.
They’ve either felt too squirrely for me to coerce or not big enough to roll out of hairbrained situations I often find myself in. If my riding ability were to be described in a word, it certainly wouldn’t be “finesse.” I need something that offers a larger diameter to correct little nuances in my riding habits. 29rs seem to deliver that.
Like a bucking bronco, those small wheels ain’t for this limestone cowboy. Or so I thought.
As previously stated in the Highball 29r post, Santa Cruz put a lot of work into developing their new 27.5 wheelsize option. While the general look and feel of the 27.5 version is almost identical to the 29r, all it takes is a few moments on this bike, particularly while descending, to tell that it is indeed, a different beast from its larger-wheeled sibling.
Ok, maybe it’s not all that different, but there are a noticeable points.
For one, the headset. While it’s a small detail, the bottom cup is a standard, press-in on the 29r and integrated on the 27.5. Because of the smaller wheel size, the chainstays could be shortened, thus the wheelbase loses some length, as well as steepening the seat tube angle to a 72.5º. But what I noticed, almost immediately, was the slacker head tube angle.
It seems like 69º is the magic number for hardtails (I should add that the Chameleon is also a very fun bike with a 67.3º head tube). It takes them from the category of XC race-specificity and dangles them over the all-rounder, “stunt” zone.
A 69º head tube angle is just right: not too slack to drop it into the AM range, or to make climbing a battle fought with a wandering wheel, nope. It’s just slack enough to make descents a complete blast. Even with the lower stack height (604mm versus 633mm on the 29r) frame, I never felt like I was going to fly off the bike descending. For reference, I rode the XL model.
Whereas I felt a lot of apprehension to fall in love with the Highball 29r, the 27.5 was love at first flight… It just whipped around so well.
The Highball 27.5 has all the technical advancements as the 29r, it’s just in a different realm in terms of handling on descents but we’ve already discussed that. Let’s look at the frame.
With the new layup, the lines are cleaner than ever and without the external routing, you can really focus in on the body language this bike is throwing around. Even sitting still, posing for a photo, it appears to have a meaner stance than its sibling.
Granted, having ridden the rather stealth-like black and red bike with XX1, this blue frame with XTR looks a bit flashy. Although, with a price. Take note: with the ENVE wheel upgrade, suddenly you’re in the $8,799 water… Thankfully, the XT package without ENVE is only $4,299 with the CC-grade carbon.
Another great detail on the Santa Cruz Highball is the new disc caliper design and placement. This new position eliminates the need for a chainstay / seatstay bridge. Although it does make it a slight pain in the ass to adjust on the trail with a compact tool.
Now onto what seems to be the deal breaker for a lot of people, just based on internet chatter and commentary over the 29r. The 27.2 seat post. Since there are so few options for a 27.2 dropper and no cable guides or internal routing for a stealth post, you’re pretty much stuck with a Thomson dropper post and some zip ties, which is what almost everyone did on the media launch.
Personally, I can ride a 100mm hardtail just fine without a dropper, although it does add a certain amount of versatility to the bike, especially if you throw a 120mm fork on the front end.
Before to write off Santa Cruz’s decision to go with a 27.2, attempt to understand their rationale. Ever ride a standard 30.9 post for hours on end during a marathon on a hard tail? Yea, it ain’t comfy. The 27.2 diameter does allow the seat tube to be elegantly reduced, resulting in a lot more compliance, which is a good thing for your butt.
That’s really the only initial concern I felt the need to address.
With a rowdy, confident stance like that, the new and improved Santa Cruz Highball CC 27.5 drew me right in. After an afternoon descending singletrack, I was sold. Maybe XC-oriented 27.5 hardtails aren’t that bad afterall? Or maybe the Highball is just that good.
Photo by Sven Martin
If I were to chose between the two, based on ride quality alone, I’d lean more towards the 27.5, without discrediting the 29r’s confidence-aspiring ride characteristics. The stability and shredability of the 27.5 platform translates so well to the Highball and all I needed was one, 10-mile descent to change my opinion.
The Santa Cruz Highball CC XX1 starts at $6,299 ($500 cheaper than the previous model)
The Santa Cruz Highball CC XTR starts at $6,799
The Santa Cruz Highball CC XT starts at $4,299
The Santa Cruz Highball C S starts at $3,199
The Santa Cruz Highball C R starts at $2,799
The Santa Cruz Highball CC frameset is available in black or blue for $1,899.
One thing to note is the 27.5 Highball has a size small, while the 29r does not. In return, the 29r has an XXL, while the 27.5 does not.
…and for or those seeking a weight comparison…
CC carbon size M matte black w/XX1 kit: 19.61lbs / 8.89 kg
CC carbon size M matte black frame only: 2.58 lbs / 1172 g
Specs and other information can be found at Santa Cruz. You can also compare my notes to the 29r version at Shredding the All New Santa Cruz Highball CC 29r MTB.
Simple, straight forward and built with no nonsense parts, this titanium cross is just one example of Lauren Trout’s frames built by hand in Austin, Texas at Saila Bikes. With so many people building with 44mm head tubes, curved stays and disc brakes, it’s nice to see one with a 1 1/8″ fork, straight as an arrow stays and canti brakes. That’s the beauty of custom thought: you get what you want.
Even with SRAM, ENVE and Chris King, you’re looking at a custom, handmade, titanium bike for under $5k as shown, which is a damn decent pricepoint for a frame that will most likely last you for decades and while others charge near that for a frameset, Lauren Trout learned how to weld and wield titanium at Seven Cycles.
Shooting builders in their workspaces is one thing, but their craftsmanship shines when you can photograph the finished product. Just look at those welds… stacking dimes.