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Mountain biker descending a slab of granite rock.

2023 Santa Cruz Megatower V2

Long-Term Review


We Tested The Flagship Enduro Race Bike From Santa Cruz

On paper, the second-generation Santa Cruz Megatower is absolutely perfect for our backyard trails here in Park City, Utah. It’s a long-travel 29er with an impressive appetite for climbing, which is well-suited to grinding up fire roads at the ski resort to bomb down local skid trails and jump lines. We decided to put it to the test this past 2023 bike season, with Gearhead® Expert Kendall logging around 1,000 miles aboard the Santa Cruz from March through October.


For reference, Kendall is 6’4” and weighs 210lb in riding gear. He’s riding an XL frame.

Skip to the sections that interest you:


  • Frame Features
  • Sizing
  • Build Specs
  • Setup
  • Climbing
  • Descending
  • Strengths & Weaknesses
  • Gearhead's Verdict
  • Informative Links/FAQ



Frame Features


Before we get into the nitty-gritty tech specs of this particular build, let’s cover some general Megatower features. The frame has 165mm of rear wheel travel and is compatible with 170mm or 180mm of fork travel. It runs on 29in wheels only, but the Santa Cruz Nomad comes with mixed wheels and 170mm of rear wheel travel for those who might be curious.


The Megatower pushes towards the long and slack end of the geometry spectrum without going over the top, with a 63.5-degree head tube angle in the low setting and a 492mm reach on this size XL. Speaking of the low setting—all Megatowers feature frame flip chips within the lower link that allow the rider to slightly manipulate the frame geometry based on their preferences. The steep 77.5-degree seat tube angle in the low position provides a modern, efficient pedaling position for long days in the saddle.


The frame is available in a slightly less expensive Carbon C layup or a lighter Carbon CC layup, and all frames feature Glovebox in-frame storage within the downtube. Santa Cruz adopted the SRAM UDH early on, meaning derailleur hangers are easy to replace, and the bike is compatible with SRAM’s new Transmission groupsets. The cable routing works as it should, and the rear shock fender keeps mud away from your fancy suspension bits. All Megatower builds feature a chainguide and bashguard, which is always a relief to see.





The Megatower is available in five sizes ranging from S to a whopping XXL, which is a great option for riders taller than 6’4”. Santa Cruz does offer XS sizing for some of their mixed-wheel bikes like the Bronson, so there is a broad range of sizes across their lineup, although not necessarily for every model.


This bike’s sizing is pretty on par with most other major brands, although it may trend slightly smaller compared to Pivot’s Firebird or the Norco Range. These are only slight variances in reach and wheelbase compared to those other bikes, but it’s worth noting that if you’re in between sizes on the Megatower, it may be worth sizing up. It’s always good to see size-specific front and rear triangles, with unique chainstay lengths for every size. While I refer to the rear triangle length as the chainstay in this article, Santa Cruz lists this dimension as “rear center” in their geo charts.


Riding this XL came pretty naturally to me right away. Coming from a 432mm chainstay on my previous bike, it took me a second to get used to the 444mm rear end on this bike, but this actually turned out to be one of my favorite features (I’ll touch on this in more detail in the descending section). The 492mm reach feels manageable and adds responsiveness to balance the bike’s long rear end, making it comfortable to settle into an aggressive riding position for cornering. I found the 1298mm wheelbase to be right in the sweet spot for technical riding without feeling too long for goofing off in rolling terrain.



Build Specs






The Megatower was a little bit finicky to set up, but the juice is definitely worth the squeeze. After setting the X2 shock for sag at 30%, I set the high-speed rebound at 5 clicks out from all the way slow with the high-speed compression fully open. This allowed the bike to track well at speed, but it felt a little sluggish at slower speeds. After lots of experimentation, I ended up adding some air to achieve 25% sag (265PSI), speeding up the rebound a few clicks, adding one click of high-speed compression, and voila, it felt just right—granted, it did take some time. The Fox Float 38 Factory Fork was intuitive to set up; I ran about 95PSI with high-speed compression fully open and relatively middle-of-the-road rebound settings.

Mountain biker pedaling up a trail in dense pine trees.





I’d like to start this section with the caveat that the components on this build are fairly lightweight. A Megatower with alloy wheels and a coil shock probably provides a different experience than the one I’m about to share. With that aside, let’s dive in.

Non-Technical Climbing


The spritely attitude of this bike thoroughly impressed me from the moment I jumped on it. It provides a pedaling platform that encourages the rider to cycle through the gears on the climbs and try to capture every bit of momentum provided by the trail’s natural rolling contours. Northern Utah’s trail infrastructure has lots of dedicated climbing trails with smooth switchbacks and not many obstacles, and the Megatower really impressed on this kind of climbing. I found it very intuitive to settle into a relatively upbeat cadence and spin away, even on big days with over 2,000ft of elevation gain. While many mixed-wheel enthusiasts claim that their MX machines climb just as well as 29ers, it seems like this Megatower holds its momentum quite well, and the 29in wheel may be a factor here.

Fire Road Climbing


As the season moved along and snow started to clear, it felt fitting to move into proper enduro riding at the local ski resorts. This typically involves quite a bit of fire road climbing to access gravity-oriented descending trails often used as enduro stages in local races. These climbs can be brutal, but the Megatower handled them with relative ease. On smoother fire roads, I did utilize the climb switch on the Fox Float X2 Factory Shock to try and squeeze some additional efficiency out of the bike, and this does help in a noticeable capacity. The steep seat tube angle certainly helps with long fire road climbs as the Megatower’s climbing position is comfortable to hang out in for long spins.

