Ahhhhhhhh, it’s that time of the year again! The goodness of not getting any gifts you actually want (First world Christmas problems), getting the chance to wince as all the money you want to spend on bikes is vaporised on gifts for people who probably don’t fucken deserve them and John McClane gets to shoot cliche terrorists while his estranged wife tells him to fuck off. Yes, its Christmas! Yay rampant consumerism!

Whilst everyone at Dorel HQ are sitting around with little corporate stiffies looking at sales graphs, I decided to stage a Putin style coup d’etat on Christmas and go direct to the REAL motherfucking Santa to ensure I’m smiling in December. And low and behold, the fat fuckers sac was filled with goodness:


Mrs Claus couldn’t handle this epic load from Santa

Ok, so artistic licence set aside for a moment, I’ve been quietly plotting, heavy breathing and anticipating this latest Dirty acquisition more than bored housewives have been waiting for the new 50 Shades of Grey movie. How about 50 shades of Kashima? Behold the Santa Cruz Hightower, bespoke Dirty build:


The illogical world of every part being hand picked brought to life

As the above pic illustrates, aside from being gratuitous Bike Porn, this build is ENDURO as fuck, which quickly leads us to a number of awkward questions:

  • What’s with those mismatched wheel decals?
  • What is this all about?
  • Cunt, don’t you already have an ENDURO race bike?

Yes, there’s a bit to “unpack here“, which is cuntspeak for ‘explain’. Its all as awkward as this meeting last week:


“Nice pussy air shock cunt”… “Cute little wheels fuck head”

So let’s start with the obvious point, and I’m sure that all Nomad owners say this, but this is NOT a replacement for the Nomad 3 at all. Branding issues that would create aside (Dirty Hightower?), I truly love that bike and its 165mm of trail slayer goodness. In the stable it shall remain #framethat.

So naturally one would ask why I then decided to build it up with ENDURO firmly on its mind, at 14.1kg’s a ‘trail build’ this is not (yes, hugely ironic terminology here), lets dive in shall we:


Shaking that shit down

First of all its the full Fox & Shimano scenario – So much so there isn’t a single hint of a SHAM part on here. Some call that Nirvana, some just common sense. Not only is this the first fully Fox bike I have owned, thanks to the Transfer seatpost, but there is so much Kashima here it puts a demagogues penthouse to shame. The motherfucker is just oozing slithery low friction goodness:

  • 2017 Fox 36 RC2 160mm 29er fork upfront – Because what else is there?
  • 2017 Fox Float X EVOL rear shock – I was initially going to get the X2, but they started to grenade themselves and Jordi recommended the Float X. Plus, you know, Greg Minnaar and Chris Johnson. Nuff said. Oh, yes, I am sad on the inside about going back to an air shock
  • Fox Transfer dropper post 150mm – Adios Reverb!

Drive train wise its an all Shimano affair, Chris King BB aside, in line with our long history of brand allegiance that borders on being creepy. XT 46-11 cassette, XT Boost crankset 170mm with 32T chainring, Saint brakes with 203mm rotors front and rear (not making that mistake again), DX pedals. I’ve gone XTR rear D and XTR shifter, because I’m that kind of cunt. Truth be told, XT would have been absolutely fine and probably a better call.

On that point, the new XT stuff appears to be exceptional, certainly that monster cassette is a joy. It may weigh a fucking tonne, but with the range and cost being superb, its not something you need to worry about. It does put the XTR rear D on the RACK a bit, but it doesn’t hesitate to get up into that 46T at all:


Deep breath and… ahhhhh…

The final talking point are those big badass wheels. The Wheelworks Flite’s have been sitting around since July taunting me with their 35mm internal width carbon rim job, DT Swiss hubs (Oh yes, upgraded 54T ratchet ring in the rear hub) and custom decals… Er, yeah, which are the wrong colour. Originally these hoops were supposed to go on a Tallboy 3 with matching custom frame decals, but somewhere along the line I went as feral as a retread and here we are. Its on the TO DO list to sort.

This epic rim job is topped off with a Maxxis 2.5 DHF upfront, 19 PSI and trying out a 2.3 Aggressor out back, 20 PSI… 29er of course, which is an excellent wagon wheeled sized segway to the burning questions.

