When I first repatriated to NZ in 2017, I was mildly bemused to learn that the number 1 selling vehicle, of any description was… The Ford Ranger. For those that aren’t car enthusiasts, it’s essentially an oversized ute, or if you’re American its a cute toy truck.
Yes, a small truck was our number 1 selling car for multiple years in a row. This begs the question, why did all those people need a vehicle like that? Are they utilising its size and specs to its full potential? Is it too cover for some anatomy issues? Some sort of weird vehicular FOMO?
Or, is it just part of a societal norm that we have adjusted to where we just need more, bigger, longer, higher (or in the MTB world, lower) or just general hugeness? Houses, Supermarkets, TV’s, cars, eBike motor power – We just love going big. We don’t stop to wonder if we actually need it, we have been convinced by the pop-up ad or herd that we definitely fucking need it… And when bigger looks this good, we absolutely need it:
So I’ve started a post about an ultimate high-end consumer item by… Railing against consumerism? Am I accusing the Megatower of being the Ford Ranger of bikes? Yes and no. What I mean here is that the Santa Cruz Megatower is absolutely the bike that many want, but perhaps not many need… But once you have it, you can easily convince yourself that fuck yes, you definitely do need it.
I mean seriously, this thing is perhaps closer to a weapon system than a bicycle. It was designed and built to be piloted onto EWS Podiums, or to tame gnar for those of us that couldn’t quite justify a V10, but still wanted to go 29er full noise. But given the terrain most of us actually ride, there is a case to say that many people would be far better off on a Hightower 2, Tallboy 4 or, shock horror, a Blur 3 than they would a Megatower, but as per my opening – this is not how we’re wired.
None of us want to turn up to a gunfight without superior firepower, even if many of us never go to the shooting range. I had an exchange with one proud Megatower owner who unknowingly summed it up and provided me with the best example of what I’m talking about with this quote:
“The Hightower is almost certainly the bike for me, but I keep getting into “What if” gnar scenarios”
This is a bit like saying that you need a 20 inch penis should you be walking down the street one day and you’re pulled into an orgy with cheerleaders, and someone just so happens to be filming it for Brazzers.com (I purposefully didn’t hyperlink that as I know all you sick cunts at work will click on it and then blame me when HR are sharpening their strap-on). An alarming scenario yes, but one clearly more likely to happen to Megatower owners.
Does our MORE mentality lead us to the MTB promised lands? Can you tame this Mega race horse for ordinary house chores? Is this one of my weirdest scene setters ever? How much of my ramblings to come can be blamed on lock down? And will I actually convey any useful information about how the bike actually rides? Have I overused rhetorical questioning as a way to segway to the actual story? And why is it that everyone you know at work that uses ‘segway’ has a distinctive cunty vibe to them?
Lets find out
I covered all the initial build antics and my ‘love at first sight’ over the top theatrics in the first look post, so won’t labour the point again here. This is more about what’s happened since that first time we met at the counter in The Hub and the passion started to pump.
We’ve hit that magical 1,000km ridden together marker where it’s now appropriate to write some thoughts about life with a Megatower in it. To be clear, this makes life pretty fucking sweet:
Given this is being authored during lock down, it will be more of a rolling rant about life with a Megatower, or if we worked in the colouring-in Department we’d call it an experiential montage through an emotional journey.
In spite of my penchant for poorly describing how a bike actually rides, I shall try and lean towards being a long-term review as opposed to a straight out love story. Yes, I know many of you would have already decided in the first paragraph that this is just another post where I shill for a brand that I have previously confessed affection for on multiple levels.
But as far as love stories go, while this may ultimately end up with a predictable outcome, getting there will be less so. We’re not quite getting into Romeo & Juliet scenes, but it’s a wild romantic adventure that spans many continents and some legendary Tier 1 riding spots over the last 12 months where we got our freak on:
- Aosta Valley, Italy
- Trans Provence race, Southern France
- Queenstown, NZ
- 2W race rounds in Rotorua (All 3 rounds 2019/20), NZ
- Maydena Bike Park, Tasmania, Australia
- Derby, Tasmania, Australia
- Crankworx Rotorua Enduro 2020, NZ
So in essence, we’ve done what the Megatower was designed to do: Travel, attack gnar, race races, wear our tires.
Let’s be shallow for a moment and start with it’s looks – Because this thing is the best looking fucking bike in the entire SC line up, if not the world (I chuckle as my Tranny bro’s scream CUNT into their phones and ruin any chance of getting laid tonight as a result):
Fuck off if you’re going to tell me if just looks like all the other new lower link VPP models, because it doesn’t. That’s because this is the ultimate iteration of the new design. FACT.
