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The Hightower Carbon CC Mountain Bike Frame is Santa Cruz's premier bike for conquering large swaths of imposing alpine terrain where steep, rocky descents pose a significant challenge. When it was first introduced, the Hightower represented the longest travel 29er in Santa Cruz's range (now supplanted by the Hightower LT), making it the go-to choice for handling challenging alpine terrain. For unmatched versatility, it's configurable with either 29in or 27.5+ wheels, courtesy of its flip-chip located along the upper linkage. This ability to swap between wheel sizes gives the Hightower speed-carrying, obstacle-rolling abilities as a 29er or voluminous traction and bump-smoothing support in 27.5+ form.
This particular version of the Hightower benefits from the significant weight savings of Santa Cruz's top-flight Carbon CC frame, which saves approximately 230 grams compared to the less expensive Carbon C frame. The frame's weight savings don't sacrifice one bit of the legendary strength and stiffness you've come to associate with Santa Cruz carbon. And because it's the Carbon CC version of the Hightower, you'll find the Fox Float Factory DPS shock is upgraded over the lower-end Float Performance shock with a buttery Kashima coating for improved small-bump compliance.
Regardless of what wheel size you run, the Hightower solidifies its status as an aggressive trail machine with its long, 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 140mm fork on the 29er and a 150mm 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 high speeds. To help offset the longer geometry, Santa Cruz designed the Hightower with relatively short chainstays of 17.1in for quick turning capabilities. It's also pretty damn low, with its 13.2in 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 bike of this pedigree, it's packing Santa Cruz's VPP suspension for an efficient pedaling platform with a plush, almost bottomless feel on the descents. The newest iteration of VPP is revised over older versions, with the 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 revised VPP suspension is more sensitive off-the-top stroke, making it better at absorbing small bumps on the trail and laying down traction on rocky climbs. The mid-stroke is more linear than before for greater support until the end-stroke, at which point it ramps up considerably to prevent bottoming out on bigger hits.
- Santa Cruz's premier bike for aggressive trail riding
- 5.3in of VPP suspension handles big hits and steep descents
- Long, slack geometry for composure at higher speeds
- Carbon CC frame saves 280g without sacrificing stiffness
- Flip-chip accommodates both 27.5+ and 29in wheels
- Fox Float Factory DPS shock with Kashima coating
- Boost axle spacing clears higher volume tires
- ISCG-05 tabs for running a chainguide; not compatible with front derailleurs
- Item #SNZ00FH
- Q & A
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.
Like Christopher O's review below, I too chose the regular Hightower instead of the LT version for a few reasons - 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
Just right for me
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
I decided to upgrade my alloy 5010 this year as I wanted something a bit more aggressive with 29 inch wheels. The Hightower was my first choice, and though I considered and tried out several other brands/models, I kept coming back to the Hightower. When the LT came out it made the choice that much harder, given that so many reviews were saying that the LT's pedaling efficiency was just as good as the regular Hightower.
Living in Northern Virginia, my local trails are definitely not crazy - mostly flowy, wooded, loose-over-hardpack with some rooty and rocky tech mixed in. Climbs are either very gradual or short and punchy in some areas.
Due to my local terrain, I didn't feel the need for a 150mm travel LT, even if all the reviewers/comparisons were saying that there was no reason to buy the regular Hightower over the LT. Additionally, I really liked the mango color on the Hightower much more than the yellow or grey LT. I feel like truly made the right decision as there isn't anything I'd change on my bike. Part of it is that I went with a custom build through Competitive, working with Ian Gonder to spec it out. I went with a medium-sized CC frame with a 150mm Fox 36 Factory, GX eagle drivetrain, XT brakes, 150mm Fox Transfer Factory and I9 Enduro wheels. I've ridden it for a few weeks now, and without even trying I've set several Strava PRs on segments that I thought I'd peaked out on.
It took a couple rides and some adjustments to bar height, fork and shock pressure, and saddle position to really feel comfortable, but it now feels like it's an extension of my body. At 5' 5", my old 5010 was a size small and I upsized to a medium and couldn't be happier. So stable on descents but still compact enough to feel like I can throw it around when I feel like it. If you're torn between a Hightower and an LT, I'd say that your local terrain and color preference should help push you to one or the other. I'm super happy with my choice.