Santa Cruz Megatower: First Ride Review
What’s one bigger than a Hightower? A Megatower, a Megalodon, The Meg — the biggest fish in the sea that eats all the other fish and still stops for a Big Mac combo meal. Last month Santa Cruz released the long-rumored, long travel 29er to sit atop of their big-wheeled, trail bike food chain. With 160mm of travel, slack geometry and a stock coil shock option, the Megatower doesn’t hide its true intentions — it’s made to go downhill fast, like really fast. It’s no surprise the Megatower packs a big punch on the descents, but what I found impressive was how efficiently it climbed. I also found a lot of other things impressive. You’ll just have to keep reading for those.
The Money and Sizing Stuff
This will be the paragraph you breeze over. A quick google search would give you all this info. I’m going to include it anyway out of sheer diligence and bullheadedness.
The Megatower only comes with a carbon frame. That means full builds start at $4,499 (Carbon R) and a CC frame with an XO1 build will run you a cool $7199. For the folks that have been to dental school anesthesiology school, you can buy a Sram AXS Eagle Equipped frame for a whopping $10,499. Worth it? Probably. (Side note: If you haven’t tried AXS yet, you probably should.)
At 6’2” I rode an XL CC XO1 build with Reserve carbon wheels. The fit felt just about right. The reach was a little longer than my personal bike, but for a big bike the extra room (read: stability) was appreciated. I rode the bike in the high geometry setting which I’d probably use for most of my riding. Bike park days and enduro races would be a great time to take advantage of the low setting. The megatower can also take advantage of adjustable chainstays. Flip the chip, install the alternate derailleur hanger and brake mount and you’ll have 10mm longer stays. It’s a great option for tall riders on XL and XXL frames.
The Ups - 3.5/5
I’m not going to lie and say the Megatower climbs like an XC bike. If you want that, just hit the “X” and close your browser. You’re not going to find what you’re looking for here. When I talk about how this bike climbs, I’m comparing it to similar bikes with like-minded intentions. You know - apples to apples.
The Megatower is efficient. In fact, it’s as efficient as almost any long travel 29er. Even with the Rockshox Super Deluxe coil, I didn’t notice much pedal bob. Sitting and spinning provides some great results but, out of the saddle efforts tend to induce some pedal bob. The steep (76.3°) seat tube keeps your weight balanced between the wheels. It makes steep climbing so much more pleasant. No more of that awkward contortionist move trying to keep the front wheel on the ground while maintaining rear wheel traction — you know the move. Climbing through the technical bits, the bike surprised me quite a bit. Normally bikes with head tube angles as slack as the Megatower’s (65°) tend to get knocked around in the rocky, rooty climbs. Instead, the Megatower tracked really well and just motored through it. Again, it could come back to the steep seat tube thing.
It’s not all roses though. My XO1 Megatower with Reserve wheels and the Super Deluxe coil weighed a portly 32.7 Lbs. (It’s a little self conscious so don’t bring it up.) Really that’s the only drawback I could find with the climbing performance on this bike. You could drop nearly a pound by switching to the air version of the Super Deluxe, and another handful of grams by running standard EXO casing tires rather than the EXO+ that come stock on the higher end builds. Either way, this isn’t your bike for winning the race up Puke Hill. It’s more your bike for plowing down The Spine with reckless abandon and making all your friends think you’re a hero.
The Downs - 5/5
Here’s the short and sweet — the Megatower is down to party. Rocks, roots, drops, jumps, anything you decide to put in its path, this bike will eat it up and ask “is that it?”
I spent the first ride day at the I Street bike park hitting dirt jumps, drops and the dual slalom track. You know, the kind of terrain where a long, squishy bike tends to not excel. The first impression I had on the bike was how planted it felt. The bike sags nicely into its travel and just hugs the ground. The squishy bits felt nice and squishy as you’d expect with 160mm of coil controlled travel. Even with the coil shock the Megatower felt supportive and bottomless. I only noticed one harsh bottom out, which to the bike’s credit was fully warranted. Editor’s note: you’ll want to hire a great lawyer for a case that bad. Despite the ground hugging nature of the Megatower, I was still able to make decent height on jumps — two things that don’t always go hand in hand. It seems you can have your cake and eat it too. On the dual slalom track, the bike provided plenty of support in the corners. I didn’t feel any diving or wallowing. On the tighter turns the bike’s length became rather apparent. There’s a reason this isn’t a dual slalom race bike.
The next day I took the bike on a typical trail ride. The trail consisted of high-speed straights, tight corners and more jumps. As expected, the Megatower ate up the fast sections of trail. Top speeds got pretty exciting. Even at mach-burrito the bike felt very stable and controlled. The long wheelbase probably has a lot to do with that planted feeling. I only ran the bike in the shorter chainstay mode. I’d expect the longer mode would accentuate the ground hugging characteristics of the Megatower. Although, I think I’d prefer the shorter mode for most rides. As is, the bike felt rather long. Cornering took a bit more rider input than other bikes in the category.
The All Arounds - 4.25/5
The Megatower is the biggest, baddest fish in the sea. It’s a little on the porky side, but that’s to be expected. A 26 pound enduro race bike sounds like a recipe for disaster anyway. On the downs, it will have your back and promote you to hero status. No more feeling timid dropping into those nasty trails that have always spooked you. If your trails tend to have more roots and rocks than dirt, the Megatower will be an awesome daily driver for you. It climbs well enough for long days without sacrificing ability on the descents.
The quiver-of-one factor - 3/5
The quiver factor of the Megatower would depend on your style of riding. I’d give it a 3/5 for it’s ability to be a good bike to rule them all. If you’re looking for something similar but less aggressive and slightly more well-rounded, take a peek at the Ibis Ripmo, Santa Cruz Hightower LT, Orbea Rallon and Cannondale Jekyll. If you want something burlier, stop reading this article and get back to sending Red Bull Rampage hits.
We have Megatower demos in sizes M-XL. Stop by the shop and throw a leg over one today.