The Nomad 4 has it’s upper link part way along the top tube, which has connotations of a gap in your front teeth. The Bronson looks stubby by comparison and has clown wheels, the Hightower 2 just doesn’t have the dripping hot machismo of the MT and the Tallboy 4 (A bike I still adore), just looks a little… Squat by comparison? I can’t put my finger right on it.
So the Megatower is where it’s at aesthetically speaking with it’s perfect proportions, insane top tube slope, incredible finish and that chiseled chassis that screams ‘Shred’ and ‘Sex’ in the same sentence. It’s the best looking bike in the shed and every single time I look at it, I want to roll it out, even if I’m dripping in lycra as I prepare to whip my inner bandito on the Blur 3.
Don’t take my word for it though, your frothing Gram colleagues indicated that if I took a photo of a Megatower leaning up against shit, then it was an instant banger. My top 9 for 2019 had a distinctly Mega theme about it, confirming that people like long travel Enduro bike pics more than toddlers. Sick fucks:
Looks aside, and I promise we’re going to talk about actual riding in a minute – I knew something was special with this bike the first time I turned into a corner and it whipped around in a manner that I not only didn’t expect, but almost hadn’t experienced before.
This was quickly followed up with heading down a trail I’ve ridden countless of times which had a set of doubles on it… Which I had shamefully never doubled. First ride on the MT… And I effortlessly doubled all of them like it was something I’d done all my life. I was both shocked and swept off my feet, what was this magic? Why did this bike feel so composed? Why did I feel like I had more time and why was it making everything feel so easy? Clearly it was time to consummate things.
He loves me
Seriously, who doesn’t love ‘honeymoon period’ sex? I mean, if you could bottle that in a pill and sell it, viagra would be out of business as a product. Especially when it involves travel.
Pretty much as soon as a couple of first coffee date shake down rides were complete, it was time to jam Megatron into a brand new Evoc bike bag (Yes, it really was too long to fit in the old one) and head off to Europe to rub each other in olive oil and suck the cream out of artisanal pastries before spitting it in each others faces (If you haven’t tried that, you are indeed missing right the fuck out).
But first, we needed to play the most crucial game when acquiring a new Santa Cruz, an act thoroughly supported by Seb Kemp – Fucking with the rear shock selection:
In this instance it was to fuck the stock shock off, because surely they can’t have specced it with the right shock, and instead set a mildly compromised baseline with something different.
As you can see, a Fox DHX2 was selected, with a 500 pound spring after the 475 clearly didn’t work, plus, thanks to Jono at Suspension Lab, a service and sizing down from a 60mm stroke to a 57.5mm stroke to make sure I wasn’t being a total cunt. I mostly went the DHX2 route so that the coil matched the fork decals.
I had also decided, that unlike The Creator, I am not a poppy or playful type of rider, and given I was about to be sent into the French Gnar factory of Trans Provence to work a 24/7 shift, that silky suppleness and consistency of a coil made the most sense, weight penalty be damned.
The DHX2 gets out of bed for 1,000m elevation drop descents better than most too, also a consideration. Our Euro debut was as moist as you’d imagine given expectations:
Possibly the biggest compliment for the Megatower early on in our relationship was from Lorenzo during the Aosta Mission. On day 3 he gave us some coaching tips, which involved following us for a few trails to get a feel for our riding styles. As we pulled up halfway down a run, he turned to me and smiled, debriefing my form:
“Bro… Watching you ride for a bit, ummm, the only reason you’re still alive is because of your bike”
Given how fucking fast we’d been riding, it was hard to debate this assessment. All the mega ingredients had combined to have me riding in a way that even had The Creator raising an eyebrow under his ever persistent helmet. Clearly this is a weapon that had been sent back in time to protect me through Euro gnar banging:
But Lorenzo touches on a good point about riding the Megatower, for me at least. Its level of capability flatters my own, which is to say it wallpapers over a lot of technique cracks and allows me to do things or take lines that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t attempt on another rig. I can say this as I now have a direct comparison (See further down), with a very stark contrast in riding outcomes.
This trait is definitely something that you want in a race bike. Ah yes, it’s a race bike and its probably time that we dwell on this point, as it’s highly relevant to what your expectations may be. It’s particularly good as a race bike for week long epics that are heavily roasted with gnar:
Prior to the Megatower dropping, there was a yawning hole disguised as a chasm in the SC line up where the words ‘Enduro Race Bike’ sat. In hushed tones we talked about how the HTLT was a, gasp, stop-gap, and that surely something bigger and better was in the development pipeline.
