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Santa Cruz Bicycles certainly took its time arriving at the Hightower LT Carbon CC 29 complete mountain bike, which is built here in its superlative build: SRAM's XX1 Eagle and SC's own Reserve carbon wheels. We obviously aren't privy to the secret goings on in SC design studio, but we suspect that the Hightower LT's enduro-specific upgrades are partially responsible for the latest Nomad's return to the freeride party bike scene. The Hightower LT's wagon wheel platform and big-hit eagerness makes it SC's enduro race bike of choice, so the Nomad isn't expected to carry that torch anymore and can get back to playing. Those are big shoes to fill, but—in our experience on the Hightower LT—we're convinced that it more than does the trick. The Nomad likes to play in terrain; the Hightower LT simply runs roughshod over it.
Where the original Hightower could be rightly considered an exercise in versatility, the Hightower LT takes a somewhat more focused approach. After all, the LT was born of the needs of Santa Cruz’s enduro racers, who are perhaps uniquely qualified to push even the supremely capable Hightower outside of its comfort zone. The first ask was more travel, bumping the LT up to 150mm. This necessitated a few changes, most notably in the rear triangle, which forgoes the Hightower’s 27.5+ compatibility. Considering that Plus tires have yet to find acceptance with racers at the sport’s top levels, we’re inclined to agree that the Hightower LT’s move to a dedicated 29-inch chassis is the correct choice for a bike of this nature. This dedication to 29-inch wheels also means that the LT does away with the Hightower’s adjustable geometry in favor of a fixed position upper link that’s been updated to provide the aggressive feel demanded by some of the world's fastest enduro racers.
The LT’s 150mm of travel has been painstakingly refined, drawing lessons from every aspect of Santa Cruz’s enviable racing organization. As with all VPP bikes, the LT’s counter-rotating links are carefully arranged to resist activation by pedaling forces, all but eliminating unwanted bobbing under power. This being the latest iteration of VPP, it’s tuned to provide more midstroke support than previous generations of the VPP platform, giving the rider a better feel for the terrain, and a slightly more energetic ride feel. Based on feedback from team riders, the leverage ratio has been altered slightly, lending more progression at the end of the stroke, for greater resistance to bottoming. It’s a subtle change that’s easily appreciated at maximum speed, when avoiding hard impacts and flat landings is occasionally out of the question.
The LT is born and bred for the grueling format of elite-level enduro racing, but while it’s certainly at home between ribbons of course tape, it's far from a one-trick-pony. Looking at the geometry chart reveals a machine that’s very similar to the original Hightower, a bike that’s been praised for its restraint in the face of the trend toward extreme geometry. Plenty of 29-inch enduro bikes push head angles and wheelbase measurements much farther than the Hightower LT. By comparison, the LT retains a lighter steering feel that makes for quicker turn initiation, and an overall spritelier feel than some other bikes in its category.
That said, the LT is certainly not scared when the terrain turns steep and rough. At 66.4 degrees, the head angle is relaxed enough to maintain stability at eyewatering velocity. The chainstays are lengthened ever-so-slightly to 438mm, which lends a more relaxed demeanor and applies slightly more pressure to the front wheel, further enhancing the LT’s balanced feel. This is a machine that will encourage you to push the envelope, but it won’t punish you for riding at a less than world class pace.
The Hightower LT is built using Santa Cruz’s top tier CC carbon fiber construction. By using some of the finest, and strongest, raw materials available, Santa Cruz is able to make its CC level frames extremely lightweight, while maintaining outstanding impact resistance, exceptional stiffness, and just the right amount of finely tuned flex to cancel out trail chatter. Of course, balancing these factors requires true mastery of carbon fiber, and the design team at Santa Cruz has proven time and time again that their command of carbon fiber construction is unsurpassed in the bike industry. The result is a frame that will hold up to years of hard riding, will provide a comfortable ride, and will do so at a very competitive weight.
