Santa Cruz Hightower CC V2

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.

Santa Cruz Hightower CC V2

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.

Santa Cruz Hightower CC V2

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.

Santa Cruz Hightower CC V2

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.

Santa Cruz Hightower CC V2

During our test period we had three different riders with three different backgrounds put time on the Hightower. A ex-roadie turned dirt bike guy, a recovering XC type and a washed up downhiller turned ebiker. Over the summer and fall months we put in tons of miles and took the bike all over Cascadia. All of our testers came back impressed by the Hightower’s well-rounded nature and overall “good ride” vibes.

It seemed that whether our testers were going out to shuttle Oakridge, pedaling the flat, boring trails around Bend, or spending the day climbing Sandy Ridge or Hood River, everyone returned with a smile. The 65.2-degree head tube angle was a touch slack for the steepest of switchback climbs but wasn’t a major hindrance on the uphills. If you’re looking for a slightly more playful, steeper bike, consider the Tallboy for your climbing fantasies.

Santa Cruz Hightower CC V2

Moving away from the headtube, Santa Cruz gave the Hightower a pretty steep seat tube angle at 76.5 degrees, which worked nicely with the longer reach to get us over the front end and putting the power down. It’s no Ibis on the climbs, but it also handles the hits a bit better.

When it came time to drop the saddle and let the bike do some work, we were instantly impressed. There was minimal set up time with the Hightower and we always appreciate when a bike saves us time. As mentioned above, the bike is a bit linear for aggressive riders or those on the heavier side of the scale so be prepared to add some volume reducers. We ended up adding one and giving a touch more compression damping. We felt this maintained the impressive suppleness off the top while still offering us enough mid-stroke support and ramp at the end of the stroke. The author, Drew, who’s an old VPP-hater from way back has been stepping back his hate every year as it seems Santa Cruz has been making some major improvements to the platform when it comes to square-edge bump performance.

Santa Cruz Hightower CC V2

The Wolf’s Last Word

It may not be a surprise for most of you to hear that we give this bike some major props. However, for us, more specifically for Drew, our VPP-dissenter, the Santa Cruz Hightower further drives the nail in the coffin of the old-school VPP stigma. If the limited shock options aren’t an issue for you, and you’re looking for a do-it-all 29er, then try one out. The Hightower V2 is one of the best bikes we’ve ridden all year! It’s a bit heavier than its predecessor, it is also a little bit more biased towards the descents, leaving the Tallboy as the go-to pedaler in Santa Cruz’s lineup, but those slight tweaks have made it so much fun to jib and shred.

Santa Cruz Bicycles have done a great job once again, with their Hightower V2. Along with impressing us on the trail, it’s got great lines, a glossy high-quality finish, lifetime warranty and comes in a variety of price points. If you like an active experience on the bike and enjoy giving input to your machine, the Hightower should be on your list. It excels when the trails point down, the turns come quick and its pilot is leading the charge. This was a hard bike to let go of once the review period was up.

Price: $8,299
Weight: 30.08 lbs

Santa Cruz Hightower CC V2


Frame: Carbon; 140mm
Fork: Rock Shox Lyrik Ultimate; 150mm
Shock: Rock Shox Super Deluxe Ultimate

Brakes: SRAM Code RSC
Handlebar: Santa Cruz AM Carbon; 800mm
Headset: Cane Creek 40 IS
Saddle: WTB Silverado Team
Seatpost: Rock Shox Reverb
Shifter: SRAM X01 Eagle; 12s
Stem: Race Face Aeffect R; 50mm

Hubs: DT Swiss 350
Rims: Race Face ARC Offset 30
Tires: Maxxis Minion DHR2; 29×2.4

Bottom Bracket: SRAM DUB 68/73mm Threaded
Cassette: SRAM XG1295; 10-51t
Cranks: SRAM X1 Eagle 148 DUB; 175mm, 30t
Derailleur: SRAM Xo1 Eagle; 12s

Santa Cruz Hightower CC V2

We Dig

Absolute Blast to Ride Hard
Lifetime Warranty
Balanced and Confident
Slashing Corners!
VPP Gains

We Don’t

Limited Shock Compatibility
Not the Best Pedaler
Bit Slack for Steep Climbs
A Touch Heavy

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