2020 Santa Cruz Hightower: First Look.
The 2020 Santa Cruz Hightower is here, although we think they should have called it the Growingtower. It grew in geometry and travel, but it’s still a great do-it-all bike that puts an emphasis on riding bikes, up and down mountains. Sound like a good option to you? Here’s what you need to know.
You didn’t come here for a history lesson? Well too bad, you’re getting one. First, let’s take a quick peek at the old Santa Cruz Hightower. Released in 2016, the original Hightower became hugely popular for its versatility and shredability. The rear end came with 135mm of travel paired to either a 140mm or 150mm fork depending on the wheel size. It came with the option to run 29 or 27.5+ wheels. The head tube angle came in at 67° (in the 29” wheel spec) with a 74.3° seat tube. The reach was reachy at the time measuring 450mm for a size L. The bike lacked a little punch for the heavier hitters, however. Some folks were running custom links and longer shocks to eke out a little more rear travel. That’s where the Hightower LT stepped in.
A year after the original Hightower launch the Hightower LT was announced. It packed more punch, but with a few growing pains. It repurposed the same front triangle from the OG Hightower. It used a new rear triangle and links to bump the rear travel to 150mm. The extra travel came at a cost. The whole bike got slacker, even the seat tube. The biggest complaint about the LT was that the seat tube angle was rather slack, especially for folks with baby giraffe legs. At 73.7° it wasn’t the steepest seat tube in the shed. Especially as the saddle position got higher, the rider’s weight would shift more and more over the rear wheel, making climbing a bit of a chore. The bike did fine work on the downhills, though. A slacker head tube angle, longer wheelbase and more travel made it the bike for Santa Cruz’s enduro team. In 2019 the Hightower LT would be replaced by the Megatower.
The history lesson is over — here’s the part you actually came here to read. Santa Cruz just announced the new 2020 Hightower. It replaces the old Hightower while the Megatower is a more direct replacement for the Hightower LT. I bet you can’t guess what they did to the geometry. If you said the made it shorter gave it less travel, I’d think you’ve been living under a rock for the past three years. The new Hightower comes with more travel, more bike and I’d say more fun. First, the travel grew to 140mm of rear wheel travel and 150mm of front end squish. The reach grew pretty much an entire size. A large OG Hightower is the same a medium 2020 Hightower. With that, the wheelbase grew from 1187mm to 1232mm. Part of that growth comes from the slacker head tube angle of 65.2° and a longer travel fork. The really nice part is the seat tube angle is now properly steep at 76.5°
While we’re on the topic of sizing and geometry, it would be a good time to mention the Hightower comes in a wide range of sizes from small to extra-extra large. So no matter where you are in your own growing process, there’s a Hightower in your size.
Santa Cruz must really be liking how the lower-link suspension setup performs. It’s popping up on more and more of their bikes. Sure, it makes it trickier to clean, set sag, adjust compression and rebound, but gall darn it, it makes a big difference in how the bike feels. It adds mid-stroke support and helps out by removing the “get hung up on stuff” that some folks didn’t like about the older VPP designs. Bonus feature: The lower-link design leaves plenty of room for a full-size water bottle inside the front triangle.
An Aluminum Tower - finally
In the past, Santa Cruz hasn’t made any of the “Towers” in aluminum. That has meant spending around $4K+ to get on the carbon “Tower” of your choice. Now, for under $3,000 you can get a 2020 Hightower with a full Sram 12 speed kit.
Builds range from $2,899 for an aluminum SX Eagle kit to $10,499 for a bike that slightly resembles a computer, specced with Sram XX1 AXS and Santa Cruz’s carbon wheels. For this year Sram have ditched the Fox fork that came on most of the 2019 builds in favor of a Rockshox counterpart.
The Hightower still remains as one of the most versatile bikes in the Santa cruz lineup. It comes with a flip chip to adjust geometry and account for different wheel sizes. The new Hightower will still run 27.5+ wheels, but from the factory is only offered with 29. The geometry is suitable to bump the fork up to 160mm making the bike charge just a little harder. One thing to note is that the rear shock options are somewhat limited by the lower-link design. You wont be able to run a Fox Float X2, Cane Creek DB Air or any coil shock.
2019 has been the year of the mid-travel trail bike. The Hightower fits at the longer, burlier end of the category but still very much a do-it-all bike. It ticks all the boxes for a modern, capable ride for someone looking to only own one bike.
Stay tuned for a full video review and demos at the shop around the first of August.