2023 Santa Cruz Hightower: Details, Specs, and First Look
Put the previous generation Santa Cruz Hightower 2 and this new 2023 Santa Cruz Hightower bike side bike side, and one would be much more likely to find more similarities than differences. After all, the geometry hasn’t changed much, and its mission is the same: to be that longer travel trail bike or that not-quite-long travel mountain bike that many people have come to appreciate. Not that there was anything wrong with the Hightower, anyways.
Some affectionately call the Santa Cruz Hightower a “dad bike” something with a bit more suspension travel than a Tallboy, with standard geometry that makes the bike easy to get on and just ride. More features, updated suspension kinematics, and slight quality of life adjustments make this new Hightower better than the last one. And that’s even before you get to that sweet translucent purple colorway.
The Hightower is available from the start in two grades of carbon, 29-inch wheels, five sizes, and with a 145mm shock paired to a 150mm fork. The overall frame layout is largely the same as the previous model, and similar to most other Santa Cruz full-suspension bikes: a lower link VPP suspension layout that places the slung low from the downtube to the rear triangle. As a result, its profile is distinctly Santa Cruz, though it is hard to distinguish a Hightower from a Megatower from a Bronson.
New for this year is something we’re excited to see: in-frame storage. Called the Glovebox, this first released with the Santa Cruz Megatower earlier this year. In short, it is a removable panel that sits below the downtube bottle cage. Remove the panel and there is plenty of space inside for a tube, pump, tools, and whatever else one might want on a ride. Santa Cruz even included two sleeves they are calling the Tool Wallet and Tube Purse for proper organization. Nice job, Santa Cruz!
One of the biggest complaints we had about Santa Cruz’s lower-link VPP is that the seattube tunnel needed to facilitate the suspension layout made it difficult to access and assess sag. While it is still harder to access sag than on something like a Santa Cruz Blur, there is now a little window on the non-driveside.
Besides that, the Hightower gets all the usual additions. Original owners receive access to lifetime linkage bearing replacement. All frames receive ample downtube protection for shuttling, rock strike protection for the bottom bracket, and a little mud flap to protect the linkage from grime. There is also chainstay protection against chain slap. And as is customary for their mountain bikes, Santa Cruz offers easy in-frame internal cable routing.
Revised Geometry and Suspension
We told you there weren’t many changes between the previous Hightower and the new Hightower 3, and that carried along to geometry. The basic fit numbers don’t see a ton of changes; reach numbers are within a few millimeters of the previous bike, though stack heights are all increased 5 to 15mm in each size. Small differences. Seattube angles are also roughly similar to where they were before; if your setup was dialed on previous bike, you’ll likely find a comfortable body position on this one too.
The taller stack height across sizes combines with a slacker 64.5-degree head tube angle in the ‘Lo’ position. Santa Cruz says this, alongside a 3mm-lower bottom bracket, adds a bit of stability at speed. What we’re most excited by is the inclusion of size-specific chainstays to ensure ride feel and handling characteristics were consistent across all sizes for all riders. Stiffness is also said to increase as frame sizes increase to offer a more consistent ride feel across all sizes.
Suspension kinematics see the brunt of changes in the new Hightower. Santa Cruz says the now 40-percent lower anti-squat values improve suspension sensitivity through the first part of travel. Further, its leverage curve is tuned to be slightly more progressive to improve bottom-out resistance. Because the Hightower already had good pedaling efficiency, the improved sensitivity is a welcome sight.
There are five total models between two carbon frames here. Bikes with alloy frames will not be avaiable at the start but expect to see them in spring 2023.
Hightower C R includes a Fox Float Performance DPS shock, RockShox Lyrik fork, and Sram NX Eagle. This makes for the most affordable build.
Hightower C S nets a swap to a Rockshox SuperDeluxe piggyback shock, Fox 36 Fork, and SRAM GX Eagle. This is historically our most-popular build kit across all Santa Cruz bikes.
Hightower C GX AXS upgrades to a RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ shock, Fox 36 Float Performance fork, and Sram GX AXS.
Hightower CC X01 steps up to a lighter frame, RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock, Fox 36 Float Factory fork, and Sram X01.
Hightower CC X01 AXS boasts the same RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock, Fox 36 Float Factory fork, and upgrades to the Sram X01 AXS making it the ultimate build.
When Can I Get One?
The new Santa Cruz Hightower is in stock now at Contender Bicycles and ready to ship. Contact us for mountain bike customization, upgrades, and more.
Is the new Santa Cruz Hightower still a "dad bike?" Well, if a "dad bike" is a capable trail bike that just happens to be easy to ride through almost all terrain, then yes. However, just about anyone can benefit from the features behind the Hightower; the Glove Box downtube, the updated suspension kinematics, and dialed component choices make the Hightower one of our favorite mountain bikes around.
Have any questions? Drop us a line and we can get you started.
Words by Alvin Holbrook. Images by Carter Hall.