The bike that Santa Cruz calls “the downhill bike that goes anywhere” the Megatower is the brand's dedicated EDR world cup race bike, designed to smooth out chunky terrain at speed, flatten big features, set PBs and race the clock.
Our shop manager, guide and Dirt School coach Neil has been riding his Megatower all over Scotland for the last 8 months. As the longest travel platform he’s ridden recently at 170mm/165mm we decided to check in with him to see how the bike has been working out under someone decidedly more human than a professional EDR racer and see whether or not it’s overkill outside of the race track.
Visually similar to the other Santa Cruz trail bikes, the Megatower strikes a clean silhouette. Suspended on the now well established lower link VPP platform it runs on dual short links, yielding a stiff, solid frame with most of the mass down low and the shock well protected from crashes within the seat tube tunnel. With a 170mm fork coupled to 165mm rear travel, and running on a full 29’ wheel setup, it’s a bike that is going to let you ride as hard as you dare.
All the usual Santa Cruz details are present with shock / geometry adjustment at the lower link, a sizable storage compartment accessible via the downtube Glovebox, and tube in tube cable routing for truly painless cable and hose swaps. There’s space for a water bottle inside the front triangle and plenty of tire clearance for Scottish muck. The lower link also features a grease port to allow the bearings to be flushed and refreshed which is an especially nice feature here in the UK. Each different size gets adjusted chainstay lengths, seat angle and even a different carbon layup to control stiffness so that every bike is optimised for each individual rider.
Sizing and angles on the Megatower are well considered and not too extreme for a modern gravity bike. At 5,9’ I’m right between the Medium and Large on the size chart and after trying both options went with the Medium paired with a 50mm Burgtec stem and 760mm Burgtec Ride Wide bar to keep the reach and wheelbase a little shorter for our steep and technical local trails.
Head angle is 63.8’, seat angle sits at 77.4’, reach is 455mm and the wheelbase measures 1236mm with a 437mm chainstay. Overall the bike feels very well balanced, it's comfy to pedal and easy to move weight between the wheels on descents. While not as long or slack as some of the most extreme enduro bikes, there is always enough composure at speed with the excellent suspension platform providing stability. The slightly shorter wheelbase keeps the bike a bit more agile for me when the trails are steeper, tighter, slower or all of those at once!
Riding the Megatower
The longest travel bike I’ve owned in recent years, the Megatower was a bit of an unknown and I did initially wonder whether it might feel like way too much bike in slower, tighter terrain. For a bike of its travel however it has an unusually good amount of support from the suspension, meaning it’s surprisingly easy to manoeuvre and pump. I’ve been riding mine with the adjustable linkage set in the high / less progressive position which also contributes to this, keeping the shock a little firmer earlier in the travel. For all that, it’s still a bike that works best with more speed and gravity assist, someone who mostly rides trail centres or mellower trails would be better with something like the Hightower or Tallboy as those bikes are simply more responsive to rider input and more fun on easier or flatter ground.
Put the Megatower onto a slightly steeper trail and it’s an easy bike to ride, working in a wide variety of situations and hiding its travel quite well until needed. Rooty sections and small trail gaps are no problem with the bike easy to preload and unweight. When up to full speed and dealing with bigger hits it’s exceptionally composed with enough progression to avoid harsh bottom outs, while still allowing the full range of the rear travel to be used. Compared to my previous mid travel bikes, the extra travel and progression is most noticeable at higher speeds with the bike just flattening the trail and delivering enormous grip through rough sections. The stout frame is quite noticeable too with a reassuringly solid feeling in faster corners or G-outs.
I’m still glad I chose the Medium and after a full season's riding have really gelled with the bike. If I lived somewhere with higher speed and lower angle trails like a European bikepark, I might have opted for the size up, but for the variety of trails we have in Scotland the Medium gives me a more versatile and agile ride. It’s easier to keep weight on the front wheel, work the bike and it just fits into the steeper and tighter trails a little better. It might possibly have a lower absolute max speed than a Large for really fast stuff, but its limit is still well above mine so I feel I’m not losing much if anything here.
