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Versatility to shred anything.
Santa Cruz developed the Hightower Carbon CC Mountain Bike Frame for the aggressive trail rider looking for one bike that'll shred pretty much any stretch of singletrack that lies before you, whether that's a flowing trail network across expanses of forested land or you're embarking on a gnarlier ride teetering along the edge of a high desert mesa. It's one of the most versatile 29ers on the marketplace, allowing you to experience the widest breadth of riding locations without it being too much bike on tamer trails or conversely, being outgunned when the trail turns steep and rocky. For the 2019 model year, the Hightower gets fresh colorways for an eye-catching look that's sure to draw complements out on the trail. Otherwise, it's exactly the same as previous model years, which is a good thing if you're seeking dialed geometry that both climbs and descends well.
This particular Hightower represents the lightest frame available, thanks to Santa Cruz's top-tier Carbon CC layup for weight savings over the cheaper Carbon C frame. Typical Santa Cruz Carbon CC frames weight approximately 250 to 280 grams lighter than those with the Carbon C layup, giving you a lighter, more spirited feel when it's time to accelerate from a corner, lay down power on punchy climbs, and smash over rocks and roots standing in your way. Best of all, this carbon layup doesn't sacrifice one bit of strength or stiffness, so you'll remain impressed with its precise handling and serious level of abuse this Carbon CC frame can withstand.
The Hightower's adjustable flip-chip is definitely one of its best features, seeing you can swap out 29-inch wheels for the voluminous traction and bump-smoothing support of 27.5+ wheels on tires up to a massive 3.0 inches wide. To convert it from a 29er to 27.5+ use, you'll have to run a slightly taller 150-millimeter fork, versus the 140-millimeter fork recommended with 29-inch wheels. This taller fork ensures the bottom bracket doesn't get too low, seeing the few millimeter difference when dropping down to 27.5+ wheels on either 2.8 or 3.0-inch tires.
Regardless of what wheel size you run, the Hightower solidifies its status as an aggressive trail machine with its long, relatively slack geometry inspiring confidence at high speeds. The head tube angle is practically the same between both wheel sizes at 67 degrees, so long as you choose a 140-millimeter fork on the 29er and a 150-millimeter fork in 27.5+ form. Both sizes retain a roomy cockpit and noticeably long wheelbase for a comfortable and confident riding position, also lending stability when you open it up at higher speeds. To help offset the longer geometry, Santa Cruz designed the Hightower with relatively short chainstays of 17.1 inches for quick turning capabilities. It's also pretty damn low, with its 13.2-inch bottom bracket keeping you glued to the trail when you're rallying across rock gardens and bombing downhill at high velocities.
As you'd expect from a trail bike of this pedigree, it's packing 135 millimeters of travel from Santa Cruz's VPP suspension, which sports an upper-link driven shock in this configuration for an optimal mixture of pedaling efficiency and excellent bottom-out resistance on rowdy descents. 135 millimeters of travel (that's approximately 5.3 inches) optimizes the standard Hightower for aggressive trail riders seeking a well-balanced feel that'll quickly scoot uphill and conquer technical descents, but without it being too much bike for many riders like some long-travel 29ers.
This iteration of VPP uses an upper box-style link attaching to the top tube for greater stiffness and increased stand-over clearance. The lower link sits neatly above the bottom bracket, protecting it from damaging rock strikes when you're riding the Hightower like a monster truck over loose rocks and trail debris. The VPP suspension is more sensitive off-the-top than older versions (especially with FOX's EVOL air canister), making it better at absorbing small bumps on the trail and laying down serious traction on rocky climbs. The mid-stroke is more linear than for a more active feel until the end-stroke, at which point it ramps up considerably to prevent bottoming out on bigger hits.
- Santa Cruz's premiere 29er for aggressive trail riding
- 135mm of VPP travel balances efficiency with bump-smoothing support
- Balanced geometry for lung-busting climbs and scorching descents
- Carbon CC frame saves grams without sacrificing stiffness or strength
- Flip-chip allows you to swap 29in for 27.5+ without altering geometry
- Rear triangle clears a massive 3.0-inch tires in 27.5+ configuration
- Boost axle spacing stiffens the rear wheel for precise tracking
- Item #SNZ00JQ
- Q & A
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- 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 email@example.com