In 2016, Santa Cruz introduced the Hightower bicycle, which featured a flip chip that enabled users to make alterations in the frame’s geometry; bottom bracket height is adjusted on the upper linkage of the rear suspension, which allowed it to accommodate both 27.5+ wheels and 29” wheels. To keep the head angle constant at 67°, Santa Cruz specified a 150mm fork with 27.5+ builds, and a 140mm fork with 29” builds. Here are the specifications for the Santa Cruz Hightower:
Recommended frame geometry sizing:
Ride Impressions: 29er setup
I test rode a Hightower, size medium, in its 29er configuration that was equipped to the max with high end gear like Enve Carbon Rims, I9 Hubs, and SRAM. Tires were Maxxis Minion DHF’s, 2.5” width that were aired to run at 16 psi (I weigh 150 pounds). I rode all day on the long, mountain trails near Flagstaff, AZ, a far cry from the steep rocky trails south of Phoenix, at South Mountain Park. The trails had numerous rocks, plenty of trees, and undulating trails; all within a splendidly, beautiful countryside.
Ascending on the Hightower 29er was appreciably different versus a 27.5+ bicycle. It plowed over rocks with ease, and was more comfortable in those actions. The steering was not as precise on undulating, winding terrain as a 27.5+ bike, nor as playful. One might describe the feeling as a bit on the sluggish side. It was slower in terms of acceleration, but once at top speed, it retained it more readily than a 27.5+ bike. The pedaling platform was very stable with negligent pedal-bob, which complimented the bike’s overall feeling of balance/stability while climbing. This may be a result of the frame’s 74.3° seat tube angle that orients the rider by placing the saddle more vertically over the bottom bracket, which improves pedaling efficacy, and, moves the rider’s center-of-gravity forward in-order-to promote improved traction while climbing.
On descents, the 2017 Hightowers' relaxed head angle, 67°, combined with a low BB, 13.27”, and a 45.87” wheelbase (medium frame size) contributed to its stable feel. It got up to speed quickly and was very comfortable hitting rocks and jumping over obstacles. However, the steering was not as lively versus a 27.5+ bike nor was it as intuitively self-guiding as in 27.5+ bikes because it required more physical rider input and body English while steering.
In summary, I liked how the bike plowed over big rocks or tree roots with comfort and impunity. It was very fast descending but struggled with technical winding terrain. The bike inspires confidence given its impressive stability. I know the latest DH craze is all about 29er frames but I prefer the more nimble, precise, playful handling of 27.5+ bikes. In addition, I felt like my body was posited higher up over the bike versus a bike like Santa Cruz’s 5010, which feels as if you are centered in the bike rather than on top of it. But these are my preferences, and every rider will like some type of mountain bike’s frame geometry over another. There is no right or wrong, especially with high-end bikes that all provide good riding characteristics. It depends on you, the rider, to make that personal decision as to what is correct or incorrect for your riding style(s).
Even though a Santa Cruz Hightower is not my first choice for a mountain bike, they make wonderful, innovative products that are backed by a lifetime warranty.
Additional Technical Data:
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