If you’ve been following Santa Cruz recently, you’ve probably noticed several of their trail bikes have been updated with their newest VPP suspension design. For the 2020 model year, the Hightower 29er joins the lower-link mounted shock party. It also gets a little extra travel, making this a very versatile bike for all kinds of trails.
This article provides a quick overview of all the new Hightower and Maverick models. I did get a few chances to ride a well-equipped carbon Hightower recently, so watch Bikerumor for my three ride review of the Hightower CC X01 RSV.
The 2020 Hightower now offers 140mm of rear travel, and all models come with 150mm forks. This range of travel with a set of 29” wheels makes for a pretty well-rounded trail bike, and Santa Cruz describes the Hightower’s intended use as “Anywhere, anytime!” The second generation 2020 Hightower will be offered in several carbon models (in Santa Cruz’s CC or C grade carbon), plus three aluminum builds. Aluminum or CC carbon framesets are also available, with frame sizes ranging from S-XXL.
The Hightower’s suspension is designed to produce an almost perfectly linear shock rate. I’ll get into more details about the ride in my ‘three ride review’ article, but in short the linkage provides a very sensitive ride that does an equally good job of smoothing out small bumps and eating up big hits. It’s also one of the best pedalling linkages I’ve tried, climbing singletrack trails very efficiently regardless of whether the shock was left wide open or not.
Santa Cruz builds their frames with a balance of stiffness, ride qualities and weight in mind. The Hightower’s beefy tubing, solid junctions at the head tube and BB area, one-piece rear triangle and short suspension links definitely make for a stiff riding frame.
All Hightower models come on 29” wheels, but are also compatible with 27.5+. This is part of the reason Santa Cruz included a flip-chip in the shock mount, which slightly alters the bike’s geo and rear shock rate.
While the Hightowers do have interrupted seat masts, they were kept straight so they will accept appropriately long dropper posts. Small frames can fit 125mm, mediums fit 150mm’s, large and XL’s go up to 175mm and XXL frames can accommodate a 200mm post. The frames use a threaded BB shell, and have 148mm rear spacing. The Hightowers all come with 30t chainrings, but can accept up to 36t.
Finishing touches include water bottle mounts in the front triangle, a protector and shuttle guard on the down tube, a noise-cancelling chainstay protector, and a mudflap to keep the rear shock clean.
I also really like the carbon Hightower’s updated cable routing. The super-clean entry points on the head tubes don’t allow the cables to rub on the frame, and full sleeves inside make for easy routing and no rattling. The aluminum models offer internal cable routing as well, with a slightly different design that enters at the top of the down tube.
It’s always nice when a brand keeps serviceability and support in mind – Santa Cruz designs their bikes to be durable for the long haul, and they back it up with a lifetime warranty on their frames. They also endeavor to make their bikes easily serviceable- There’s a grease port on the Hightower’s lower link, and the axle can be pulled out with a multi tool. Santa Cruz keeps frame parts for 10 years, and offers free pivot bearings for life! That’s right, either visit your local dealer or contact Santa Cruz and they will send you a bearing kit for your frame, for free.
2020 Santa Cruz Hightower models:
There are 10 models of the 2020 Hightower, but some key components are shared up and down the line. All new Hightowers come with 12-speed drivetrains, dropper posts, and tubeless Maxxis Minion DHR 3C EXO TR 2.4” tires front and rear (Santa Cruz stuck two rears on there because they wanted 2.4” treads on the Hightower). With so many models I won’t be listing all the specs on each, but here’s a basic rundown of the lineup.
There are four models built with Santa Cruz’s higher-grade CC carbon. The CC models’ names denote their frame material, component group, and include ‘RSV’ if that model has Santa Cruz’s Reserve carbon wheelset. All CC models come with RockShox’s Lyric Ultimate forks and Super Deluxe Select Ultimate rear shocks.
The top-tier CC XX1 AXS RSV (pictured above) is the no-compromises model for serious riders or racers. SRAM’s XX1 AXS electronic drivetrain is the star of this show, and of course this build gets the Reserve carbon wheels as well. The Hightower CC XX1 AXS RSV retails for $10,499.
Moving down the line, there’s a Hightower CC XTR RSV for Shimano fans ($9,099), the CC X01 RSV model that I test rode ($8,299) and a CC X01 build without the Reserve wheels ($7,099).
In their C grade carbon Santa Cruz is offering three Hightower builds. The C S models come with RockShox Lyric Select+ forks and Super Deluxe Select+ rear shocks, while the C R gets a Yari RC fork and a Fox Float Performance DPS rear shock.
The C S RSV (above) is the only C model that includes the Reserve carbon wheels ($6,399), and there is also a C S model without them ($5,199). Both feature SRAM GX drivetrains. The C R puts you on a carbon frame with an NX drivetrain ($4,299).
In aluminum, there are three Hightower models. The top-end A S model (above) gets the Lyric Select+ fork, a Super Deluxe Select+ shock, and a GX drivetrain ($4,199). The Hightower A R runs a Yari RC fork, a Fox Float Performance DPS rear shock, and an NX drivetrain ($3,499). And at entry level, the Hightower A D uses a RockShox 35 Gold RL fork paired with Fox’s Float Performance DPS rear shock. This model features SRAM’s SX drivetrain components ($2,899).
If you prefer building your own bike from the ground up, Santa Cruz is selling carbon and aluminum framesets as well. The Hightower CC FS retails for $3,299, and the Hightower A FS sells for $1,999.
On the women’s side, the new Juliana Maverick is the sister of the Hightowers. The Mavericks and Hightowers share the same frame, but the women’s bikes come with a lighter shock tune, plus Juliana grips and women’s-specific saddles.