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First Ride Review: Santa Cruz Megatower 29

Shrouded in secrecy, we recently flew to South Africa to check out a new bike from Santa Cruz. We were expecting a new Hightower LT, but what we discovered was a different animal entirely. It’s time to find out if the new Santa Cruz Megatower is – like its name suggests – mega?

Santa Cruz’s new 13.86 kg Megatower is a hard-charging 160 mm 29er with speed and composure at its heart

We would love to have been a fly on the wall at the meeting to name Santa Cruz’s latest 160mm 29er. “It’s like a Hightower, but way harder hitting, what should we call it?” “The Super-tower, the Higher-tower?” “What about calling it the Megatower, haha?.” “Hahaha” “Hold on…get me a pen”. The new Megatower sits with the Nomad at the gravity end of Santa Cruz’s lineup, targeted at racers, bike park enthusiasts and hardcore shredders. As beautiful as they are expensive, the Californian bike brand knows how to get their fans juices flowing. We had expected to be presented with a new Hightower LT, but the new Santa Cruz Megatower shares more of its DNA with the Nomad and V10 DH beast. With the new lower-link driven VPP suspension platform, 160 mm of travel and 29-inch wheels it’s a big bike in anyone’s books, but can the Megatower still be versatile?

Using the new lower-link driven VPP suspension system, Santa Cruz have created a versatile monster in the Megatower, happy to pedal all day, before pushing your eyeballs inside out on the descents

Geometry of the Santa Cruz Megatower

Compared to the Hightower LT, the new Megatower takes a big step in bringing its vital statistics in line with the current crop of hard-hitting bikes. In size large, the reach is 470 mm (In Hi setting, 24 mm longer than the equivalent Hightower), also compared to the Hightower the seat tube angle has steepened a whopping 2.6° to 76.3° (Hi setting), and the adjustable chainstays of the Megatower allow for either 436 or 446 mm. The slacker head angle and longer reach of the Megatower has resulted in a front centre that is 41 mm longer than the equivalent sized Hightower LT, a huge jump for the Californian brand. The Santa Cruz Megatower will be available in 5 sizes, S,M,L,XL and XXL, in both the affordable but slightly heavier C carbon, and the more expensive but lighter high-grade CC carbon. The Megatower can accept a full water bottle and has a lifetime warranty on the frames and RESERVE wheels.

Seat tube 380 mm 405 mm 430 mm 460 mm 500 mm
Top tube 568 mm 597 mm 620 mm 648 mm 682 mm
Head tube 90 mm 100 mm 110 mm 130 mm 155 mm
Head angle 64.7° 64.7° 64.7° 64.7° 64.7°
Seat angle 76.5° 76.4° 76.3° 76.0° 75.8°
Chainstay 436-446 mm 436-446 mm 436-446 mm 436-446 mm 436-446 mm
BB Height 340 mm 340 mm 340 mm 340 mm 340 mm
Wheelbase 1,179-1,189 mm 1,208-1,218 mm 1,232-1,242 mm 1,260-1,270 mm 1,296-1,306 mm
Reach 422 mm 447 mm 467 mm 487 mm 512 mm
Stack 609 mm 618 mm 627 mm 645 mm 668 mm

Flip Chips For Versatility

In the new Santa Cruz Megatower, two flip-chips give you total control over the bikes geometry, the flip chip in the lower link gives a Hi and Lo setting, dropping the bottom bracket 3.5 mm and slackening the head angle and seat angle 0.3, useful if you want to run a longer fork). This flip-chip also adjusts shock rate, with a more progressive leverage rate in the Lo setting for more bottom out resistance. A flip-chip at the rear axle gives 10 mm of chainstay adjustment from 436 – 446 (in Lo), though you need to fit a different dropout (supplied).

The rear flip chip allows the wheelbase and chainstay to be increased (or decreased) 10 mm. A new dropout and brake mount is needed but is supplied with the bike.
The flip chip at the shock mount adjusts reach, stack, head tube angle, seat tube angle, standover and BB height, as well as shock leverage rate between two settings, Hi and Lo

Lower-Link Driven VPP Suspension system

After riding the new Nomad and Bronson it’s no surprise to see Santa Cruz has integrated their excellent lower-link driven VPP suspension layout into the gravity-focused Megatower. The rear kinematic now uses the same progressive leverage rate as the Nomad and can also be made more progressive with the Flip-Chip in the Lo setting, very different to the regressive – linear – progressive curve of the Hightower LT. On the trail, running 30% SAG, this gives a very predictable ride, composed and confident. Anti-squat sits close to 100% at SAG and can be felt via the stable pedalling action. Where we were most impressed is with the mid-stroke support, riding fast flow-trails the Megatower is very easy to pump, without the laziness and wallowing that can plague long travel bikes. As soon as the trail opens up and the hits get bigger, the Megatower dishes out its travel like a boss, eating through rocks without fuss, as expected from a suspension system pioneered in the mighty V10 DH machine.

We found the ribbed chainstay protector extremely quiet in use
The shock fender is well made and keeps the worst of the trail debris from damaging your shock

The new 76° seat angle puts you in a very efficient position, ensuring the Megatower climbs as well as it’s lighter and shorter-legged stablemates (but we still slammed our saddle to maximise the position).

Build Quality

Anyone who had spent time spinning spanners in a bike shop will know that even though most bikes ride very well now, not all are created equally. Santa Cruz has always held the mantle of being the nicest bikes to work on and own, with high-quality hardware, grease ports, and unquestioned build quality. The front-triangle retains the continuous cable routing tubes to ease the pain of internal cable routing, and the rear triangle is now easier to thread. Santa Cruz also offers a lifetime warranty on their frames, RESERVE carbon wheels and bearings.

A shuttle guard sits under the downtube, perfect if you have a matching Toyota Tacoma pickup truck. A nice touch from Santa Cruz as this bike should see some time on the shuttles.