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Staff Rides - Ben Hildred's Santa Cruz Hightower 2

Updated: May 16

Ben has been making headlines over the last few years doing some very tough personal climbing challenges or "type 2" fun sort of riding. He bikes everywhere, always has, he has never owned a car, cycling is in his blood and is what brings him the most joy in the world. He also uses it as personal reflection and relaxation time when life is getting busy or stressful. Something we can all relate to.


His bike is his single most important asset to him. It is what he spends the most amount of time on, so the bikes he owns has always been very carefully researched and thought out.





The first season Ben worked for us he was riding a Nicolai Geometron, he then went on to get a Transition Sentinel (the bike he did his Everest ride of the Skyline access road on), from there he wanted to get a Pole Stamina 140 but that didn't work out so got a Giant Reign 29 Advanced. This was the bike he was to do his 55,000m of climbing in one month challenge. This was to be the bike he owned for the least amount of time.

We became a Santa Cruz dealer this year and when you start working with Santa Cruz bikes there is something about them that draws you in. The build quality, the ease of maintenance, the reliability and not to mention the sex appeal.

We had a demo Hightower 2 in the store and Ben was instantly drawn to it. Several weeks of crunching geo numbers and research went on but ultimately he convinced himself he needed one as he really like the colour :-). It really is a beautiful bike.




Ben decided to just get a frame set as his Reign was a custom build of parts he hand picked. He went for the XL CC frame. The CC frame is the only option when you are buying a frame set but it was what he wanted as the CC option is lighter but keeps the same strength/stiffness.


Ben built the bike up oozing with all the dream list parts. It's a full SRAM build for the drivetrain and forks. He has always previously been a Fox and Shimano guy but decided to go the way of the other big S this year and he is absolutely loving it. SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, Code RSC Rainbow edition brakes, a Lyrik Ultimate fork set at 170mm travel and a Rock Shox Super Deluxe Ultimate Air Rear shock.







One small change he made to the stock set up was he removed the travel reduction spacer out of the rear shock to boost the travel on the rear by an extra 8mm, so going from 140mm to 148mm. Its a small amount but makes a difference.


The wheels were a no brainer, it had to be a set of the superb Santa Cruz Reserve 30 rims. Most of us run these at the shop and cant rate them highly enough. Not one of us have had a single problem with them and we haven't been easy on our wheels, especially living in Queenstown. If you can budget for a set we highly recommend them. Ben then runs some tried and tested Maxxis DHF/DHR2 Exo+ tyres.





On the cockpit Ben runs a 35 Deity Copperhead stem and Deity 35mm rise bars at 800mm wide. Being a very tall fellow he runs a 200mm RockShox Reverb dropper post.


Oh and did I mention he rides flat pedals.


This is a bombproof Queenstown set up. It is not the lightest build you could go for, but you need your gear to be reliable and confidence inspiring for the steep rough descending we have here. If you go too light things start to feel a bit twitchy and sketchy. Ben's bike weighs in at just over 32lbs. The perfect compromise build and weight for climbing its and ripping the downs.








Recent changes he has made to the bike have been few and far between as its been so reliable and he knows how he likes things. That said he did recently upgrade the forks air spring to the latest iteration from Rock Shox which is said to improve the ride height of the fork. Due to this Ben decided to drop the travel back down to 160mm as the new improved ride height of the fork made it feel the same as the previous 170mm set up he had. He didn't want to have front end any higher than it was as it effects how it climbs and also has a knock on effect on the seat tube angle. These things add up when you are doing big days on the bike.



Ben featured in the SRAM video series "True Story"


After Ben did his 55,000m vertical in 30 days challenge word soon got out and people started to pay attention. SRAM were impressed with what Ben had done especially using their drivetrain and brakes and immediately contacted to congratulate him. They found out Ben had worn out his drivetrain doing the challenge so sent him over a new X01 group set to congratulate him on what he had done.

This turned into SRAM wanting to involve Ben in their latest video series "True Story" where they document achievements and cool stories some riders have done using their equipment.

Ben spent a week basically reliving his climbing challenge documenting it on film as part of this series for SRAM. It is a beautifully shot edit which is very inspiring and makes you want to get out and pedal!





If you are looking to build up a dream Santa Cruz build like Ben's then get in touch we can happen. We love the process and excitement and sharing the journey with you.



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