Santa Cruz Hightower 3 X01 AXS RSV

Santa Cruz Hightower 3 X01 AXS RSV Bike Review

After riding the gamut of 150-millimeter-travel trail bikes over the past year, I thought I’d pretty much covered the spectrum. That was, however, until I got the chance to ride the Santa Cruz Hightower 3.

From my very first ride, I could tell that this bike was something special, and it showed me just how much room was left in my heart for another do-it-all trail bike. Given that this is Santa Cruz’s top-of-the-line, Hightower 3 X01 AXS RSV model, featuring an impressive array of high-end components, perhaps this should hardly be surprising.

This bike feels possessed to move efficiently through all terrain. It stays light on its toes and puts the rider in a balanced pocket. With the 76.4-degree seat-tube angle in the low setting and a 438-millimeter chainstay, I had no issues keeping the front end planted to the ground on steep climbs. The geometry is incredibly balanced between climbing and descending, and the suspension platform remains ultra-supportive even when mashing the pedals out of the saddle, thanks to the anti-squat tuning of the rear suspension. This, along with the comfortable cockpit setup, makes the Hightower 3 ideal for all-day sufferfests.

Geometry & Specs:

Wheel Size: 29"
Rear Travel: 145mm
Fork: 150mm
Wheelbase: 1245mm
Chainstay: 438mm
Reach: 472mm
Head Tube Angle: 64.5°

Santa Cruz offers two grades of carbon—top-end CC Carbon and value-minded C Carbon. Though they have the same stiffness and performance, CC is lighter and comes paired with more premium suspension.
SRAM Code RSC with Avid Centerline 180mm rotors.
Santa Cruz 35 Carbon Bar, 800mm, 35mm Rise.
FOX 36 Float Factory, 150mm, 29".
Gloss Translucent Purple Colorway.
Glovebox downtube storage.

When pointed downhill, the Hightower 3 punches way above its weight class. I found myself driving it hard into the steepest features and opening it up through rowdy sections of chunder. The bike remained stable through all of this abuse, and the poppy 145 millimeters of rear-wheel travel enticed me to double over sketchy root sections, often landing deep. The bike’s balanced suspension and geometry kept me in tune with the trail, and at times I felt like the Hightower was an extension of my body.

The build of this covetable X01 AXS RSV model is understandably amazing. Starting up front with the 150-millimeter FOX 36 Float Factory fork, I found it remained remarkably poised, invariably recovering from successive big hits. The fork’s 36-millimeter uppers kept the front end incredibly stable, while not adding much noticeable weight. In the rear, the RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock had an incredibly poppy feel. I consistently ran the shock wide open, which kept the bike feeling playful and well-balanced with the fork.

SRAM X1 Eagle Carbon 148 DUB 32t.
Rockshox Super Deluxe Ultimate 210x55.
Enduro MAX or TPX sealed, radial bearings and premium fasteners and free replacement bearings for life.
VPP suspension utilizes a one-piece swingarm that eliminates the need for pivots on the stays, creating a stout, bulletproof rear end for accurate tracking and superior performance.
SRAM X01 Eagle AXS, 12spd.
Industry Nine hubs laced to Reserve 30 rims.
Build Kits ranging from $5,499 to $10,699.

When it comes to the drivetrain, I once again found the 12-speed SRAM X01 Eagle AXS setup to be a pleasure: Shifting with such a comparably small amount of thumb pressure will never get old. However, I’ve found that through rough sections of trail the AXS models are a bit noisier than their cabled counterparts, making this the loudest component on an otherwise silent bike. But the part of the build that stood out the most to me was the Santa Cruz 35 Carbon handlebar, which features an ovalized shape for more vertical compliance. This handlebar gave me failsafe control over the front end and kept my ride feeling smooth through the most treacherous sections of trail. Not even the underpowered 180-millimeter front rotor on the SRAM Code RSC brakes could spoil the fun.

All in all, I absolutely loved my time on the new Hightower 3. With its modern geometry and balanced, on-trail feel, it really stood out against several bikes in the same travel range that I’ve ridden in recent years. I used to own a Santa Cruz Megatower and riding this new Hightower 3 left me missing the familiar, quiet support and high-end build quality that Santa Cruz seems to have mastered.

Santa Cruz Hightower 3 X01 AXS RSV Carbon CC 29 - $10,699