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Seeing Double: The New Santa Cruz Hightower 27.5+ and 29’r

February 8, 2016

Many of us over at Bicycle Sport Shop were left wondering what, if anything, would replace the long-lived (and loved) Tallboy LT that suddenly disappeared from their website some months ago. Rumors circulated between shop employees and customers, but no one had any definitive answers. Kudos to everyone over at Santa Cruz for keeping this under wraps so well, because you had us all fooled! On February 2, Santa Cruz unveiled the Hightower, a 135mm rear travel transformer of a mountain bike, with the ability to adjust its geometry with the simple flip of a chip.

santa-cruze-hightower-red

The ever-increasing number of Plus Bikes, like the Specialized Stump Jumper FSR 6fatty, leaves frame manufacturers in the tough spot of producing both 27.5+ and 29’r options to accommodate the varying styles and preferences of the mountain bike community. Santa Cruz saw the demand for a bike that could fit both wheel options and hit the drawing board. They spent many hours testing and tweaking their designs to offer up a bike that truly can do it all.

Santa Cruz unveiled the 27.5+ and 29’r options that both come with 135mm rear travel, Boost 15 x 110mm spacing in the front/12 x 148mm in the rear, and internally routed cables (except the rear brake line). The suspension platform is built on Santa Cruz’s incredibly efficient VPP, or Virtual Pivot Point design. So regardless of what wheel size you opt for, rest assured that when you when mash the pedals, VPP will propel you down the trail with no loss in power. The 150mm dropper post will give you confidence to drop the seat and throw your weight over the rear of the bike when flying downhill, or keeping it out of the way as you punch up a technical climb.

 

Now, here’s where we get into the technical stuff (get your protractors and rulers). The 29’r comes out of the box with the fork set up with 140mm of travel, a 67° headtube angle, and 337mm BB height. The toggle chip, an eccentric piece of aluminum that connects the upper link to the frame, is set in the low position for the 29’r. But say you want to finally give the Plus-sized world a go for your next trip to Angel Fire or the Rockies. We can ignore the n+1 equation, get a set of 27.5+ Boost wheels, and make some minor adjusts to the bike by flipping the toggle chip. This slackens the head tube angle to 66.8° and drops the BB by a 2mm. To fully optimize the bike, Santa Cruz recommends your local bike shop change the internal air shaft in the fork to increase the travel to 150mm.

This however, is only a suggestion. The beauty of the Hightower is its ability to adapt to what you want. Many of the loyal Santa Cruz fans here at the shop want to swap wheel sizes in a matter of minutes, not the hour or so it can take to change out the air shaft.

hightower-santa-cruz

Pete, one of our employees at the warehouse and previous owner of the Tallboy and Tallboy LT, says, “If I were buying the bike I’d get the 27.5+ model. The plus tires stick like Velcro on the slippery sections of the trail, and that extra travel gives me the confidence to skip over the ledges rather than roll down them. If I’m heading to a trail that’s a little more mellow, I’d swap out the set of wheels, flip the chip and keep the extra travel up front.”

Eric Clifton, assistant manager at Lamar and Austin High mountain bike team coach, shared his opinion with me (and his desire to purchase one). “The fork has a service interval of around 50 hours. After 6 weeks or so of riding I’ll rebuild my front suspension and swap out the air shaft, flip the toggle chip, and throw on my other set of Boost wheels”.

Each wheel size not only provides you with the best wheel for the terrain, but also allows you to hone various skill sets. Want to boost your confidence and technique hitting a technical Greenbelt descent? Throw on the 27.5+ tires hit the trail! When it’s time to service the fork, change the suspension to 140mm and put on those 29’r wheels and take on some single track!

I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these. The upcoming Santa Cruz demo on March 5th will have the 27.5+ and 29’r Hightower models, along with the other tried and true models. If you don’t want to wait, Bicycle Sport Shop has a limited number of early release Hightowers in stock. Call ahead and come down for a test ride!

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