On chunkier fire roads with more loose rock, I did feel like I had to leave the shock unlocked to prevent rear wheel slippage. These types of fire roads also make line choice a little bit more important when comparing the Megatower’s VPP suspension to a more planted system like a DW-Link bike. I found that if I rolled the rear wheel of the Megatower over a baseball-sized rock, it could sometimes kick the wheel out to the side, causing me to spin my cranks without resistance in a bit of a frenzy.

Technical Climbing

The lightweight, energetic feel of this Megatower made technical uphill steps in the Utah desert a pleasure to navigate. It’s a cinch to stand up out of the saddle, build some momentum, and pitch the bike up and over awkward rock formations. Where the bike needed some more coaxing was in overly technical trail sections with sustained uphill bouts of nasty bumps, roots, and rock groupings. The rear wheel traction seemed to slip occasionally in these extreme scenarios, which is to be expected with most bikes besides the ultra-ground-hugging ones.

Mountain biker descending a steep granite slab.





Rolling Terrain & Flow Trails

We’ll start off with the Megatower’s appetite for mild-mannered, rolling descents. It’s worth noting that this is a scenario where enduro race bikes often struggle. I found myself out of the saddle and accelerating through flat sections of trail in order to goof off on side hits—a characteristic usually reserved for trail bikes. On flow trails with sustained descents that aren’t necessarily technical, the bike was an absolute hoot! The get-up-and-go attitude of VPP suspension and 29in wheels made it easy to find speed and add some extra flavor to berms and jumps. While I typically prefer a mixed-wheel bike for flow trails, it’s worth noting that this 29er is intuitive to corner, and the fact that it isn’t overly long and slack makes it fun to jump as well.

Technical Descending


Moving onto enduro-style trails with an emphasis on gravity, the Megatower is right at home. Whether it’s high-speed tracks inspired by World Cup races or steep and deep skid trails, the bike settles into its travel and maintains rear wheel traction in a very predictable way. For reference, I do a lot of this style of riding at Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley, and I also did a trip to Purgatory in Durango, CO, last season.


Getting into the gnarly stuff, the bike’s geometry really comes into play. The slack head tube angle and long chainstay help the rider feel in the bike rather than on top of it. The bike’s VPP suspension design also helps the bike sit into the travel yet does a great job of maintaining bottom-out support. Feeling low to the trail and “in the bike” rather than on it is very comforting in steep and loose terrain. It really helps the bike track predictably, which says a lot considering this is a relatively lightweight build with an air shock. It’s also worth noting that this bike handles steep rock rolls and up-and-over type features very well, which can partially be attributed to the 29in wheels. That said, I did notice that the rear linkage could occasionally hang up on square-edge impacts at low speeds, reminiscent of the issue that I touched on in the climbing section above.

Freeride Trails


When it comes to freeride jump lines, the Megatower’s poised personality continues to impress. The VPP rear linkage has a very supportive feel that provides a nice crisp pop off the lip on jump trails. The bottom-out resistance is solid; I’m a large rider, and I hit a handful of drops in the 10ft range and felt like bottoming out the shock is predictable and not too jarring on the ankles. If I were building up a Megatower with intentions to do a lot of freeriding, I would probably go for a coil shock build and bump the fork travel up to 180mm.




  • Climbing performance is very efficient
  • Descending in steep, technical terrain
  • Fun and energetic on flow trails and rolling terrain
  • XL frame fits a 240mm dropper post pretty well



  • Rear linkage can hook up on square edges at low speeds while climbing or descending
  • Glovebox door rattled, but noise wasn’t excessive
  • Finicky shock setup



Gearhead's Verdict


The second iteration of the Santa Cruz Megatower takes what used to be more of an aggressive trail or enduro light bike, and places it squarely in the enduro category. This might not come as much of a shock when looking at the geometry chart—what’s truly impressive is that Santa Cruz managed to retain superb climbing characteristics with this bike. If you’re looking to take on the local enduro series, the Megatower is an excellent fit. It’s also a clever option for the rider who lives in an area with steep terrain and lots of rad descents, but also wants to pedal to access these trails.


Informative Links






Q: What’s the difference between the V1 and V2 Megatower?

A: The V1 Megatower has 160mm of rear suspension, while the V2 has 165mm. The V2 also has longer and slacker geometry, SRAM UDH compatibility, and integrated Glovebox frame storage technology.


Q: Does the Megatower climb well?

A: Yes! By enduro bike standards, it’s an exceptional climber. Check out the climbing review section of this article.


Q: What’s the difference between the Megatower and the Santa Cruz Nomad?

A: The Megatower has 29in wheels front and rear, while the Nomad has a 27.5in rear wheel and a 29in front wheel. The Nomad also features 170mm of rear travel to the Megatower’s 165mm. Both bikes are intended for enduro-style riding, with the Megatower trending towards enduro racing, and the Nomad leaning towards freeriding and bike park laps.


Gearhead® Expert Kendall has been with Backcountry since 2018. He’s an East Coast transplant who quickly picked up mountain biking in Utah’s hot summers and now pursues the gravity side of the sport, riding the bike park and racing enduro.