Hightower Carbon R Mountain Bike
Trail bikes tend to be the steeds we think of as quiver killers in our garage. They serve many purposes, and challenge the sum of their numbers to take on terrain that the big-bikes eat up, and soar up climbs with the best of their short-travel companions. Never to fall short, Santa Cruz delivered well with the first generation of Hightower, offering 29-inch wagon wheels for quick rolling capability, and moderately slack geometry that stayed stable on descents — but never to rest on their laurels, the engineers still had more to offer, and its apparent with the new Santa Cruz Hightower Carbon R Mountain Bike. The new Hightower is built to take on gnarlier trails than ever before, thanks to a whole medley of ingredients to the secret recipe, including lower-link VPP suspension that takes cues from the Nomad, an extra hit of front-and-rear travel, and longer, slacker geometry for total stability on the descents.
The newest iteration of the Hightower blows beyond its predecessors, the Hightower and Hightower LT, finding a nice spot to hang out just between the Tallboy and the Megatower. It packs in all-new geometry from the old Hightower, and stretches further than even the LT, with slacker head tube, longer wheelbase, and a steeper seat tube, plus new lower linkage that lends queues to the Nomad for total downhill stability, and a flip-chip for flexibility. The result is a powerful trail bike that's capable of holding its own in the rough and rowdy, and racing back up to the top to get another lap of hits.
Throughout Santa Cruz's lineup, the Hightower has long been known as a do-it-all trail bike, capable of backcountry endurance adventures in the Santa Cruz mountains, and fast laps at your local trail network when you need to hammer out as many post-workday miles as possible. It remains as that, but as a more capable bike than before, stretching its reach out a 20mm (on sizes small through large), offering more room in the cockpit to play with, while a more relaxed head tube elevates confidence on the descent. The new head tube angle sits a full 1.5-degrees slacker than the previous Hightower in High mode, and 1.8-degrees slacker in low, stretching things out to power over bigger rocks and chunder than ever before. And while this stretched out cockpit can come at the cost of pedal efficiency, Santa Cruz designers mitigate sluggish climbing by moving the seat tube to a steeper angle, adding an additional 2.3-degrees in low setting, or 2.8-degrees in high. The results are a bike that's steeper and more capable than the LT, and with more pep in its step for tackling steep climbs than the previous Hightower.
The new Hightower amps up travel just a bit with 140mm of VPP suspension in the rear, and 150mm up front. This is combined with a new suspension design that takes cues from the Megatower and Nomad. Instead of relying on the upper-link driven design, the new Hightower enjoys the increased bump compliance, and glued-to-the-trail traction you'll experience from a lower-link mounted shock. This lower-link VPP platform is something that's previously been reserved just for gravity-fueled sleds, but we saw it grace the Bronson last year, stretching it into the enduro category for a feel that can tackle gnarlier steeps, and turn around to soar back up climbs. This means the new Hightower is more downhill capable than before, but without sacrificing it all when you set your quads on fire to earn your descent.
Santa Cruz combines the new lower-link suspension with flip-chip technology for adaptable geometry, so you can slacken things up for park laps with your crew, and steepen things, lifting the bottom bracket, and bringing in the head tube to a steeper angle for taking on all-out endurance backcountry expeditions, where every pedal stroke takes you further from the last cell tower, and you don't turn around until the sun is down, or you're out of water. The switch is easy to make with the turn of an Allen wrench, and changes the geometry quite significantly. The bike comes to you in Low mode, with a head tube angle that sits low and long at 65.2-degrees, perking up to 65.5 in High mode, while the seat tube angle shifts from 76.7 in Low, up to 77.1-degrees in High for a pedal-friendly position that's ready for attacking climbs.
While changes seemed to happen on just about every inch of the Hightower, we appreciate one constant: Santa Cruz's legendary carbon layups. This frame boasts next-level strength, and unwavering stiffness in the face of rock rolls, and root lattices. It utilizes Santa Cruz's Carbon C layup, which makes for a resoundingly stiff frame for swift acceleration and unflappable poise when you're pointing it down lines that question your confidence. It uses a bit more material than Santa Cruz's CC level top-tier carbon, which ads a touch of weight, but comes with some serious price savings that keep your bank account in mind, so you can save some of your budget for a bike trip or two. The frame is backed by Santa Cruz's exceptional lifetime warranty, so you'll have extra peace of mind when you're pushing the edge of your limits.
- Santa Cruz's trail 29er gets makeover to tower over the competition
- Longer geometry stretches beyond its predecessor and Hightower LT
- Lower-link driven VPP improves small bump compliance
- Long and low geometry increases stability on rowdy descents
- Flip-chip slackens headtube angle from 65.5 degrees to 65.2 degrees
- 5-inches of VPP travel eat up rocks, roots, and log rolls
- Carbon C frame is stiff, strong, and won't break the bank
- A pocket-friendly drivetrain saves cash for your next bike trip