Santa Cruz Megatower first ride review – The big wheel Nomad we’ve been waiting for.

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This bike is not another Hightower LT (which is still in production). Dear me no. This is the Santa Cruz Megatower. 

The email, when it came, was brief, and to the point.

We need you”, it read. Well, of course they do. “To test a bike. Warehouse, 42nd and Murgatroyd. Tell nobody.

Tell nobody, huh? That was easy enough. I looked around my office. My only friend was sitting on the counter. Last name Daniels. First name Jack. I poured a slug and thought a while.

Why the secrecy?” I emailed back. The reply was blunt. 

santa cruz megatower
Photos cannot convey precisely how windy this step-down was.

It’s a prerelease, dumbass. The Moustachioed Aussie is on a secret mission elsewhere. Your gangly ass will have to do. You got four days. Come alone.”

Charming. But not inaccurate: Gangly. Check. Dumbass. Check. Alone. Check.

I drank the whisky and got up. Aching. Old bones. Long rides. The six slugs in me didn’t help. Four of those were whisky. The other two were lead.

I rummaged around in the drawer, and took out what I’d need. Pedals. Helmet. Shoes. Gloves. Smith and Wesson.

The warehouse was deserted by the time I got there. 1936 straight-six Buicks aren’t noted for their speed. Or their reliability. Which is why I got a cab. I paid the driver, walked through the rain to the warehouse, pulled open the door, and got an eyeful of what waited for me. 

Blackness. One light. And under it…?

Sheesh.

Not black, no. Sort of a grey colour. Sleek, though. Long. Lithe. 29er. Big travel. Santa Cruz written on the downtube. I glanced at the top tube. “Megatower” I read aloud.

santa cruz megatower singletrack review
Tadaaaaaaaaa

Wait, what?

Normal Service Gas Resumed

Okay, so by now you’ll no-doubt be aware of the new bike that Santa Cruz is flooding the internet with. Just as the good folks at SC decided to re-name the replacement/redesign of the Tallboy LT, as it was deemed too different to carry on the same handle (they called it the Hightower), this bike is not another Hightower LT (which is still in production). Dear me no.

This is the Santa Cruz Megatower

Doubtless elsewhere on this august website, there will be an entire news story about this new Megatower, with some glorious photos of some radical types styling it up for the camera through a dusty soft-focus lens. But for those new to the whole world of the Megatower, I shall now deliver a précis.

This is the the XO1 RSV version of the Megatower – which basically means lots of – er – XO1 all over the place, Fox 36 Performance Elite fork and lots of carbon, including the wheels. It’s very blingy. And it costs £7,699. Zoinks.

santa cruz megatower singletrack review
Nice little flappy mudguard thing (technical term).

But the real meat and potatoes is, of course, the frame.

Basically, the engineers at Santa Cruz took a long hard look at the suspension systems of the Hightower LT and the Hightower, and shook their heads. They then stared a bit harder at the Nomad and the Bronson, and started looking at each other and nodding enthusiastically.

This is, in very crude essence, a Nomad with bigger wheels. 160mm of travel front and back, a tried and tested suspension system, 29in wheels… oh yes, and lots and lots of adjustability.

Adjust Huan Cornetto…

santa cruz megatower
You can fiddle with it here…

Adjustability, I hear you cry? Why yes, my young padawan. The Megatower is possessed of a number of flip chips; one set in the shock, and another at the rear dropouts.

The former set will alter the head angle by 0.3° (um, woo?) but it’ll also change the bottom bracket height 3.5mm and adjust the suspension leverage curve, which has the potential to substantially affect the handling.

santa cruz megatower
…and you can fiddle with it here.

You can also run 170mm forks though, which in the ‘Lo’ position will kick the head angle back closer to a whole degree, while keeping the BB height the same as the ‘Hi’ setting with a 160mm fork.

The other pair of chips will alter the rear chainstay length by 10mm, which will affect many aspects of how the bike rides; shorter and livelier or longer with more climbing traction and straight line stability (also probably better for biggerererer people).

The chainstay chips also come with new rear mech hangers and brake mounts so everything works tickety-boo, although you do need to run at least 200mm rotors with the longer stays (shorter stays will also accommodate 180mm rotors if you like).

Santa Cruz claims it’ll also run 29×2.6 tyres in the longer setup – which is plenty hefty.

singletrack magazine
Venturing into Nomad’s land.

That Nomad/Bronson/V10-esque (try saying that after two slugs of whisky) suspension system is alleged to be nice and linear, with good small bump compliance and a nifty ramp at the end of the travel to resist bottoming out.

The shock is something new and very spangly (a Super Deluxe Ultimate, it says here) from RockShox that hasn’t even been launched yet as far as I know, so it’s possible that this story might even have me dragged out into the street and shot by mysterious men in brightly coloured 4x4s. Nevertheless, I’ve ridden it. Bwahahahahahahahaha!

*bang*

Santa Cruz Megatower – A Thoroughly Modern Millie

The rest of the bike has been tweaked to provide a Thoroughly Modern Millie. Ahem, Megatower.

No, it won’t win any awards for ‘most slackerer, or longest’ or anything, but it’s up there. Reach on the Large bike I rode is 470mm; it’s blessed with a 65° head angle and a 76.6° seat angle. Not mould breaking, but perfectly acceptable.

santa cruz barney megatower
The geometry isn’t necessarily mould breaking on the Megatower.

So, wossit like?

