Santa Cruz once again has a 29er trail bike in its line. The Hightower builds on the pedigree of the Tallboy LT with a host of refinements that make it an entirely new, more versatile machine.
- Longer, lower and slacker than the Tallboy LT
- 135mm rear travel
- 1x specific frame design
- Available in 29er and 27.5+ builds
- 73mm threaded bottom bracket
- Offered in M, L and XL frame sizes
- Claimed frame weight with Monarch RT3 shock 5.88lb / 2.68kg
- Available now
Bringing back the big gun
Santa Cruz rolled out its first long-travel 29er, the Tallboy LT, in the spring of 2012. At the time it was an incredibly capable machine, but the evolution of 29ers, and trail bike geometry in general, left it looking steep in the front and overly long in the rear when compared with some of the recently released 29er trail bikes. Santa Cruz retired the Tallboy LT at the back end of 2015, leaving many riders to wonder what would come next.
The Hightower shares the same 135mm of rear suspension travel as its predecessor, but the geometry and handling is different enough that Santa Cruz opted to give the bike a new name to accompany its more aggressive personality. If you’re into numbers, the Hightower’s head angle is 2.5 degrees slacker and the chainstays are 15mm shorter than the Tallboy LT. Frame reach has increased considerably across all frame sizes, too. As a result, Santa Cruz won’t offer the Hightower in an XXL as it did with the Tallboy LT. The reach of an XL Hightower is approximately 16-18mm longer than an XXL Tallboy LT, depending on the wheel configuration – more on that in a bit.
The majority of features incorporated into the Hightower follow the same steady progression of refinements Santa Cruz rolled out last year with the redesigned Bronson and 5010. Like these two smaller-wheeled siblings, the Hightower uses a reworked VPP arrangement, with the lower VPP link tucked above and behind the 73mm threaded bottom bracket shell. (Yes, Santa Cruz stays the course with a threaded BB. Thanks, guys!)
The Hightower also features internal cable routing for the rear derailleur, a 148x12mm rear thru axle, and a 31.6mm diameter seat tube to accommodate 150mm dropper seatposts, which comes stock on all complete bikes. Unlike the Tallboy LT, the Hightower is a 1x specific machine.
Big wheels or big rubber – you choose
Geometry changes aren’t the only major difference between the Hightower and the Tallboy LT. The Hightower was designed to be compatible with 29 and 27.5+ wheels. To dial in the geometry, Santa Cruz opted to use an offset chip in the shock mount.
According to Santa Cruz, Hightower riders who wish to dabble with the 27.5+ format at a later date will need to flip the chip to the high position and replace the stock 140mm fork with a 150mm version to preserve the bike’s handling. With a longer fork installed and the chip in the shock flipped the geometry varies ever so slightly between the two wheel sizes.
Build kits, pricing and weights
Santa Cruz offers the Hightower in three 29er and three 27.5+ builds. The 29er builds with XO1 and XX1 kits are available with an upgrade to ENVE’s M60Forty carbon wheels. The Hightower is available in the premium ‘CC’ carbon as well as the slightly heavier, but more affordable ‘C’ carbon builds. According to Santa Cruz, there are no plans to develop an alloy version of the Hightower.
The Hightower is also available as a frame with shock for $2,899 / £2,699 (Australian pricing was not immediately available)
|MODEL||Hightower C||Hightower C||Hightower CC||Hightower CC||Hightower CC||Hightower CC|
|KIT||S AM 27.5+||S AM 29||X01 AM 27.5+||X01 AM 29||XX1 AM 27.5+||XX1 AM 29|
|MSRP||$4,599 / £3,999||$4,599 / £3,999||$6,499 / £5,349||$6,499 / £5,349+ENVE $8,499 / £7,049||$7,799 / £5,699||$7,799 / £5,699+ENVE $9,799 / £7,399|
|FRAME||Carbon C 27.5+ 135mm travel||Carbon C 29 135mm travel||Carbon CC 27.5+ 135mm travel||Carbon CC 29 135mm travel||Carbon CC 27.5+ 135mm travel||Carbon CC 29 135mm travel|
|SHOCK||RockShox Monarch RT||RockShox Monarch RT||RockShox Monarch RT3||RockShox Monarch RT3||RockShox Monarch RT3||RockShox Monarch RT3|