And indeed it was… What came along is like a SWAT team on meth; Amped to blow the doors off, unload its clips, ask no questions and then set fire to the paperwork before slamming shots to round out the day. From real actual racers such as Mark Scott, to wannabe racers such as me, it was time to rejoice that Uncle Rob had spent the off season getting us a new weapon. It’s also an important point to bear in mind: This machine came out of the Skynet factory to crush EWS stages and set fire to race tape.
The week in Aosta had some 1,100m elevation drops, high speed, a variety of conditions and plenty of gnar. The Megatower could not have been a better companion for such an occasion. The longer travel 170mm Fox 36 GRIP2 was an absolute stand out up front and the Reserve 30 SC Carbon wheels were as sensational as I’d come to expect from the 27.5 version that were on the Nomad 4. I’d say that with a bike of this nature, the upgrade is essential and helps to get the most out of the bike.
I did spend one day on the stock RS Super Deluxe Air Shock with the standard air can to get a comparison with the DHX2 coil and it was apparent straight away that for me the coil was the go to in the big mountain conditions. Yes, a weight penalty to a degree, but the extra composure and grip that the coil shock delivered into the chassis was addictive. I’m not a poppy & playful rider per se, so the plow characteristics of the coil also suited me better.
I did have a discussion with Jono about spring rate, as I was getting closer to 33% sag with the 500 pound Fox spring, whereas 30% is the recommended level. I could have gone to a 550 pound spring, but that felt perhaps a bit extreme, so I ended up with perhaps slightly more softness than ideal. Probably ok given how fucking gnarly the week of racing would turn out to be at TP19:
I’ve written close to 40,000 words about Trans Provence 19, so I won’t recap all that here, even if you have the lock down lyfe time on your hands, but the Megatower was fucking flawless all week long. Not a single niggle, not a creak, nothing. It was perfect. This is possibly why there were close to 30 of them in the TP line up, by far and away the single most volume of any bike make or model.
Their owners collectively shrugging their shoulders as to what other model you’d select from the SC line up for a week of full gas blind rally insanity. By comparison I think there was 1 Nomad 4 and 1 Bronson, which granted did end up coming second overall by the slimmest of margins.
The only change during that week of Le Hell Gnar was a rear tire replacement as I started to run out of talent, and a quick brake bleed given I was using them too much, but nothing else. Granted, I scratched the fuck out of it thanks to the road to hell that is trying to get into Sospel, but you don’t take on the D-Day of Enduro’s without getting wounded at some point.
The ability for this bike to be held wide open as it monster trucks, or should that be Megatankers, through terrain is as impressive as it is addictive. It doesn’t do it in a totally dull manner though, on that steep gnar or high speed Euro single track I felt both completely connected to the ground, with superb feel through the bike, whilst simultaneously like we were crushing it in a manner which would have slowed down a lesser bike.
This was an extremely different phenomenon than my previous 29er Race machine, a long-forked Hightower 1. Granted, it’s unfair on the OG HT to try and compare the two, but the pace of evolution and the luxury of being on a race orientated big banger were absolutely on display throughout the Italian & French adventures.
Climbing isn’t really a sexy topic for a bike of the MT’s nature, but those two weeks in Europe gave me ample opportunity to test its credentials in the ascending department. As one might expect, it climbs exactly like how you want an Enduro race bike to climb; Fairly neutral and at the pace required to tick off liaison after liaison.
It’s not the lightest of beasts once burdened by DD Maxxis tires, but I personally enjoy the way it climbs. It not only feels and pedals lighter than the scales suggest, but it’s also very neutral when the hill points up. It seems to settle into it’s travel and then just tractor away at whatever’s in front of it assuming you have the legs and willpower.
Europe and future locations dished out some pretty grunty climbing assignments and I never once felt like any improvements were needed in this department, which is surprising given we’re talking about the phase in the relationship where the coil shock and low mode are in effect.
He loves me not?
Naturally when you get home from a wild honeymoon in Italy and France, there’s the glaring risk that things can start to feel a little… Boring on the home front?
Suddenly wild shuttle runs, beers in the Piazza, Euro fistings and 1,100m elevation drop full gas runs are replaced with supermarket shopping, nappies, 4% descents dropping 100m and attempted quickies interrupted by kids trying to maim each other.
No, this isn’t a paragraph stolen from the upcoming Rodfather biography, but suddenly the Megatower didn’t feel exactly at home on the much tamer spaces we were now visiting together. This became most apparent when we first went to Vegas together for a dirty pumice weekend:
On some of the regular favourite trails things just felt a little… Flat. At times it felt like I was losing speed or there was just this dead feeling, especially punishing if I didn’t manage to carry speed properly. I would pump hard, but didn’t seem to get much of a result, much to our collective embarrassment.
