Santa Cruz Bicycles Hightower CC V2 REVIEW
Words by Drew Rohde | Photos by Dusten Ryen
What a difference time makes…It wasn’t too long ago that the 140mm bikes just weren’t that great. They didn’t pedal with amazing efficiency, yet the geometry and suspension weren’t really instilling that much confidence on the downhills either. Fast-forward and we’re now lucky enough to ride bikes that truly balance both ends of the spectrum quite well. We didn’t have a chance to ride the redesigned V1 Hightower last year after Santa Cruz Bicycles first made the change to the current lower-link VPP design, so we were excited to spent some real time on the V2 Hightower. Marketed by Santa Cruz Bicycles as the bike that blends versatility and brawn, the 150/140mm Hightower 29er has the stance, looks and capabilities to take down just about any trail, so let’s see how it did.
Sporting 140mm of rear wheel travel and 150mm up front, Santa Cruz offers the Hightower in five carbon build kits and three aluminum builds, so that riders of varying budgets can keep their bank accounts, and significant others, from turning red. Framesets are also available if you prefer to build your own. Santa Cruz’s entry level R Aluminum build comes in at $3,499 with their entry level R Carbon C build retailing for $4,299. If you’re so inclined to spend $10,499 you can buy yourself the CC version, which comes with Rock Shox Lyrik Ultimate and Rock Shox Super Deluxe Ultimate suspension and SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS electronic drivetrain.
Like most modern mountain bikes, the Santa Cruz Hightower has adjustable geometry, although we left the bike in the Low mode for most of our testing. Our test bike had very balanced numbers for the aggressive trail/all mountain category and kept the climbs fun and the downs funner – yes funner. In the size large, Santa Cruz’s Hightower has a 470mm reach, 621mm stack height, front center of 798mm and 434mm chainstays. The overall wheelbase on the large in Low mode is 1,232mm and the bottom bracket height sits at 340mm.
We found the 65.2-degree head tube angle to be a great balance between playfulness and confidence. The 76.5-degree seat tube angle helps keep riders efficiently placed over the bottom bracket and powering down. With so many bikes offering polarizing geometry, it’s great to have a bike that remains capable in a large variety of terrain that more riders will find themselves negotiating more regularly.
Without a doubt Santa Cruz bicycles have some of the nicest finishes in the game. The lifetime warranty is complimented by an almost wet-looking clear coat that helps protect your investment and keep it looking good, as do the downtube protector, shuttle pad protector and ribbed chain-slap guards. The frame is tight, meaning all the linkage bolts, swingarm, and shock mounts sit together neatly, and while it does look really cool, it can make for a bit of a hard time when cleaning the bike.
Other frame features include some more direct, refined cable routing, which Santa Cruz claims improves shifting performance while also making for easier replacement and reduced cable rub. There’s also room for a water bottle cage and those living in extremely dusty or muddy areas will appreciate the threaded bottom bracket.
Suspension on the Hightower joins the rest of the big hitters in the Santa Cruz line with the lower-link VPP system. Originally found on the V10 downhill race bike, Santa Cruz has been modifying the lower-link design and dialing in the pedaling characteristics and kinematics for more pedal-friendly applications. According to Santa Cruz Bicycles they gave the Hightower a nearly linear leverage curve, which means it’s more supple than you might expect for old-school VPP-holdouts, like me. The Hightower is designed to only work with an air shock due to its slightly less progressive curve, compared to the Megatower.
Santa Cruz specs the Rock Shox Super Deluxe on our test bike with one volume reducer in it but riders have the option to add up to 2.5 more spacers should they need a bit more progression. We did end up adding one spacer for our testing purposes. Also, the bike’s progression changes depending on the flip chip’s position. In Low mode the bike is a bit more progressive and offers slightly more ramp at the of the stroke.