Ok, so enough bike nerd wanking about parts – What’s the deal here?

Ever since my slightly odd and fundamentally flawed Tallboy 2 experiment, a simple thought has been gnawing at my cycling brain like i’ve just woken up from a long haul flight and wondered why Leonardo Dicaprio was sitting next to me. That spinning top is this:

“Will I generally be faster and more confident on a capable 29er?”

Yes, I have this notion that with a little bit more roll over and ability to carry momentum, a bigger wheeled beast may give me slightly more confidence, which of course at some stage should translate into speed… In theory. As for the part about this bike not replacing the Nomad 3? Well, at this stage I see it as complimentary based on terrain. That and the fact that I fucking love the Nomad 3 to be honest and the concept of replacing it ranks around the same level as voluntarily chopping ones cock off.

Which only further raises the question of “Why?” Is this another Focus type procurement head explosion of Pentagon like proportions? Or is it a combination of lust, curiosity and self imposed peer pressure? After all, I have now built a bike that seems oddly identical to the Nomad and which in theory could be sent into battle in Finale at a moments notice.

In the end I spoke to 10 rad cunts who actually know how to ride bikes properly, with 8 of those being either current or past Nomad owners and each of them were effusive with praise to the point that they started to actually fizz at the gash. This all combined to get me frothing to the point that I was being tractor beamed in faster than you can find some old smuggling compartments.

Plus – Let’s get one thing straight, this is a beautiful bike… When I first laid eyes on it, there was that magical moment where loins are stirred and a creepy as fuck gaze washes over your face as you study its lines and marvel at the Santa Cruz magic that has been moulded into the gorgeous creation in front of you. Its a shining beacon of light in the ocean of cuntery that 2016 seems obsessed with dishing up globally.

Very first ride impressions

I won’t insult anyone’s sensibilities here with claiming a couple of rides offers much of an insight, especially when you consider there this particular Hightower is being shaken down. The cHub hardly providing a worthy arena for a bike of this calibre and luster… But shaken down it must be…


Show us ya cones

Out of the box impressions? GUSHY in a word. Even ignoring this is my first new MTB in over 2 years, its quite clear this thing is a weapon that likes to not only eat up whatever is in front of it, but also arrive at corners very quickly. The 160mm 36 fork combined with that big wheel is basically awesome madness and it didn’t take very long for this bike to start feeling rad.

I’m about 2 weeks away from deploying this weapon system onto some worthy terrain, Rotorua to be specific, so I can’t wait to get some shuttle action happening and see what it’s capable of on real terrain. I’m still slightly sceptical about the 135mm rear travel being EWS ‘amateur’ worthy (Mark Scott has already shown its quite capable), but there may or may not be a PROtotype linkage floating around which squeezes that out to 145mm allegedly, which I think would be more than adequate given the additional love the big hoops provide.

Aside from the dilemma around trying to match my ENDURO kit to this new weapon, the trick now will be which rad rig gets rammed into the Evoc for Mission accolades. Watch this space to find out… Pumice radness awaits!

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4 Responses

  1. Tunsis

    so you’ve had a bit more time with the Hightower – is the Nomad completely banished?

    • Dirty Nomad

      Excellent question and awkward to answer… The quick answer is I am currently trying to work out when and where I would now ride the Nomad? Potentially if I was heading for a Bike park mission, but I would want to see how a Hightower would go there first before I made that call. Once Santa Cruz release the much rumoured new linkage for the HT, with an additional 10mm of rear travel, then I think the Nomad is fucked. The Hightower is significantly more capable than I gave it credit for and ideally I would love to take both bikes to a park or shuttle day to do some back to back comparisons and times. I will update on potential Nomad banishing over the next few months

      • Brookes

        Well, I´m looking forward to your experiences. Right now I´m lusting for the HT in sexy Sriracha red, but since I´m the “one for all” monogamous type of guy I´m still not convinced, that the HT is “the one”!

      • Dirty Nomad

        Stay tuned, got some races coming up in March which will really test things out, including stuff previously ridden on the Nomad. I’m fairly convinced, but need a few more missions to be 100%, keen to throw some bike park and gnar at it and see how it rolls.

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