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2022 Santa Cruz Megatower Review

By: Alex Wolfe | April 19, 2022

 

The Santa Cruz Megatower first landed on the scene as an evolution of the Hightower LT, the enduro racer’s version of the capable Hightower platform. With long travel trail bikes already approaching warp speeds, Megatower V1 simultaneously raised the bar and fed the habit. Mountain bike design keeps marching on, though, and after 3 years it’s time for Santa Cruz to update the Megatower with more. More travel, more refinement, and more utility make this their flagship long-travel ripper. 

Billed as “the ultimate privateer race bike,” the new Megatower is built for Enduro World Series wannabes and avid riders who put their gear through the wringer. Bigger, badder, and unambiguously better: Megatower V2 isn’t messing around. 

Key Details

29" Wheels 

Glovebox™ Internal Storage

165mm Lower Link Driven VPP Rear Travel / 170mm Fork Lower Leverage Ratio & Straighter Leverage Curve for a Smoother Ride
63.5° Head Tube Angle / 77.5° Seat Tube Angle (Size Large, LO Setting) 

Lower Link Flip Chip & Sealed Bearing Shock Eyelet

C & CC Frame & Reserve 30 Carbon Wheel OptionsIncreased Shock Tunnel Size for Greater Compatability 
Available With Coil and Air ShocksSizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
Size-Specific Chainstay LengthsLifetime Warranty on Frame & Bearings

Technical Details


Geometry

Santa Cruz has been surprisingly conservative, geo-wise, over their recent history, with less dramatic swings in angles than other manufacturers. They’re consistently out in front of the Joneses though, so it makes sense not to overdo it with a big gamble. They stay with angles that are working, only revamping a bike when it’s time. 

This V2 Megatower update addresses the few gripes pinned on the debut model. The requisite “longer and slacker” treatment has been implemented here, extending the size L to a 1266mm wheelbase and 63.5° head tube angle in LO - that’s 1.2° slacker than the V1. Those numbers indicate that a premium has been put on high speed stability. Reach numbers have increased too - up 5mm to 475mm in size L - complemented by the steepened seat tube angles necessary to keep a climber centered over the bottom bracket. The suspension/geo flipchip at the shock remains, with the LO mode being 0.3° slacker than HI mode in both head and seat tube angles. The chainstay length adjustment has been ditched on the V2, replaced by size-specific rear ends for ride consistency across the run.

Suspension

The lower link-mounted VPP® suspension has been a huge hit for Santa Cruz, due to its efficient pedaling characteristics and solid, planted feel. The V1 Megatower did take some flak for an abrupt ramp-up spike towards the end of its stroke that could leave the rear end feeling harsh, something Santa Cruz have spent some effort to remedy with the V2. Not only does this version increase rear travel by 5mm to 165mm, it does so with a longer-stroke shock. This means fewer surprises on bigger hits, smoothing out the feel as you’re slamming through the rough stuff.

The redesigned shock tunnel now accepts more aftermarket shocks too, so the privateer in you can puzzle to their heart’s content: get that bespoke quad-chamber 3D-printed titanium double-bubbler from Italy and tinker. It’s going to fit. Combined with a burly 170mm fork leading the way out front, this bike is fully equipped to take on some serious chunk.

Builds

Santa Cruz is offering five component builds of the Megatower V2 in S-XXL sizing. That’s five truly different sizes, with options in their C and CC carbon, coil or air shocks, traditional or electronic drivetrain components, and Reserve wheel upgrades. 

As with all Santa Cruz bikes, the build quality is excellent. Smart cable routing, reasonable spec levels, and attention to finishing detail on these bikes will bring smiles to mechanics’ faces (maybe an approving grunt from the saltier wrenches, but that’s the best one can expect with those types). Santa Cruz makes bikes that are easy to work on and backs them up with fabulous support, a tradition that the V2 Megatower continues.

