Thoughts on my Santa Cruz Hightower Mullet Bike

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If you’ve been hearing talk about mullet bikes recently, you’re not alone. It seems like ‘mullets’ – or mixed wheels – are the new cool kids on the mountain biking scene and according to some industry experts, they may even be the future. First, it was 29” wheels then it was 27.5” wheels and now the latest fashion is a combo of both. As someone who really loves both size wheels (29” for their speed and smoothness and 27.5” for their agility), I was intrigued. So when I found out that there’s a post-market option for converting my Santa Cruz Hightower into a mullet, I just had to try it. What was the verdict? Read on to find out!

Here’s everything you need to know about how and why I turned my Santa Cruz Hightower into a mullet bike and how you can too!

(There’s a good chance that affiliate links are scattered throughout this post. If you click on one I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you and I’ll definitely be using it to buy bike gear.)

NOTE: I have since upgraded to a 2022 Santa Cruz Bronson, which is now a mullet. I still love the mixed wheels, but I felt like my Hightower was slightly too large for me (it was a large and I’m 5’8). I also like buying new bikes ?.


First off, what is a mullet bike & What are the benefits?

What Is a Mullet Bike?

A mullet bike is a mountain bike that has mixed sized wheels. Typically the front is a larger 29” wheel and the rear is a smaller 27.5” wheel. Business in the front, party in the back!

 

 


The new Santa Cruz Bronson is a mullet

 

The idea of a mullet bike isn’t really new. Moto bikes and dirt bikes have pretty much always had larger front wheels and smaller rear wheels to maximize acceleration. Among the mountain biking scene, some old-school mountain bikers like Keith Bontrager even tried out a mullet set-up in the early days with 29” in the front and 26” in the back.

But it wasn’t until the 27.5” wheel entered the scene that mullet mountain bikes have started to gain attention for their potential. Today, both riders and brands are testing them out with great success. For example, pro-Enduro rider Isabeau Courdurier is rocking a mullet bike and she usually stands at the top of the podium at the end of her races. DH champ Loic Bruni has also celebrated many of his recent World Cup wins on a mullet bike.

What are the benefits of a Mullet Bike?

The benefit of a mullet bike is that you get the best of both worlds when it comes to wheel size: better rolling speed and smashing power of the 29” wheel up front and the sharp, nimble handling ability of the 27.5” in the rear. Advocates for mullet mountain bikes say that mixed wheel bikes are:

  • Potentially faster (jury’s still out on this one)

  • More clearance for your bum off the back compared to 29” bikes

  • Potential ability to run more rear travel

  • Higher bottom bracket relative to a standard 27.5” bike (although conversely, a lower bb relative than a standard 29” bike)

  • 29” front wheel provides greater front tire contact which means more grip and control and rollover ability

  • 27.5” back wheel makes it easier to maneuver the rear end in and out of turns


Thoughts on my Santa Cruz Hightower Mullet Bike

We converted my 2020 Santa Cruz V2 Hightower into a mullet using the Cascade Components V2 Hightower Mullet Link (see more on this below). Here are a few things I’ve noticed since converting to mixed wheels:

1. Better Cornering

The biggest thing I noticed after converting my Santa Cruz Hightower into a mullet was how much better and faster I could corner. Prior to my Hightower, I had a 27.5” wheel Bronson and LOVED how quick and nimble it felt coming in and out of turns. Transitioning to a 29” Hightower, I felt like I lost a lot of that quickness and nimbleness, which was a big bummer (and truthfully, I thought about going back to the Bronson).

But now with a 29” front wheel and a 27.5” rear wheel, I have the best of both worlds! The smashing and rollover ability of the front wheel paired with the quick cornering ability of the rear wheel is the perfect combo and I’m already setting new PR’s 🙂

2. More rear travel

Another added bonus of converting the Santa Cruz Hightower into a mullet is that I gained 15mm of rear travel. The 2020 V2 Hightower comes stock with 140mm of rear travel (2021 Hightower comes with 145mm of rear travel), but after converting it to a mullet, it was bumped up to 155mm of rear travel. I also boosted my front fork up from 150mm to 160mm by swapping the air spring, so now I’m at 155mm in the rear and 160mm up front.

3. More space off the back tire

When going over drops or descending steep slopes, sometimes I found my butt hitting the large rear 29” wheel, which was annoying. With my mullet bike, though, I gained a few inches off the back thanks to the smaller 27.5” wheel. This isn’t exactly a game-changer or reason to switch to a mullet bike, but it’s definitely a perk.

4. Lower Bottom Bracket

I haven’t noticed this too much, but it is something to consider when converting a 29” bike to a mullet. For my Hightower, I dropped a few millimeters in bottom bracket height when I made it a mullet. The main concern for this would be more pedal strikes, but I haven’t experienced that.


How to do a Santa Cruz Hightower Mullet Bike Conversion

Converting a Santa Cruz Hightower bike into a mullet isn’t as simple as slapping on a 27.5” wheel in the rear. You need a special lower link to ensure that the geometry doesn’t get all wonky and the rear wheel actually fits in the rear triangle correctly.

Cascade Components makes a V2 Hightower Mullet Link that is easy to swap out and designed to preserve geometry as well as increase the rear travel by 15mm.

Specifications of the V2 Hightower Mullet Link:

  • Fits V2 Hightower frames (2019-current)

  • Travel: 155mm (with stock 210×52.5mm shock)

  • +5mm chainstay length

  • Sealed Enduro MAX bearings

  • Bottom Bracket height: 335mm

  • Head tube angle 65 degrees

  • 8mm x 30mm eyelet spacing


Final verdict on the Santa Cruz Hightower Mullet

I am SUPER happy with my Hightower mullet and I truly think it’s the best of both worlds. If you’re like me and see the benefit of both 29” and 27.5” wheels, give a mullet a try. You’ll be fast and smooth with your big front wheel while staying nimble and sharp in the rear. I’ll definitely be riding a mullet for the foreseeable future!

 

Have you tried a mullet bike? What are your impressions? Leave a comment below!

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6 Comments

  1. I LOVE my new Bronson. I had the 2019 Bronson and really loved it, but ended up selling it for a 2020 Hightower. Honestly I never really ‘bonded’ with the Hightower even though I liked it better as mullet. The 2021 mixed wheel Bronson is amazing. It pedals well and is great on chunky descents. I feel like it performs really well on a mix of different terrain. It’s the best bike I’ve ever had and I ride everything with it from bike park to xc trails 🙂

  2. Great article. I currently have a Bronson, and it might be my perfect bike but I cant help but wonder if the mullet would be faster…would you say you are happier on your Hightower mullet than your Bronson?

  3. I run a 29" front wheel & 150mm 29er fork on my medium V3 Bronson. A bit on the slack side, but I like it. To me, putting a smaller wheel on the longer chainstays of a 29er negates one of the reasons for running a smaller rear wheel. H\I hope we see more mullet bikes (like the Specialized Status) in the future.

  4. Hello all.
Any suggestion to transform my Hightower LT CC V1 in a mullet?
Cascade components does not sale the link for that model.
Manu

  5. Awesome set up!
I’m also running my V2 Hightower set up as a ‘Mullet Bike"
    But, I’m using a 27x 2.6 rear tyre and a 29×2.5 front tyre.
Im also running a 160mm fork and have simply flipped the original flip chip into the high mode and my bottom bracket height with that set up is 340mm.
    Meaning that my set up has a slightly higher BB than the set up using a Cascade Link.
So maybe I don’t need the Mullet cascade link yeah?

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