Finally, the build kit deserves a brief nod. SRAM's XX1 Eagle is the blingiest drivetrain on dirt, and its comically large granny gear means you'll almost always have the means to get up a climb and get onto the next descent. This version of the LT also rolls on Santa Cruz’s Reserve carbon rims, which engage at 3 degrees of pedal movement courtesy of Industry Nine's Torch hubs. The Reserve rims showcase Santa Cruz’s carbon fiber expertise, with a highly refined profile and reinforced nipple beads that all-but eliminate any chance of failure. Should you defy those odds, the Reserve rims are backed by a no-nonsense lifetime warranty, just like Santa Cruz’s carbon fiber frames.
- The new standard for wagon wheel enduro bikes
- 6in of VPP travel tuned to demolish courses
- Geometry is longer and slacker than the original Hightower
- Industry-leading carbon construction makes no compromises
- All-new rims built in-house and laced to I9's Torch hubs
- SRAM's top-tier Eagle drivetrain ensures you'll always have a bail out gear
- Item #SNZ00EK
- Q & A
Can I just say...WOW
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
I've taken this bike out about 5 times so far, all shorter rides as it's December in Utah, but every ride has just gotten better and better on this bike. I came from a Yeti SB4.5c, a bike with less travel but also 3 pounds lighter. I don't even notice the extra weight, I actually have climbed some steep and loose sections on the HTLT that I wasn't able to on the SB4.5c! The real place where it shines is downhill. This thing is a monster truck. I've never EVER ridden a bike where I see a big rock on the trail and just point the bike straight at it and just glide right over. There's a local trail I've ridden about 100 times (Jacob's Ladder, Draper, UT), and yet on this bike the trail is now a new trail - I'm taking lines I've never imagined taking before and with speed. I'm excited for when I am really used to this bike and really start shredding things - I'm so excited for summer!
I'm only 5'4
Hightower LT is finally here!
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
In early 2016 Santa Cruz released the revolutionary Hightower which quickly became one of their best sellers. The Hightower was versatile and could accept both 29” and 27.5+ wheel configurations. Many people found the 29er version to be a fast, highly capable trail-slayer. Soon there was demand for a more aggressive version of the bike as evidenced by many riders attempt at long-shocking their Hightower’s to get more rear travel (a modification not recommended by Santa Cruz). Enter the new Hightower LT- a bike that heeds the rider’s call for a more aggressive machine. The Hightower LT utilizes a new rear triangle and linkage with the same front triangle, yielding 150mm of travel with a longer wheelbase and slacker geometry. One thing worth noting: the Hightower LT does not accept 27.5+ wheels and tires- it’s 29er only.
I’ve been riding the original Hightower for the past 8 months. That bike has helped make me a faster rider both up and down the mountain not to mention it’s an absolute blast to ride. I enjoy the rolling speed of the 29” wheels and Santa Cruz nailed the geometry with an ideal balance between high-speed stability and nimble handling. When the shiny new Hightower LT showed up at our office I was eager to take it out on my favorite gravity-focused Park City trails. I noticed right away that the new LT was noticeably more composed on high speed sections, rough trails and descents. It provided some extra stability in places where the shorter travel Hightower felt slightly under-gunned, without sacrificing much of the nimble handling. It felt like it climbed almost as well as my Hightower, though you do notice the longer wheelbase.
Nevertheless, this bike is no slouch on the uphills and I have no doubt that it can handle all day cross-country rides involving significant climbing.
It’s worth mentioning the perks of purchasing a Santa Cruz bike. You get a lifetime warranty with free lifetime bearing replacement for the original owner. You also get a threaded bottom bracket which means easier serviceability and reduced creaking compared to PressFit BB’s. The frames have molded tubes for internal cable routing which makes the cable routing process a lot easier, no need to fish for cables inside the frame. Santa Cruz frames are built to last and have held up better for me than other brands. It’s a bike you can ride hard, put away dirty, and not feel bad about it. New for 2018 Santa Cruz is offering their house brand of carbon wheels called Santa Cruz Reserve. They are available on certain builds.
