Santa Cruz Hightower Review

The Santa Cruz Hightower tends to blend into the fray of low slung and long trail bikes that seem to be slowly making their way into the bike markets. My most recent test ride on the 29" variation of the Hightower revealed that this bike deserve a podium spot when it comes to considering your next purchase. I'll be the first to admit that it's hard to impress someone that is loyal to the greatness of the DW and Maestro linkages found on the other two brands we sell- as I am still convinced they are second to none. However I was blown away by the performance of the VPP (virtual pivot point) found on the Santa Cruz Hightower. 135mm of really smooth, trail eating, responsive goodness to be exact. 

I set up the RockShox Monarch rt3 at the yonder most suggested sag of 18mm- this choice lent itself to the smoothest rip of Rocky Branch I have had to date. This choice also, however, influenced a slightly "lazier" feel when really stepping on the gas. That being said, sitting down and sitting in on climbs revealed a pleasant, efficient mannerism. While grabbing KOMs might be tough at this setting, getting to the top of the hill with energy to spare is not. I am certain that with some more pressure or more specific setup with the shock, a compromise between smooth and quick could be achieved. 

Santa Cruz's clever geometry spec on this bike makes for a super nimble ride thanks to the tucked rear end- with the chainstays just over 17".. while the long top tube and longer front center values make this thing ultra stable when the speeds start to pick up. I found this bike loves to fly, too. The VPP's regressive trait in the beginning of its stroke is mighty nice to help get things off the ground when the opportunity presents itself. 

The build is excellent (S Build to be Exact)- Sram GX 1x11 drivetrain offers effortless actuation. The Guide brakes brought excellent modulation and great command. The 35mm cockpit and wide, flat bars felt well suited to the rest of the bike. The wheelset is also quite impressive- using Novatec's canti technology rear hub. Not only is it super trick sounding (think a quieter i9) but the engagement is super quick and affirmative. The fork is the beautiful and renowned Rockshox Pike- equipped with the RC damper. The rims are my go-to as well. As all of our MTB house built wheels feature the same ARC rims- previously labeled Easton, but now Raceface. All this kit equals an awesome value to performance/curb appeal ratio and will leave you some dollars to pick up a matching helmet or some gas money and post ride beers in the Pisgah. 

I might've lost you by now- but the moral of the story is that this bike needs to be ridden and ridden hard. Smiles and a new found love for haulin ass and taking names will surely ensue. Make sure to bring your checkbook and pre approval from the wife (or husband) because you'll want to take this thing home. 

EDIT- This bike is now a season old with many many rides on it. The wear life on the components is five star, this bike has been cared for professionally, but only to a degree to which would not be unreasonable for a consumer- Wipe downs, lubrication, torque spec monitoring and wheel tension etc.. At any rate I am thoroughly impressed with its aging, or lack thereof. 

Ill be honest, I have not put too many more rides in on this bike despite it being a true standout in terms of spec and design- especially for the area and my particular style of riding. The experience that I write about above prompted me to seek a more middle ground with pedaling efficiency and enlist the help of Santa Cruz's lesser denominator- the Tallboy. With a season or more on it, I am convinced that Santa Cruz simply delivers on making fun-to-ride bikes. The marrying of playful mechanics in the VPP design and inherent smoothness of 29" wheels make for an excellent experience out here on the rocks and roots of the Carolinas. I look forward to seeing Santa Cruz's next moves for this excellent platform.