Santa Cruz Hightower



By Justin Serna; Photos Devon Lyons

The Santa Cruz Hightower is a quintessential ‘all points in between’ bike, ideal for days when steep, chunky descents come courtesy of a big-ass climb. With an increased 140mm of VPP® lower-link-driven rear travel the Hightower is paired with a 150mm fork, and momentum-maintaining, rock-eating, 29-inch wheels. As usual, the bike has a swathe of material choices, spec, Reserve upgrade options, and it will fit a water bottle in the main triangle.

Like all Santa Cruz Bicycles, the frames have a lifetime warranty, as well as free lifetime bearing replacement. And if you upgrade to Reserve wheels, you get one more lifetime warranty—even if you break them like Danny MacAskill.

Santa Cruz Hightower
Santa Cruz Hightower


Santa Cruz Bicycles has built a cult following in the mountain bike world. Not surprisingly, the launch of an updated bike had us all excited when Santa Cruz marketing man, Seb Kemp shot us an email last month. Some brands either have the image or they don’t, and Santa Cruz almost effortlessly seems to nail it, year after year.

Since 1994 Santa Cruz Bicycles have been shaking up the MTB market with an edgy style and image. The latest iteration of the Hightower continues the brand’s tradition of forward thinking design with a solid finger on the pulse of what aggressive riders want.

“We build simply advanced bikes of such high quality that it results in No Missed Rides; as a business we believe bicycles are a force for good, and the people who ride our bikes share our obsession.”

The 2020 Hightower is the next bike in the Santa Cruz line to receive a complete makeover and the new VPP® lower-link-driven rear end. The Hightower’s oversized brother, the Megatower, lives up to the “Mega” moniker with its 29” wheels, 160mm of travel and a 65-degree head tube angle. It’s aimed directly at the EWS athlete.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t live in a place where there are insane world-class DH tracks, let alone ride as well as any of the guys or gals that tow the line at some of the rowdiest enduro races in the world. The Megatower and the Hightower do not differ greatly in geometry, but what differences there are, are greatly noticed. First off is the noticeably lighter weight and climbing prowess of the Hightower. It’s enough to make a billy goat stop and watch. When climbing steep technical terrain, even in the low mode, the 330mm BB height never left us planning pedal strokes.

Admittedly, we were a little late to the dance in trying to get ourselves a Megatower for review, so when we finally did, Seb replied to our email with a bit of a teaser… His email said, “Sure we could probably get you a Megatower, but you might just want to wait a week or two and we will have a bike that you are definitely gonna want to ride.”

Santa Cruz Hightower

Before long, a fresh brown box with a Santa Cruz logo showed up, and we were treated to a first look at the new steed. Upon first inspection and the quintessential parking lot test ride, it was obvious that Santa Cruz had once again blurred the creative line between trail and all-mountain with their latest 140mm VPP® version of the Hightower. The cockpit is roomy and the bike actually felt much bigger than other 140mm trail bikes I’ve been riding recently. Santa Cruz increased all the size dimensions on the new Hightower except for the 1mm shorter chain stays. The notable 1.8 to 1.5-degree head tube angle change from the Gen 1 Hightower was very apparent, at 65.2 (low) and 65.5 (high) degrees. The new Hightower just begs you to point it down hill, and I was happy to oblige.

The Pacific North West is no stranger to mid afternoon thunderstorms, and as of late, the rain has been coming down in buckets a couple times a day. The much welcomed liquid sunshine made the Central Oregon dirt all time for our maiden voyage. The climbs came at us steep and long from the moment we left the truck, and the Hightower CC X01 29” RSV did not disappoint in either the open or firm setting. The compression adjustment on the entirely re-engineered Rock Shox Super Deluxe Select Ultimate shock provides a clearly defined base line for easy on the fly adjustments. When the trail tipped downward, the rocks increased in size and the jumps got farther and farther apart, I let the 2020 Rock Shox Lyrik Ultimate do its thing. The bike never shied away from the most aggressive hits. Some trail bikes feel great and ready to roll until the trails get rowdy, leaving you holding onto the bars for dear life. The Hightower was able to handle every obstacle I put in its path and keep on truckin’.

Santa Cruz Hightower

Our test bike is the CC X01 RSV and it comes equipped with a SRAM X01 drivetrain, SRAM Code RSC brakes, Santa Cruz carbon bars and Santa Cruz Reserve 30 carbon wheels and retails for $8,299. Now we know that price point is not suitable for everyone, so you’ll be happy to know Santa Cruz offers an extremely affordable aluminum Hightower with a build kit that we would have killed for just a few short years ago at $2,899. For all you dentists out there, if you happen to have an extra $10,499 burning a hole in your pocket you could always take the top of line Wireless XX1 AXS equipped Hightower home on the back of your Tesla Model X just to make the rest of your riding crew jealous.

Without sounding like I drank the entire thermos of KoolAid, I gotta say damn it if Santa Cruz didn’t knock it out of the park with the new Hightower. This bike has the potential to be the do-it-all machine so many riders are searching for. In my first few rides I found the new Hightower to be very well-rounded and able to handle the steepest climbs with ease while being able to turn around and shralp the nastiest of technical descents. If you are looking for a capable new trail rig, the Hightower is definitely worth a test ride.

I know the rest of the Wolf Pack are all looking forward to spending more time on the new Hightower, and I’m excited to see if the rest of the test riders share my enthusiasm for the new bike. Although I gotta admit, I’m gonna be a little hesitant letting “my” new bike go. Stay tuned for a full-length, long term review later this summer.

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Santa Cruz Hightower