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2023 Santa Cruz Megatower X01 AXS RSV Coil Carbon CC Bike

Vital Rating: (Spectacular)
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2023 Santa Cruz Megatower X01 AXS RSV Coil Carbon CC (Trans Blue)
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Vital Tested - The All-New Santa Cruz Megatower

Santa Cruz just dropped our favorite enduro bike of the year.

Rating: Vital Review
Vital Tested - The All-New Santa Cruz Megatower

The second generation of the Santa Cruz Megatower comes three years after the launch in 2019 and builds on the success of its predecessor. With some exciting new features and refined geometry, fans of the old bike may have a new favorite and those looking for an enduro bike can put this one at the top of their list. For a bike that is targeted at big rides and demanding terrain, Santa Cruz has upped the level for what to expect out of an enduro bike in terms of capability and all-day comfort.

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Highlights

  • Carbon fiber (C and CC options) frame
  • 29-inch wheels only
  • 165mm (6.5-inches) of rear-wheel travel // 170mm (6.8-inches) fork travel
  • Virtual Pivot Point suspension design
  • Tapered headtube
  • Internal cable routing
  • In-frame storage
  • Size-specific rear-center
  • Updated flip chip
  • Threaded bottom bracket with ISCG05 mounts
  • Boost 148mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size XL, no pedals): 34 pounds (15.4kg)
  • MSRP: $11,199 USD

Strengths

  • Revised VPP suspension performance
  • In-frame storage
  • Can be "one bike" for big travel lovers
  • All-day ride-ability
  • Ready to race

Weaknesses

  • Some may miss the adjustable wheelbase.

What's New?

Built upon the proven VPP platform, at first look, the new Megatower doesn’t look much different with the exception of the enlarged downtube. The most asked question from people on the trail was, “Is that an e-bike?” A closer look would reveal the subtle latch beneath the water bottle cage to the storage compartment below dubbed the Glovebox. Adding this opening to the downtube means the forward shock mount has moved down the downtube slightly and the shock placement has moved to the lowest possible point within the front triangle with a bevel around the portion below the shock. Similar cable routing to the previous generation remains sleek and out of the way as does the miniature rear fender to protect the rear shock. The rear triangle sees some refinements in the form of wider tire clearance and a Universal Derailleur Hanger. Gone now is the rear center flip-chip found on the previous generation.

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Megatower Lineup

Santa Cruz's newest Megatower lineup has a few returning models as well as some new ones. Unlike the prior line that used 38mm stanchion forks only for coil options, the entire Megatower line now uses the larger forks. The Megatower C (Santa Cruz's less-expensive carbon frame) line still starts with the R build ($5,649), featuring a SRAM NX drivetrain and now sporting the RockShox Zeb, over the Lyrik of years prior. Next up is the S build, at $6,799 with a SRAM GX drivetrain and a move to a FOX 38 Performance fork. Last in the C frame line is the GX AXS build ($8,499), which replaces the prior Shimano XT build. As the name implies, riders get a SRAM GX AXS drivetrain with the fork moving to the FOX 38 Performance Elite. Among the Megatower C GX AXS level, there are options for an air or coil shock as well as the addition of Reserve 30 wheels.

Megatower C R - $5,649
Megatower C S - $6,799

Megatower C GX AXS RSV Coil - $9,799

Moving to the Megatower CC line, we have the X01 ($9,299) which not only has the obvious drivetrain but also a bump to FOX Factory suspension front and rear. Much as you can with the GX AXS builds, so can riders choose among air, coil, and Reserve options at this level.

Megatower CC X01 Air - $9,299

Our test bike is the CC X01 AXS RSV Air build which, as you've read, comes in at $11,199. The only wheel choice here is the Reserve 30 but riders can choose between air and coil. Want to go full robots? Santa Cruz has a Megatower for that - the XX1 AXS Flight Attendant RSV which makes use of all the components in its namesake. As we've seen with other Flight Attendant equipped bikes, the price is out there: $13,999. You could buy an e-bike for that! Sorry, we had to. Too soon?