I’ve been fortunate enough to ride the C GX AXS Reserve model, and I’m dumbfounded how there are still a couple builds above it. The wireless drivetrain has been flawless, with the “zzt zzt” sounding just as rad as it did upon that first drop-in. As I pass the 100 mile mark on the odometer, my shoes are rubbing the cranks shiny but shifting has remained perfect. I am already a huge fan of Reserve wheels (having a knack for the crack, especially out back): bending dented aluminum rims to make them passable “for one more ride” is an exhausting existence, and one I’m glad to leave behind. With the lifetime warranty on Reserve rims, you’re free to continue to ignore line choice and skill-building. Like the lifetime support on frames and bearings: it’s not free, but it’s freeing. 

Features

This is the first Santa Cruz bike to feature integrated storage. The new Glovebox™ gives access to the space inside a rather impressive downtube, where a Tool Purse and a Tube Wallet organize whatever you’d rather carry inside your bike than out. A tensioned aluminum latch keeps everything secure without rattling, and internal routing is kept separate. Knowing where all your stuff is, that it’s clean and dry, and that it’s staying put: that’s worth its weight in gold.
 
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Ride Impressions

Climbing / Uphill

I’ve been riding this bike as if I’m the entire field in a secret one-man enduro race, hurrying up fire roads of varying steepness with a few purpose-built climbing trails thrown in. Nothing too tech, but solidly within the purview of an enduro bike. Even without locking out the climbing switch, this Megatower climbs like my V4 Nomad, which climbs like a Hightower, which climbs like a Bronson. All of which is to say that I find Santa Cruz bikes to climb very well, regardless of travel. VPP® is known for this efficiency, and the lower-link mounted incarnation is fantastic. They’ve figured it out - how to negate pedaling inputs without limiting trail inputs. The climbing limits of this monster bike are inside your legs, not the design. It’s great, seated or standing to deliver.

Descending / Downhill

My first ride was spent trying out the base suspension settings. I set the rear somewhere around 30% sag, and the 38 to Fox’s suggested PSI for my weight. I ended up riding with the rear shock’s rebound nearly open to keep from hanging up on quick rocks, and fiddled with the fork’s compression damping to make it faster too, but that’s rider preference. The manufacturer’s base settings were spot-on. After a couple rides to dial in the fork I was blown away by how fast this bike was. Not how fast it felt, as it stayed composed through all sorts of chonk, but simply how fast it rolled. It gets up to speed and stays there, balanced through BS of all types. It’s almost…chill. 

The 165/170mm travel is great for the trails I ride, beat-up ex-flow trails that see considerably more tires than shovels. Holes abound, ranging from higher speed braking washboards to blown-up not-so-sneaky inside line craters. The Megatower has handled everything I’ve been willing to try, and it’s still begging for more. I’ve buzzed the rear tire a few times on very steep sections, but that’s about it. The reach is long but comfortable, even more so as you approach Megaspeeds. I found no issues near the end of the travel. The few times I have bottomed the rear out haven’t been overly harsh, and I’ve never felt out of control under hard braking. 

The Megatower is a relatively big, long bike that’s very comfortable at warp speed, to be sure. I avoid tight switchbacks, since I’m very smart, but any possible issues with tight corners are moot since you’ll be arriving there so much sooner. Boom. 

Overall Impression

I’ve spent the past two years riding rougher trails on a long travel eMTB. Self-shuttling to DH trails, I’ve become a smashy-smashy teenager on the bike, forever in search of longer and heavier descents to maximize my manic fun. I cannot get enough. Most of my waking hours are spent thinking about new ways to eliminate arm pump, brake fade, and lingering snow from higher altitude trails. I just want to cosplay as a World Cup racer, styling it out with reckless abandon. 

The Megatower ticks all the boxes for this type of riding, and it does it with no real drawbacks. You can dink around if you like, but this thing is best when you’re fighting to turn off your brain on a bananas descent. Controlled chaos, blazing fast and overly capable. It has “Mega” in its name, for crying out loud!

Overall Impression? Love it. Absolutely love it! 
 

Pros

Sustained Speed and Silly Confidence
This bike is pure momentum on the trail. It simply rolls F.A.S.T., and the overall grip is gecko-level. If you do decide to fully commit to a turn or a line, it’ll reward your faith with unrelenting traction and some “wow, that actually worked” vibes. Yeah, it’s big and long, but it’s also slack and low. The increase in travel has no drawbacks on the terrain a Megatower pilot is looking to ride: more is better.