|FORK||RockShox Pike RC 150||RockShox Pike RC 140||RockShox Pike RCT3 150||RockShox Pike RCT3 140||RockShox Pike RCT3 150||RockShox Pike RCT3 140|
|RD||SRAM GX 1×11 RD||SRAM GX 1×11 RD||SRAM X01 Carbon 11sp RD||SRAM X01 Carbon 11sp RD||SRAM XX1 RD Black||SRAM XX1 RD Black|
|FD||1x only||1x only||1x only||1x only||1x only||1x only|
|SHIFTER||SRAM GX 11sp||SRAM GX 11sp||SRAM X01 Trigger Shifter Black||SRAM X01 Trigger Shifter Black||SRAM XX1 Trigger Shifter Black||SRAM XX1 Trigger Shifter Black|
|BRAKES||Shimano SLX M675||Shimano SLX M675||SRAM Guide RSC||SRAM Guide RSC||SRAM Guide Ultimate||SRAM Guide Ultimate|
|ROTORS||Shimano 66 180mm Rotor||Shimano 66 180mm Rotor||Avid Centerline Rotor 180mm||Avid Centerline Rotor 180mm||Avid Centerline Rotor 180mm||Avid Centerline Rotor 180mm|
|CRANKSET||Raceface Aeffect SL 30t 175mm w/BB||Raceface Aeffect SL 30t 175mm w/BB||Raceface Turbine Crank 30t 175mm||Raceface Turbine Crank 30t 175mm||Raceface Next SL 30t 175mm||Raceface Next SL 30t 175mm|
|CASSETTE||SRAM XG1150 CS 10-42||SRAM XG1150 CS 10-42||SRAM XG-1180 Cassette 10-42||SRAM XG-1180 Cassette 10-43||SRAM XG-1195 Cassette 10-42||SRAM XG-1195 Cassette 10-42|
|CHAIN||SRAM PC1130||SRAM PC1130||SRAM PC1130||SRAM PC1131||SRAM XX1||SRAM XX1|
|BAR||Raceface Ride 35×760 Lo-Rise Bar||Raceface Ride 35×760 Lo-Rise Bar||SCB 16 AM Flat Bar Carbon 31.8 x 780||SCB 16 AM Flat Bar Carbon 31.8 x 780||SCB 16 AM Flat Bar Carbon 31.8 x 780||SCB 16 AM Flat Bar Carbon 31.8 x 780|
|STEM||Raceface Turbine Basic 35||Raceface Turbine Basic 35||Raceface Turbine Basic Stem 31.8x50mm||Raceface Turbine Basic Stem 31.8x50mm||Easton Haven 31.8x55mm Stem||Easton Haven 31.8x55mm Stem|
|GRIPS||Santa Cruz Palmdale Grip, Black||Santa Cruz Palmdale Grip, Black||Santa Cruz Palmdale Grip, Black||Santa Cruz Palmdale Grip, Black||Santa Cruz Palmdale Grip, Black||Santa Cruz Palmdale Grip, Black|
|HEADSET||Cane Creek 40 IS Tapered Headset||Cane Creek 40 IS Tapered Headset||Cane Creek 40 IS Tapered Headset||Cane Creek 40 IS Tapered Headset||Cane Creek 110 IS Tapered Headset||Cane Creek 110 IS Tapered Headset|
|SEATPOST||RockShox Reverb Stealth 150mm||RockShox Reverb Stealth 150mm||RockShox Reverb Stealth 150mm||RockShox Reverb Stealth 150mm||RockShox Reverb Stealth 150mm||RockShox Reverb Stealth 150mm|
|SADDLE||WTB Volt Race Saddle||WTB Volt Race Saddle||WTB Silverado Team Saddle||WTB Silverado Team Saddle||WTB Silverado SLT Saddle||WTB Silverado SLT Saddle|
|TIRE, FRONT||Maxxis Rekon 27.5×2.8 EXO 3C Tubeless Ready||Maxxis Minion 29×2.3 DHR2 TR 3c||Maxxis Rekon 27.5×2.8 EXO 3C Tubeless Ready||Maxxis Minion 29×2.3 DHR2 TR 3c||Maxxis Rekon 27.5×2.8 EXO 3C Tubeless Ready||Maxxis Minion 29×2.3 DHR2 TR 3c|
|TIRE, REAR||Maxxis Ikon 27.5×2.8 EXO Tubeless Ready||Maxxis Minion 29×2.3 DHR2 TR||Maxxis Ikon 27.5×2.8 EXO Tubeless Ready||Maxxis Minion 29×2.3 DHR2 TR||Maxxis Ikon 27.5×2.8 EXO Tubeless Ready||Maxxis Minion 29×2.3 DHR2 TR|
|TUBES/SEALANT||Stans Sealant 2oz||Stans Sealant 2oz||Stans Sealant 2oz||Stans Sealant 2oz||Stans Sealant 2oz||Stans Sealant 2oz|
|FRONT HUB||SRAM MTH 716 15X110 Torque Cap||SRAM MTH 716 15X110 Torque Cap||DT 350 15/110mm 28H Torque Cap||DT 350 15/110mm 28H Torque Cap||Industry Nine 15/110mm 28H||Industry Nine 15/110mm 28H Torque Cap|
|REAR HUB||SRAM MTH 746 148×12||SRAM MTH 746 148×12||DT 350 148×12 28h Rear hub XD||DT 350 148×12 28h Rear hub XD||Industry Nine 148×12 28h Rear hub XD||Industry Nine 148×12 28h Rear hub XD|
|RIM||Easton AR 40 27.5″ Rim 32h||Easton AR 27 29″ 32H||Easton ARC 40 27.5″ 28H||Easton ARC 27 29″ 28H / ENVE M60Forty||Easton ARC 40 27.5″ 28H||Easton ARC 27 29″ 28H / ENVE M60Forty|
|SPOKES||DT Champion||DT Champion||DT Competition||DT Competition||DT Competition||DT Competition|
|WEIGHT (Size L)||13,460g / 29.67lb||13,489g / 29.73lb||12,686g / 27.96 lb||12,721g / 28.05lb | ENVE 12,573g / 27.72 lb||12,330g / 27.18lb||12,365g / 27.26lb | ENVE 12,217g / 26.93lb|
So how does it ride?
I spent four days riding the Hightower while testing out a new stage race format in the Aysén region of southern Chile. It wasn’t quite an enduro, but it was certainly more than your standard cross-country event. Stay tuned for the full review.