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Santa Cruz Bicycles Hightower Carbon CC Mountain Bike Frame - 2017

Santa Cruz Bicycles Hightower Carbon CC Mountain Bike Frame - 2017
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We often describe geometry and suspension designs as "evolving," as though there's a biological aspect of their development not influenced by human engineering and that the frames themselves are somehow able to change even between product cycles. In terms of that standard industry narrative, Santa Cruz's latest model, the Hightower Carbon CC Mountain Bike Frame, definitely exhibits elements of the latest "evolution" trends, including Boost 148mm rear axle spacing, clearance for plus-size tires, short chainstays, a long reach, and a decidedly slack head tube. But. The Hightower deviates from the usual mode of static evolution in that its linkage can be altered in order to maintain its long, low, enduro geometry while mutating from a 29er to a 27.5+ rig. The Hightower is capable of evolving in real time so it's not limited to any single discipline or terrain profile.

Of all the elements of Santa Cruz genius that underwrite the Hightower's versatility, the most notable inclusion is the little flip chip niblet that sits in the upper link and rotates to allow the shock mount to migrate. 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.

Like with the ability to swap wheel sizes, the Hightower's mid-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 a two-wheeled version of a predatory linebacker.

The Hightower's 29er mode and a pair of chainstays that are 15mm stubbier than the Tallboy LT mean it's a helluva lot faster over light terrain and rocky climbs than bikes like the Bronson; however, its 67-degree head tube angle, generous tire clearance, and reworked Virtual Pivot Point suspension all mean that it's just as capable of engaging that speed on enduro descents that would make the steep-angled Tallboy befoul its long-legged pants. Whether you're into taking the direct route over the crux or the big line when dropping in, the Hightower can handle it.

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. The result 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.

In the end, the Hightower is still a Santa Cruz, so it features the same Carbon CC frame construction that's ruined our tastes by giving us unrealistic expectations for how carbon should feel. For the top-tier CC frame, the engineers use a higher modulus carbon than the Carbon C model, so less material is required to hit the same strength and stiffness numbers. Less material equates to less weight, and, well, you can see where we're going with this. Climbing and pure speed both benefit when there's less mass for your engine to propel, a stiffer chassis tracks truer across the kind of terrain the Hightower will tempt you into.

The frame's two carbon triangles are built as whole pieces rather than glued together from disparate bits, a method that saves weight and increases structural integrity by allowing Santa Cruz to wrap carbon continuously through and around key junctures. This process reinforces the frame with less material while eliminating the artificial stress points that result from bonded construction methods. Finally, the carbon is also compacted from the inside and the outside for a more even finish that avoids any structural defects, excess material build-up, and resin pooling for — you guessed it — even more weight savings.

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.

The Hightower's updated linkage means it's one-by only, which cleans up the look and really shows off that slick matte finish. It's got the usual ISCG 05 tabs and the few remaining cables all route internally, which is one particular innovation that Santa Cruz was surprisingly slow to adopt. The Hightower maintains the brand's insistence on the good ol' fashioned reliability of a threaded bottom bracket, though. More precise installation, less creaking, and increased longevity aren't the only reasons why we're glad Santa Cruz has refused to adopt the PressFit standard, but they're definitely near the top of the list.

While building the frame up, keep in mind that Santa Cruz suggests a 140mm fork for 29ers and a 150mm fork for the 27.5+ variation to ensure that changing wheel sizes produces a negligible effect on the Hightower's geometry, keeping the head tube at 67 and 66.8 degrees, respectively. In 27.5+ mode, the frame clears 2.8in tires, but three inches is pushing it. With variations between manufacturers meaning that some three inchers may not fit, we recommend staying below that threshold. While equipped with 29in wheels, clearance understandably drops, but the frame still easily clears 2.4 or 2.5in tires. Finally, remember that the Hightower rolls with the added stiffness of Boost rear hub spacing, so anything other than 148mm thru-axles are a no-go.

