​If you've ever cruised our Bike Check section, the largest collection of badass bike builds on the internet, you know that Vital members spare no expense when it comes to radifying their rides. Always on the hunt for a backstory, we reached out to the owners of these six sick Santa Cruz Hightowers to find out what went into each project. From the soberly understated to the full-on bling fest, there's something here for every taste. Which one is YOUR favorite?

Smitty2661's Santa Cruz Hightower

Age: 22

Where do you live? Pittsburgh, PA

Favorite local trail to ride? My favorite local trail to ride is probably North Park in Allison Park, PA. If all the trails are ridden it's about 22 miles or so. It has a little bit of everything in it. Climbs, downhills, a freeride/downhill trail call Dr. J, a dirt jump area, a couple super nice bermed out flow trails. It's pretty fast paced as well, usually averaging 10-11 miles per hour with 2000+ ft of elevation gain.

Why did you pick the Santa Cruz Hightower? I wanted a long travel 29er, something that would be good for XC rides but also race enduro with. I rode a Santa Cruz Nomad the season before and also tried my teammate's Hightower. When I was on the Hightower, I PR’d most of the segments in my local park, up and down, on a bike that wasn’t set up for my preferences. I felt faster, but Strava also confirmed that; so that’s when I decided I wanted the Hightower, and haven’t regretted that decision since.

Is this Santa Cruz Hightower your only bike? It is not. I also have a V10CC that I race downhill with, so I have the best of both worlds.

What bike did this replace / What bike were you on before this? As I said earlier, I was on a 2016 Santa Cruz Nomad. Awesome bike, and absolutely crushed downhills, but I went for a more well rounded bike.

Did you go for an off-the-shelf build or did you customize the build? I did a fully custom build. Bought the frame only without a shock and built the entire bike with what I wanted on it. Even got custom decals off NLDesigns to black it out.  As you can tell I went for the Black and gold look because I knew I was getting the gold XX1 eagle. I also kept the rear shock at stock travel but am running a 160mm Fox 36 up front. I was planning on lowering it to 150mm but I haven’t felt the need to, it feels awesome the way it is.

What’s your favorite part about the bike? My favorite part of the bike is probably everything. I put everything I wanted on it. If I had to pick, probably the new SRAM XX1 Eagle stuff, primarily because its gold and that’s what catches everyone’s eyes.

What would you change on it? Hmmmm, I don’t think I’d change anything to be honest. If I wanted to change anything I probably would have. Although, I didn’t consider weight when building it, so I know some places where I can shave some weight. For example, I have Minion 2.5s front and rear with the thicker sidewalls. I don’t really care all that much either, think it came out to be 31lbs all said and down with pedals and all.

How long do you plan on riding this bike? I plan on riding it till the new models/colors come out. From there I’ll probably sell it and start fresh for the following season.

If you could get another new bike (any kind/type) right now, what would you get? As of right now, I would get another Hightower. If Santa Cruz came out with a longer travel 29er, then that’s what I would get.

View Smitty2661's bike check


Ben Sewell's Santa Cruz Hightower

Age: 39

Where do you live? Biggleswade, Bedfordshire.

Favorite local trail to ride? All the trails in and around Woburn/Aspley (current favourite is Flight Path).

Why did you pick the Santa Cruz Hightower? This was a dream build for me, I wanted a versatile, fast and chuckable ride for trails and some gravity riding, the Hightower just felt right and for my style of riding easily beat the Bronson or Yeti SB5.5c that I also tested by some margin.  Couple that with the ability to switch between 27.5+ and 29er rims and the huge smile on my face after the day of riding it - it was a no brainer. The Hightower makes me a better, more aggressive rider with more confidence and pushes me to ride faster. Bottom line? It makes me look and feel far more talented than I really am!

Is this Santa Cruz Hightower your only bike? Erm, not quite! I have a 2017 Whyte 901, 2016 Whyte t-129RS, a 2017 Trek Emonda SL 6 Pro and an old 2009 Giant Escape Disc. I am also now putting together a downhill bike build with Brink.UK, assuming the wife doesn't kill me first!

What bike did this replace / What bike were you on before this? I was riding a 2011 Giant Trance X2 along with my hardtail Whyte 901. I then bought the t-129RS and quickly developed a love for 29er's, so I sold my X2 and began thinking about a dream 27.5+/29er build... enter the Hightower! I am now looking to sell the t-129RS as it won't get any ride time.

Did you go for an off-the-shelf build or did you customize the build? Fully custom build. No messin.

What’s your favorite part about the bike? It has to be the Ohlins forks and shock setup, it's amazing. A class above anything else I have ridden. 

What would you change on it? Nothing. Maybe ENVE rims.

How long do you plan on riding this bike? I plan on riding her for as long as possible. I am going to the Enduro2 in Les Arcs in July this year and my group and I are planning on Bike Park Wales and Whistler by the end of the year too, plus we are going to try and get one if not both of the Ard Rock/Moors in next year; I want to be riding the Hightower through all of those and well into 2018. Or, and more likely, until I badly break it doing something stupid, or something new and shiny takes my eye!