Who is the ideal rider for the Hightower LT? Riders that want a capable 29er all-mountain bike that won’t hold them back when the going gets rough. Riders looking for a bike that is comfortable enough to pedal around all day but won’t shy away from the gnarliest trails. If you are focused on speed and live for the descents this bike could be your best friend. If you do any Enduro racing this bike would be a great choice. Why would you choose something like this over the Bronson or Nomad? Well that would depend on your preference between 29” and 27.5” wheels.
If you have any questions or want to see if this is the right bike for you, call me at 801 736 6396 ext. 4801 or shoot me an email at email@example.com. I’m happy to answer questions or have a discussion on this bike.
Hightower Goes Full Enduro
Here is the other color for the new Hightower LT - Gloss Slate/White.
A true weapon for the trail
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
When the Santa Cruz Hightower first stormed onto the market there weren’t many bikes as capable as it. Offering the capability of 29” or 27.5” plus wheels riders could choose the configuration that was best suited to their local trail. With 135mm of VPP travel, the Hightower was ready for just about any trail you might encounter. But for a few riders, the versatility and capability of the Hightower wasn’t enough.
Rumors spread that the Santa Cruz Factory Enduro riders were racing atop a customized Hightower. People speculated that the Hightower they were riding was fitted with custom VPP links, allowing for more travel. It seems those rumors were true. Santa Cruz now offers a Hightower LT, which promises to be the fastest and most capable 29er in their lineup.
So what’s changed, and how does the bike ride? First off, the Hightower LT is fitted with 150mm of travel front and rear, ensuring it’s capable enough for any trail you may encounter. The head tube angle has been slackened causing the bike to be more stable at higher speeds. The rear shock tuning has been updated, and now enables the LT to rider higher in its travel. This means the LT’s suspension is suppler off the top end and offers impressive small bump compliance.
I was lucky enough to ride the Hightower LT before it launched. When pedaling, I noticed it was eager to climb and it carried speed well through the flatter sections of trail. Wanting to give the LT a full test, I rode it down a downhill trail in Park City. This bike navigated the steep, loose, and rough sections of trail with ease, and the Fox suspension soaked up all trail chatter. Large brake bumps, roots, rocks, and ruts couldn’t upset it. The bike was happy at high speeds, and it stayed composed over rough sections of trail. The bottom bracket height has increased 1mm reducing pedal strikes. I noticed I sat slightly higher up on the Hightower LT when compared to the Hightower, but cornering wasn’t negatively affected.
The XX1 Reserve build is the cream of the crop. Truly, this bike is fitted with the best money can buy. XX1 Eagle components are light weight, durable, and the shift quality is second to none. Rolling on Santa Cruz’s new Reserve Carbon Wheels the bike feels nimble and spritely. I found the wheels were the perfect combination of stiff, light weight, and compliant. These new wheels are promising, and if they hold up like Santa Cruz’s carbon frames then durability won’t be a concern.
After riding this bike I’ve concluded it’s the ideal weapon for a privateer endure racer; someone who is looking for a stable, quick, durable, and easy to maintain bike. With free bearing replacement for life and a lifetime warranty, this bike is perfect for someone who loves to ride fast and go big.
Pedals well for a long travel bike
Fox suspension is buttery smooth
XX1 Eagle Components and Reserve Carbon Wheels
Handles rough trails with ease
Fast and light weight
Lifetime warranty and free bearing replacement for life
It’s a lot of coin, but there are several more budget friendly options
Have questions about the LT? Contact me directly.
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 801-736-6396 ext 4999
What size is the rear shock, and is it Metric compatible?
Hey GrooveNinja - The FOX Float Factory DPX2 Kashima rear shock has 150 mm of travel and is available in both imperial and metric sizing from FOX. I will have to check with Santa Cruz to see which one comes stock on the Hightower LT. Feel free to contact me directly with any additional questions.
- Kyle L. - Expert Gearhead - email@example.com - 801-736-4337
The shock size is 7.875 x 2.25 for the new LT and 7.875 x 2 for the original Hightower.
Let me know if I can answer any other questions!