  • Conquer any trail in this innovative new rig
  • Top-end carbon CC construction is devoid of excess material
  • Flip chip allows for 27.5+ and 29er builds with one frame
  • VPP suspension adapts seamlessly to changing terrain
  • Lower standover height accommodates shorter riders well
  • Boost axle spacing encourages stiff, responsive cornering
  • Santa Cruz proves it’s deserving of its industry-leading reputation

Tech Specs

Frame Material:
Carbon CC
Wheel Size:
27.5+ in, 29 in
Rear Shock:
RockShox Monarch RT
Rear Travel:
135 mm
Fork Travel:
[recommended 29er] 140 mm, [recommended 27.5+] 150 mm
Head Tube Diameter:
1-1/8 - 1-1/2in integrated
Headset Included:
Bottom Bracket Type:
73 mm BSA threaded
ISCG Tabs:
yes, ISCG 05
Cable Routing:
Front Derailleur Mount:
Brake Type:
Seatpost Diameter:
31.6 mm
Rear Axle:
12 x 148mm Boost thru-axle
Claimed Weight:
[w/ shock] 2,670 g
Recommended Use:
all-mountain, enduro, trail
Manufacturer Warranty:
lifetime on frame

Geometry Chart

Santa Cruz

Geometry Chart


Hightower 1C

Seat Tube


Effective Top Tube






Stand Over

Head Tube


Head Tube Angle


Seat Tube Angle


Bottom Bracket Drop




M 16.5in 23.7in 23.8in 16.9in 27.9in 3.5in 67o 74.3o 1.3in 17.1in 45.9in
L 17.7in 24.5in 24.1in 17.2in 28.1in 3.9in 67o 74.3o 1.3in 17.1in 46.7in
XL 19.3in 25.6in 24.5in 18.7in 28.3in 4.3in 67o 74.3o 1.3in 17.1in 47.8in

Seat Tube


Effective Top Tube






Stand Over

Head Tube


Head Tube Angle


Seat Tube Angle


Bottom Bracket Drop






16.5in 23.7in 24in 16.8in 27.8in 3.5in 66.8o 74.1o 1.1in 17.1in 46in
L 17.7in 24.5in 24.2in 17.6in 27.9in 3.9in 66.8o 74.1o 1.1in 17.1in 46.8in
XL 19.3in 25.6in 24.6in 18.6in 28.2in 4.3in 66.8o 74.1o 1.1in 17.1in 48in

Reviews & Community


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they've come a long way

  • Familiarity: I've used it several times

I am surprised at how much I loved riding the hightower (27.5+ setup). As a XC hard tail guy I was very happy with how this thing climbed, it made a real ride, which includes up/down/flat, incredibly enjoyable. I think the technology in bikes has come leaps and bounds in the last 5 years and Santa Cruz has really kept on top of it. I rode a variety of terrain - firebreak rollers, sand, rocky, flowy, and the think just inspires confidence and is so fun, it reminds me why I really ride bikes. The handling was fantastic and I was used to the bike in no time at all. pedaling was not sloshy going up, and it didn't take much from me to keep it on line going back down. I own two other Santa Cruz bikes and it's frightening that I'm considering adding another to our bike room.
I am 5'7" and rode a M. Feel free to contact me with sizing questions or any question on the HT
kylebrown@competitivecyclist.com 801-204-4699

they've come a long way

Do it all!

  • Familiarity: I've used it several times

I feel as though if you are looking at this bike, you have already heard the hype. I must say I was pretty skeptical of all the raving reviews chalking it up to a hype train.

Now after getting a few rides on one I have become a believer.

I am coming from a Bronson 2.0 which I LOVE. It has been very hard for me to part with it but I am really beginning to love the 29ers. They really do pick up speed like crazy and roll over just about anything. I was worried about struggling with them in tighter corners but haven't noticed any loss in nimbleness.
I did notice on the up when going slower through technical sections the front can get away from me but I think the more I ride the bike and get used to it that will get better.

I was also worried about the 135mm rear travel after coming from the Bronson's 150mm but I haven't noticed too much of a difference yet. I would say for 99.9% of people 99.9% of the time 135 is more than enough. Not to mention it rides like way more. I also built mine up with the 29 inch wheels but with a 150 fork. I LOVE IT!

I only have a few days on the bike so far but am looking forward to putting in more miles and really finding out what this thing can do.


  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Let me just preface this, by saying this bike rips.

As I'm sure you know, this bike can be run with 27.5+ tires or 29 inch wagon wheels, and having run it with both, ill give you my impressions with both.

