The Santa Cruz Megatower is rolling into the new season with significant improvements to the details. To do the bike’s capabilities justice, the American brand is now offering it with extra robust components. Read on to find out how the bike with a coil shock fares in our group test.
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best enduro bike 2021 – 13 models in review
Santa Cruz have done it: the bikes from the American brand are unmistakable with their lower link design. This creates a strong brand image, though it confuses some customers. Is that a Megatower? Or is it a Tallboy, or a Bronson? At first glance, all the bikes are very similar. The shock is positioned very low in the frame and is driven by the lower of the two rocker links. The twin link system provides a virtual pivot point and enables Santa Cruz to optimise the kinematics to suit the intended use. However, we found the Megatower to be too firm for rough enduro use in the past. Has that changed for 2021? Offering 160 mm travel at the rear, the bike rolls on 29″ wheels and offers two options for adjusting the geometry with a flip chip on the rear end and one on the shock mount. The manufacturing quality of the Megatower is excellent and does justice to the high price tag of € 8,999. The bike doesn’t just look great but also offers well-thought-out cable routing, a threaded bottom bracket and a lifelong guarantee on the frame, bearings and wheels – good arguments when you’re trying to convince your better half.
The components of the 2021 Megatower CC X01 Reserve – High-quality, proven and well-thought-out
The Santa Cruz Megatower is available in different builds at different price points, including a coil option. In the coil version, the bike comes with a DHX2 shock and a FOX 38 fork and you also get robust MAXXIS Doubledown tires, doing justice to the bike’s capabilities on the trail. The remaining components are also high quality and proven. The SRAM CODE RSC brakes are paired with 200 mm rotors while the SRAM X01 drivetrain offers precise and reliable shifting. Unfortunately, the rear derailleur loses its tension over time, which leads to increased chain slap. The Santa Cruz Reserve wheels performed well in all of our tests. During all the time we’ve spent riding on Reserve rims, we’ve only broken one once – thanks to the lifelong guarantee, doing so wasn’t a problem.
Santa Cruz Megatower CC X01 Coil RSV
Fork FOX 38 Factory GRIP2 170 mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT DHX2 Factory 160 mm
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth 175 mm
Brakes SRAM Code RSC 200/200 mm
Drivetrain SRAM X01 Eagle 32/10-52
Stem Burgtec Enduro Mk3 40 mm
Handlebar Santa Cruz AM Carbon 800 mm
Wheelset Santa Cruz Reserve 30 Carbon
Tires MAXXIS Assegai MaxxGrip EXO+/MAXXIS Minion DHR II MaxxTerra EXO+ 2.5"/2.4"
Size S M L XL XXL
Weight 15.01 kg
The geometry of the 2021 Santa Cruz Megatower CC X01 Coil
If you’re paying close attention, you’ll have noticed that we photographed the XL Megatower during this test. However, we know the bike very well from countless previous tests and refer to the specs of the size L, which is the better option for our testers who are 180 cm tall on average. Overall, the geometry of the Megatower can be described as modern but not extreme. None of the geometry figures are outliers and everything is comparatively conservative. If you want, you can vary the geometry with the help of two flip chips. Our favourite setting: slack and short. The reach in size L is 467 mm in the low setting and the chainstays are 436 mm short. The head angle isn’t overly slack at 64.7° and the 76.3° seat tube angle is not particularly steep. With a drop of 33 mm, the bottom bracket is pleasantly low.
|Seat tube||380 mm||405 mm||430 mm||460 mm||500 mm|
|Top tube||568 mm||597 mm||620 mm||648 mm||682 mm|
|Head tube||90 mm||100 mm||110 mm||130 mm||155 mm|
|Chainstays||436 mm||436 mm||436 mm||436 mm||436 mm|
|BB Drop||33 mm||33 mm||33 mm||33 mm||33 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,179 mm||1,208 mm||1,232 mm||1,260 mm||1,296 mm|
|Reach||422 mm||447 mm||467 mm||487 mm||512 mm|
|Stack||609 mm||618 mm||627 mm||645 mm||668 mm|
Uphills are a means to an end with the Megatower!
Those who opt for the coil shock on the Megatower certainly don’t do so because they’re looking for maximum uphill performance. Instead, they’ll be targeting maximum fun going downhill. Still, you usually have to get up the mountain first. Overall, the Megatower does a passable job but there are definitely better climbers in the test and it’s advisable to slide the saddle forward to help bring your weight over the front wheel – the effective seat tube angle of the Megatower slackens noticeably as the saddle gets extended. The chassis is very sensitive and likes to rock a little as you ride through dips. On long, monotonous climbs, it is worth using the climb switch on the shock. On technical climbs, the bike delivers plenty of traction.
Plush, controlled, fast – The 2021 Megatower is a different bike!