On slightly flatter trails, or those that rewarded carrying speed, I felt like I was at sea and it was an energy sapping experience. It was like all the traits that had given us massive Euro thrills and sweat inducing moments usually reserved for an off the grid Vienna underground club were now working against us as we tried to settle into suburban life.
Feeling slightly confused and concerned, we sought couples counselling to try and get things back on track… As we poured our hearts out, it went something like this:
DN – “I don’t really know what’s going on, things were just so…. Exciting and raw overseas. We did things I’d never done before and it was fucking wild. The grip, the speed, the cornering… We even videoed me screaming out involuntarily and put it on the internet. Since we got back and had to go back to work, it’s just felt like hard work. I know my expectations may be unrealistic, but can’t you at least try?”
Megatron – “Who does this cunt think he is? I spend two weeks in the high mountains saving his ass every 500 metres, even though I was in the short chain stay config and then I’m jammed into a bag, thrown into several mosh pits and next time he takes the gimp mask off I find myself on… on… Fuck… A grade 2 trail? Then the fucking weirdo starts trying to pump me and talk dirty on a grade 3 and he expects me to get excited? He doesn’t even bother trying to make a connection… And he’s too lazy to even try some config changes to get me into the mood. I mean, fuck HELLO, why do you think the linkage flip chip is so easy to change? Can’t even be bothered using his fingers a little. Cunt. Also, how would he feel running a coil shock on billiard smooth trail with what I would call 34% sag? Is this cunt new to Mountain Biking? Thanks for the Double Down tires on what appear to be XC rides dressed up as date night too, cheap fuck”
A dirty week in Queenstown was recommended to get some vert and a dose of Mountain fever, with strict instructions that anything lower than a Grade 4 was strictly for warm ups only… And that some full gas sessions were in order. As you may imagine, the Megatower loved Queenstown Bike Park, and its surroundings:
Back into it’s preferred gnar crushing surroundings, it gave me the confidence and capability to hit all the regulars I love down there, such as Ants, plus take on some new material I had shied away from like Hobbit and Killer Bees. Some eyebrow raising moments for sure, but again the only limiting factor for this dirty get away was my own mind as opposed to the MT’s capability envelope.
As we sat and gazed into each others eyes over apres bike park beers, the post shred coital warmness washed over us and indeed, the loving feeling was not lost. But, this wasn’t going to help us on the home front was it? Nor had I actually learned anything new…
What I’m really complaining about here oddly is versatility. I was treating perhaps one of the Megatowers greatest traits as a negative for some odd reason, unable to get out of my own set-up echochamber to try new things. This is one of the main reasons you buy this bike as a race bike, because it has a number of changes you can bestow on it to help you adjust to, and conquer, a range of terrain and race venues.
The bike was set up to conquer Euro Gnar and steep shit, not to tackle the relatively tamer gradients and soil conditions of my local trails. It was time to ignore my bike gear & set-up ego and take some drastic action.
By drastic action, I mean spying on the Rodfather on the Gram and seeing what he was doing. Sure, I had to wade through an ocean of eJisim to find what I was looking for, but finally I had some ideas to plagiarise to see if we could get things working back in our relative suburban life. Changes included:
- EXO tires – Assegai front, DHR2 rear, a fairly standard pairing now
- Back to the stock air shock – but this time with the Meg Neg air can, with appropriate increase in pressure – A cheap upgrade and relative painless if you visit Jono
- Change to the high setting – I was hesitant to do this, given it always sounds radder to be low bro, but in theory it would make sense given what I was trying to achieve.
To see if this tinkering was successful in rekindling the local passion, it was appropriate to return to the pumice play land and gorge ourselves on Grade 5 and a bit of racing, nothing like trial by fire:
Holy FUCK! I shy away from using the word ‘transformational’, because that term is usually uttered by some over-promoted cuntbag who goes on to ruin your business in a mind-blowingly short period of time as they attempt to use a cookie cutter methodology to ‘transform’ things, but ultimately just fuck everything.
But in this situation, the change to the high setting and the move back to the air shock with the new air can made it feel like a totally different bike across the board. It peddled better, felt more lively, carried speed better and was just an absolute blast to ride on my adopted local trails… That feeling in my heart was undeniable, the deep love was back and the speed was there with it.
First round of the 2W series and we bagged a very rare stage win, as well as a 2nd and a 3rd in two other stages in M40 for a banger day out in Megatrons NZ racing debut, fuck yes!