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Geometry

The Megatower strikes a wonderful balance between long travel comfort and efficient pedaling performance. With the updated frame now using a size-specific rear center, riders of all sizes should experience a more central feeling on the bike. Following the trend of longer, lower, slacker as nearly every bike has in the last couple of years, the Megatower seems to have sized up across the board to better suit its intended use. Compared to the outgoing model, our size XL test bike gains an additional 36mm to its wheelbase, reach grows 5mm, rear center grows 8mm, BB height is actually 3mm higher to accommodate the additional 5mm of rear-wheel travel, and the head tube angle comes out to just over a degree slacker. The frame sees many other important changes across the board that add up to make it what it is, but for the internet geo experts, those are the bread and butter.

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Setup

First sitting on the bike felt roomy but not stretched out and pedaling the bike around solidified the feeling. In the low setting, we felt centered on the bike and everything felt like it was in the right place. We set the FOX 38 to our preferred 120psi and used the recommended 265psi in the FOX Float DHX2. The rear felt a little softer than what we normally like so we added an additional 15psi to even things out a bit. The additional pressure seemed beneficial for the heavy g-outs that come with the trails in Vancouver and Squamish. Upon returning home to Phoenix, the rear felt a bit unsettled so we dropped down to 270psi for 30% sag where we ultimately stayed. We rode the bike with the uncut 800mm bar width for the first week, then cut them down to our usual 780mm to tighten up the steering slightly. In hindsight, the characteristics of the 800mm bar may be more appropriate for the handling characteristics of the bike.

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On The Trail

We were first introduced to the Megatower on the wet trails of Cypress on Vancouver’s North Shore and made our way over to Squamish for a couple of longer rides. Riding unfamiliar terrain on a brand new bike can sound daunting to some, but we felt comfortable straight away thanks to some local knowledge at the front of the group. After returning home to Phoenix we rode our usual variety of trails at South Mountain and some longer shuttle laps outside of Prescott to really get to know the bike and were once again very happy with the ride quality. Our usual test laps consist of technical climbing, moderate speed traverses with a few very choppy high-speed descents mixed in. We also visited San Clemente and Laguna Beach for some fun pedal laps with lots of jumps along with some very high-speed shuttle laps. We were hard-pressed to find trails where the bike felt out of place with the exception of very tight back-to-back turns at lower speeds where the dimensions of the bike were simply not optimal.

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DH/Technical Performance/Fun Factor

Pointed downhill, the Megatower felt just as calm and collected as we’d come to expect. It held its own against full-blown downhill bikes without much difficulty allowing us to push our personal limits with ease. With a comfortable suspension platform beneath us and a centered position in the bike, we had no issues attacking a variety of terrain and found the bike to be confidence-inspiring when entering jagged rough sections, changing direction, or pulling up for a last-minute huck. The frame is plenty stiff and allowed us to hold lines through just about anything we pointed it at without disruption to our posture on the bike. We felt the bike was stiff in all the right ways yet remained comfortable to ride all day, leaving us less fatigued than expected at the end of big days on the pedals or shuttles.

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Rear Suspension Performance

The rear suspension performance was brilliant, most notably its ability to seemingly flatten the edges of everything from high-speed chatter up to sizeable chunk. This had us more concerned for the EXO+ casing tires than anything. Thanks to revised kinematics with a consistent ramp throughout, the bike has a constant “safety net” feeling that inspired us to trust the bike more and more without any wallow, hang-ups, or harsh bottom outs. With bearing mounted shock eyelets, small bump compliance was excellent and the suspension remained smooth through the entire stroke.

Unique Features

The addition of the Glovebox downtube storage is super beneficial on an enduro race bike. Santa Cruz provides two separate sleeves, one called the Tool Wallet with space for a variety of items, and the other called the Tube Purse. We stuffed a multi-tool, two CO2 cartridges, a plug toolkit, and a tube inside with room to spare. Overall this is a great feature and eliminates the need to carry a pack or frame strap for these items.

