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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. 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!
NOTE: I have since upgraded to a 2022 Mixed Wheel (mullet) Santa Cruz Bronson.
First off, what is a mullet bike & What are the benefits?
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 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 started to gain attention for their potential. Today, both riders and mountain bike 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 (the jury’s still out on this one)
- More clearance for your bum off the back compared to 29” rear wheels
- 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 in and out of turns
Thoughts on my Santa Cruz Hightower Mullet Bike
I 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 I did go 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 bigger front wheel paired with the quick cornering ability of the smaller rear wheel is the perfect combo and I’m already setting new Strava 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 obviously 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 12mm.
Specifications of the V2 Hightower Mullet Link:
- Fits V2 Hightower frames (2019-current)
- Travel: 155mm (with stock 210 x 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!
I have since swapped bikes to a 2022 Bronson, which is also a mixed-wheel bike. I had the 2019 27.5″ Bronson and loved it, so when Santa Cruz mulleted this model, I jumped on it.
Now, the Bronson is my favorite mountain bike, and since it was designed for mullet geometry, I think it’s a better choice than converting a Hightower to a mixed wheel (unless you already have a Hightower and don’t want to buy a brand new bike).
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Are you considering converting your Hightower into a mullet? What questions do you still have? Are you already riding a mullet? Leave a comment below!