The cream of the Santa Cruz 29er/27.5” plus crop is the Hightower. Built after years of dominance with the last Santa Cruz Tallboy LT, the new Hightower has the versatility to deal with whatever appears on the horizon. It starts life with a 140mm or 150mm fork (for 29er or 27.5” +), and couples it with a 135mm travel rear shock. This shock is paired to their classic VPP suspension kinematics, which gives the Hightower a higher initial leverage rate and a flatter overall suspension curve. In a nutshell, the company was looking to improve the bike’s feel over small bumps while also making it feel more consistent throughout its range of travel. Combine that with the requisite longer, lower, slacker frame upgrades, and there is no doubt that the Hightower feels steady and confident when descents get rough. Running either proven 29″ wheels or the new 27.5”+ standard, the Santa Cruz Hightower all mountain bike seamlessly adapts to the trails and style you ride. With both Hightower C (carbon) and Hightower CC (even lighter carbon) models, there is a Hightower for at nearly every pricepoint.
It wasn’t long after the Hightower’s release that images began to surface of riders using a 150mm travel shock instead of the stock 135mm. While this was clearly to the chagrin of Santa Cruz, there was clearly desire for a long-travel 29er Santa Cruz. With that, the Santa Cruz Hightower LT long travel 29er mountain bike was born. While the front triangle and VPP suspension kinematics are the same as the standard bike, the rear swingarm changes to accommodate the longer shock. Accompanying the 29er only wheelset option is a 150mm travel fork (compared to 140mm), which slackens out the headtube angle to 66.4 degrees. This makes for a bike that feel comfortable right from the start. It feels best at higher speeds, but still surprisingly fun at lower speeds that a more novice rider might ride at. The bike feels even more of a jack of all trades than even the standard Hightower, all thanks to its additional suspension travel, and Hightower LT C (carbon) and Hightower LT CC (even lighter carbon) framesets.
Over the years, cross country mountain bikes from every brand have been injected with more “rowdy”; like the long travel bikes that are growing in popularity, these normally-conservative bikes are more than ever blurring the lines between traditional XC bikes and trail bikes. The Santa Cruz Tallboy – whose last iteration was much more capable than it’s 100mm travel suggested – now offers a 110mm shock out back, and a 120mm or 130mm fork for 29er or 27.5” + tires. A 68 degree head angle, VPP kinematics, and a rear shock flip chip develops the original Tallboy’s playful character into something much more capable. Longer reach and shorter chainstays fuel that personality on Tallboy CC (lightest carbon), Tallboy C (medium-mod carbon), and Tallboy A (aluminum). It is still very much a bike that climbs tight trails with great poise, never feeling sluggish, or that the front wheel was too unweighted. On the descents, however, it feels faster, and again is much more capable than it’s 110mm travel suggests. Despite it being built for XC exploits, it is a through and through Santa Cruz, built to be confidence-inspiring everywhere.
Santa Cruz claims the all-new Blur “rides faster, more comfortably, and more efficiently than any XC bike we’ve ever designed.” To do so they’ve aimed on two parts pieces of development: low weight and handling. Starting with an 29er-specific all-carbon chassis, Santa Cruz claims a frame, rear shock, and hardware weighs in at just 2060g (size M), lighter than most other XC mountain bikes, and light enough to make you feel guilty for that brownie you grabbed with your morning coffee. Low weight inherently makes any bike more lively and responsive, but they’ve coupled this innate playfulness with modern XC geometry. With a 69 degree headtube angle, a 74 degree seattube angle, greater reach across all sizes than the cross country competition, and a longer than average rear center, the Blur promises race-ready climbing performance and none of the high-speed dartiness that plagues other XC bikes. Combine this with their VPP suspension kinematics, and the Blur undoubtedly is one of the best XC bikes on the market today.
The Santa Cruz Chameleon hardtail mountain bike has always been a bit of an “odd man out”. In a lineup filled with high-tech full suspension bikes, the Chameleon has always been the scrappy and shreddy sibling. The aluminum starts life with a charismatic drab olive/purple colorway, with a 120mm suspension fork. Most people associate hardtails with cross-country, but with the Chameleon’s short chainstays, long reach, and slack 67.5-degree head tube angle, it is equipped to deal with trails that are much gnarlier. It big hits and jumps with ease, and the rigid rear end excels in efficiency and keeps weight down relative to full-suspension models. Couple that with swappable rear dropouts for 27.5” + and 29er wheels that can be equipped for both geared and single speed options, and the Chameleon is a hardtail ready to tackle any trail, or any type of bikepacking scenario.
Few bicycle companies captivate the mountain biking world like Santa Cruz Bicycles. Their bikes frequently set the tone within their genre as premier mountain bikes, ready to conquer whatever comes next.