The usual caveats apply to a feature of this sort – I had 4 days to get an idea of the Santa Cruz Megatower, and at least two of those were biblically wet. When you’re riding in conditions like that, it’s almost impossible to think about how well a bike rides, climbs, descends, shreds, whatever – it’s all I can do to focus on bacon sandwiches at the end of the horror, and the nice hot bath I’m going to ease myself into.

However, I did manage a few rides on some less soggy (but incredibly windy) days, so I can bring you, the reader, precisely what you’re after!

In short, the Santa Cruz Megatower is fab.

I didn’t have any of the stuff to convert the bike from the short chainstay setting (which it comes with) to the longer ones – which I arguably might have preferred – and I didn’t alter the shock chip, mostly because of time constraints. But I aired up the shock and the fork, gave them a little fiddle, and set off.

Oooooohh…

Devotees of this sort of suspension system will know what to expect, and the Megatower doesn’t disappoint. Weight placement seems spot on, and climbing seemed to be a surprisingly elegant and straightforward affair. Even with the shorter chainstay setting, I didn’t lose the front end up anything on my few rides. The steeper seat angle helped maintain traction, I’m sure – although there was precious little of it under tyre in more than a few locations.

Granted, hoofing on the pedals with the shock wide open did give rise to some pedal feedback, but this seemed to be limited to a specific set of criteria – low gear, shock open, pedal stomping. It wasn’t severe by any standards, though, and happened so infrequently that it swiftly became a non-issue.

santa cruz megatower mud
In the long setting, the chainstays will accommodate 29×2.6in rubber.

And then there’s the descending; the sort of thing bikes like this live for. Descending like butter dripping off a hot biscuit, the Megatower is happiest when it’s caning it. Weight the front a little and it’ll finesse its way through sections like an oversized hamster contortionist; back off and let the rear end take the strain and you can plough through things more smoothly than a freshly waxed otter.

The suspension is lovely – that new shock I’m not supposed to talk about seems to suit the design extremely well. The suspension doesn’t wallow in its travel, but still works on the little stuff. I admit I didn’t get as much time smashing into big things as I’d like, given the weather, but (and this is key) I WANTED to. Doesn’t happen often.

Santa cruz megatower barney goggle
Proof that Barney can indeed, turn right. And doing so very elegantly on the big Megatower.

Santa Cruz Megatower Early Verdict

That’s the thing: I want to spend more time on this, and preferably (if it can’t be somewhere hot) then at least somewhere dry. It seems to climb well, descends beautifully, and there’s adjustability to spare.

Yes, the Santa Cruz Megatower seems like a silly name – at least to me (it sounds like it’s going to convert into a robot at any moment) – but it seems like the sort of bike that might be able to transform itself to suit whopping range of mountain biking. Time will tell.


Santa Cruz Megatower X01 RSV Specifications

  • Frame // CC Carbon fibre, 160mm travel
  • Fork // Fox 36 Float, Performance Elite, GRIP2 Damper, 160mm travel
  • Shock // RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate
  • Hubs // DT Swiss 350, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
  • Rims // Santa Cruz Reserve 30, 32h, Tubeless Ready
  • Tyres // Maxxis Minion DHF 3C EXO+ 2.5in Front & DHR II 3C EXO+ 2.4in Rear
  • Cranks // SRAM X1 Carbon DUB, 30t
  • Rear mech // SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-speed
  • Shifter // SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-speed
  • Cassette // SRAM X01 Eagle, 10-50t
  • Brakes // SRAM Code RSC w/200mm Rotors Front & Rear
  • Stem // Race Face Aeffect R, 40mm Length
  • Bar // Santa Cruz AM Carbon, 800mm Wide
  • Grips // Santa Cruz Palmdale Lock-On
  • Seatpost // RockShox Reverb Stealth, 31.6mm, 170mm travel
  • Saddle // WTB Silverado Team
  • Size Tested // Large
  • Sizes Available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, XX-Large
  • Claimed Weight // 13.98kg / 30.83lb
  • RRP // £7,699
  • From // Jungleproducts.co.uk

Barney Marsh takes the word ‘career’ literally, veering wildly across the road of his life, as thoroughly in control as a goldfish on the dashboard of a motorhome. He’s been, with varying degrees of success, a scientist, teacher, shop assistant, binman and, for one memorable day, a hospital laundry worker. These days, he’s a dad, husband, guitarist, and writer, also with varying degrees of success. He sometimes takes photographs. Some of them are acceptable. Occasionally he rides bikes to cast the rest of his life into sharp relief. Or just to ride through puddles. Sometimes he writes about them. Bikes, not puddles. He is a writer of rongs, a stealer of souls and a polisher of turds. He isn’t nearly as clever or as funny as he thinks he is.

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Comments (6)

    “Weight the front a little and it’ll finesse its way through sections like an oversized hamster contortionist”

    For the sake of clarity, is ^^^ this “good” or “bad” ??? 😉

    Devotees of this sort of suspension system will know what to expect

    What about the rest of us?

    Maxtorque – depends how your on point your hamster control techniques are.

    Jakester – those are the people for whom I wrote the rest of the article.

    😉

    Should my oversized hamster go on some sort of diet? I’d hate if his mates started calling him “fatty” behind his back???

    “suspension system is alleged to be nice and linear, with good small bump compliance and a nifty ramp at the end of the travel” So, it’s linear and non-linear?? Sweet Jesus!

    Barney how about your weight and height?
    The bike was a size large correct?

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