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Geometry

We were pretty hard-pressed to find situations where the bike didn’t feel comfortable. It seems to simply work well just about everywhere you’d want a big, comfy bike. With the expected penalty of a longer travel bike on mellower trails, the Megatower proved to generate speed with ease and have more nimble characteristics than anticipated when slotted into turns at speed. The pedaling position was great and allowed us to choose between mashing and being rewarded, or slowing down and relaxing a bit uphill. While the bottom bracket is slightly higher than the old bike, the additional travel puts it close to the same height at sag and we did clip pedals on a semi-frequent basis but not constantly.

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Perceived Weight

The bike feels light both in your hands and on the trail because it is light. Relative to bikes in this category that can do most things downhill bikes can do at around the same speed, 34lbs is great and not so light that the bike pinballs through rock gardens at speed. This allows those who wish to race the bike to throw on DH casing tires and stuff the Glove Box to the brim without paying too big of a penalty on back-to-back days.

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Sprinting

Just as it does while seated, standing up and sprinting on the Megatower rewards you with a snappy feeling that’ll allow you to get up to speed with ease. The bike doesn’t make you feel like you’re on as long travel of a bike as you expect. The revised kinematics of the suspension are worry-free and did not have any adverse side effects on pedaling performance under extreme load.

Climbing

We were pleasantly surprised to find the Megatower is a very efficient climber. It rewards pedal input with easy acceleration. Leaning back into a more relaxed seated position gives the rider the option of a lower cadence with ease, although the front wheel did feel slightly light on steeper pitches as a result. The wheelbase of the bike does feel slightly long in tech sections but is still easy enough to maneuver. We rarely found ourselves needing to dab a foot but did clip the ends of the crank arms semi-frequently. Crank boots are worth considering in rocky terrain.

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Build Kit

Our test bike came in the X01 AXS RSV build kit which puts it just one below the top of the line XX1 Flight Attendant Ltd option. The bike is kitted with SRAM X01 AXS shifting, X01 cassette, and chain, X01 carbon cranks with a 32t chainring, in addition to Code RSC brakes with 200mm HS2 rotors front and rear. Reserve 30|HD wheels as expected with Industry Nine 1-1 hubs wrapped in Maxxis Exo+ tires. The cockpit features a Burgtec stem paired to the new Santa Cruz 35mm diameter bars which feature an oval profile around the bend for additional compliance, an 8.5-degree back sweep with 5-degrees of upsweep with 35mm of rise, topped off with new grips from Santa Cruz. While it is not an AXS dropper, the 200mm RockShox reverb was appreciated for getting the seat as low as possible as well as its quick return speed. Suspension is handled by FOX with Factory level products front and rear. All in all a very solid spec choice that leaves very little to complain about. We Would ideally swap to an AXS dropper if a 200mm version was available just to make things even sleeker.

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Fork Performance

The FOX 38 Factory fork performed flawlessly and gave us no issues or hiccups for the duration of our test period. It is worth noting the previous generation Megatower was released before many of the larger diameter single crown fork offerings were available. This one was designed with the bigger fork in mind and pairs perfectly with the stout chassis.

Tire Performance

While we were concerned the EXO+ tires might’ve been in jeopardy from the abuse we dished out, we were very pleased to experience zero punctures thanks to the newly updated casing. The MaxxGrip Assegai up front provided the excellent traction we’ve come to expect with minimal signs of wear while the MaxxTerra DHR2 out back was predictable as usual with the usual amount of wear we’ve come to expect from the terrain in Phoenix.

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Wheel Performance

The intentions of the newly released Reserve 30|HD wheels fall perfectly in line with those of the Megatower. Laced to Industry Nine 1-1 Hubs, engagement was quick and the wheels spun free. We did have spokes loosen up after about a month of use but had no issues after a light true and quarter turn on each spoke around the rear wheel.

Brake Performance

The SRAM Code RSC brakes paired with the new HS2 rotors performed great in all conditions from sloppy wet terrain in BC to the dusty dry climate of AZ. We had no issues with fade on descents and only required a quick bleed after about a month of use. The new HS2 rotors from SRAM feature a thicker profile and seemed to give the brakes a slightly firmer bite point than we are used to at the lever.

