So… Some rather large news dropped today and no, that’s not a pun around reach or travel numbers. Yes, Santa Cruz have dropped what is best described as one of the most highly anticipated machines I can recall them bringing to the party. Certainly in the circles I group-chat in, this bike, or at least the concept of it, has been discussed, mass-debated, hypothesised over and even generated some anger about it’s reluctance to materialise, but more on that below.
Here it is then, in all it’s bad ass muthafucka glory – The Megatower! A 160mm front & rear travel 29er ENDURO crushing beast of a machine, with new geo and features that will provide an extremely strong new-bike-gasim for those that have been hyperventilating about it’s arrival:
Ahhhhh… The Mega-what? If you’re like me, a child of the 80’s, you may have heard ‘Megat…‘ and instantly gone to ‘Megatron’ instead. No, not the modern day version where Michael Bay is trying to fuck your eyeballs with overly elaborate CGI, I’m talking the old school original angry muthafucka who clearly had a yeast infection:
Thoughts on the name aside, let’s stay focused on the back story, and arguably the biggest scoop this Dirty blog has ever had: How the fuck did I end up getting my Dirty mitts on one of these things pre-launch?! As they say, every sycophant has their day and this was clearly mine.
There I was, vaguely minding my own business at Dirty HQ, polishing my “In Joe we trust” shrine and listening to my favorite Rob Roskopp podcast interview which I have casually mixed in with Celine Dion’s “you are the wind beneath my wings”, when out of the blue, the opportunity popped out of a bowl of VPP linkages to give me the blogging equivalent of a rim job (No connection to Carbon Reserve rims). By ‘out of the blue opportunity’, I mean that I colluded with the Rodfather and we pestered enough people to get 20% invited to the pre-launch event of this magnificent Mountain cycling specimen.
First things first, let’s get the awkward part out of the way now – I have previously confessed my Santa Cruz middle aged fan froth so we can proceed with complete transparency here, but why does this whole event deserve a next level jizz sandwich? I don’t want to mix up my movie analogies here given I’ve already elected to go with ‘The Transformers’, but yes you Imperial fiend, this IS the bike you have been looking for. Allow me to elaborate… By starting with my version of the outside looking in back story, which may only be 14% accurate.
We human consumers are a fickle bunch, sometimes we don’t even know why we are suddenly clambering aboard the fad train and sometimes we are pushed on board by zealous product managers and their PowerPoint presso’s. Take Gravel riding for example… How long have gravel roads been around for? Any Romans in the room? So why is it just now that all of a sudden it’s SO fucking hot you need to melt your credit card on it?
Yes, this is my foreplay to explain long-travel & angry 29ers. When the original Hightower first came out we were essentially on the cusp of a wave of change driven by the ‘Longer, lower, slacker’ cult and the EWS was starting to really go Gnar next level. There was a window here where perhaps some people had expected something more aggressive from Santa Cruz? But as fickle as our consumer fuckbaggery is, engineering and product design lifecycles where scale, outsourcing, planning, budgeting and in-flight projects (not to mention finite human resources & meeting the desired quality levels) can’t always pivot as quickly as you deciding you want something you didn’t realise you needed because you saw it on the Gram this morning.
Pretty quickly you saw a shitload of Hightowers with 160mm forks on, people fingering their warranties by long-shocking them and then finally some custom machined linkages showing up here and there, most notably on Mark Scott’s bike in Finale way back when. There was an inevitability therefore when the Hightower LT eventually surfaced, reusing the HT’s front triangle and stretching out the travel to 150mm.
However, Front triangles are like condoms, you don’t really want to have to reuse them, and if you do, it can perhaps feel like a compromise when you’re hammering it. Not that the HTLT was a bad bike, and I’m throwing a dart blindly down the hallway here, but knowing how SC generally like to do things, I can imagine there was someone at some stage who muttered “Fuck this man” when the HTLT project was hastily bringing to market a machine that always had the slight scent of being mildly ‘interim’ to me.
Which is why I held off… I sat on the sidelines knowing that the possible angst about dropping a quickie would be well channelled into something spectacular in the future…
Muthafuckas – I was right.
