The Hightower – SantaCruz launches new 29in/27.5+ bike

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Amidst great swathes of rumour and speculation, SantaCruz today announces its brand spanking new bike, the Hightower. Barney was out in Patagonia to ride it (look out for his first ride report later on today), but here’s the initial skinny…

First up, it’s very, very pretty. See?

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Mmmmmm

Secondly, it’s not strictly speaking the new Tallboy LT. Yes, it’s got the same travel (135mm) and the same wheelsize (more on that in a second), but in terms of geometry and ride, Santacruz feels that it’s got much more in common with the 27.5in Bronson, just with different wheel capabilities. And speaking of wheels, the Hightower can run both 29in and 27.5in+ wheels with no problem.

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This is a preproduction example – the production bikes have laser-etched markers

Chip-tastic

The geometry is tweaked for both wheel sizes using a chip on the upper rocker link. This generates minor tweaks to things like BB height – it doesn’t affect travel; it’s purely to optimise performance for each wheel size. Santacruz suggests that ideally you run 29er wheels with a 140mm fork, and the chubby 27.5+ wheels with a 150mm fork, although if you’re flipping between the two, a 150mm fork should work fine with them both.

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And speaking of numbers, let’s talk some more. It’s light – this XL runs at around 27.5lbs with a distinctly no-nonsense build, so there’s potential to go lighter if your wallet can cope. As a 29er, the bike has a 67 degree head angle – which is pretty slack for a 29er, but not ridiculously so – it still needs to be able to climb, too after all. There’s a 74.3 degree seat tube, too. Run as a 27.5+ chubby bike though, the angles (with that fork length increasing by an inch, and the chip) run to 66.8 degrees for the head tube, and a 74.1 degree seat tube.

Reach for the Bars

Reach is long – the Large frame runs to 450mm, and the XL pictured here is at a rangy 475mm. It’s boosted front and rear for stiffness, but one of the other plus points of this is shorter chainstays, which have been reduced to 435mm. For reference, the old 2012 Tallboy LT’s chainstays were 448mm, so this represents a substantial saving. The bikes also have much improved standover compared to SantaCruz’s previous 29er offerings.

As with many other bikes in SantaCruz’s range, there will be two flavours of frame available. There’s the Hightower CC, which has the posh carbon layup, and is available in a variety of builds and as a frame only, and there’s a slightly cheaper Hightower C model which is only available as a full bike. To cut costs, the “C” frame will be a couple of hundred grams heavier than the posher “CC” one – although strength and stiffness are reportedly the same. And many will be pleased to hear that SantaCruz have kept to the same 73mm threaded bottom bracket they’ve always used.

Red to Shred? Or Back to Black?

Interested? There’s a choice of two colours – ‘sriracha red’ or ‘matte carbon and mint’ frames available… I rode a black one; but here’s the red one, which is arguably even prettier:

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 20 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin
Pretty, no? Photo by Gary Perkin

Both these bikes are pictured with the 27.5+ wheels; it looks just as good as a 29er.

DSC_0492My X01 build (there are some XX1 builds available too) came with a selection of RaceFace and Santacruz kit, a 150mm Reverb dropper, and a SRAM X01 drivetrain. There’s a choice of wheels, natch.

DSC_0501The new VPP3 back end looks plenty stiff – and the lower pivot has been moved from its previous slightly precarious position below the bottom bracket. It now, like the Bronson and Nomad before it, sits above the bottom bracket. It still has a grease port, although you need to remove the shock to get to it. Luckily this is a 2 minute job. The placement of the swingarm brace looks like it might prevent the worst mud getting to the somewhat shelf-like pivot – time will tell.

DSC_0502The Hightower won’t work with front mechs – this puppy is exclusively 1x – but with the modern varieties available, that’s by no means a bad thing. My test bike came in at a shard under 28lbs

And now we come to the nitty-gritty question; that of cost. Not cheap, no – but they’re easily on a par with other high end carbon with similar componentry levels:

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Prices are for bikes with the build kits specified; you an upgrade the CC bikes with an ENVE wheelset for an extra £1,700.

Barney caught up in (a slightly windy) Patagonia with head of engineering Nick Anderson, and brand manager Josh Kissner to chat about the new bike:

Can’t see the video? Click here
SantaCruz bikes are available in the UK from distributor Jungle 

Comments (1)

  1. A carbon bike with a top tube that’s straight? That’ll never catch on…

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