Santa Cruz Megatower first ride review$8,399.00

Big wheels meet big travel in this purpose-built enduro racer

Santa Cruz's Megatower is an aggressive-sounding name for an aggressive-riding bike. It’s clearly a reference to the brand’s Hightower platform, which also sports 29-inch wheels and has thus far been the race bike of choice for Santa Cruz’s EWS racers, Iago Garay and Mark Scott. But really, the new bike is better thought of as a 29er version of the Nomad.

When Santa Cruz launched the Nomad version 4 back in 2017, many of us were wondering why, with the Santa Cruz Syndicate already racing 29er downhill bikes, the Nomad wasn’t available as a 29er. 

EWS racers underlined our point by largely choosing to race on an over-shocked version of the Hightower. These bikes then evolved into the Hightower LT, which uses a longer stroke shock and a different swing arm to deliver more travel, and which Garay and Scott have favoured at the EWS ever since.

That looks set to change with the Megatower. It sports 160mm of travel at both ends, with a lower-link-driven suspension layout that closely mirrors that of the Nomad. 

The Megatower’s geometry appears to have copied the Nomad’s homework too, with similar head angle and reach numbers, which are significantly more modern than the Hightower LT.

Santa Cruz Megatower suspension design

The shock is driven from the lower link for increased mid-stroke support compared to the Hightower
The shock is driven from the lower link for increased mid-stroke support compared to the Hightower

As you might expect, the Megatower continues Santa Cruz’s history of VPP (virtual pivot point) suspension, using two short links which counter-rotate (turn in opposite directions). 

The main advantage of this design is that it provides high anti-squat values (which counteract pedal bob) in the middle of the travel, but the anti-squat drops off later to reduce the associated pedal kickback.

Like the Nomad, Bronson and V10, the Megatower drives the shock from the lower link, rather than the upper link, as is the case with the Hightower. This provides a more progressive suspension action, particularly in the beginning part of the travel. This is done to soften the start of the stroke (for improved traction) while providing more support later, particularly in the middle third of the travel.

Santa Cruz claims the linkage is designed to work well with a coil shock without being too progressive for an air shock. Unusually, six out of the seven build options (all but the cheapest) are available with coil and air shock options.

Santa Cruz Megatower adjustable geometry

A chip on the dropout allows the chainstay length to be altered by 10mm
A chip on the dropout allows the chainstay length to be altered by 10mm

Like a growing number of bikes, the Nomad features adjustable geometry.

There’s a reversible dropout which allows the chainstay length to be set to either 435mm or 445mm. That’s not a huge difference (about 2.3 percent of the chainstay length), but it should help taller riders get slightly more front-end traction or make manuals easier for shorter riders.

Additionally, there’s a flip chip in the lower link. This allows the bottom bracket height to be lowered by – get this – three whole millimetres! But there’s more to it than that.

Santa Cruz points out this is just enough to maintain the exact same (343mm) bottom bracket height with a 10mm increase in fork travel. Also, the flip chip makes the suspension slightly more progressive. So, riders looking for a more downhill-focused build could opt for a 170mm fork and a more progressive rear suspension action, all without changing the bottom bracket height.

The 65-degree head angle (high setting), 343mm bottom bracket height and 490mm reach (size XL, as tested) are the key numbers. These figures match the Nomad almost exactly, although the Megatower’s reach in the smaller sizes is slightly longer, and the effective seat angle is a useful two degrees steeper, at 76.6 degrees. Gone are the days when 29ers were disadvantaged by conservative geometry.

Santa Cruz Megatower build options

The big wheeled Megatower looks more than a little bit like its 650b brother, the Nomad
The big wheeled Megatower looks more than a little bit like its 650b brother, the Nomad

The Megatower will be offered at no less than seven different price points, six of which are available with either coil or air shocks, making for a total of 13 different build options.

All frames are carbon, and Santa Cruz offers both the high-end CC carbon and the more affordable but slightly heavier C frame. The 'Reserve' builds are equipped with Santa Cruz’s Reserve carbon wheelset. Other builds come with RaceFace AR rims on DT Swiss 340 hubs, except the CR, which comes with WTB ST i29 rims.

Below is the price list for the complete range along with the key specs. All but the CR build are available with either the coil or air version of the RockShox Superdeluxe shock for the same price.

Speaking of price, you may want to sit down...

BuildFork / drivetrain£ $
CRRockShox Yari RC / SRAM NX Eagle£4,499$4,499€4,799
CSFOX 36 Float Performance / SRAM GX Eagle£5,399$5,399 €5,699
CS ReserveFOX 36 Float Performance / SRAM GX Eagle£6,599$6,599€6,899
CC X01FOX 36 Float Performance Elite / SRAM X01 Eagle£6,599$7,199€7,499
CC X01 ReserveFOX 36 Float Performance Elite / SRAM X01 Eagle £7,699$8,399€8,699
CC XTR Reserve FOX 36 Float Factory / Shimano XTR M9100£8,399$9,799€10,099
CC XX1 AXS ReserveFOX 36 Float Factory / SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS £9,499$10,499€11,099
CC frame only N/A£3,299$3,299€3,499
  • CR—RockShox Yari RC / SRAM NX Eagle: £4,499 / $4,499 / €4,799
  • CS — FOX 36 Float Performance / SRAM GX Eagle: £5,399 / $5,399 / €5,699
  • CS Reserve — FOX 36 Float Performance / SRAM GX Eagle: £6,599 / $6,599 / €6,899
  • CC XO1 — FOX 36 Float Performance Elite / SRAM X01 Eagle: £6,599 / $7,199 / €7,499
  • CC XO1 Reserve — FOX 36 Float Performance Elite / SRAM X01 Eagle: £7,699 / $8,399 / €8,699
  • CC XTR Reserve — FOX 36 Float Factory / Shimano XTR M9100: £8,399 / $9,799 / €10,099
  • CC XX1 AXS Reserve — FOX 36 Float Factory / SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS: £9,499 / $10,499 / €11,099
  • CC frame only: £3,299 / $3,299 / €3,499