The wait is over
So, my elaborate hypothesis backstory over, let’s get back to the future and down to Nelson for what you really came here to read about. Tacked on to the end of the official SC Press Camp with the Fake news main stream cycling media was the Pest Camp: Me, the Rodfather and because of budget limitations; our shared entourage of The Creator (AKA JC Superstar).
We probably could have gone to the event earlier at the Gorge, but we felt it was important to keep those of us without advertising revenue quarantined from everyone else so our authenticity wasn’t tainted by delicious breakfast croissants or post ride massages, who the fuck needs all that shit anyway when you get to roll in the back of the Rodfather’s Breaking Bad van which has bars that suspiciously resemble those of a Gimp box (so I’m told).
Can I just say right now that after much anticipation and build up, trying to maintain a civilised catch up conversation with the GC crew we ran into upon arrival was harder than trying to stay on your line down the Men’s DH in Finale. I think Seb could see me dancing on one foot as I tried to both hold in my involuntary excitement pee and my brain counted the seconds before I would finally get to meet the bike I knew nothing about, but that I thought I knew everything about. Finally, we had our first encounter:
Oddly, as you can see from the photo above, this bike was both an awesome surprise plus almost everything that I had expected it to be. Naturally I had perused some on-line chatter about what this bike may be like, even down to the potential name. I had however believed a piece of Fake News which indicated from an interview with an SC employee that the new VPP config seen on the Nomad 4 and Bronson 3 may not fit a 29er wheel, so I had prepared myself for the possibility it may have piggybacked off the recently released V10 development, wrong again armchair engineer bitch.
Nick may have designed World Cup winning bikes, but even those credentials couldn’t prepare him for the Hyper Dirty stalking stoke, here you can see him trying to process how I’ve managed to ask him 24 questions in 48 seconds, why I can’t manage to swap my own brakes over and did I really just invite him to “come and stay at my house bro” within the first 5 minutes of meeting him? Pest camp was off to a deeply satisfying or disturbing start depending on your appetite for personal space:
To be noted, I was too excited to actually ask Nick any revealing questions about the Megatower, so apologies there. Interestingly he said he hadn’t ridden it since July last year, which impressed me massively in terms of both an indication of lead times for these bikes, but also how well they can keep a secret, even when the MTBR forum is losing it’s mind trying to hack the truth.
As you may imagine, this is as close as it gets to a religious experience for me – Total SC immersion, PRO riders and failing miserably at trying to remain casual when presented with an arsenal that would back Kim Jong Un blush with envy. I’m also desperately trying to ignore the incident where our entourage didn’t recognise Mark Scott “Without his Helmet on” as I start to practice in my head the dressing down that would need to be delivered to the Creator once we were safely back in the Rodfather’s pimp wagon:
How about some actual riding?
My Pest Camp froth was at a fever pitch – Here I was, about to jump on a brand new unreleased SC shred machine, and OMFG Mark Scott was there, and OMFG II we were riding with word smithing savant Seb Kemp, and OMFG III Gary was hiding in the Native bush snapping shots of us, and OMFG IV even the Rodfather had discharged a small amount of nervous piss like a toy dog watching the vet put it’s gloves on.
Naturally given all this insane stoke and froth the occasion got the better of me and I promptly binned it on my first lap, the only saving grace was it was out of view of the assembled crowd of Tier 1 GC’s. The trail we were unleashed on obviously had to be discrete AF, and with all of Nelson basically closed, Cable Bay adventure park was the natural option. Or as it turned out, naturally wild. Like, scary wild.
What we didn’t know was that their one and only trail had been carved in by local EWS shredders, and it very much wanted to recreate that Euro EWS vibe whereby you feel absolutely on the limit for most of the trail. One might refer to it as Mega-death Gnar? So while we reflected on the fact this was a super difficult trail to try a new bike on, in a perverse way it was also oddly perfect to fully explore it’s limits.
It took me two runs just to calm down and get a handle on the bike and trail, but the last 2 runs were legit and I finally started to get an impression/strike up a love affair with the MegaT. Who wore it best here?
While 4 runs may be longer and more meaningful than most of my relationships from my early 20’s, I recognize that it’s still shorter than a standard conversion with the Rodfather about his Hammerhoids, but nevertheless I was still able to draw some initial impressions other than “Holy fuck I want one!”
