Santa Cruz Hightower X01 CC ReserveCheck Out the Full Specs and Review
There are a few types of favorite bikes at Bible. There’s the obvious one: The bike that speaks to a tester regardless of price or purpose and takes root like an earworm melody. Then there’s the pragmatic favorite, which impresses with its ride quality and its reasonable price. Finally, you have the ‘one bike’ favorite, which is the bike that you’d pick if you could only own one bike. The Hightower—also called the Maverick under the Juliana Bicycles’ moniker—was in the running as the ‘one bike’ favorite for at least a couple testers.
Now in its second generation, the Hightower has evolved from a mid-travel trail bike to something that edges up to the long-travel line in both design and character. It’s been updated with Santa Cruz’s V10-inspired low-link VPP suspension, which, on this bike, yields 140 millimeters of travel and is preempted by a 150-millimeter-travel fork. The Hightower’s geometry brings those numbers to life in a very balanced way, with a 65.2-degree head angle in its low setting, a reasonable 1,232-millimeter wheelbase and a 470-millimeter reach on our size large (1,208-millimeter on the medium Maverick with a 450 reach).
Remember how we used to complain about how every Santa Cruz would hang up on square-edges, especially under pedaling forces? Not only is that sensation gone, Santa Cruz managed to maintain the taut-feeling pedaling characteristics that testers have always appreciated. That may be thanks to the lower-link VPP’s straighter progressive leverage curve and its ability to be supportive through the entire range of travel. Whatever the cause, the result is a quick and comfortable climber that wastes little energy. The 76.5-degree seat tube angle puts the seated rider over the cranks in a position that can be maintained for long stretches of trail, whether that trail be buff or technical. And when it’s time to navigate tight switchbacks or rock gardens, the reasonable wheelbase, reach and stock 50-millimeter stem help get it done with relative ease. It doesn’t absorb and pedal in the magical way that the Ibis Ripmo will, but it’s still a nice bike on which to go uphill—even if it doesn’t feel especially light.
Downhill, that heft is felt most in the form of Santa Cruz’s signature stoutness. We’ve come to expect Santa Cruz’s bikes to be stiff, quiet, and tight, and the Hightower met our expectations. Then, it exceeded them with details like a downtube shuttle guard and noise-damping chainstay protector. Also, the augmented leverage curve afforded by the new VPP layout isn’t only meant for the climbs. The extra support translates to an energetic feel on flowing trails where there are opportunities to play and pop, and a stalwart sensation in reaction to hits that use full travel. Where you won’t find the capability of a bigger bike is through repetitive hits, where the Hightower’s rear end feels secure, but not any plusher than you’d expect a 140 bike to be. If you’re willing to ride actively and precisely and use your legs as suspension, the Hightower will be enough bike for just about any trail. But if you want the bike to do the job for you at high speeds or in the face of high consequences, the Santa Cruz Megatower or (to limit it to this Bible’s garage) the deeper and slacker Norco Sight would be a better pick.
The Orbea Occam was another tester favorite here at Bible, especially among riders who were most focused on how quickly and efficiently a bike covers ground. Comparatively, the Hightower feels longer and yields a more in-the- bike feel, while the Occam felt and handled like a lighter and more compact bike. The Occam edged out the Hightower in agility and climb- ing, with its rear suspension barely moving at all under rider inputs. Both give the rider plenty of support for popping and pumping through trail undulations, and either would make an excellent do-it-all bike, but where the Occam feels a little more biased toward covering ground, the Hightower seems to be totally content to climb or descend all day long.
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