The second iteration of the Santa Cruz Megatower launched today, and I’ve had one hidden away in my garage for the last little while. I try hard not to get too excited or too much of a bummer when reviewing bikes. I try to focus on things that actually matter and the bigger picture. I really don’t want to come across as a hater or maybe, worse, a fanboy. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to stay so level-headed on this one. So is it love or hate? Stick around to find out.
Santa Cruz Megatower Geometry and Build Details
I usually don’t get too deep into geometry and build details because it’s easy enough to just Google that. I want to get to the meat and potatoes as quickly as possible. The Megatower is brand new and completely redesigned for this year. It has a few millimeters more travel but, maybe, more importantly, a refined suspension curve and revised geometry.
Today’s Megatower comes up to speed with modern geo and features. The most significant geometry updates are making the front end slacker and pairing each front triangle to a size-specific rear triangle. Hopefully, this trend will stick around. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, rear triangles should be proportional to front triangles — rant over. Depending on the flip-chip position, the head tube angle ranges from 63.5° to 63.8°. The reach stays within a few millimeters of the old one, but the wheelbase gets 30-ish mm longer depending on the frame size. The seat tube gets significantly steeper at 77.5° to 77.8° on an extra-large frame.
The updated suspension curve has a more linear rate of progression for more consistent feeling ramp-up and bottom-out control. The bike also has a lower leverage ratio and a bigger shock for a softer initial stroke. We’ll get into this more, but it is very apparent that Santa Cruz went back to the drawing board with suspension. It quickly became the standout feature on this bike. In addition to updating the suspension design, there’s now 5mm more rear travel, and the bike is designed around a longer 170mm frame.
Next up, let’s talk about the Glovebox. The Megatower is the first Santa Cruz frame to feature in-frame storage. You can now store tools, snacks, and whatever burrito-sized item you want to cram in there. I’m not saying you should put a mid-ride burrito in there, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t. The fit and finish are top-notch, with a well-thought-out Tool Wallet and Tube Purse to keep all your knick-knacks from rattling around. Let’s talk about how this thing actually rides now.
Santa Cruz Megatower Review
If you’ve ridden any of the first-generation Lower-Link VPP bikes, you’ll be familiar with the suspension feel. Most of them tend to favor traction and control over efficiency — it’s not always a bad thing. It makes for a comfortable bike to pedal and excellent technical climbing performance. It doesn’t always lend itself to the fastest climbing times, though. The Megatower takes a page from the new Heckler’s book. It’s soft and plush initially but doesn’t wallow at all. It provides gobs of traction without seeming inefficient.
I’m midway through the enduro bike showdown, and I’ve recently completed the all-mountain bike showdown. I can confidently say the Megatower climbs with the best of those bikes despite having more travel than most of them. It has that snappy feel of VPP bikes of old, combined with the traction of the current models. I’m beyond impressed with its climbing prowess. It climbs like a much smaller, lighter bike. While I’m not setting any new PRs, I’m not suffering as much as I should while climbing a bike this aggressive.
For me, a bike’s climbing ability comes down to efficiency, traction, body position, and weight — in that order. The Megatower knocks it out of the park on all those criteria — even weight. For the category, it’s one of the lightest enduro bikes at …….. The size-specific chainstays keep your weight centered across varying grades. The front end doesn’t get too floppy or wandery on steep pitches.
If you’re familiar with the Terror Ridge climb, you’ll know how steep and miserable it is. It’s even pretty tough to clean on a full-power ebike. I’ve always joked about wanting to see the type of person who can clean that climb on a regular bike. I guess all it takes is an Average Joe (me) on an excellent bike to make it to the top on a burrito-powered (not ebike) rig. The Megatower has no business making it to the top of that hill without a significant amount of walking and cursing — yet here we are.
Let’s wrap up the Megatower’s climbing ability. It’s snappy and quick while providing tons of traction. It excels on open and steep climbs as well as loose, technical climbs. It goes uphill with the efficiency of a much smaller bike and the traction and control you’d expect from a 165mm bike.
If I sounded like a fanboy talking about how well this bike climbs, you had better prepare for more — the Megatower gets even better when pointed downhill. It rides like a cloud with wheels. It’s as plush as it gets without feeling like a pig stuck in the mud. If you’ve ridden the Santa Cruz Heckler, you’ll know the feeling. It makes a big, burly bike ride really light. In fact, I did my first few rides on this bike completely blind. I knew nothing about travel numbers, geometry, and suspension platform. I wrote down my guesses for all the numbers, and most of them came back a little less aggressive than the actual numbers. Let’s get into it.