Brakes
SRAM’s Codes are a great match for the Megatower. With big ol 200mm rotors, you can effectively feather them when you’re scared or clamp them down when you’re terrified. Their excellent modulation allows you to embrace the entire spectrum of speed-induced anxiety this bike can bring. 

The Glovebox™ 
This cool cubby is completely legit. A wholly holy hole. I haven’t experimented with much more than a spare tube and CO2 canister in there, but getting that stuff out of grime’s way is enough. It’s a smart way to utilize all that space, and it just looks better than using electrical tape to strap snacks to your frame. I look forward to mushroom hunting season, when I’ll attempt to fill the whole downtube with morels. 

Fillmore Valves
‚ÄčI rolled my eyes a bit when first hearing about a revolutionary new air valve, but they’re for real. Same shape as your Presta valves, but simpler and better, straight up. Solid work that’s not clogged solid.
 

Cons

Tire Choice
At least on the rear, Maxxis’s EXO+ casing may not be beefy enough for the punishment a Megatower invites. I’ve been “lucky” to have been riding in wet and soft PNW conditions but would change to at least a DD casing (or similar) as summer velocities, rocks, and hits increase. Maxxis has added a butyl strip to their EXO+ tires, so I’d love to be wrong, but I haven’t shaken the doubt.  

Geo Flipchip
This bike is called Megatower. “Mega.” Save us five minutes and just ship it in LO mode. Give me all 63 and a half degrees of slack head angle and give them to me right now. Drop it like it’s hot!
 

The Bottom Line

The Megatower V2 out-Nomads the Nomad. Buzzing your butt on the rear tire a couple times is a small price to pay for going this much faster everywhere. It has unreal traction, ridiculous speed, and enough travel to handle the repercussions thereof. If you’re the kind of person who believes a bike can be “playful,” it’s all good - this one just plays at a higher pace. 

This bike is everything Santa Cruz says it is, and you don’t have to be Iago Garay or Jackson Goldstone to reap the benefits. If you’re looking to concentrate on smashing downhills for the next few years, there’s no better pedal bike for the job - especially when you factor in the support you’re guaranteed from the manufacturer. Shreddable and serviceable, the new Megatower is a bike for the responsible maniac. Spring for the Reserve wheels and let the Mega wash over you. Subtlety is dead, let us ride!


About the Reviewer

Name: Alex Wolfe

Job Title: Copywriter

Age: I remember the 80s

Height: 5'10"

Weight: 178 lbs

Size Reviewed: Large

Riding Style: Poor eyesight, no real style to speak of. I tend to stay on the ground and smash down the center of the trail. Very limited BMX background. 

2022 Santa Cruz Megatower Geometry

SizeS (Lo /Hi)M (Lo/Hi)L (Lo/Hi)XL (Lo/Hi)XXL (Lo/Hi)
Reach (mm)427 / 430452 / 455472 / 475492 / 495517 - 520
Stack (mm)618 / 616627 / 625640 / 638658 / 656672 / 670
 Head Tube Angle (°)63.5 / 63.863.5 / 63.863.5 / 63.863.5 / 63.863.5 / 63.8
Seat Tube Length (mm)380 / 380405 / 405430 / 430460 / 460500 / 500
Bottom Bracket Height (mm)343 / 346343 / 346343 / 346343 / 346343 / 346
Bottom Bracket Drop (mm)30 / 2730 / 2730 / 2730 / 2730 / 27
Wheelbase (mm)1206 / 12061237 / 12361266 / 12661298 / 12981334 / 1333
Chainstay Length (mm)437 / 436438 / 437441 / 440444 / 443448 / 447
Head Tube Length (mm)90 / 90100 / 100115 / 115135 / 135150 / 150
Top Tube Length (mm)570 / 570595 / 594613 / 613638 / 637667 / 666
Seat Tube Angle (°)77 / 77.277.2 / 77.477.5 / 77.877.5 / 77.877.5 / 77.5
Standover (mm)705 / 709712 / 716718 / 723717 / 722720 / 724
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