Santa Cruz Highball vs. Chameleon: Compared

Are you ready to elevate your mountain biking adventures with a high-quality hardtail from Santa Cruz? If so, you may find yourself torn between two remarkable options: the Highball and the Chameleon.

These carbon fiber marvels both accommodate 29-inch wheels, but they possess unique personalities and excel in different terrains.

Here, we’ll delve into the distinctive features and differences between these two models, helping you make an informed decision that aligns with your riding style and preferences.

FeatureSanta Cruz HighballSanta Cruz Chameleon
Riding StyleXC Racing and RidingTrail Riding and Bikepacking
Fork Travel100mm120mm
Head Angle69.5 degrees67.5 degrees
Wheelbase (size medium)1118mm1159mm
Standover Height (size medium)713mm (Highball C)743mm (Chameleon C)
Bottom Bracket Height307mm327mm
Frame MaterialCarbon CCarbon C
WeightApproximately 1.1kg (2.4lbs)Approximately 1.3kg (2.9lbs)
Tire ClearanceUp to 2.4-inchUp to 3-inch on 27.5+, Up to 2.5-inch on 29″
Bottle Cage MountsTwoThree

The Highball

Soar like an Eagle: The Highball’s XC Racing Prowess

If you’re seeking a hardtail that exemplifies speed and efficiency, look no further than the Highball. Crafted as Santa Cruz’s premier cross-country racing and riding machine, it boasts a 100mm travel fork, a lightning-quick 69.5-degree head angle, and a compact 1118mm wheelbase (size medium). With its low 713mm standover height (size medium) and nimble 307mm bottom bracket height, the Highball delivers stability and confidence on both smooth trails and technical descents.

Lightweight Powerhouse: Carbon C Frame, Unleashed Potential

At the heart of the Highball lies its featherweight carbon C frame, weighing in at approximately 1.1kg (2.4lbs) and backed by a lifetime warranty.

Inside this sleek frame, you’ll find thoughtfully designed features such as internal cable routing, a threaded bottom bracket, and a 12x148mm rear axle.

Furthermore, the Highball accommodates up to 2.4-inch tires and provides two bottle cage mounts for those essential hydration needs.

Find Your Perfect Match: Highball Builds for Every Rider

Santa Cruz offers the Highball in four enticing build options, each tailored to meet specific preferences and budgets.

The R build, includes a RockShox Recon RL fork, SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain, SRAM Level brakes, WTB ST i25 TCS rims, and Maxxis Aspen tires.

At the top end, the XX1 AXS Reserve build, boasts a RockShox SID SL Ultimate fork, SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS wireless drivetrain, SRAM Level Ultimate brakes, Santa Cruz Reserve 25 carbon rims, and Maxxis Rekon Race tires.

With such a range of options, there’s a Highball build that perfectly suits your racing or long-distance riding needs.

Read Also: Specialized Status vs. StumpJumper: Compared

The Chameleon

Unleash Your Trail Spirit: The Chameleon’s Fun and Playful Nature

For riders who crave versatility and a thrilling trail experience, the Chameleon is the hardtail that embraces adventure. Purpose-built for trail riding and bikepacking, it offers a 120mm travel fork, a playful 67.5-degree head angle, and an extended 1159mm wheelbase (size medium). With a high 743mm standover height (size medium) and a lively 327mm bottom bracket height, the Chameleon delivers an energetic and responsive ride on rough and rowdy trails.

Adapt and Conquer: Carbon C Frame, Tailored to Your Needs

The Chameleon’s carbon C frame, weighing approximately 1.3kg (2.9lbs), provides a solid foundation and comes with a lifetime warranty. Its thoughtful design incorporates internal cable routing, a threaded bottom bracket, and swappable dropouts, allowing you to effortlessly switch between 29-inch and 27.5+ wheels.

Additionally, the Chameleon accommodates up to 3-inch tires on 27.5+ wheels or up to 2.5-inch tires on 29-inch wheels. With three bottle cage mounts and multiple rack mounts for bikepacking enthusiasts, the Chameleon empowers you to venture off the beaten path with confidence.

Tailor-Made Adventure: Chameleon Builds to Suit Your Style

Santa Cruz offers four distinctive build options for the Chameleon, ensuring there’s a configuration to suit every rider’s needs.

The R build, features a RockShox Recon RL fork, SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain, SRAM Level brakes, WTB ST i30 TCS rims, and Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR II tires.

At the top end, the X01 Reserve build, showcases a Fox Float 34 Performance fork, SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, SRAM G2 RSC brakes, Santa Cruz Reserve 27 carbon rims (exclusive to 27.5+ wheels), and Maxxis Rekon/Rekon+ tires.

With a range of choices, you can select the Chameleon build that resonates with your trail riding or bikepacking aspirations.

Read Also: RadRhino vs. RadRover: Compared


Choosing between the Santa Cruz Highball and Chameleon boils down to your individual riding style, preferences, and the type of terrain you plan to conquer. If speed, efficiency, and cross-country racing are your passions, the Highball is the perfect match.

If you crave versatility, adaptability, and a playful trail riding experience, the Chameleon is your go-to bike. Explore the specific features, geometry, and build options of each bike to make an informed decision that will elevate your mountain biking adventures to new heights.

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