Santa Cruz's all-new Hightower Carbon 27.5+ Complete Mountain Bike may ship as a mid-wheel/big-tire model, but its linkage can be adjusted, transforming it into a 29er without significantly altering its long, low, all-mountain geometry. Of course, the fact that it comes stock with Boost axles, clearance that easily accommodates 2.8in tires, aggressively stubby chainstays, a long reach, and a decidedly slack head tube mean that you may never be tempted by the other side of the fence. The grass is looking pretty damn green right here in the 27.5+ yard, especially when all of those features are paired with SRAM's newly Eagle-ized GX drivetrain.
Though Santa Cruz is releasing a long-travel (LT) version of the Hightower, that new model doesn't include the flip chip in the upper link, which allows the shock mount to migrate and it definitely warrants some attention. Being able to reposition the shock attachment point effectively accounts for the 9mm difference in radii between 27.5+ and 29in tires, keeping the geometry as static as possible across wheel sizes. There's definitely a trend in the industry towards four-inch 29ers slacked out for trail riding, but the Hightower's optional 29er incarnation pushes that trend into the enduro realm.
Like with the ability to swap wheel sizes, the Hightower's middle-range, 5.3in travel belies its true nature. Though its travel and wheel clearance may inspire initial comparisons with Mr. Moderate (the 5010) or SC's equivalent of a center in basketball (the Tallboy LT), Santa Cruz instead encourages us to "think of it as the Bronson's taller brother." Yep, that Bronson. Given the implied big-hit aggression of this comparison, we're compelled to dip into the lore of North American ball sports again for another analogy: the Hightower isn't a gangly hoopster so much as the two-wheeled version of a predatory linebacker. The 27.5+ Hightower's 66.8-degree head tube angle, generous tire clearance, and reworked Virtual Pivot Point suspension all mean that it's capable of cleaning lines that would make the steep-angled Tallboy soil its long-legged pants.
SC is so intent on proving the Hightower's outsized merit over rock gardens that it actually bypassed the Bronson and went straight to the 6.5in Nomad for suspension inspiration. Besides the obvious big hit benefits, one result of this is that the link stays out of the way, which may be why the Hightower can accommodate a piggyback shock and a bottle cage — yet one more indication that the Hightower isn't just for XC hardpack or enduro shuttle loops. Instead, it's designed to be the engine on the way up and the sled on the way down.
The Hightower's two triangles are joined by the latest generation of VPP suspension. SC refers to it in-house as VPP3, but it's essentially the same VPP we know and love with the Nomad-inspired updates mentioned above. A repositioned lower link now shelters above the bottom bracket, increasing ground clearance to decrease the chance of rock strikes while indulging the Hightower's desire to masticate scree fields and dice through the rooty, rocky, techy stuff. The upper link has also wandered up and forward, which makes for a more accommodating standover height for smaller riders wanting a huge ride, and it also stiffens the back end.
The latest VPP's changes aren't limited to wandering links, though; the system's tuning has also been tweaked. Where the old suspension curve described a deep "U," the new VPP's curve resembles a flattened check mark, with less dramatic ramping on either end of the arc. The results are that, during the initial and mid stroke, it boasts increased bump compliance to keep the tires glued to the trail for more traction across lumpy trails and root latticed climbs. It also maintains its predecessor's firm feel during accelerations while jockeying for position in a mass start or a finishing sprint. The RockShox Monarch's ramp-up arc doesn't dramatically alter as the shock compresses, so the pedaling platform stays consistent across travel, with less wallowing, bob, and bottom-outs — even while the Boost axle's path turns rearward to absorb big hits deep in its travel.
Santa Cruz's Carbon C frame construction remains unchanged, so the Hightower enjoys the same durability and stiffness of previous generations. Santa Cruz uses a single layup for both triangles instead of a jigsaw puzzle of individually cured carbon tubes, allowing the engineers to wrap the fibers continuously around structurally important junctures like the head tube and bottom bracket. This continuous wrapping strengthens the frame, dissipates the force from impacts, and more efficiently channels pedal input. Efficiency, durability, and even a touch of weight loss compared to building with individual tubes—the advantages of Santa Cruz's construction methods go some way toward eliding the differences between Carbon C and Carbon CC.
- A freeride sled for flow sessions and enduro racing
- V10-inspired chassis with lower-link mounted coil shock
- Adjustable flip-chip with high and low geometry settings
- Seat tube angle keeps your engine over the pedals
- Longer reach shifts weight forward for better traction
- Protective elements maintain pristine form and function
- Build kit features SRAM's latest Eagle one-by drivetrain
- Carbon frame and threaded BB combines the best of new and old tech