In our last group test, the Megatower surprised us with its firmly tuned rear end, providing a lot of feedback from the ground and only offering moderate traction overall. Not so with the DHX2 coil shock. Built up this way, the Megatower stays glued to ground much better, offering more grip and control. The mid-stroke support that the bike offered in the past with either RockShox shock option (the air or coil version) has been reduced, letting the bike use more of its travel. As a result, the bike remains more stable at high speed and it feels a lot calmer, ultimately demanding less from the rider. Despite the short seat tube, we can’t recommend upsizing with the Megatower as the XL was too big and cumbersome for most of our test riders. On the other hand, the geometry of the large feels nicely balanced. It’s quick at changing direction and offers plenty of grip on both wheels. The front triangle feels rather compact, which underlines the bike’s agile character. Cornering, the Santa Cruz is well balanced and the handling is good-natured, letting you have fun on every kind of trail. See an obstacle you want to jump? Easy! Manual through a dip? With pleasure!
How does the Megatower compare to the competition?
Mega or Megatower? With the coil option, the Santa Cruz Megatower has become much more like the Nukeproof Mega 290 on the descents. Both bikes offer a lot of traction, but the Mega 290 makes you feel even more like you’ve got an unlimited amount of travel in rough terrain. At the same time, the Megatower is slightly more agile and direct in tight sections. Due to the slack seat tube angle, the Megatower falls behind on the climbs. If you’re asking yourself, “Megatower or Nomad?” we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the large wheels of the Megatower. Both bikes are balanced and offer a lot of traction. However, the Megatower is more versatile without sacrificing agility.
Tuning tips: slide the saddle all the way forward
The 2021 Santa Cruz Megatower X01 Reserve makes a big leap in performance with the coil kit. The bike’s chassis has become significantly more capable and sensitive, delivering the composure and traction that the bike was lacking in the past. If you’re looking for a high-quality all-rounder, you will find it here.
- very balanced and fun handling
- suspension provides more traction and control with the coil shock
- seat tube angle too slack for steep climbs
- the rear end calls for a climb switch
You can find out more about at santacruzbicycles.com
The test field
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best enduro bike 2021 – 13 models in review
All bikes in test: Canyon Strive CFR (Click for review) | COMMENCAL Meta AM 29 Öhlins (Click for review) | GIANT Reign Advanced Pro 0 (Click for review) | Ibis Ripmo V2 (Click for review) | Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy Pro (Click for review) | Propain Spindrift CF Mix Custom (Click for review) | Rocky Mountain Altitude Carbon 90 Rally Edition (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Megatower CC X01 Coil RSV | Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV (Click for review) | Specialized Enduro Expert (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper EVO (Click for review) | Transition Sentinel XT (Click for review) | Trek Slash 9.8 XT (Click for review)
This scale indicates how efficiently the bike climbs. It refers to both simple and technical climbs. Along with the suspension, the riding position and the weight of the bike all play a crucial role.↩
How does the bike ride and descend? How spritely is the bike, how agile is it through corners, how much fun is it in tight sections and how quickly can it change direction?↩
Is the bike stable at high speeds? Is it easy to stay in control in demanding terrain? How composed is it on rough trails? Stability is a combination of balanced geometry, good suspension and the right spec.↩
This is all about how balanced the bike is and particularly about how well it corners. Balanced bikes require little physical effort from the rider and are very predictable. If a bike is unbalanced, the rider has to work hard to weight the front wheel to generate enough grip. However, experienced riders can have a lot of fun even with unbalanced bikes.↩
How sensitive is the suspension over small bumps? Can it absorb hard impacts and does it soak up repeated hits? Plush suspension not only provides comfort and makes a bike more capable, but it also generates traction. The rating includes the fork and the rear suspension.↩
This aspect mainly comes down to the suspension. How much pop does it have, does it suck up the rider’s input or is it supportive, and how agile and direct is the bike?↩
We don’t calculate value for money in an excel spreadsheet or based on how high-end a bike is specced. We are more concerned with how a bike performs on the trail and how the bike benefits the rider. What good are the best components if the bike doesn’t perform well on the trail? Expensive bikes with a lower-end spec can offer very good value for money – provided they excel where it matters. Just as supposedly cheap bikes with good components can get a bad rating if they don’t deliver on the trail.↩
No, it’s not about racing, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along flowy singletrack and gravel roads need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret XC more like the Americans do: big back-country rides instead of a marathon or XC World Cup with the ultimate in lightweight construction! Uphill-downhill ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
...also known as mountain biking. Classic singletrack with roots, rocks and ledges – sometimes flowy, sometimes rough. For this, you need a bike with good all-round qualities, whether climbing or descending. Uphill-downhill ratio: 50:50↩
Even more extreme and challenging compared to Trail riding, riddled with every kind of obstacle: jumps, gaps, nasty rock gardens, ruts and roots. For this, you need (race)proven equipment that forgives mistakes and wouldn’t look out of place on a stage of the Enduro World Series. Climbing is just a means to an end. Uphill-downhill ratio: 30:70↩
Strictly speaking, a 200 mm travel downhill bike is the best choice for merciless tracks with big jumps, drops and the roughest terrain. Those would be the black or double-black-diamond tracks in a bike park. But as some of the EWS pros (including Sam Hill) have proven, it’s the riding skills and not the bike that define what you can ride with it. Climbing? On foot or with a shuttle, please! Uphill-downhill ratio: 10:90↩
Words: Christoph Bayer Photos: Christoph Bayer, Valentin Rühl, Markus Frühmann