These changes felt so good I wondered if I needed to also drop the fork travel to 160mm to further suit home soil, but I can’t seem to get my head past dropping a fork in travel, feels in the same camp as ordering up a cock shortening operation. Plus, this bike was made to travel (unintentional pun), so always best to head to foreign lands well armed.
I was so enamoured with the new set up that it was retained for the multi layered filth exercise that was the Tour of Tasmania. I was sure I was going to go low and coil again for Maydena, but it was not needed and we never missed a beat.
The week in Tasmania may have been fun riding, but a lot of it was conducted at race pace, especially those moments behind The Creator, once again shading the line between buying this bike for racing or just having a fucking awesome time on. That week was like a blending of the two and the overall experienced was undoubtably enhanced by being aboard the Megatower.
The other upside of the tweaks implemented was it generally improved the MegaT’s trail bike status. I mean, if you want a trail bike that monster trucks the fuck out of your local trails that is. But, again this is the beauty of it’s versatility and I have had many DNGC members contact me and outline how much they enjoy Megatron as an all-rounder trail bike and maybe I just need to shut the fuck up.
Chief among these is the DN Global Collective Head of Science, Herr Doktor, who is a strong advocate that Megatron most definitely has the right manners and characteristics to bang out long-range trail rides that aren’t constantly laced with Gnar insanity.
The only point I make, is be careful that Megatron doesn’t neuter your trails for you… Yes, it can beat down so hard on your local loops that it may make them seem significantly tamer than you remember them, or how they may feel on shorter travel siblings (See below).
He loves me again!
The love was BACK! Not that it was ever gone as such, just a confusing mid relationship slump. Now that we were popping off, it was time for more race plates and timing beeps to finish off summer. Yes, that’s a segway reminder that this is indeed a race bike:
The pinnacle of this love affair was also the event that pushed us over the 1,000km mark of meganess: The Toa Enduro EWS Conti round in Rotorua. The last Enduro race of the 2020 summer and the icing on the cake after the 3 rounds of the 2W series on the same turf.
I’d been drilled like a total cunt in round 2 of the 2W series, then had bounced back a bit for round 3 the week before Crankworx, but I had no idea how it would roll coming back into the slightly more formal and strict format of an EWS Conti round.
Unexpectedly, this turned out to be the race of the season for me, with the Megatower squarely the driving force of the froth. It felt like we had reached our pinnacle as a combination after a summer of riding and formed a shredding bond the likes of which usually occupy your most vivid Enduro wet dreams.
Despite the fact the entire M40 field was being pulverised into the pumice by a rampant Byron Scott (He would go on to finish 2 minutes ahead of second place, maximum WTF), the whole day was a blast. This culminated in the final stage: Katore.
The scene of destroyed Enduro dreams, EWS level heckling and one section in particular that I have never cleaned. Yes, you know the section we’re talking about… Right near the bottom, with that horrendously tight dropping left hander which requires you to set up wide, hold your nerve dropping in across the roots and then negotiating the log at the exit.
Naturally this is where the hecklers (The ones without batteries) congregate to dish out increasingly elaborate styles of abuse for the abundant supply of lemmings who cunt this section right up. Indeed, I have felt the cold hard sword of Enduro heckle plunge deep into my carcass down here, when the famous “Squashed your banana cunt!” scenario resulted in me never being able to take a banana on a Mountain Bike ride ever again, even to this day.
Even though this was the last stage, the Megatower and I had navigated the upper section of Cutties like a cruise missile on viagra, that sensational feeling of actually racing. But we knew that the real challenge always lies in the lower section. After slicing and dicing through the middle of the lower with some moments right on the edge of what I could manage with my skill sets, but likely just idling for Megatron, we came to the kill box: Hecklers corner.
I set up wide, almost track standing and then used that magical Megatower turn-in wizardry to nose over and commit to the ‘all in’ ride across the off-camber root section… In a rare moment I managed to look up, but stopped breathing as we cut a path across the face of rooty doom before hooking up on dirt for that second of transition before the final hurdle.
It was at this moment I heard the cheer of “Fuck yeah buddy!“, which was just enough stoke to power us up and over the downed tree log and full flight into the final section – Cleaning that particular section, a feat never before achieved by this author. As the warm glow of the ENDUROgasim raced through my body, I basked in the ocean of stoke that was washing ashore in my mind, which involuntary shouts of delight escaping my lips as I crossed the finish line and began fisting total strangers.
This is why I love this bike… And this is why I need this bike.