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Drivetrain Performance

Just in case you have not read it enough yet - the drivetrain was smooth throughout the test duration, the chain guide was drag-free and prevented any dropped chains as intended. The AXS drivetrain was trouble-free as usual.

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Noise

We had no excessive noise from the bike. The linkage and drivetrain were quiet in all situations. With CO2 and tools in the downtube, we did experience the slight knocking on bigger compressions as we’ve come to expect from bikes with storage compartments. Things got noticeably louder halfway through a big shuttle day which was a bit alarming The culprit was the UDH mounting bolt that had backed out about an eighth of a turn, something that has happened on a couple of bikes newly equipped with the hanger. We did experience this issue twice in our test period so it may be worth a dab of blue Loctite on the threads or contacting Santa Cruz for their recommendation should it become a recurring issue.

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Our nearly top-of-the-line build kit kept us from wanting much more out of it. If we were to buy one for ourselves and money wasn’t an issue, it would be hard to pass up the exact build kit we received to test and we wouldn’t see ourselves changing much of anything.

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Long Term Durability

Durability-wise, the frame seems very robust and trouble-free with a nice finish. Unfortunately, the nice gloss finish on our test bike took a beating from the wet days in Canada and came out with a handful of scratches along the edges of the top tube. This is a problem a basic frame protection kit can solve. On the flip side, we see the rubber padding on the bottom of the downtube for rock strikes and shuttle pads holding up great long term. Santa Cruz also offers lifetime replacement bearings to original owners and only uses a couple of sizes across all of their frames which should make for a very painless replacement process down the road. We have had great luck with all of the components specced on our test bike in the past and don’t foresee any of them causing any issues long term. Our test bike did develop a creak from the head of the seat post but we were able to disassemble and clean to mitigate it.

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What's The Bottom Line?

To sum up the Megatower, we kept coming back to the thought of just how easy it is to ride. On multiple occasions we found ourselves charging the gnarliest sections and feeling like we could keep pushing further thanks to the “safety net” feeling the suspension provided. Both characteristics seem massively beneficial for an enduro race bike, making it a breeze to ride at the limit all day with less fatigue afterward. The frame storage is an added bonus any rider will appreciate for a variety of uses, the UDH is a great method of future-proofing things, and the standard boost spacing sizes with the use of a threaded bottom bracket should keep those who maintain their own bikes happy. If we were looking for one bike in the garage to do everything well we would look no further than the new Megatower. For riders looking to take enduro racing seriously, this is certainly a class-leading option that inspires confidence on the trail with ease.

Visit santacruzbicycles.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Jonathon Simonetti - Age: 28 // Years Riding: 19 // Height: 6'4" (1.93m) // Weight: 225-pounds (102kg)

Jonny started mountain biking in 2003 after taking a trip to Northstar and discovering how much more could be ridden than on a BMX bike. He began racing at age 12 and raced for 12 years until ultimately deciding having fun on a bike was more important. After working in the industry for a few years and developing a deeper understanding of bikes inside and out, he has an aptitude for pairing his riding ability with the analysis of bikes and breaking down what makes them work well. He rides for fun and finds the most enjoyment out of going fast with friends.


