Hightower Mountain Bike Frame
Balance is key, whether you're flashing back to your childhood first getting things down as you rock back and forth on your first bike to find your center, or you're trying to find the steed that finds the happy medium between all-out gravity sled and nimble XC machine, finding the place that meets in the middle makes for a better ride. Santa Cruz's Hightower Mountain Bike Frame aims to meet your needs, with a more nimble feel than the long-travel 29er beast that is the Megatower, and more rowdy-terrain control than the shorter-travel Tallboy, the Hightower walks the fine line between enduro and trail, arguably providing more versatility than its siblings can muster. It's been a favorite among riders since its inception, able to tackle sustained climbs with remarkable efficiency and then turn around and rip the descents like a bike with this much travel has no business doing. But after three years it was time for an update, and the new Hightower comes to us with deeper travel, refined geometry that pushes it to the forefront of modern trends, and a lower-link VPP suspension platform that improves suspension characteristics over the previous model. The result is a powerful trail bike that holds its own on rough and rowdy trails, but is more than happy to pedal all day on undulating backcountry terrain, or bust out some quick laps after work on smooth, fast singletrack.
The new Hightower amps up travel just a bit with 140mm of VPP suspension in the rear, and a recommended 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.
Throughout Santa Cruz's lineup, the Hightower has long been known as a do-it-all trail bike, capable of backcountry adventures in the 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 descents. 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 quicker and more capable than the LT, and with more pep in its step for tackling steep climbs than the previous Hightower.
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 backcountry endurance 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 a hex key, 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.
To keep your wallet afloat in expensive times, Santa Cruz builds this particular Hightower with a trusty aluminum construction, which provides strength and stiffness for plowing through rowdy rock gardens, but without the price tag of carbon that lands right between ouch and sheesh. While aluminum doesn't have the same featherweight appeal as its carbon fiber counterpart, we find it still provides the power we need to charge hard, and with a weight penalty that's small enough that we can easily forgive it — especially with the cash savings that we can use to put together a dream build.
- The redesigned Hightower is more stable and capable than ever
- Lower-link driven VPP improves traction, compliance, and support
- 5.5 inches of rear travel eats up rocks, roots, and log rolls
- Geometry is more capable than its predecessor and Hightower LT
- Flip-chip slackens headtube angle from 65.5 degrees to 65.2 degrees
- Steeper seat tube puts you in a more comfortable pedaling position
- Aluminum construction drops price down, saves cash for your dream build
- Protective bits include shock fender, shuttle guard, downtube guard, noise-damping chainstay protector