Santa Cruz Bicycles Hightower Carbon CC 29 X01 Eagle Complete Mountain Bike - 2017


Santa Cruz Bicycles' Hightower Carbon CC 29 X01 Eagle Complete Mountain Bike is something of a bellwether for the current direction of the off-road flock. It features a host of tech that virtually every manufacturer is dabbling in but that few—if any—have managed to fit into a single model as well as SC. Of these, the integration of a flip chip in the upper link is the most revolutionary, as it allows the Hightower to toggle between the 29er platform featured here and the plush, all-mountain/bikepacking float of a 27.5+ set-up without compromising the frame's geometry—and that geometry definitely warrants preservation.

Santa Cruz likens the Hightower to the Bronson, a bike that effectively re-wrote the definition for enduro. Given that comparison and the inherent attributes of wagon wheels, we expect the mid-travel, 29er Hightower to handle everything from crunchy terrain to hardpack and climbs with a versatility that approaches the specialized competence of bikes like the big-hit Bronson and the XC Tallboy. It doesn't disappoint. The frame is slung long and low with generous travel for a 29er, but its relatively short chainstays and stiff Boost axles ensure that it handles tricky situations and dices terrain with all the expert flair of a celebrity television chef.

Santa Cruz is so intent on proving the Hightower's outsized merit over rock gardens that it bypassed the Bronson and went straight to the 6.5in Nomad for suspension inspiration. Besides the obvious big-hit benefits, one result of this is that the link stays out of the way, which may be why the Hightower can accommodate both a bottle cage and a piggyback shock—yet another indication that it thrives on XC hardpack and enduro shuttle loops.

The Hightower's two triangles are joined by the latest generation of VPP suspension. Santa Cruz refers to it in-house as third generation VPP, but it's essentially the same VPP we know and love with the Nomad-inspired updates mentioned above. A repositioned lower link now shelters above the bottom bracket, increasing ground clearance to decrease the chance of rock strikes while indulging the Hightower's desire to masticate scree fields and dice through the rooty, rocky, techy stuff. The upper link has also wandered up and forward, which makes for a more accommodating standover height for smaller riders wanting a huge ride, and it also stiffens the back end.

The latest VPP's changes aren't limited to wandering links, though; the system's tuning has also been tweaked. Where the old suspension curve described a deep "U," the new VPP's curve resembles a flattened check mark, with less dramatic ramping on either end of the arc. The results are that, during the initial and mid stroke, it boasts increased bump compliance to keep the tires glued to the trail for more traction across lumpy trails and root latticed climbs. It also maintains its predecessor's firm feel during accelerations while jockeying for position in a mass start or a finishing sprint. The RockShox Monarch's ramp-up arc doesn't dramatically alter as the shock compresses, so the pedaling platform stays consistent across travel, with less wallowing, bob, and bottom-outs — even while the Boost axle's path turns rearward to absorb big hits deep in its travel.

The Hightower features the same Carbon CC frame construction that's ruined our taste by giving us unrealistic expectations for how carbon should feel. For the top-tier CC frame, Santa Cruz engineers use a higher modulus carbon than the Carbon C model, so less material is required to hit the same strength and stiffness numbers. Less material equates to less weight, and climbing and pure speed both benefit when there's less mass for your engine to propel.

The frame's two carbon triangles are built as whole pieces rather than glued together from disparate bits, a method that saves weight and increases structural integrity by allowing Santa Cruz to wrap carbon continuously through and around key junctures. This process reinforces the frame with less material while eliminating the artificial stress points that result from bonded construction methods. Finally, the carbon is also compacted from the inside and the outside for a more even finish that avoids any structural defects, excess material build-up, and resin pooling for even more weight savings.

Finally, a note on tire clearance, which has become one of the key characteristics underwriting an off-road bike's ideal use narrative. In the present 29er mode, the Hightower easily clears tires in the 2.4 and 2.5in range, but going any larger risks compatibility issues, depending on the tire manufacturer. If you're building a snow or bikepacking rig with 27.5+ wheels and tires, the Hightower can accommodate most 2.8in tires, but may have trouble with some manufacturers' 3in specimens.

  • A trail 29er with all-mountain pedigree
  • 5.3in of the latest VPP suspension
  • Geometry inspired by both the Bronson and Tallboy
  • Peerless Carbon CC frame construction process
  • RockShox cushion throughout, including dropper
  • SRAM's 12-speed, 1x drivetrain features the ultimate bailout gear
  • Santa Cruz Bicycles continues to define the direction of the industry
  • Reviews
  • Q & A

Fast and Fun

  • Familiarity: I've used it several times

The Hightower by Santa Cruz has everything you are looking for, 27.5+ or 29 inch wheels makes this a versatile bike capable of riding anything. I tested out the 27.5+ wheels and instantly felt the added traction. The bigger wheels make for a fast yet forgiving ride, inspiring confidence through the roughest terrain. The only downside to the oversized wheels is they are a bit heavy and you really feel this in the air if you are into jumping.