Specifications

Product Santa Cruz Megatower X01 AXS RSV Coil Carbon CC Bike
Model Year 2023
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain, Freeride / Bike Park
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
SM (Hi, Lo), MD (Hi, Lo), LG (Hi, Lo), XL (Hi, Lo), XXL (Hi, Lo) View Geometry
Size SM (Hi, Lo) MD (Hi, Lo) LG (Hi, Lo) XL (Hi, Lo) XXL (Hi, Lo)
Top Tube Length 570mm, 570mm 594mm, 595mm 613mm, 613mm 637mm, 638mm 666mm, 667mm
Head Tube Angle 63.8°, 63.5° 63.8°, 63.5° 63.8°, 63.5° 63.8°, 63.5° 63.8°, 63.5°
Head Tube Length 90mm 100mm 115mm 135mm 150mm
Seat Tube Angle 77.2°, 77.0° 77.4°, 77.2° 77.8°, 77.5° 77.8°, 77.5° 77.8°, 77.5°
Seat Tube Length 380mm 405mm 430mm 460mm 500mm
Bottom Bracket Height 346mm (27mm drop), 343mm (30mm drop) 346mm (27mm drop), 343mm (30mm drop) 346mm (27mm drop), 343mm (30mm drop) 346mm (27mm drop), 343mm (30mm drop) 346mm (27mm drop), 343mm (30mm drop)
Chainstay Length 436mm, 437mm 437mm, 438mm 440mm, 441mm 443mm, 444mm 447mm, 448mm
Wheelbase 1206mm, 1206mm 1236mm, 1237mm 1266mm, 1266mm 1298mm, 1298mm 1333mm, 1334mm
Standover 709mm, 705mm 716mm, 712mm 723mm, 718mm 722mm, 717mm 724mm, 720mm
Reach 430mm, 427mm 455mm, 452mm 475mm, 472mm 495mm, 492mm 520mm, 517mm
Stack 616mm, 618mm 625mm, 627mm 638mm, 640mm 656mm, 658mm 670mm, 672mm
* Additional Info Geometry adjustable via flip chip at lower linkage shock mount
Wheel Size 29"
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Carbon CC front and rear triangles; molded seatstay, chainstay, lower down tube, and shuttle guard protection
Rear Travel 165mm
Rear Shock FOX DHX2 Factory, 2-position lever, 230mm x 62.5mm
Fork FOX FLOAT 38 Factory, Kashima coating
Fork Travel 170mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered, 1.125" top, 1.5" bottom
Headset Cane Creek 40, IS integrated
Handlebar Santa Cruz Carbon, 800mm width, 35mm clamp diameter
Stem Burgtec Enduro MK3, 42mm length, 35mm bar clamp
Grips Santa Cruz House or Burgtec Bartender Pro Minnaar
Brakes SRAM Code RSC, 4-piston, SRAM HS2 200mm 6-bolt rotors
Brake Levers SRAM Code RSC
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters SRAM GX Eagle AXS Rocker Paddle, 12-speed, electronic wireless
Front Derailleur None
Rear Derailleur SRAM X01 Eagle AXS, 12-speed, electronic wireless
ISCG Tabs ISCG05
Chainguide OneUp Bash Guide; upper slider with bashguard
Cranks SRAM X1 Eagle DUB
Chainrings SRAM X1 Eagle, 30 tooth
Bottom Bracket SRAM DUB, 73mm English/BSA threaded
Pedals None
Chain SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-speed
Cassette SRAM X01 Eagle XG-1295, 12-speed, 10-50 tooth
Rims Reserve 30 Carbon, 28 hole
Hubs Industry Nine 1/1, 110x15mm Boost front, 148x12mm Boost rear with XD driver
Spokes Sapim D-Light
Tires Front: Maxxis Assegai, 3C MaxxGrip, Double Down (DD) casing, TR, 29" x 2.5"
Rear: Maxxis Minion DHR II, 3C MaxxGrip, Double Down (DD) casing, 29" x 2.4"
Saddle WTB Silverado Team or WTB Volt
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth or OneUp V2 dropper
Seatpost Diameter 31.6mm
Seatpost Clamp Single bolt
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 148x12mm Boost
Max. Tire Size 29" x 2.5"
Bottle Cage Mounts One inside front triangle
Colors Trans Blue, Matte Nickel
Warranty Lifetime frame, pivot bearings, rims, and handlebar
Weight 35 lb 0.5 oz (15,890 g)
Miscellaneous • Lower Link VPP rear suspension design
• Geometry adjustable via flip chip at lower linkage shock mount
• Compatible with 65mm-stroke shocks to increase rear travel to 170mm
• Glovebox internal frame storage, accessed via hatch in down tube
• Includes Tool Wallet and Tube Purse for Glovebox storage
• SRAM UDH (Universal Derailleur Hanger)
• Includes rear shock fender
• Includes Stan's NoTubes tire sealant

2023 suspension updates:
• Lower leverage ratio for more damped, controlled feel during aggressive riding
• Straight leverage curve provides consistent progression and improves bottom-out resistance
Price $11,199
More Info

santacruzbicycles.com

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