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.
Oh my… English Cycles is most known for crazy experimental TT road frames, as per their recent NAHBS exhibition machines, yet they still dabble in daily riders and lightweight road frames. This bike, however seems to be dealing with a severe case of flash and that’s not a bad thing. Steve’s flat bar road is one of the raddest bikes I’ve seen come from English since that wild TT bike they debuted at NAHBS two years back.
See more of this insane machine at English Cycles.
As you can imagine, the 2015 Cyclocross Nationals brought all kinds of custom frame eye candy to town. Hidden in the fleets of Rock Lobsters and Stoempers are these blue “Singlebarrel” Mosaic XSS-1 singlespeed cross bikes. Built from True Temper tubing with Chris King, Shimano and ENVE rims, it’s not hard to spot one in the crowd of buzzing freewheels.
I bumped into Aaron from Mosaic and managed to get a few photos of his bike before the massive SSCX race took place yesterday. These bikes are lightweight, precision race machines and you can find out more about them by visiting Mosaic Cycles.
You know the saying “good things come to those who wait?”, well, the original saying, which was shortened for public consumption was written by a cyclocross racer in Belgium back in the 1850’s. His text, which was later transcribed on his tombstone said “good things come to those who wait all ‘cross season…”
Here we are, at the end of the 2014 season, with all but two races left for the year, States and Nationals. Most of us are at our peak fitness, or maybe we’re already packing on the winter weight, but for whatever reason, suddenly I feel a lot stronger. Those parts that have been waiting for months suddenly have a home and my bike rack in the house, with that empty hook, finally has a mate. This is the peaceful twin, to the black metal steed, my Geekhouse Mudville.
When this project was first announced, I was honored to have Luis and Geoff from Mudfoot think of me to be involved. I can’t help but think Aaron Stinner may have had something to do with it as well. After a few email correspondences, Aaron agreed to ditch the “production geo” and go full custom. He asked which geometry I preferred and to be honest, I was completely satisfied with my Geekhouse, so we stuck to that for the most part, save for a half a º steeper head tube.
The latest from Portland’s Signal Cycles is sure to bring some brightness to the cold and dreary winter months. This fillet road is built with Campagnolo Record, ENVE wheels and has a custom fillet brazed stem. Follow Signal on Instagram to see more projects like this!
Aaron Stinner‘s latest customer build is so subtle that you might not even notice it’s a Stinner. Most steel builders are asked by clients to build bikes that match certain performance characteristics as you’d find in carbon frames. With such a request, come key factors, the most important being tubing selection.
For this build, Stinner selected True Temper S3, OX Platinum and Columbus Life, all three of which are common selections for modern builders looking to lighten their frameset up, while maintaining the integrity and liveliness of steel. Matched with all the carbon ENVE components, this bike will meet any expectations set by the client.
The frame was then topped off with an oyster white base coat with white metallic decals. Thanks to Aaron for sharing this project. See more below!
It’s hard sometimes to visualize a bike’s potential from just a frame photo, which is probably why Thomas built up one of those 29’r framesets as a complete for a photo shoot. I still think this is one of the nicer 29’r production frames I’ve seen on the market and at that price, who can complain? Lovely. See more at the Horse Cycles Flickr and pricing at Horse Cycles.
In the world of custom hardtail mountain bikes, there exist a few key factors that determine shredability. The most important, at least in my opinion, being the head tube angle. Next, is the rear chainstay length and both of which, affect wheelbase and thus how flickable the bike is. I knew I wanted Seth Rosko to build it…
Follow the key measurements, or increments with a solid build kit and you’ve got a hardtail that can behave like a trail bike, under the right rider of course…