We’ve seen a number of companies take a proven platform and add more suspension travel. It’s a common formula: take a short travel bike, add travel, and watch as sales numbers shoot up. Santa Cruz even did it with the original Hightower. As beloved as the platform was, a large majority of people started to overfork the bike, or install a fork with more suspension travel than originally intended. Riders wanted a bike with more travel, so Santa Cruz released the Hightower LT with a substantial 150 mm travel to tons of popularity. What if you were to lose travel? That’s what Santa Cruz did with the new 2020 Santa Cruz Hightower mountain bike, a bike for those who feel the Megatower was too much.
The Hightower mid-travel mountain bike is kind of the Goldilocks of the lineup, but arriving there is actually a little bit more complicated than just shortening the bike’s suspension travel. The Hightower, which at first blush looks awfully similar to the Santa Cruz Megatower, has a number of small changes that make the Hightower a “just-right” bike, even more so than anything else the brand offers. Largely responsible for this is the move to a lower-linkage VPP shock configuration.
Santa Cruz moved the shock to the bottom bracket area on it’s bigger bikes to build in a slightly more linear leverage curve, which in turn makes for a more supportive mid-stroke right past the sag point. While the Hightower isn’t meant to soak up the trail like the brand’s long-travel bikes, the end results make perfect sense for the bike’s intended riders. With just 140 mm travel out back (and 150 mm at the fork) paired a suspension that is more supportive than ever, you get a bike that straight up climbs better than its weight (portly) and suspension travel might indicate.
What else is there? Well, the Hightower has contemporary suspension geometry that is geared toward being a do-all trail bike. A 65-degree headtube angle, 76-degree seat tube angle, and 470 mm reach in a size large are par for the course in 2019, and are similar to what’s found on the Megatower. There is also a familiar-sounding list of advantages and features. Here, you’ll find a threaded bottom bracket, linkage covers to protect against dirt and grime, downtube protectors to protect against rocks and tailgates, and a ribbed chainstay guard. Standard fare and it overall gives the bike a silhouette much like the longer-travel bikes in the Santa Cruz line.
What’s different than the Megatower? Well, the Hightower frame is designed to run up to a 29 x 2.4″ tire, or a 27.5″ plus tire should that be your jam. The Hightower is designed to run air shocks only, with only enough room to fit something like a Fox DPX2, Fox DPS, or Rockshox Super Deluxe (as is used on higher-rung models). The rear axle flip-chip, found on the Megatower and V10, is exchanged for the more standard design that places a flip-chip at suspension linkage. Overall, using the flip-chip gives a 0.3-degree head angle change, 4mm bottom bracket height difference, and a more-progressive shock curve difference between the high and low settings.
Above else, the difference comes in attitude. Santa Cruz sees this as a bike with broad appeal, as seen by the inclusion of an alloy frame D-kit build starting at $2899, going up to the lux Hightower XX1 AXS Reserve bike at $10499. That pervasive attitude is also reflected in how the bike feels on the trail. I rode the Hightower’s sibling, the Juliana Maverick (ride review HERE), and found that the bike feels the brand’s compromise between climbing, descending, and riding everything in between. Riding the Hightower requires a bit more concentration to hustle it through the same trails a Megatower cruises through in its sleep, but the all-around capability is still there.
Perhaps that’s the value of taking a platform geared toward more travel and adapting it for less travel. It may have lost some suspension travel, but the core goods of the Megatower – namely stability through rocky sections, a linear suspension curve, and dependable trail behavior – are here to full effect. What the Hightower loses, the bike gains – climbing ability and overall playfulness through features – and does so in spades. Does that make the Hightower a mini-Megatower (aka the Minitower)? Good question. It sure makes it an excellent mid-travel mountain bike, and one that will make a ton of people very happy.
We have the new 2020 Santa Cruz Hightower trail bike in stock! Come to our shops, give us a call during business hours, or send us an email any time to email@example.com for any questions about the new Hightower or Juliana Maverick.