If you could get another new bike (any kind/type) right now, what would you get? That's easy. A Mondraker Summum Carbon Pro Team. It is likely that this is what I will build next. Awesome machine.

View Ben Sewell's bike check


BeezSwyk's Santa Cruz Hightower

Age: 29

Where do you live? Boise Idaho

Favorite local trail to ride? Mahalo-Dry Creek

Why did you pick the Santa Cruz Hightower? I tried a bunch of different bikes including 27.5 bikes but I really loved the speed the 29er wheel could carry and it's the perfect bike for our local trails. I'm 225lbs and the stiff frame and boost spacing were important. The updated VPP suspension is great as well. 

Is this Santa Cruz Hightower your only bike? I have a 2012 Tallboy and a Kona Stinky.

What bike did this replace / What bike were you on before this? This didn't replace anything but it's a big upgrade from the Tallboy with updated geometry, boost spacing, and more travel.

Did you go for an off-the-shelf build or did you customize the build? I chose to customize this build. I had an idea of what I wanted and the guys at Joyride Cycles really helped me dial it in.

What’s your favorite part about the bike? It wants to go fast and pedals really well. I love it's all around capabilities from all day rides to enduro races.

What would you change on it? I would give it a little bit more rear wheel travel. I tried to run it with 150mm of rear wheel travel but the tire hit the seat post.

How long do you plan on riding this bike? At least for a couple of years. It really does well on all the trails in Idaho but you never know when the next best thing is going to roll out.

If you could get another new bike (any kind/type) right now, what would you get? That's a tough one. I am thinking of building up a hardtail, I like the Yeti SB 5.5 and the SB6, but I'll probably look at the updated Nomad pretty seriously when it comes out.

View BeezSwyk's bike check


Nathanbal's Santa Cruz Hightower

Age: 38

Where do you live? New Jersey, USA

Favorite local trail to ride? Everything at Mountain Creek, NJ

Why did you pick the Santa Cruz Hightower? I wanted a rowdy 29er, so as soon as the Hightower was announced, I ordered a frame. I am a big Santa Cruz fan, so didn’t really look at other brands – I love the way Santa Cruz bikes ride, their design philosophy and their customer support.

Is this Santa Cruz Hightower your only bike? No, I have a Santa Cruz 5010 and a Santa Cruz Stigmata (I told you I like Santa Cruz’s!)

What bike did this replace / What bike were you on before this? I had a Santa Cruz Nomad and a Santa Cruz LTc

Did you go for an off-the-shelf build or did you customize the build? I went completely custom. 

What’s your favorite part about the bike? Other than it being the best bike I’ve ridden, I love the ElevenSix shock. For anyone who is skeptical of the hype – it’s all true. I have never had anything that comes so close to completely transforming a bike. I have DH and Trail settings and it’s like having two shocks.

What would you change on it? Absolutely nothing! Although I would love a legitimate way to get 150mm travel out of the rear…

How long do you plan on riding this bike? I always say “I am going to keep this bike for the long term” and always end up switching out to the next greatest thing. But I am clearing trail sections on this bike, that I struggled to on my 26” DH bike. So I can see myself holding onto this for a while. The only thing that could stop that, is if Santa Cruz brought out a similar 29” bike with more travel - 150mm would be perfect.

If you could get another new bike (any kind/type) right now, what would you get? If Santa Cruz stopped producing bikes, I would likely get an Evil Wreckoning.

View nathanbal's bike check


TamiJean's Santa Cruz Hightower

Age: 29

Where do you live? Spokane Washington

Favorite local trail to ride? Beacon Hill

Why did you pick the Santa Cruz Hightower? After testing and feedback from other teammates a 29er was the obvious choice for me for enduro racing and it suits our local trails better. It holds lines with much more confidence and the combo of I9 Wheels and the fox 36 makes this thing a monster truck that still likes to play. Lastly I love the VPP platform. 

Is this Santa Cruz Hightower your only bike? Mountain bike yes. I have a road bike for training. 

What bike did this replace / What bike were you on before this? This bike replaced a Giant Reign Advanced that I had built as a mini DH bike. 180mm fork and Push coil shock. 

Did you go for an off-the-shelf build or did you customize the build? I purchased the bike off the shelf but immediately had a different component set that I installed when building the bike.

What’s your favorite part about the bike? It can do it all. I can climb without a fuss and it flat out wants to go fast going down. It is just as playful as other 27.5 bikes I have ridden, and it's a Santa Cruz

What would you change on it? I'm planning on swapping to the SRAM Eagle X01 group. 

How long do you plan on riding this bike? Indefinitely 

If you could get another new bike (any kind/type) right now, what would you get? I would probably get a Santa Cruz Tallboy so I can start replacing boring road training rides with longer distance XC trail rides.

