What's bigger than a Hightower? How about a Megatower? The name may be a little silly, but Santa Cruz's latest addition to their lineup is a serious machine, with 29" wheels and 160mm of travel. It takes the place of the Hightower LT, a bike that was more of a stopgap, a temporary solution created to appease riders and racers who wanted more travel from the original Hightower. With the Megatower, Santa Cruz now have a purpose-built enduro bike in their catalog, one that draws on the lessons learned during the development of the Nomad, Bronson, and even the V10.
The base model complete Megatower C R is priced at $4,499, with a parts kit that includes a RockShox Yari RC fork, Super Deluxe R shock, SRAM NX 12-speed drivetrain, and Guide RE brakes. It's the $8,399 Megatower CC X01 Reserve that's pictured here, which gets a SRAM X01 drivetrain, Code RSC brakes, a Fox 36 Float Performance Elite, RockShox Super Deluxe RCT, and Santa Cruz's own Reserve carbon wheels.
Santa Cruz Megatower
• Wheelsize: 29"
• Travel: 160mm
• Head angle: 65° or 64.7°
• Chainstay length: 435mm or 445mm
• Threaded bottom bracket
• 12 x 148mm rear spacing
• Fork offset: 44mm
• Coil or air shock options, 230 x 57.5mm
• Sizes: S - XXL
• Colors: black, green
• Weight (claimed): 30.8 lb / 14 kg
• MSRP: $8,399 USD as shown / $3,299 CC frame only
Looking to buy a Megatower with your MegaMillions lottery winnings? The XX1 AXS Reserve model is the way to go – it gets SRAM's wireless Reverb seatpost and AXS drivetrain, complete with that oh-so-fancy rainbow cassette, plus all of the top-tier componentry you'd expect for $10,499 USD. Frame Details
The silhouette of the Megatower's carbon frame may be nearly identical to that of the 27.5” Bronson, but in addition to having bigger wheels and 10mm more travel, the chainstay length can be set at either 435 or 445mm with a few minutes of tinkering. Making the switch involves flipping over the chip on the non-driveside chainstay, switching the brake adaptor, and installing a different derailleur hanger. It's not something you're likely to do in the middle of a ride, but it does give riders a little more freedom to fine tune the bike to match their riding style.
That 'have it your way' theme continues with the two possible shock mounting positions, which allows for a .3-degree slacker head angle and a 3mm lower bottom bracket height, along with a slightly more progressive shock curve in the low setting. There's enough end-stroke ramp up that the Megatower can accept either an air- or coil-sprung shock, and there are complete bikes available with either option.
Other notable frame details include a shuttle guard to keep the frame safe if it happens to bounce off a tailgate, a downtube protector, and a little fender that keeps mud away from the shock. There's also a ribbed chainstay protector to minimize chainslap noise, room to mount a water bottle on the top of the downtube, a threaded bottom bracket, and ISCG-05 tabs for mounting a bash guard.
The Megatower's chainstay length can be altered by 10mm, although that change does require a different derailleur hanger and brake adaptor (included).Geometry
According to Nick Anderson, Santa Cruz's senior design engineer, the bike's designers rode some of the longest and slackest bikes on the market and experimented with different geometry numbers before settling on the figures for the Megatower. The final numbers are modern but not extreme, with a 470mm reach for a size large, and either a 65 or 64.7-degree head angle with a 160mm fork. Switching to a 170mm air spring in the fork is an easy way to get an even slacker head angle, and I have a feeling that will be a common upgrade, especially for riders whose usual trails are on the steeper and more technical side of things.
“Roots... Bloody roots...” Sepultura's
1996 classic was stuck in my head for all four days of riding near Nelson, New Zealand, and for good reason. Smooth sections of trail were a rarity, due to the vast network of beech roots that spiderweb in every direction. It makes for very physical, engaging riding. Even in the dry, letting your guard down can mean getting hung up and losing all momentum, or getting knocked off line and into a gigantic fern.
Two days were spent riding at the Wairoa Gorge Bike Park, where the trails are steep works of art, originally built for a billionaire vulture capitalist to enjoy before being opened to the public, and another two days involved pinballing down a selection of the trails used for the NZ Enduro, including the classic Wakamarina track.
Climbing was hassle-free – the Megatower's seated climbing position was upright and comfortable, and well suited to spinning away the miles on the way to a nice long descent. There wasn't much unwanted motion during seated climbing, but I still used the climb switch on the Super Deluxe coil to firm things up even further. With the air shock I was less likely to use that little blue lever – there was less noticeable pedaling-induced motion, which gave the bike a little snappier, more energetic feel than with the coil shock.Descending
I've ridden a healthy number of the current crop of long travel 29ers, and on paper the Megatower's numbers look fairly typical for this category. Santa Cruz have been easing their way into the long and slack realm, and while the Megatower's numbers are thoroughly modern, it's also not really super
long or slack. However, on the descents, the Megatower felt like a much burlier bike than I'd expected, especially compared to the plush and playful nature of the Bronson. There's a seriousness to its handling, one that rewards an aggressive, hard-charging riding style. That may work well for bigger riders and those who ride fully pinned 110% of the time, but personally, I had trouble coming to terms with the Megatower's handling.
At times it felt like I was fighting to get it to do what I wanted, especially in really rough sections of trail - no matter whether I had an air or coil shock installed the bike still felt stiffer and less forgiving than I'd anticipated. A lighter compression tune, or possibly a set of aluminum wheels could be the answer here.
On the final day of riding I swapped to the longer chainstay setting. That day also happened to have some of the steepest and tightest turns of the trip, but I didn't feel like the extra length was a hindrance. If anything, I felt more centered, especially on steeper straightaways – I could drop my heels and point down the fall line without feeling like I was too far off the back of the bike. The longer setting isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, but it's nice to have the option, especially for taller riders.
In any case, I need additional ride time to see if I can crack the code to making the most of the Megatower. As it is, my initial impressions are that it's best suited to a confident pilot who values stiffness and support over comfort and compliance. We'll see if that changes once I get one on my home trails for further evaluation.