Santa Cruz Megatower CC X01 Reserve ride impressions

The rear suspension was impressive over the short test period.
The rear suspension was impressive over the short test period.

I only had one ride on the Megatower, while I was coming down with the flu and on unfamiliar tracks. So I’ll keep this brief for now.

The first thing to say is that the Megatower’s relatively steep seat tube angle is a godsend when climbing, especially when compared to the Hightower. I still felt the need to slam my saddle forwards on the rails to maximise the effect but, thanks to this, and the Megatower’s high anti-squat – which holds the suspension higher in its travel when pedalling – the position was comfy and efficient when tackling steep pitches.

As we’ve come to expect from Santa Cruz, the chassis feels stiff and responsive to pedalling inputs and, for a bike of this travel, it’s easy to throw around.

At 190cm tall, I could have benefited from a touch more reach than the 490mm offered by the XL test bike. From experience, the 515mm reach on the XXL bike should fit me perfectly though.

In the shorter chainstay setting, you'll have no trouble lofting the front wheel
In the shorter chainstay setting, you'll have no trouble lofting the front wheel

The rear suspension wasn’t overly progressive with the stock setup, occasionally using all of its travel when running a tick under 30 percent seated sag. This is a good thing – being designed around coil shocks has not made the linkage too progressive for the air can, which can always be made more progressive with volume spacers if required. The rear suspension, controlled by the RockShox Superdeluxe RCT3, was impressively supple and composed on the short test ride.

Meanwhile the Fox 36 Performance Elite fork felt comparatively harsh even when set up with no volume spacers and fully open on compression. While the Grip 2 damped 36 is a solid fork, after testing 10 of the top enduro forks recently, I’d marginally prefer to see the RockShox Lyrik RC2 up front, as it can offer slightly better traction and comfort. Handlebar or wheel stiffness may have played a role in this sensation too.

Unfortunately, due to being ill I didn’t have a chance to adjust the geometry, nor to ride the bike enough to confidently say more about its performance. We’ll be testing one properly on familiar test tracks in the very near future though.

Santa Cruz Megatower CC X01 Reserve specifications

  • Frame: Carbon CC 29in 160mm Travel VPP™
  • Rear Shock: Rockshox Super Deluxe RCT
  • Fork: Fox 36 Float Performance Elite, 160mm, 29in
  • Crankset: SRAM X1 Eagle 148 Dub, 30t – 170mm
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle, 12spd
  • Front derailleur: N/A
  • Shifters: SRAM X01 Eagle, 12spd
  • Cassette: SRAM XG1295 Eagle, 12spd, 10-50t
  • Chain: SRAM X01 Eagle, 12spd
  • Chainguide: MRP AMg V2 Alloy Chainguide
  • Bottom bracket: SRAM Dub 68/73mm Threaded BB
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40 Is Integrated Headset
  • Rear tyre: Maxxis Minion DHR Ii, 29in X 2.4in, 3C Silkshield
  • Front tyre: Maxxis Minion DHF, 29in X 2.5in, 3C Silkshield
  • Sealant: Stans Sealant
  • Tape: BMD 34mm Rim Tape
  • Front hub: DT Swiss 350, 15x110, 28h
  • Rear hub: DT Swiss 350, 12x148, Xd, 28h
  • Rims: Santa Cruz Reserve 30 V2 29in Carbon Rims
  • Spokes: DT Swiss Competition Race
  • Brakes: SRAM Code RSC
  • Front rotor: Avid Centerline 200mm
  • Rear rotor: Avid Centerline 200mm
  • Handlebar: Santa Cruz AM Carbon
  • Stem: Race Face Aeffect R, 40mm
  • Saddle: WTB Silverado Team Saddle
  • Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb Stealth, 31.6
  • Grips/bar tape: Santa Cruz Palmdale Grips
Seb Stott

Technical Writer, UK
Seb is a geeky technical writer for BikeRadar, as well as MBUK and What Mountain Bike magazines. Seb's background in experimental physics allows him to pick apart what's really going on with mountain bike components. Years of racing downhill, cross-country and enduro have honed a fast and aggressive riding style, so he can really put gear to the test on the trails, too.
  • Age: 24
  • Height: 192cm/6'3"
  • Weight: 85Kg/187 lbs
  • Waist: 86cm / 34in
  • Chest: 107cm / 44in
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep!
  • Current Bikes: Focus Sam 3.0, Kona Process 111, Specialized Enduro 29 Elite
  • Dream Bike: Mondraker Crafty with Boost 29" wheels, a 160mm fork and offset bushings for maximum slackness.
  • Beer of Choice: Buckfast ('Bucky' for short)
  • Location: Bristol, UK

Related Articles

Back to top