Unsurprisingly it took until the great Maydena Bike Massacre for any technical niggles to really show up in our relationship. You know, that weekend away for a family reunion and you’re just getting deluged with problems, family drama and too much compensating alcohol? Yes, well, it invariably leads to a few problems…
Fox Transfer – I haven’t delved into on line keyboard warrior dungeons to see if this is a thing or not, but on a Large Mega with a 175mm Fox Transfer dropper, set to the height I need it at for a 74cm middle of BB to top of seat set up, the clearance for the actuator inside the frame is tighter than a cheese grater lined glory hole. This led to some fuckbaggery moments after Maydena in Derby, where the post would become self aware and gradually wander down whilst you were climbing. The culprit was basically Maydena mud had moved into the very small space left for the actuator to operate. In the end I had to ride it for a period with the post at 75mm extension, which shouldn’t have made that much difference, but as Rodfather likes to say “You can do a lot of damage with 10mm’s!” In the end, the Master craftsman Mr Two Hoops fixed it, but we both agreed that a post with a shorter stack, like a One Up V2 or the new 2020 Fox Transfer, may be a better option.
Rear drop out flip chip – Interestingly this issue took until Tasmania to reveal itself, but the back wheel started to feel like it was coming loose regularly, despite the thru axle being as tight as a Dutch farmer. The culprit? A loose rear flip chip. Multiple tightenings led to some head scratching and on return to base a trip to the Hub solved things on the spot. Before I could even get the full sentence out, the boys already had a new set of rear flip chips to hand me. Naturally I handed them right back to make sure they got installed properly, and since that moment there has been zero issue. How good is pre-emptive customer service? Rad.
Flip-chipping – On the topic of flip chipping, might I suggest not doing it while hungry, or straight after a full gas DH run. I have tried both scenarios and ended up screaming ‘CUNT’ so loudly that children started to use that word in their everyday lives. For those not mechanically moronic like myself, it’s probably not an issue, but I do have some advice for changing the high/low setting. On the non-drive side, get something rubbery, like a dildo, and jam it in between the flip chip and the swing arm to keep it in place as you try to bolt the whole thing back together… Because I promise you this is preferable to trying to get that little cunt out of the bottom of your lower link! I also scratched my frame swapping shocks, which gives you a feel for my ability with anything involving tools and hands.
Bigly – This is the biggest bike I’ve ever owned… Save perhaps a DH rig from some nameless brand last decade, numbers wise the MT is the biggest banger in the Dirty hanger. I’m definitely on the right size, large, but occasionally I have these moments where the bike feels, well, BIG. I can’t quite isolate when or how this feeling is triggered, but it’s usually when shit is getting a bit cray and perhaps the bike has started to exceed my personal risk limits and there will be this moment where it’s like “WOAH, this cunt is huge!” I respect that I run the risk of sounding like Barry’s GF there, but it’s the only trait that I am still adjusting to. Probably an indication that I need to always remember to keep the body language active and not revert to my stone pony default body position.
Keyboard Worriers – I am also vaguely aware of two points that Keyboard Worriers have referred to on the intercunt about the Megatower. First, there’s the ‘square edged hit’ commentary about how the chassis digests those, which is a point that has me scratching my head. This is both because I haven’t had this experience, nor could I figure out how to recreate it other than slamming into some stairs. So, not really sure this is actually a thing.
Secondly there was some other points around the shock tune, which I found bemusing because the first rule of new bike club is to fuck with the suspension and likely ruin it. But, if you did stick with the stock AF set up, then, well, you know, it’s a race bike right? Hence a firmer tune is not only wise, but usually beneficial for those taking this bike to outer limits. No one wants a marshmallow race bike rear end. Also worth noting, but a slightly firmer tune (Assuming it actually is) on a bike like this helps with its trailside manners should you just want it as a trail bike which is armed with a rocket launcher.
Tech stand outs
Just to balance out the whinging above, there are a few absolute gear stand outs in this story. I’ve tried to mainly admire the chassis in this article, but if you’re in the new build kill box right now, then consider some of these items on the shopping list.
- One Up Carbon bar – Does the funky design deliver the hand loving hype promised? Hell fuck yes it does. This bar is supreme, so much so that I want one on my other bikes now. It’s like being given a magic super power before being sent off into a battle to the death with Gnar. If you can only spring for one carbon part on your entire build, then this has to be it.
- XTR everything – I’ve ridden like a complete cunt on this stuff to just see if I can trip it up, but it just clicks off gear change after change like it’s come out of Cyberdine Systems as opposed to a factory in Japan. Yes, the cassette is mindblowingly expensive, as they all are these days, but this new XTR Groupset is the awesome shit we waited for a long time, and it was worth the wait. I’ve done over 1,000km’s and I’m on the second chain (Swapped at 875kms), with no plans to change any other parts at this stage. The chain replacement was purely to preserve that beautiful cassette. I have experienced the slightly wandering bite point on the brakes, but given how good they are, it’s not something I have obsessed over or thought too much about.
