PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Santa Cruz Megatower
Words by Alicia Leggett; photography by Dave Trumpore
It feels like just recently that 150mm of rear travel seemed like plenty for an enduro bike, but the times have changed, and as the definition of an enduro bike has become brawnier, Santa Cruz's long-travel 29er has grown to reflect that shift.
The second iteration of the Megatower - the biggest of the 'Towers - brings 165mm of rear suspension to the table, paired with a 170mm fork and with the new addition of in-frame storage to make it even more enduro-ready. It's gained 5mm of travel compared to the Megatower V1, and even more notably has slackened out by more than a degree up front.
• Travel: 165mm rear / 170mm fork
• Carbon frame
• Wheel size: 29"
• 63.5º - 63.8º head angle
• 77.5º-77.8º seat tube angle
• 441mm chainstays
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
• Weight: 15.42 kg / 34.00 lb
• Price: $5,649 - $13,999 USD
This new version uses the same VPP suspension platform as its predecessor, with just a few tweaks including a slightly lower leverage ratio, and there's an option to swap out the stock 62.5mm stroke length shock for a 65mm one, bumping the travel up to 170mm.
Santa Cruz has chosen to ditch the chainstay length adjustment chip for size-specific chainstay lengths - our size L test bike had 441mm chainstays. Still, the Megatower keeps its other geo adjustment flip chip, which changes the head angle by a paltry 0.3mm between 63.5º and 63.8º, changes the bottom bracket height by 3.5mm, and makes the leverage a bit more progressive in the low option.
Available in a total of 11 build options, the Megatower pricing starts at $5,649 for a base model in the C (as opposed to the fancier and slightly lighter CC) carbon, and skyrockets all the way up to $13,999 USD for the Flight Attendent, CC, all the bells and whistles build. All the build kits all come with SRAM drivetrains and brakes, so Shimano fans are out of luck, but there's an interesting mix of Fox and RockShox suspension, including mixed Fox 38 / RockShox Super Deluxe (both air and coil) options in the middle of the range.
The bike was designed with a 170mm fork in mind, but Santa Cruz gives its blessing to run 180mm up front if riders are inclined, but a dual crown fork is not advised. Each of the builds comes with ISCG-05 tabs and a full chainguide and bash guard setup, a Santa Cruz derailleur hanger (though the bike is UDH-compatible), internal routing, and frame protection on the downtube and drive-side chainstay.
Finally, we need to mention the Glovebox. That's Santa Cruz's new take on in-frame storage, and though this is the first go-around, the system works nicely. There's a spring-loaded latch that is reasonably easy to open and close, though it's a bit trickier with gloves on, and inside you'll find a "tool wallet" and a "tube purse." The purse is just a neoprene sleeve, while the wallet has some internal organization for tools, credit cards, and other small items.Climbing
If someone told me a few years ago that 165mm travel bikes would soon be climbing as well as they do today, I'd have trouble believing it. Still, long travel and all, the Megatower powers right up as well as you'd expect from any 34 lb (15.4 kg) bike. The well-supported suspension has enough sensitivity to keep traction over rocks and roots without bobbing much, and the bike as a whole has a nice, responsive feel.
Pitted against some of the other bikes in this Field Test, it clearly holds its own on the ups, proving that it's a very solid climber for the enduro bike category. Both the Commencal and Contra, while both are well-supported and offer very firm pedaling platforms, are heavier, longer, and less maneuverable than the Megatower, making them feel like much more bike to manage on the climbs. The Transition and the Fezzari are some of the better climbers of the bunch and are fairly well-matched against the Santa Cruz. The Transition has a smaller rear wheel, which doesn't have quite the same feeling of rolling and powering capability on the climbs as the Megatower's rear 29" one, but at 33.6 lbs, it's the lightest bike of the test. The Fezzari is the most "trail bike-y" of the group and climbs quite well for its 170mm of travel. It has a softer feel than the Megatower, which both helps and hurts it on the climbs: it doesn't feel like it has quite the same willingness to sprint and push as the Megatower, but it does maintain traction just a bit more easily than the Megatower.
In short, my take on the Megatower's climbing ability is that it has enough support and enough sensitivity to get the job done - I recently rode two back-to-back 6,000' (1829m) days on it, and at no point was I wishing for any other bike.Descending
Despite having the shortest reach of any bike we tested, the Megatower is not exactly compact, with a 1266mm wheelbase and 441mm chainstays. To me, that moderate reach helped keep the bike from feeling strung out from the 63.5º head angle (in the low setting) and made it easy to feel on top of both the front and rear wheels at the same time, unlike some of the more boatlike bikes we tested. That's a double-edged sword, as the feeling of sitting in rather than over the bike can be nice, but the Megatower's riding position helped keep the handling feeling quick.
I found the Megatower to be a lot of fun, but there was one thing I couldn't quite sort out. It felt pretty harsh at times, despite the ultra-plush Fox suspension and dialed settings, which we attributed in part to the stiffness of the frame and wheels.
That's another give-and-take, as the bike felt aggressive enough that we all agreed that it had a chargey, easy-to-push feel, but the harshness on chattery sections made it a little more work to ride than some of the other bikes we tested. That said, heavier riders might find the stiffness to be perfect. Santa Cruz says it's introduced size-specific stiffness for this version of the bike, and the smaller sizes have more compliant frames.
One more characteristic that surprised me about the Megatower is that the rear end breaks free laterally more easily than any of the other bikes, despite having great braking traction in straight lines and over choppy terrain. I found that to be really fun, and it gives the bike a "slappy" feel in the corners, though it does detract from the bike's race-ready feel, in my opinion. Some of the bikes on test (like the Commencal) felt most at-home pointed down choppy descents in straight lines, while others (like the Transition) wanted to hop and play around. The Santa Cruz strikes a balance between those impulses, feeling playful but willing to stay on track when needed.