There’s a lot more that hasn’t changed; the Hightower is still a 145mm-travel 29er, designed around a 150 mm fork. It’s still got lower-link-driven VPP suspension, room for a water bottle in the front triangle, fully internal cable routing, a threaded bottom bracket shell, and ISCG 05 tabs. The geometry adjusting flip-chip also remains (more on that below).
But the stuff that has changed is pretty important — the geometry has gotten tweaked, the suspension kinematics reworked, and there’s now a “Glovebox” storage compartment in the downtube — on both the aluminum and carbon models. The derailleur is also now a UDH (which we’re pretty excited to see catching on and actually becoming a real standard instead of an XKCD comic).
Let’s start with the suspension: Santa Cruz has made the leverage curve both more linear and a little more progressive, going from just over 3:1 at topout to a little under 2.4:1 in a fairly straight line; the prior generation bike wasn’t wildly different, but had slightly less progression overall, and the curve flattened out notably deep in the travel. Santa Cruz says these tweaks add up to improved bottom-out resistance and a bit more consistency in suspension performance throughout the travel, and on paper that checks out.