- Chris King drop set and BB – Compliment the Megatower’s beauty perfectly, drop them both in, forget they are there and get maximum enjoyment for your eyes whenever you flick across and see that logo.
- Santa Cruz Reserve wheels – Yes, sigh the fuck away now as I stooge it up and fire an anal tongue dart into the SC factory, but to be fair these wheels are fucking awesome. Last time I did Trans Provence in 2015, my Enve M70’s didn’t even survive the warm up, fast forward a few years and not only are these wheels vastly superior in every performance and feel aspect, but they have survived all the venues I listed at the start, plus races where I have ridden like an oxygen deprived cuntbag. I’ve crashed on them, ridden too fast behind some extremely dirty characters on them, raced on them and slammed them into many shuttle racks. Not a single issue, always awesome and that warranty is fucking rad. If you want your MT to really hum, then drop the hammer on a pair at time of procurement and maximise the investment.
The only adjustment I’m yet to try is the long setting in the rear flip chip to lengthen the stays and wheel base by 10mm. This is partly due to laziness, partly to absolute mechanical incompetence on my part and also some slight set-up change anxiety. In my head the change to long would fit better in the big mountain setting, and given I seem to have blown that opportunity now the border is sealed shut, it seems non-sensical to make the change now.
Leave semi abusive comments below if you’re an MT owner running long and feel it’s superior in all aspects and I shall do my best to cave to peer pressure.
You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…
Relevant to this story is of course the arrival of the Megatower’s little brother at home, the Tallboy 4. Yes, this may seem like an odd comparison, but in my mind based on the numbers and design, I was picking up a Mini-Mega, which would nicely fill the role of dominating local trails:
My logic here was simple – I just really liked the colour. But riding wise, if this was like a Mini-Mega, and the geo chart is alarmingly similar, in a lighter and tighter package, how was this not the best of all worlds?! I was going to unleash this Mini-Mega on cunts and light them up.
And what better opportunity than a day of shuttling in Vegas with all the usual Dirty suspects? I was going to turn up with the equivalent of a mini-gun with my pocket battleship:
Outcome? I got fucking annihilated. Whatever jokes you can come up with about needing replacement doors, then those applied. Run after run of trails I know fairly well, and I was continuously converted into an Enduro sex doll, violated and left partially deflated in a heap of punga’s to await my next defiling by people crashing around off piste in search of the ‘community’ trails.
It wasn’t even close, I got taken apart like a small Ikea table and spent a lot of the day with no one left in front of me. It was a shocking revelation that made me realise two things:
- To ride a shorter travel trail bike and hang with the big dogs, you need to be a highly skilled rider
- I was not a highly skilled rider – And more to the point, the Megatower had been like a fixer to a politician who can’t help fingering people; it tidied up my indiscretions and kept me out of serious trouble. It also allowed me to run with much bigger dogs than I would usually be allowed to sniff ass with.
And this is a key point about the Megatower, I didn’t realise just how much it was doing for me, or covering for me, until it super powers were stripped from me. Suddenly I was like White Panther, after they took his powers away, just some flogged cunt nuded up and trying to run into the bushes.
The Megatower was carving turns for me, negotiating ruthlessly with gnar, popping logs, jumps and doubles on my behalf and I was blissfully tagging along for the ride like a useful idiot. I suddenly didn’t take it for granted.
This was followed up by taking the MT into Eskdale Forest, to have a crack at a whole lot of segments I was utterly convinced the Tallboy was faster on. Indeed it had felt significantly faster… But the data had other ideas. The Megatower may have felt slower and more serene, but it absolutely smoked all the Tallboy 4 times, in one instance by an eye watering 23 seconds on a DH trail that was 1.9km’s long. WTF?
And this is something key about the Megatower – It has this unique trait that it feels like it’s giving you time when you’re riding on the limit. Time to work shit out, time to think and respond, it has a way of navigating terrain to give you additional margin and time to maximise how you get through what’s ahead. On the TB4 by comparison, it feels fast, which is great, but the margin of error for a mere mortal is definitely less than what Megatron provides.
So my Tallboy experience to date has reminded me just how awesome the Megatower is, not to mention how much the MT actually does for me that I didn’t realise. Just to confuse things, my Tallboy 4 experience has also been awesome (more on that in an upcoming post), but in different ways.
How about a comparison at the other end of the spectrum?