In both wheel configurations, this bike is fast. Going both up and down, it will surprise you. Like pretty much every nice bicycle on the market, it pedals really well. Like pretty much every nice bike, it also descends admirably. Here are a few things that make this bike different, and how it stacks up to a few other bikes.
This thing plows. Its travel is definitely not indicative of its trail manners on rowdy descents. Its definitely not as playful as the Bronson interestingly enough, but its fast and confidence inspiring, but going slow isn't that fun, and this bike isn't slow.
Its incredibly versatile. Apart from its ability to change wheels (which I haven't done that often, actually) you can spend all day on an epic single track adventure, and be perfectly happy, and after go charge a rowdy downhill, and be perfectly fine.
This bike feels more like a bike you would point at a descent and hold on, and requires less input than the bronson, but it does not pop off of things as easily. It reminds me of a bulldozer.

29 VS 27.5+?
27.5+ has been pushed hard in the industry, and here is my take. They are super fun, but in order to optimize them, you have a very small range of air pressures that will work compared to a lower volume tire, and I attribute this to a tire acting like an un-dampened air spring. Even so, if you are a beginner or intermediate rider, the wider tires will give you more confidence than the 29 inch wheels, regardless of pressure, and will definitely make you a better rider. If you are intermediate-advanced, are comfortable cornering, and want to charge, I would go with 29 inch wheels. The Hightower was definitely funner in that configuration for me, and I felt like it really woke up with the larger wheels. Which is for you? If you ride more technical, choppy, and aggressive, I would go with the 29s. if your riding is usually smoother and looser, I would tend towards the plus tires.

This bike is great for all of the alpine riding around the Salt Lake/Park City area, and will shred in places like Moab on their techiest trails as well. Its not as forgiving as its longer travel brethren like the Nomad and Bronson, but the large majority of us don't ride stuff that requires that big of a bike anyways.

If you have any questions about this or any other mountain bikes or gear, shoot me an email at btanner@backcountry.com or call me at 801-746-7608 (EXT 4589)

Unanswered Question

Hello there fellow riders,
what IF? I want to ride a 29 with a 130-160 Lyrik? Would be acceptable? :) On SC website it says that if you buy a 27.5 built but want to run 29 wheels the Head angle will drop from 67 to 66.6 ( 0.4 degrees) and the Bootm Bracket will go 3.4 mm in height. Sooo, I am wondering with a 160 the HA will decrease another 0.4 degree to 66.2? and BB will be even higher?
I have seen some Hightowers with talas 160 and Pike 160 and they look amazing, plus I really want to have the 130-160 option for climbing.

Please advise


Avg. ride time: 8m per week
  • Average ride time is based on Strava activity over the last 3 months. Give your reviews credibility by connecting your account.

Great bike!

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Really amazing bike, it can do most trails: fast, technical, clibs.........

Hi Enrique,

Thanks for the feedback, I'm glad to hear you're liking the bike!


Plowability Plus + Crushability

  • Familiarity: I've used it several times

There is so much to consider when buying a new mountain bike but 2017 is the year of Plus + tires. Out here in Utah, plus tires make a lot of sense considering the variety of our terrain between Moab, Park City, St. George and beyond. After demoing a lot of different bikes I landed on the Hightower 27.5+. My pup Jasper (pic below) and I could not be happier with the choice.

Long before I bought this bike, I demoed the Carbon S build highlighted here. I ended up getting the higher end Carbon CC frame, X01 Eagle components and ENVE M60 forty carbon wheels. I love the balance of the super stiff ENVE M60's and the low air pressure (~18 PSI) in the 27.5+ Maxxis tires. I feel like I can plow over anything and still have precise control around corners and berms. I will probably end up adding a Maxxis DHF on the front for the larger knobs on the outside of the tread. I have been working on a modified rating system for all the bikes I have tested and here is my breakdown for the Hightower:

Plowability - 9.5

Climbability - 8.5

Maneuverability - 8

Wheelie Rating - 8

Closest Competitors: Yeti SB5.5, Niner RIP 9

Feel free to contact me directly with any questions on the Hightower or any other Santa Cruz bikes. If you are interested, I would be glad to help you build your next dream bike from the frame up. Also check out my article on "How to Choose a Mountain Bike" for additional info.


See you out on the dirt.

Kyle L. - Expert Gearhead

klivingston@backcountry.com - 801-736-4337

Plowability Plus + Crushability

Did you end up putting a DHF on the front? If so, how does it compare to the stock Rekon?

Hey Eric - I did throw a DHF up front and it has markedly better traction compared to the stock Rekon. I left my Rekon in the rear for now, might change to the DHR down the road.