Dirty Disclaimer – Air NZ gave me a colonoscopy to fly down to this event and then I had to roll in the back of the Rodfather’s van like a sex gimp for a few days next to his heavily utilised G String (Or, R-String in this case), plus buy all his coffees, so whilst you may like to take my frothing with several dashes of artisanal sea salt, rest assured I was not bribed.
For those of you that like to have tidy summaries – Here are the top 5 things my over-hyped brain can recall from those 4 runs and the million questions I spammed at Nick, Seb, Gary and Mark’s faces:
1. This is a big beast – I’m clearly not a numbers guy, but 470mm reach for the Large and 490 for the XL are the biggest I can recall SC dropping outside of the V10 and I certainly felt that on my first few runs. After some time on the little wheels, the combo of the big wheel, the largest geo I have ever seen and longest travel I’ve experienced on a 29er was eyebrow raising at first, but by the last run I was loving it. I didn’t have a chance to flip chip myself into a frenzy, but the adjustable high/low setting coupled with the rear drop out flip chip to add 10mm to the wheel base is going to give shred-heads a lot of scope for tweaking shit to their delight. I can see a couple of scenarios:
- Enduro race in Rotorua? High setting, tight back end, air shock and 160mm fork to dine on pumice
- Heading to qTown bike park? Low setting, mega that back end, coil shock, 170mm fork, cunts will give up their Fergburger queue spot for you in sheer terror
I rode my 4th lap on the Coil shock and on that Grade 5 Gamble trail gnar the MT did feel more composed with the spring action, just giving it a little more control and traction over the air shock. I don’t usually notice changes like that, but this definitely stood out for me and solidified that I would run two shocks with the Mega. Unsurprisingly, my 4th lap felt absolutely, well, Mega.
2. It IS the bike you’ve been looking for – First of all, it just looks right. With that upper linkage nestled tightly against the seat tube and with the 29er wheels, it just looks beautifully in proportion, not to mention aggressive as all fuck with that sloping top tube. Of all the new VPP config bikes, this one blows the others away aesthetically. When the N4 first dropped I spent a lot of time raising an eyebrow at the linkage placement along the top tube, something the Bronson improved with that tight tucking in, but the MegaT is the ultimate iteration. Up close it’s mechanical porn, and I should know given how much time I spent studying it like it was real porn.
Then there’s the numbers, which might not be Scandinavian crazy & adventurous, but hit the mark for most of us in this genre. SC weren’t probably going to drop anything too radical, which goes back to my point about this bike being what you may have been expecting or anticipating. Riding wise it allows you to get away with more than Jared Kushner on a tour of the Middle East. Ok, so admittedly this was the first time I have been on a 160/160 29er, but once you adapt to a machine like this, not much will stand in your way.
I spoke to Mark Scott about his experience to date on the MT, given he’d been thrashing his in secret in South Africa for some time and as one may expect, he was legitimately enthusiastic, in fact, I think he may have even uttered the word ‘Legit’. Essentially this is getting close to a 29er DH bike that can really take on those EWS stages which have been significantly increasing their insanity over the last few years. Don’t be left in any doubt, this bike was made to deal with trails that you lose sleep over when you see they’ve been included in the next race.
3. Refinement – Its the little things, evolutionary steps like the updated chain stay protector, or the sexy curve of the rear triangle around the shock bolt, or the new cable holes. You can see what’s been learned on the Nomad 4 and Bronson have been built on and improved with the Megatower, even the bottle cage was something I hadn’t seen before (Watch this space). It feels like a mix tape of all the best aspects of the bikes that have come out over the last few years all professionally woven into one stunning package. It’s ok to stare.
4. How about the pedaling?! – I had to keep this on the down low naturally, but I actually wanted to head out and climb on this thing, and not just because of my recent Bandito fuelled weirdness. It was instantly noticeable that this is an excellent pedalling platform, even better than the Nomad 4 has proven itself to be in this revised configuration. Every time I got on the pedals and gave it a slapping I was not only rewarded for my efforts, but it was a slight mind fuck as to how stable the bike felt whilst still gorging itself on terrain.
5. Colon destruction fisting of my bike shed – So there are some downsides, first and foremost this bike is a wrecking ball through my bike shed line up. As the owner/greedy cunt of a Nomad 4 and a Hightower, this machine is like the Machiavellian offspring if they had a particularly torrid love making session. I’m not sure how the MT will map out for product cannibalisation, but this is about to fuck up used bike markets like a hand grenade in a pig pen. Do I now have to unload half my shed based on what this bike represents and the capability it can cover? Just what we needed, more first world consumer problems.
