Santa Cruz Hightower CC X01 Reserve review

Can the new Hightower live up to high expectations?

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £7,799.00 RRP
Pack shot of a blue full suspension mountain bike from Santa Cruz against a backdrop of mountains and lake

Our review

A seriously capable trail bike that’ll handle just about anything, but it doesn’t come cheap
Pros: Well-balanced and easy to ride; geometry creates plenty of stability but still maintains a lively feel; well-considered spec choices
Cons: It’s certainly not cheap. Thankfully, Santa Cruz offers some good builds on alloy frames for a lot less money
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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.

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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.

Angled pack shot of a blue full suspension mountain bike from Santa Cruz, against a backdrop of mountains and lake
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.

Santa Cruz Hightower CC X01 Reserve
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.

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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

Product Specifications


Price br_price, 5, 3, Price, GBP £7799.00
Weight br_weight, 5, 6, Weight, 13.7kg (M) – Without pedals, Array, kg
Brand br_brand, 5, 10, Brand, Santa cruz


Available sizes br_availableSizes, 11, 0, Available sizes, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Brakes br_brakes, 11, 0, Brakes, SRAM Code RSC, 180mm rotors
Fork br_fork, 11, 0, Fork, RockShox Lyrik Ultimate, 150mm (5.9in) travel
Frame br_frame, 11, 0, Frame, CC carbon fibre, 140mm (5.5in) travel
Handlebar br_handlebar, 11, 0, Handlebar, Santa Cruz AM carbon, 800mm
Rear derailleur br_rearDerailleur, 11, 0, Rear derailleur, SRAM X01 Eagle
Rear shock br_rearShock, 11, 0, Rear shock, RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate
Saddle br_saddle, 11, 0, Saddle, WTB Silverado Team
Seatpost br_seatpost, 11, 0, Seatpost, RockShox Reverb Stealth, 150mm
Shifter br_shifter, 11, 0, Shifter, SRAM X01 Eagle, 12spd
Stem br_stem, 11, 0, Stem, Race Face Æffect R, 50mm
Tyres br_tyres, 11, 0, Tyres, Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C EXO TR 29x2.4in WT
Wheels br_wheels, 11, 0, Wheels, Santa Cruz Reserve Carbon 30 rims on DT Swiss 350 hubs