The Gen. 1 Megatower took some aggressive handling to get it to come alive. That makes sense, it was designed to be raced in the EWS with some of the world’s best and most aggressive riders. The suspension platform didn’t feel particularly soft for Joe Schmoes like me. The newest version is a much more forgiving and approachable bike. The suspension feels incredible plush in the initial stroke. What happens next is the most surprising and best part. Usually, bikes this soft off the top tend to sit in the midstroke and wallow a bit. They feel too grounded and dead. The Megatower must have a bunch of magic dust sprinkled all over it. There’s a ton of mid-stroke support and bottom-out control to keep the bike lively and fun. It’s easy to bunnyhop, jump, pump through corners and do all of the things that make biking really fun. It makes it feel like a 140mm trail bike until you start smashing into rocks at no-regard-for-human-life speeds. That’s when it feels like it has every millimeter of travel that it does. It’s pretty deep and bottomless.
The combo of superb suspension and aggressive geometry makes the Megatower one of the most comfortable and confident bikes I’ve thrown a leg over. Your mindset switches when you get on the bike. Features that used to scare you, seem small and insignificant. You end up going faster, even if it feels like you’re going slower. The head tube angle is right in my favorite range for my riding style. It’s in that Goldilocks zone between too steep and too slack. It doesn’t feel vague and wandery like some slacker bikes. It doesn’t take a herculean effort to keep the front wheel weighted properly. I’ve spent the majority of my time in the higher flip-chip setting and it never feels like it’s not slack enough for what I’m willing to ride. The lower setting doesn’t feel all that different, to be honest. I’m happy Santa Cruz didn’t try to one-up all the other brands and make this even slacker. It keeps the bike rideable in more terrain and a more versatile option for more people.
The Megatower has a very similar handling quality to the new Heckler. It’s somewhere between “I can’t turn” and “I turn when I don’t want to.” It does very well on our fast west-coast style trails. The wheelbase is long enough to keep the bike stable at speed and in wider corners. My XL frame comes in under 1300mm, so it doesn’t feel too long for some of our tighter sections of trail either. It’s by no means a short bike, but it doesn’t feel all that unwieldy in the really tight stuff. Not sure it will be the first pick for New Englanders, but I would imagine it’s better than most other modern enduro bikes in that terrain. I will say, it feels better at high speeds than it does at slow speeds.
For a bike this big, it feels surprisingly manageable. It’s as burly as I’d need a bike to be, without feeling like it’s too much bike. It’s as well-rounded as an all-mountain bike, with the extra margin for error of an enduro bike.
Santa Cruz Megatower Comparisons
A couple of bikes came to mind while riding the new Megatower. This list is a bit random, but it’s the list of bikes I’ve ridden recently that have similar ride qualities to the Mega.
Santa Cruz Heckler
I know everyone is going to ask how it compares to the new Bronson. I wish I could tell you. I haven’t ridden that one yet. Sorry to disappoint. The Santa Cruz that it most closely resembles is the Heckler if it wasn’t an ebike. It has the same unicorn magic suspension feel and aggressive yet well-rounded geo. It jumps, corners, and unweights much better than it should.
The Norco Range has that same mentality-changing attribute to it. Nothing is as scary as it once was when you’re on this bike. The Range feels more stout and stiff. The suspension feels a little less forgiving even with the coil. If I had to go in a straight line over the roughest ground imaginable, I’d pick the Range. It will hold its line just a little better. If my trail had more than one turn or more closely resembled what most of us actually ride on the daily, I’d take the Megatower. It’s a more versatile option without sacrificing much in terms of capability. It’s a much better climber as well.
Let’s be honest, everything gets compared to my Transition Sentinel — I love that bike. It’s the bike I ride the most too so it’s easy to make comparisons. The Megatower climbs as well, if not better than the Sentinel. Unsurprisingly it feels plusher and more controlled on the descents likely due to the extra travel. It doesn’t seem to be any slower around a corner or any less agile either. The geometry is remarkably similar. Most key numbers are within a few millimeters or a few tenths of a degree. I would want more time on the Megatower to actually make the call, but I’d say that these bikes are almost interchangeable. You’d have a tough time finding too many differences.
Rocky Mountain Altitude
On paper and on the trail, the Rocky Mountain Altitude sits on the all-mountain side of the enduro category. It’s well-rounded and versatile. While the Megatower on paper looks more aggressive, I’d say it’s as versatile as the Altitude with the added bonus of a little more room for error. The geo is a bit more forgiving on nasty terrain.
Who is the Santa Cruz Megatower for?
While I know the Megatower is in the enduro bike category, I feel like anyone looking for a well-rounded and aggressive descending bike would really like it. Because of how well it climbs and handles mellower terrain, it’s as versatile as most all-mountain bikes with the added capability of an enduro bike. It’s not as pigeon-holed as most big, burly bikes. I think it covers everyone from EWS racer to “Dad farting around with his kids on a Saturday afternoon.”
One-Line Santa Cruz Megatower Review
The Megatower has all-mountain versatility with enduro capability.
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