Now that I’ve satisfied those that like numbered lists, plus provided a vague reference to how the MegaT rides, I shall attempt to follow up with something slightly more technical to meet the needs of the data fiends out there. First, mandatory Geo charts which some of you I know will be putting into spreadsheets later on today:
And as a chase to that shot, here are some random tech bullet points:
- Colour options – If you get the gloss green, (my pick) then it may be ideal to go murdered out on all the finishing kit to make it pop… But then again the same advice goes for that matte murdered out Mega, which may also look pretty sweet dripping in Kashima?
- Random Tech thought – This thing needs a 160mm or 175mm dropper post for sure. I don’t know what’s specced as stock, but I ended up putting the dropper down manually a bit and looking at the shortened seat tube and sloping top tube, this thing is begging for a long dropper, so to speak
- Coil or air comparisons – Based on my experience with the Nomad 4 here is how I simplistically break it down:
Coil – If you like to plow and will be hitting some wide open shit, or the bike park, then this is probably your go to.
Air – Want some more pop, better mid corner support and can’t be fucked with springs? Air is your bag.
Ultimately I think some people will get both shocks given the massive “capability envelope” this bike represents, which sounds expensive, but possibly not when you consider that set up with a few different parts, Lord Megatron may be able to cover many bases and replace more than one bike
- Low and high settings – Given how shit I’ve been at playing around with my N4 I can’t really comment on the difference in the two settings, nor did I have the chance to fuck about with the rear axle flip chip, but suffice to say that between the two slip chips and shock options there is not only a shit load here to keep all the tweakers stoked, but also cater for a massive range of terrain you may encounter
- 160 vs 170mm fork and head angle – One point of interest for you mega shredders, if you whack a 170mm fork on and park it in the low setting, you end up with a 64 deg head angle, which is starting to get towards some of the more out there numbers kicking around. Add in an angle set like #Thecreator and you could be rolling with 63 degs up front. Positively fringe festival
- Reserve wheels – I’ve pounded around on the 27.5 Reserves for a bit now, and this was my first time on the 29er version and the experience was just as sweet. If you’re going all in on this package, these hoops are a fucking no-brainer, especially with the warranty set up. Performance wise vs cost you’re also going to struggle to find something quite like these out there and best of all, they don’t turn into an IED like an Enve does at the first sign of Gnar:
Thanks to Gary the debate with Mrs Dirty about what art work needs to go in the front entrance way at Dirty HQ has been finally closed out, ignoring accusations that this is DEFCON1 narcissism, a 3 x 2m canvas print is currently on order of this magnificent piece of work from Gary, I’ve been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a number of his Bangers, but I think this one just slipped into pole position, not to mention feels like a subtle message to a certain compatriot that he’s going to have to be on his game in Rots at EWS to match this:
So, what now? Astute readers may recall that I have previously fantasised about what sort of offspring a Nomad and Hightower dirty weekend away in Thailand may produce, including detailing my dream ENDURO bike in bullet points, which the Megatower scarily ticks off one by one (Dirty Nostradamus?).
Holy fuck, given it’s almost customised to my own dirty rantings and given we’re about 12 weeks away from Trans Provence I feel decidedly under the pump. My last two TP experiences were on the Nomad 2 and 3 respectively, so TP19 on the Nomad 4 had a lovely symmetry to it… But I suspect I’m going to have to learn to say “All hail Lord Megatron” in French just quietly…
Salut, Seigneur Megatron
I’ve heard it whispered so far that the Megatower may be one of the best bikes that SC have ever made, which is a lofty statement and we’ll have to see if that pans out to be true, it’s certainly one of the most highly anticipated and fills a particular gap that is trendy AF right now. Time will tell if this becomes a classic, but one thing I know for certain: The Autobots are fucked.
A massive thanks to the GC team at Santa Cruz for the chance to scope out the new weaponry pre launch and for frothing all over their innocent engineers and PRO’s with my gratuitous new bike stoke. Special thanks to SC PROtographer Gary Perkin (double confirm, no ‘S’ on the end) for all the extremely rad images!