Climbing it’s a comfy and well supported platform, traction is good and there is enough anti squat built into the frame design that I never find myself reaching for the shock lock out. I definitely prefer a bike which doesn’t depend on a lock out to climb, so that trait is a plus for me. The seat angle works well for me also, it’s steep enough to keep the front wheel weighted on steep climbs without feeling weird on the flat. My build is fairly light at 15kg which doesn’t hurt climbing performance either.
Build Kit and Wear and Tear
I built my bike around the CC frameset with a custom parts kit, focused on reliability and comfort. After a solid 8 months of riding it’s interesting to see how everything is holding up. Incredibly the frameset is still on its original bearings, with a couple of uses of the grease port keeping them intact through many washes.
Needless to say, while the Hope cranks and all aluminium Burgtec cockpit now carry a few scratches both are still completely intact and functionally perfect. Both will likely outlast several bikes and just do their jobs day after day without fuss, which is surely the best compliment you can give to these simple workhorse parts.
Hope Tech 4 E4 Brakes
These remain one of the real highlights of the build for me. I’ve been through several sets of pads and a rear rotor but they haven't needed even a single bleed as yet. Power seems much improved on the older Tech 3 version and the light but easily controlled lever feel is by far my favourite of any brake out there. They do have less instant bite than something like a 4 pot Shimano but the ability to control the power and avoid locking wheels unless you want to is incredibly useful when it’s slippery out.
The stock Fox X2 was a slight concern initially with a less than perfect reputation for reliability. This one has been flawless however, just doing it’s job quietly from day one and delivering grip in spades. Up front the Rock Shox Zeb Ultimate has been completely reliable, though the correct air pressures and adjustments for both units took a while to hone in on initially with a lot of dials to adjust. Now that I’ve got them in a good place, they both work brilliantly, absorbing impact as needed while still allowing the bike to be pumped.
Reserve 30 AL Wheels
Not much to report in the best possible way. The bearings in the DT Swiss 350 hubs are still running smoothly, and the rims remain completely undamaged. I’m confident they are slightly more comfortable through trail chatter than carbon rims for a lighter rider and are a fraction of the cost. As a value for money wheelset, they must be among the best out there. The Reserve fillmore valves have also been a nice surprise, tubeless setup is noticeably easier with them and they seem completely clog proof. I’ll be adding them to every bike from here on out.
I started out with the classic Assegai / DHRII combo, with the DHR II retiring from wear at the end of summer and the bike now on a double Maxxgrip Assegai setup for the winter (the original front is now living on as my winter rear tire). I went with Exo+ casings to keep weight and rolling resistance down hoping that they would be tough enough to stand up to the bike and they’ve worked out pretty well. They’re easier to pedal and a little livelier feeling than the heavier DD casing tires and apart from one cut early on which plugged fine and then lasted till the tire wore out have stood up to everything thrown at them. Performance overall has been great throughout, those tires are popular for a reason!
X01 Eagle mechanical drivetrain
No batteries for me, I’d only forget to charge them. Once again, no issues here. It’s simple, and a very light system with a nice shift feel and has just worked from the start. I’m well into my 2nd chain but shifting and chain retention remains as good as week one. I use a Burgtec 30T chainring, we have a lot of height gain here and the descents I like don't have any high speed pedalling required.
Overall after a slightly slow start finding the suspension settings, the Megatower has been almost perfect for me. I find it an incredibly comfortable ride, confidence inspiring both at speed where it feels almost like a mini DH bike, and on technical ground where it delivers the kind of grip shorter travel bikes just can’t compete with. It’s also surprisingly well rounded for a long travel race bike when dealing with flatter and mellower ground. Add to that the fact that the frame is proving to be super low maintenance and durable and it’s quite an impressive overall package as a UK off piste and uplift machine. Without question it’s the best longer travel bike I’ve ever owned or ridden and I’d recommend anyone looking for a new enduro bike to put it on their list to try.
If you think one of these might be for you too, then we've most sizes to demo and the C S model on sale for an unheard of £3999 while stocks last. Check it out here.
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