Hightower vs Nomad 4
This question came up often, so I will try and vaguely answer it. Which one is better? Or is it even about that? I’m going to cop out here and say that they’re different.
The Megatower is in the gym working out and then writing a plan at a protein heavy lunch about how it’s going to get rainbow stripes, whereas the Nomad is driving around town looking for a bar that’s open so it can roll in and start break pool queues over peoples heads, unprovoked.
They’re somewhat similar, but also came across as radically different. Put it another way, in terms of approaching how to shred gnar, the Megatower takes on a more nuanced and scientific approach whereas the Nomad wants to put on a black singlet and just fuck cunts up.
What tainted the comparison for me however was the sum of the parts situation.
When I did try to ride them back to back, the whole parts spec and package on the Nomad 4 suddenly felt absolutely lacking. What had previously felt top of the range, now felt tired and a bit average. The old 36 wasn’t as good… The Saint brakes didn’t have the feel of the XTR’s… the Handlebar wasn’t as compliant… The 150mm dropper felt too short… The old XT drivetrain didn’t have the range or beautiful shifting of the new XTR.
Good riders would see past this or ride around it, but I’m vastly too shallow for that. I had acclimated to a new level of goodness and to revert to an old eco-system. Everything just felt suddenly dated and then throw in the alluring feel of those 29er wheels and my plan to keep both bikes suddenly melted like any form of sanity at a White House Covid19 daily briefing.
That aside, if anything I think the Nomad 4 was slightly more forgiving as a bike perhaps. I never did spend a lot of time doing back to back comparisons or shock swaps, but the Megatower has a firmer and more race orientated feel to it compared to the N4. This is what you’d expect of course, given the MT being a race bike.
In terms of a racing comparison? There’s only one parallel with data that I can draw on to be honest: EWS100 Rotorua 2019 vs Crankworx Rotorua Enduro 2020. They both featured Katore as the penultimate and final stage respectively. The Strava segment is labeled ‘Katore DH turns‘ and captures the last 0.60km’s of the trail, with an average gradient of -23%.
Under similar conditions, the Nomad 4 cut this out in 3.10 and the Megatower hit it at 3.05, so a 5 second win to the MT. I know there are a few variables to argue about there, but that’s a handsome chunk of time in a small distance, which is probably a reminder that one of these bikes is about standing on podiums and one is about partying until you black out and having whiskey for breakfast.
Both are fucking rad, so it’s really up to you to match the right one to your personality. As a rule of thumb, If you like wearing long sleeve Enduro race jerseys, buy a Megatower. If you like riding in singlets and only take your TLD full face off to drink beer, buy a Nomad 4.
Some people will probably say I have about as much soul as one of the Rodfather’s hammeroids, but spiritually I miss the Nomad 4, and a large part of me wishes I hadn’t sold it. The heart wanted it to stay, but the head just couldn’t justify having two war hammers in the same shed given both of these bikes really want to travel places and ride down epic shit, as Chris Lambert said, there could be only one.
Summary & Final thoughts
When I walk into the Dirty hanger, irrespective of how I’m attired for the day, the bike that always gets my attention and the one I want to ride the most is the Megatower.
It may be completely incompatible with the trails I have in mind for that day, it may indeed act like a giant anaesthetic for a lot of those trails, but I still want to ride it. It’s the pinnacle of cycling technology in my life and everything on it and about it is spectacular right here and right now.
I love looking at it, cleaning it, riding it, talking about it and racing it. Is there an argument to say I should be on a Hightower 2 given where I mainly ride and race now? More than likely, but deep down I want to be able to reach into the shed and pull out the bike that has ‘Bad Motherfucker’ on it, and that’s the Megatower.
As your eyes pass through the 8,000 word mark, you may realise I haven’t gone into great technical depths about how the bike actually rides, which may disappoint the more detailed among you. This is not only consistent with almost every other rantview I’ve done, but also goes to the storyline of this year with Megatron – It’s been a companion, as opposed to just a bike, on many excellent times, to amazing places with great cunts.
Given all of what you’ve read above happened in the last 11.5 months, it’s also taken on a more significant meaning now Cuntvirus-19 has taken away the luxury of riding in our favourite forest, or with our crew or traveling to rad places. While I miss those aspects of life exceeding amounts, I’m also grateful that I got to get them all in before global shut down cunted up the year that was to be. Imagine getting this bike and having to sit at home? Melt down.
For all the places we went, for all the sick trails we shredded and all the GC’s we got to roll with, there is no companion I would have wanted to team up with other than the Megatower. And that feeling alone confirms that I do indeed need this big beautiful bike.