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Recent trends have seen the 29er platform break free of its cross country pidgeonhole and move confidently into all-mountain territory, adding all manner of burly terrain to its trail conquering resume. The 2017 Santa Cruz Hightower Carbon 29 R Complete Mountain Bike leads that trend with inspiration from its big-travel cousins. Dressed up in SRAM componentry and powerful hydraulic brakes, the Hightower 29er boasts 135mm of responsive suspension and 140mm of plush front squish to smooth out the trail.
The Hightower's 29er mode and a pair of chainstays that are 15mm shorter than the Tallboy LT mean it's faster over light terrain and rocky climbs than bikes like the Bronson; however, its 67-degree head tube angle, Boost axles, and third gen Virtual Pivot Point suspension all mean that it's just as capable of engaging that speed on enduro descents that would make the steep-angled Tallboy befoul its long-legged pants. Whether you're into taking the direct route over the crux or the big line when dropping in, the Hightower can handle it.
Santa Cruz is so intent on proving the Hightower's outsized merit over rock gardens that it actually bypassed the Bronson and went straight to the 6.5in Nomad for suspension inspiration. The result is that the link stays out of the way, which may be why the Hightower can accommodate a piggyback shock and a bottle cage — yet one more indication that the Hightower isn't just for XC hardpack or enduro shuttle loops. Instead, it's designed to be the engine on the way up and the sled on the way down.
In the end, the Hightower is still a Santa Cruz, so it features the same lauded construction process that's set the bar exceedingly high for how carbon should feel. The Hightower Carbon features a full carbon fiber frame boasting the same stiffness, durability, and strength as Santa Cruz's top-line Carbon CC frame. It's just made with a less costly carbon fiber that carries a tiny bit more weight and brings a big reduction in overall price. Each triangle is built as a whole piece, allowing engineers to continuously shape high-stress junctures and avoid creating weak points or areas of the frame with less structural integrity. Before completion, the carbon is compacted from the inside as well, eliminating excess material build-up inside the tubing and saving even more weight over quicker, less precise construction methods.
The Hightower's two triangles are joined by the latest generation of VPP suspension. Santa Cruz refers to it in-house as VPP3, but it's essentially the same VPP we know and love with the Nomad-inspired updates mentioned above. A repositioned lower link now shelters above the bottom bracket, increasing ground clearance to decrease the chance of rock strikes while indulging the Hightower's desire to masticate scree fields and pick through the rooty, rocky, techy stuff. The upper link has also wandered up and forward, which makes for a more accommodating standover height for smaller riders wanting a huge ride, and it also stiffens the back end.
The latest VPP's changes aren't limited to wandering links, though; the system's tuning has also been tweaked. Where the old suspension curve described a deep "U," the new VPP's curve resembles a flattened check mark, with less dramatic ramping on either end of the arc. The results are that, during the initial and mid stroke, it boasts increased bump compliance to keep the tires glued to the trail for more traction across lumpy climbs. It also maintains its predecessor's firm feel during accelerations while jockeying for position in a mass start or a finishing sprint. The RockShox Monarch's ramp-up arc doesn't dramatically alter as the shock compresses, so the pedaling platform stays consistent across travel, with less wallowing, bob, and bottom-outs.
As you've no doubt gathered, we're big fans of what the Hightower is capable of as a 29er; however, we also want to make sure to note that the little flip chip niblet that sits in the upper link allows the shock mount to migrate and also accommodate 27.5+ wheels. Being able to reposition the shock attachment point effectively accounts for the 9mm difference in radii between 27.5+ and 29in tires, keeping the geometry as static as possible while allowing the Hightower the versatility to serve as three-season race rocket and, come winter, a 27.5+ sleigh ride machine.
- Santa Cruz's ultimate trail machine
- Responsive pedaling platform with 5.3in of VPP travel
- Spacious geometry for sending bigger lines
- Flip chip allows compatibility with both 27.5+ and 29-inch wheels
- Carbon construction reduces weight and increases stiffness
- Santa Cruz continues to lead the industry with innovative design
- Item #SNZ00BN
- Q & A
Your sizing chart for this bike is different than what's posted on Santa Cruz's site by 2 inches... I'm 5'9 and could have gone with a L size according to SC's site... Will I be too big for a M size?
What is the weight of this bike? Any chance to upgrade some of the components?
Hey Monkeybar, the Hightower Carbon R 29'er comes in at 29.54lbs /13.4kg, likely the medium frame being weighed. This bike is a complete bike from Santa Cruz, so we could put different components on, but couldn't swap outright. We definitely can do custom builds if you're interested though. Feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or my direct line 801.204.4547. Best regards, Connor