Did the sizing ranges change in 2017 when they added the SM/XXL sizes? I think I was a Med the last time I looked, but now I am right in the beginning of the Lg size (per the sizing chart on SCB).

Hi Adam! When Santa Cruz added these sizes the measurements there was only a fraction of change. The medium Stack is now 23.98 and reach is 16.93 vs previously having a stack of 23.8 and reach of 16.93.

Give me a call directly to discuss this frame in more detail!


Perfect All Mountain Bike

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Santa Cruz has a reputation for making some incredible mountain bikes, and they once again designed a dime.The Hightower is a beast of a rig, and can conquer any trail you put in front of it. With shorter chainstays and a slack headtube angle relative to its predecessor, what you get is a more nimble, yet more capable and predictably handling bike. The new Boost standard has allowed a lot of this to happen, which has made for a frame that is laterally stiffer, with tighter geometry; ultimately creating the best big-wheeled trail/enduro bike that we have seen from any manufacturer to date.
If you are looking for a bike to serve you anywhere from light-trail/XC riding to Enduro, this is one bike that cover a lot of bases, and make sure that you have a smile on your face the whole time!

Feel free to hit me up with any questions regarding bikes:

Size Frame: What size frame should you go with?

Travel: Finding the right amount of travel that fits your riding style.

Full Package: Can provide a quote for both a custom or complete box build that fits your budget.

Comparison: How does this bike ride compared to others in the same class? What are the pros and cons of going with another option?

Patrick Law

Pure Ecstasy

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Ladies & gentlemen I believe we have discovered the 8th wonder of the world.

Nimble. Sexy. Fast. Fun. Badass.

.... these words only skim the surface on how I would describe this bike.

When people ask me how my brand new SC Hightower 29er rides I consistently find myself at a loss for words. It's one of those things you need to experience for yourself before you can express the feeling it gives you. For those interested and are having a tough time what bike is best for you I'd strongly urge you to keep reading....

I have been mountain biking for 5 years now and this is hands down the best bike I have ever ridden. Ever.

I started mountain biking along the front range of Northern Colorado (Fort Collins) and after riding up there, Denver Area and now out here in Park City I have stuck to the 29er train. I have debated going with a 27.5, but I keep finding myself getting into the cockpit of a 29er because of it's ability to climb, go fast and roll over those technical lines that haunt you if you never rail through em'. I would say this 29er has everything you want in a bike AND more.

With the monarch suspension in the rear this bike climbs like a hardtail (even in the fully open position) and descends like an absolute animal. With 140mm in the front and 135mm in the rear it's a superb balance of all-mountain, enduro and a little taste of that XC. Along with the BOOST wheelset this bike can send it through tight switchbacks with the stiffness traditional 29er's have lacked in the past.

If you like to ride with a massive smile on your face, log some miles, chase technical lines, go fast (up and downhill), and just be cool - look no further than the 2016 Santa Cruz Hightower.

On the fence between the custom build and getting a complete bike? Let's chat. I went with a full custom build and kept mine within a reasonable budget, while treating myself to some tasty additions:)

If you are looking to talk bikes, think through a couple options or interested in hearing my full custom spec'd out build hit me up!

Pure Ecstasy
Avg. ride time: 6h 56m per week
  • Average ride time is based on Strava activity over the last 3 months. Give your reviews credibility by connecting your account.

Can't really ask for more

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I bought a Hightower CC frame 6 months ago and built it up as a 29er with a 150mm Pike up front and carbon Nox / I-9 wheels. This is by far my favorite mountain bike ever. It climbs extremely well, even in very slow technical stuff that I expected to have trouble with due to the slack (for a 29er) head angle. And when I point it downhill, I just can't stop smiling. It's stable, the rear end is incredibly solid, and it tracks wonderfully through just about anything. And unlike my old Tallboy LTc, it likes to pop off things. More and more, I'm finding myself taking the "big line" across the top of rocks rather than avoiding them - the Hightower is easy to launch, and lands with a solid "thump" on the back side, totally under control.

The only downside I've found is that the bike encourages you to seek out more technical terrain and go frighteningly fast on descents - it makes you want to push the boundaries and it's so capable that those limits are pretty far out there.

Oh, and that's just with 29" wheels and 2.35 tires - I haven't even tried the 27+ configuration yet :-) For reference, I'm 5'8" and 150 lbs - the medium frame with a 40mm stem fits perfectly.

