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Tower of power.
Once relegated to the wheelsize of choice just for the cross country set, more manufactures and riders are experiencing the advantages of the larger wheels on trail bikes while riding demanding terrain. The industry trend towards bigger wheels is building with a momentum akin to what we experience when riding bikes with wagon wheels. The 2018 Santa Cruz Hightower Carbon 29 R is another example of a do-it-all trail bike, and it's dressed up with SRAM's excellent NX componentry and powerful Level T hydraulic brakes. The bike boasts 135mm of super-composed VPP suspension and 140mm of plush travel from the RockShox Revelation fork to get you down the trail quickly and confidently.
The 1x only setup on the Hightower allows Santa Cruz to shorten the chainstays to provide near-telepathic handling in tight terrain and crawl up techy climbs with relative ease. When the time comes to bomb back down, a 67-degree head tube angle, the added stiffness afforded by the boost spacing, and the latest version of the excellent VPP suspension allow for a shoot-first-ask-questions-later demeanor. Whether flowing on buff singletrack or rocketing through baby head chunder, the Hightower attacks with speed and grace.
Santa Cruz drew inspiration from the Nomad when designing the suspension pivot placements on the Hightower. By doing so, the linkages remain out of the way and have the ability to accommodate a shock with a reservoir and a bottle cage, hinting at the bike's ability to handle enduro racing or backcountry epics alike. If you are looking for a machine that can handle an all-day grindfest one weekend and multiple lifts to the top of the mountain the next, the Hightower is an able and happy playmate.
Santa Cruz sets the bar on carbon frame construction, and the top-notch fit and finish is present on this frame. The Hightower Carbon C is fully constructed from carbon fiber and boasts the same ride quality and durability of Santa Cruz's top-of-the-line Carbon CC frame. It packs more value since it's a less costly material, carrying just a little more mass but bringing down the price of admission substantially. Construction methods are identical for the C and the CC classes, and each triangle is built as a whole unit, allowing the engineers to wrap carbon through high-stress junctions to avoid weak points or areas of the frame with less structural integrity. The carbon is compacted from the inside as well, further eliminating excess material build-up and saving more weight over quicker and less precise construction methods.
The Hightower's two triangles are joined by the latest VPP suspension. The lower link now finds a home above the bottom bracket, increasing ground clearance and reducing the risk that errant trail debris, thrown up by the front tire, will smash it. The upper link makes the move higher up on the frame as well, improving standover height for smaller pilots and letting riders size up if they want a bike with a longer wheelbase for more stability.
The latest VPP changes aren't limited to just relocated links. The leverage ratio throughout the travel is also tweaked. Santa Cruz explains how the travel of the old suspension curve resembled a "U," whereas the new VPP's curve describes a flattened check mark, which creates less ramping on either end of the arc. In the saddle, you'll notice increased compliance off the top and through the mid-stroke, keeping the rubber glued to the trail for more traction and a more comfortable ride. Whether you're hustling to the top of the singletrack or standing to mash over a crux, the excellent pedaling characteristics are still present and your efforts won't be lost in the ether of the pivots. The FOX Float rear shock offers excellent adjustability and is custom tuned to maximize the performance of the VPP design.
We do feel that the Hightower is a beast in the 29in version offered here, but if you feel like experimenting with the float of 27.5+ wheels, the bike is certainly willing and able. Traction benefits definitely exist and your terrain and riding style will ultimately dictate what wheel size proves advantageous for your riding. A flip chip that sits at the shock's lower mount allows a geometry shift that accommodates the slightly smaller diameter wheels. When running 27.5+, Santa Cruz recommends extending the fork 10mm to bring the bike's geometry back to its intended numbers.