View TamiJean's bikecheck


Moreda_5's Santa Cruz Hightower

Age: 33

Where do you live? Santa Rosa Ca

Favorite local trail to ride? Blowin Trees

Why did you pick the Santa Cruz Hightower? I wanted to give a 29er a try. With more and more racers going towards big wheeled bikes I wanted to try it out for myself. 

Is this Santa Cruz Hightower your only bike? No, I have a pumptrack/DJ bike, cross bike, and a road bike. 

What bike did this replace / What bike were you on before this? I was riding a Santa Cruz Bronson before this bike. 

Did you go for an off-the-shelf build or did you customize the build? it is a bit of a hybrid, I like the feel of Saint brakes and the bend of the RaceFace SixC bars. I put in a Ceramic BB that I had from a previous build and also bumped the fork travel up to 150mm in the front.

What’s your favorite part about the bike? How the bike doesn’t feel like a 29er. The bike moves and rides like a smaller wheeled bike. The travel feels deeper than the 135mm in the rear that it has. 

What would you change on it? the only thing I would change is a 170mm dropper post. 

How long do you plan on riding this bike? about 9-12 months 

If you could get another new bike (any kind/type) right now, what would you get? I would probably get larger travel 27.5 bike that runs the new 2.6 tires. I also really liked the 5010 that I had previously. That bikes was so much fun for 90% of the riding I did, super fast and agile. 

View moreda_5's bike check


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15 comments
  • Austin848

    1/18/2017 3:48 PM

    Love the bike! I have one that is long shocked and is amazing.

  • Ellipsis

    1/15/2017 9:38 AM

    I love my Hightower! Totally sold on the 27.5+ format. I just wish more companies offered higher-end plus wheels. That being said my RaceFace Aeffect+ wheels are awesome so far.

  • bikeboardorblade

    1/14/2017 10:51 AM

    Please keep this series up!

  • PooshipDestroyer

    1/13/2017 9:21 PM

    Any chance we can get some rider stats other than age? Important to me is rider height/frame size. I'm 180cm, so really right on that line once again between M or L. Have parking lot ridden the Large and seems like a monster truck, and that's coming from another 29r. On the other hand, I'm told with this newer geo that one really rides more 'off the front', whatever that means. Any input?

    Great article and cool bikes. This is the kind of stuff that makes me love bikes like I was a kid all over again!

  • TamiJean

    1/13/2017 11:58 PM

    I'll chime in on my bike check. A shade under 183cm and I chose the XL. Maybe big for some but my style is more point and shoot and not flashy. I feel more centered on the bike and able to slam the dropper on top of the seat tube for the lowest attack position.

  • PooshipDestroyer

    1/14/2017 1:32 AM

    I appreciate the reply! I know someone else in your area that is my same height, and just went with the large (over the medium) too. Straight line point-n-shoot stuff I'd say yes to, but trying to maneuver in even the parking lot felt cumbersome...so it's the tight stuff I'm worried about. But your response is one more nod toward the size Large it seems. Thanks for the input, and beautiful bike.. damn I'm jealous!

  • Ellipsis

    1/15/2017 9:36 AM

    At 5'9" you should definitely not purchase the large. I'm 5'11" and I went with a large, and it fits me perfectly. I also have a 32" inseam which necessitates the larger size. Unless you have freakishly long legs for someone of your height, I would stick with the medium. My friend who works for Camelbak has a medium and he is about your height.

  • PooshipDestroyer

    1/15/2017 4:07 PM

    I'm 5'10", 30" inseam. Long torso. Medium Tallboy stock is too small, but swapping to a +6 60mm stem and some low rise bars made it rideable, but not great. I know the Tallboy v Hightower is not apples to apples, so I guess I'll just have to track down a medium HT to test--with a longer wheelbase, the medium HT might just feel better than the Tallboy. Appreciate your input!

  • Rob_Brady

    3/21/2017 6:48 PM

    I am 5'9 and ride a large. My last bike was a med carbon bronson. My bike before that was a med carbon tallboy. I totally disagree w what Ellipsis says. I don't have freakishly longs legs either..

  • PooshipDestroyer

    3/23/2017 3:19 PM

    Thanks for the input man. And I agree with you--I've since had a chance to ride a medium and a large Hightower back to back, and the large felt better to me overall. Sure, the medium felt a bit more 'playful' casually goofing about, but the newer geo and riding position that comes with it centered me over the bike a lot better on the size large. On the trail the large was more stable, still nimble, and felt like I could just hammer the hell out of it and still come out upright on the other end.

  • themanro

    1/13/2017 4:12 PM

    This is a cool format. I like reading why people going one way or another with customizations and bike choices in general.

  • readingracing

    1/13/2017 2:36 PM

    Meh, Pivot SB!

  • lev

    1/13/2017 11:41 AM

    I enjoyed reading that thanks. More please

  • chrisingrassia

    1/13/2017 9:53 AM

    @Smitty2661 -
    Looks like I have a fellow Pens fan on here......

  • Smitty2661

    1/13/2017 4:36 PM

    Yeah buddy!!!

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