Fast and Fun

too fun

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Not a cross country bike? I question whether or not I really want to ride it. I want to climb fast, I want to go fast. I also don’t like surprises, but I was surprised and I loved it riding the hightower. I would honestly say for about 80% of the riding population this is the perfect all rounder. VPP suspension is efficient and smooth, it really hits the sweet spot. Santa Cruz just does a good job in all respects. It inspires confidence in the turns whether they are tight, or fast, or both. It rolls over any terrain and makes the rough rocky terrain all doable. And finally.. it goes uphill, yes it climbs, I climbed 13 miles straight, 5100+ vertical feel to prove it to myself. The bike is just plain fun, it really is, it will improve your skills and that just makes riding more fun. I'm happy to answer any questions or help with details.

too fun


  • Familiarity: I've used it several times

I feel as though if you are looking at this bike, you have already heard the hype. I must say I was pretty skeptical of all the raving reviews chalking it up to a hype train.

Now after getting a few rides on one I have become a believer.

I am coming from a Bronson 2.0 which I LOVE. It has been very hard for me to part with it but I am really beginning to love the 29ers. They really do pick up speed like crazy and roll over just about anything. I was worried about struggling with them in tighter corners but haven't noticed any loss in nimbleness.
I did notice on the up when going slower through technical sections the front can get away from me but I think the more I ride the bike and get used to it that will get better.

I was also worried about the 135mm rear travel after coming from the Bronson's 150mm but I haven't noticed too much of a difference yet. I would say for 99.9% of people 99.9% of the time 135 is more than enough. Not to mention it rides like way more.

I only have a few days on the bike so far but am looking forward to putting in more miles and really finding out what this thing can do.

Killin' it

    Let me just preface this, by saying this bike rips.

    As I'm sure you know, this bike can be run with 27.5+ tires or 29 inch wagon wheels, and having run it with both, ill give you my impressions with both.

    In both wheel configurations, this bike is fast. Going both up and down, it will surprise you. Like pretty much every nice bicycle on the market, it pedals really well. Like pretty much every nice bike, it also descends admirably. Here are a few things that make this bike different, and how it stacks up to a few other bikes.
    This thing plows. Its travel is definitely not indicative of its trail manners on rowdy descents. Its definitely not as playful as the Bronson interestingly enough, but its fast and confidence inspiring, but going slow isn't that fun, and this bike isn't slow.
    Its incredibly versatile. Apart from its ability to change wheels (which I haven't done that often, actually) you can spend all day on an epic single track adventure, and be perfectly happy, and after go charge a rowdy downhill, and be perfectly fine.
    This bike feels more like a bike you would point at a descent and hold on, and requires less input than the bronson, but it does not pop off of things as easily. It reminds me of a bulldozer.

    29 VS 27.5+?
    27.5+ has been pushed hard in the industry, and here is my take. They are super fun, but in order to optimize them, you have a very small range of air pressures that will work compared to a lower volume tire, and I attribute this to a tire acting like an un-dampened air spring. Even so, if you are a beginner or intermediate rider, the wider tires will give you more confidence than the 29 inch wheels, regardless of pressure, and will definitely make you a better rider. If you are intermediate-advanced, are comfortable cornering, and want to charge, I would go with 29 inch wheels. The Hightower was definitely funner in that configuration for me, and I felt like it really woke up with the larger wheels. Which is for you? If you ride more technical, choppy, and aggressive, I would go with the 29s. if your riding is usually smoother and looser, I would tend towards the plus tires.

    This bike is great for all of the alpine riding around the Salt Lake/Park City area, and will shred in places like Moab on their techiest trails as well. Its not as forgiving as its longer travel brethren like the Nomad and Bronson, but the large majority of us don't ride stuff that requires that big of a bike anyways.

    If you have any questions about this or any other mountain bikes or gear, shoot me an email at or call me at 801-746-7608 (EXT 4589)

    The BEST.

    • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

    Ladies & gentlemen I believe we have discovered the 8th wonder of the world. After 100+ rides on this bike last season, it's safe to say I have the most fun I have ever had on a bike when I'm on my Hightower.

    Nimble. Sexy. Fast. Fun. Badass.

    .... these words only skim the surface on how I would describe this bike.

    When people ask me how my brand new SC Hightower 29er rides I consistently find myself at a loss for words. It's one of those things you need to experience for yourself before you can express the feeling it gives you. For those interested and are having a tough time what bike is best for you I'd strongly urge you to keep reading....

    I have been mountain biking for 5 years now and this is hands down the best bike I have ever ridden. Ever.

    I started mountain biking along the front range of Northern Colorado (Fort Collins) and after riding up there, Denver Area and now out here in Park City I have stuck to the 29er train. I have debated going with a 27.5, but I keep finding myself getting into the cockpit of a 29er because of it's ability to climb, go fast and roll over those technical lines that haunt you if you never rail through em'. I would say this 29er has everything you want in a bike AND more.

    With the monarch suspension in the rear this bike climbs like a hardtail (even in the fully open position) and descends like an absolute animal. With 140mm in the front and 135mm in the rear it's a superb balance of all-mountain, enduro and a little taste of that XC. Along with the BOOST wheelset this bike can send it through tight switchbacks with the stiffness traditional 29er's have lacked in the past.

    If you like to ride with a massive smile on your face, log some miles, chase technical lines, go fast (up and downhill), and just be cool - look no further than the 2016 Santa Cruz Hightower.

    On the fence between the custom build and getting a complete bike? Let's chat. I went with a full custom build and kept mine within a reasonable budget, while treating myself to some tasty additions:)

    If you are looking to talk bikes, think through a couple options or interested in hearing my full custom spec'd out build hit me up!

    The BEST.