- Santa Cruz's aggressive trail shredder
- Efficient pedaling platform offering 5.3in of VPP travel
- Balanced geometry for all-day pedaling or shuttling alike
- C Carbon construction reduces weight and increases stiffness
- Flip chip allows compatibility with 27.5+ and 29in wheels
- Workhorse drivetrain isn't afraid of backcountry abuse
- Santa Cruz brings speed and stability to the trails
- Item #SNZ00E0
- Q & A
LOVE at first ride! Part 1
- Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
After only having one ride (and having a blast) I am not sure this qualifies as review for the Hightower, but I wanted to take a moment to call out the Backcountry.com team. Bike arrived 95% ready to rock out of the box in 2 days, packed meticulously with extra care and attention to detail. Kudos to the team at Competitive Cyclist for turning it around so quickly and delivering the bike with shock set to my weight and ready to ride after just about 30 minutes of assembly. Because of this fine packing job / quick assembly I was ably to get out on that short test ride. Also wanted to throw a Shout Out to Conner Johnson, the Gearhead whose review helped a ton with the decision to go with this bike. Test Ride # 2 coming up!
Go Fast Do Wheelies
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
I am 5'11" and have a 32" inseam. I ride a size large with a 50mm stem and it fits perfectly. I am riding in Salt Lake City/Park City and Moab/Fruita come the shoulder seasons. I came off a large Yeti SB5.5 for frame of reference, just wanted to try something new.
While this is a review of my semi custom build from the 2018 frame, it should give some frame of reference for if you're considering the Hightower. as there is no change except for its paint job for 2019. I have it set up with a 150mm fork and 29" wheels in the high chip setting. I figured I wanted a bit snappier of a feeling bike, but still feel like it has plenty of travel for more of the stuff around here.
I build my large C frame up with Santa Cruz Reserve 30 i9 wheels paired with a Maxxis Minion DHF 29" x 2.5" front and Minion DHR 29" x 2.3" double down rear, GX Eagle drivetrain, Guide RSC brakes, Fox Performance Elite Float 36 & Float DPS suspension, Rockshox Reverb 150mm, Raceface Turbine cranks Deity Copperhead 50mm stem, and 780mm Santa Cruz Flat bars. Also have a OneUp bashguard & chainguide, aluminum pedals, and the cherry on top, their EDC tool. With this build, it comes in at 31.5lbs. Not the lightest build out there, but its built beefy and with workhorse components. I did put on custom Santa Cruz and Fox decals to give it my own personal flair, but both are available on our site and could give your build a bit of bling.
I think it climbs decently. It doesn't have the liveliness that the SB5.5 does when climbing with the rear shock wide open,. Maybe I could tune my rear shock a bit more on the Hightower, but still think that would hold true. It doesn't have an immediate supportive feel, but I should say it doesn't feel inefficient. I often climb in the "trail" or "lockout" setting and it'll climb much better than wide open.
With that said, it smashes on the downhill. I was surprised to find how deep feeling the 135mm of rear travel felt. I spent a few days smashing Angel Fire's bike park and only a few times did it feel undergunned in the amount of travel. I will say that going fast and pointing it through some rowdy terrain is when the Hightower comes alive. It wants to be pushed. I've been digging riding steep, loose trails with it as the traction is great and the rear tire seems to track really nicely.
I did want to give a specific shout out to the Santa Cruz reserve wheels - if you can swing it, they are pretty awesome. They're stiff (one thing i noticed on my SB5.5 with aluminum rims was tire rub on the chainstays when slappin' into corners) and have a wide internal rim width, really opening up those wide tires. I've been impressed with their durability - smashing into rock gardens without hesitations. If anything were to happen to them, they do have a lifetime warranty.
If you have any questions on the Hightower or would like to look at building your own custom build, feel free to reach me at my direct line 801.204.4547 or my email firstname.lastname@example.org
so much fun
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
Don't really know much about mountain bikes. In fact, the Hightower is the only one I've ever tried. I first rode it as a demo and it was also my first time mountain biking ever. The sport interested me for awhile, but I was busy with other activities -- plus bikes are expensive. I was surprised at how much fun I had on the Hightower. It felt like driving a big rig truck at first because it's huge compared to the only other bike I have: a Surly Long Haul Trucker with 26" tires. At this point, road biking has become obsolete for me. I'll use my LHT to go around town, but I'm pretty psyched looking for trails from now on. So I bought a Hightower after two demos. Based on reviews I've read about the Hightower, I decided that it was great for someone just starting in the sport and something to also grow into as I get better.