The Hightower has been a popular staple within the Santa Cruz range since 2016. Just as we’ve seen the American brand do with a number of its other bikes, it’s given the new version a serious makeover, altering everything from its suspension layout through to its geometry, in a bid to create the ultimate trail bike.
Santa Cruz Hightower CC X01 Reserve frame
Santa Cruz is offering the Hightower in everything from its top-tier ‘CC’ carbon to more affordable aluminium, with five sizes to choose from. There’s also a frame-only option in CC or alloy.
The bike uses Santa Cruz’s latest suspension layout, which is still a VPP design, with the lower of the two counter-rotating links driving the shock. This helps keep the weight low and as close to the bottom bracket as possible.
A RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock controls the 140mm of rear wheel travel, upped by 5mm from the previous Hightower. Santa Cruz has designed the bike around an air shock only, unlike the Nomad and Megatower, which can use an air- or coil-sprung damper.
In the rear shock mount is a flip-chip for accessing the Hightower’s ‘high’ and ‘low’ modes. Adjusting this alters the head angle by 0.3 degrees and shifts the bottom bracket up or down by 4mm.
There are five sizes of Hightower to choose from, from the top CC carbon build to more affordable aluminium. Laurence Crossman-Emms
The reach is longer than on its predecessor (450mm on the medium), the head angle is much slacker (65.2 degrees, low setting) and the seat angle is far steeper for better climbing (76.7 degrees).
Santa Cruz has incorporated plenty of rubber frame protection on the chainstay, to silence chain slap, and on the belly of the down tube, to reduce damage from rock strikes. Lifetime frame and pivot-bearing warranties are also included, for the original owner.
Santa Cruz Hightower CC X01 Reserve kit
My test bike came with own-brand Reserve carbon wheels, which have a 30mm internal width to help support the 2.4in Wide Trail Maxxis Minion DHR II tyres – some of my favourite all-rounders.
The wheels bump up the price of the otherwise-identical CC X01 by £1,200, which is something to consider if you’re not sold on carbon hoops.
I’m a big fan of RockShox’ Lyrik Ultimate fork and its buttery-smooth control, and SRAM’s Code RSC brakes too, which make stopping in almost any conditions easy.
Santa Cruz Hightower CC X01 Reserve ride impressions
Getting the Hightower set up is quick and easy, but you’ll need to get off it to check your sag because the shock shaft and O-ring are well-hidden in the shock ‘tunnel’.
I settled on 30 per cent sag with one volume spacer in the shock. This delivered enough ramp-up when the going got heavy without feeling harsh on really big hits. I needed to run a little more rebound damping than usual to help control things a little better on really big, high-speed impacts.
Once dialled in, the Hightower feels well-balanced, and the decent reach on my medium frame helped to create a relatively neutral and natural-feeling position. Spin up a climb and the combination of the steep seat angle, relatively calm back-end and low 13.7kg weight mean it’s keen to scamper up just about any incline.
I did flick the shock’s low-speed compression lever on for fireroad drags though, just to keep things bob-free and efficient.
The Hightower has a lively, dynamic feel. Laurence Crossman-Emms
Out of the saddle, there’s a decent level of rear support, letting you pump through undulations and maintain speed.
Despite the stretched-out geometry and amount of travel, the Hightower retains a lively, dynamic feel. It carves a mean turn too and handles tight, nadgery sections with composure. The dependable Maxxis rubber helps, and traction is impressive.
Open things up and you’ll find enough comfort to soak up the hits without feeling disconnected. On descents it’s impressive, but it’s the Hightower’s all-rounder prowess and how easy it is to ride that really stand out, with it consistently proving itself, no matter what lay ahead of it.
Santa Cruz Hightower CC X01 Reserve geometry (low setting)
Size (*size tested): S, M*, L, XL, XXL
Seat angle: 76.6 degrees
Head angle: 65.2 degrees
Chainstay: 43.3cm / 17.09in
Seat tube: 40.5cm / 15.94in
Top tube: 59.6cm / 23.46in
Head tube: 10cm / 3.94in
Bottom bracket height: 34cm / 13.39in
Bottom bracket drop: 3.3cm / 1.3in
Wheelbase: 1,208mm / 47.56in
Stack: 61.2cm / 24.09in
Reach: 45cm / 17.72in