Can't really ask for more
Avg. ride time: 3h 46m per week
  • Average ride time is based on Strava activity over the last 3 months. Give your reviews credibility by connecting your account.

Plus Size Trail Happiness

  • Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

I'm 5'11" and about 175lbs. I chose to ride a large and it fit spot on! I rode this on mostly flow trails with some chunky sections. I rode a 27.5+ but I would love to try out the 29'er version of the Hightower for a true comparison though, but overall really liked the bike. If you're checking out the frame, you may be interested in a custom build, hit me up and I'd be happy to work with you and get a quote for your dream build!

What I liked about the bike:

- A friend mentioned to me that Hightower's look very similar to a Nomad's suspension design. That is very true as they both use the VPP 3 suspension. It climbs pretty well when the rear shock is left open and rips on down.

- I won't lie, I still have mixed feelings on plus size bikes, but they are seriously growing on me. The amount of traction you have is pretty spectacular and you don't lose too much in terms of speed of the bike. I ran these about 19psi in the front and 20ish in the rear. Some people brag about riding them in the low teens, but if you're riding more aggressively or faster, you'll want to bump that up a bit. This is also where personal preference comes into play, but what I found to work best for my riding style. With all of that said, these corner very well and descending was a blast. I also cleaned some rocky uphills easily with the plus version of the Hightower.

- Making another note on descending with the plus size tires on the Hightower, it feels incredibly stable and planted to the trail, but doesn't love to get airborne. You absolutely can jump, but feels like it takes a bit more effort than a non plus size bike.

I felt that though the Hightower 27.5+ may not the the quickest to jump, it did feel like one of the faster bikes I've ridden in terms of descending capabilities. The 150mm/135mm is nothing to scoff at and I could rip into berms without any hesitation.

- I rode the CC X01 version, but this Carbon S would be very similar and would be the workhorse equivalent - same geo that hits a better pricepoint at only a touch heavier.

- I like the 150mm fork, makes the bike slack and fun and forgiving when you get into rowdy trail sections. I think if you could swing it, getting this and a pair of 29" hoops (I would run the 150mm fork on 29" wheels, it would slack it out by 0.4 degree and raise the BB by 3.4mm).

What I didn't like about the bike:

- Like said in the pro's for the bike, I'm still not 100% sold on plus tires, but am open to them. I think for myself personally, when psi is dropped to the low teens, you can get a rockcrawler feel, but thats also when the bike gets a touch sluggish in my opinion. I really liked these when bumping the psi up a bit. Tire pressure is something that can make or break (potentially literally for too aggressive of riding with too low of psi). Not trying to get too hung up on that, but something that can make a huge difference in how the bike handles.

If you're looking for a trail bike that doesn't mind getting rowdy and can handle some big wheels, the Hightower would be a great option for you. Feel free to reach me at 801.204.4547 or cojohnson@backcountry.com if you have any other questions or are interested in doing a custom build!

Plus Size Trail Happiness

This may be it. *edit-This Is It.

  • Familiarity: I've used it several times

This may be my next bike.(Edit-This ended up being the next bike) I had a chance to take this out and was thoroughly impressed. My current ride is an Ibis Ripley which so far has been my favorite mtb I've owned. I took this shred-sled down the fairly new Big Mountain Trail @Snowbird Resort a few times. I felt like a ROCK STAR. In my mind I felt like the best mountain biker ever (far from the truth). Jumps were airing out. Cutting through rocks/roots wasn't too bad either. The short chainstays really keep this thing nimble for such a large bike. Berms felt extra Bermy. As someone with a XC background, I think this bike has converted me over to try something squishier and slacker. I would highly recommend this for anyone looking for a 29er trail bike.

Scott Gartman
Customer Account Manager-Bike

This may be it. *edit-This Is It.
Avg. ride time: 25m per week
  • Average ride time is based on Strava activity over the last 3 months. Give your reviews credibility by connecting your account.

Is the reach for the large really only 17.2? I believe on the Santa Cruz website it states 17.72" reach.

Hey Bryant - You are correct that the reach for a Large Hightower frame should be 17.72" like it says on Santa Cruz's website. We will get that updated on ours. Feel free to contact me directly if you are interested in custom building a Hightower or with any additional questions.

- Kyle L. - Expert Gearhead