Why We Like The Hightower Carbon C XT Reserve Mountain Bike
Positioned as the no-compromise trail-duro steed from Santa Cruz, the Hightower provides all-mountain capabilities with trail bike climbing characteristics. The modern geometry numbers and aggressive-but-not-overwhelming 145mm of rear travel make this rig ready for all-day excursions or technical descents—and everything in between. Now boasting VPP lower link suspension, it offers some flavor from its longer-travel siblings for a supple feel while charging unforgiving descents. We categorize the Hightower as Santa Cruz’s most capable bike, equally comfortable logging a few thousand vertical feet in the high-alpine as it is shredding the occasional day at the bike park.
The Hightower has long been known as a do-it-all trail bike, capable of backcountry endurance adventures in the Santa Cruz mountains, and fast laps at your local trail network when you need to hammer out as many post-workday miles as possible. The current generation remains as that, but is ultimately a more capable bike than before, stretching its reach out 20mm (on sizes small through large), offering more room in the cockpit to play with, along with a more relaxed 65.2-degree head tube that elevates confidence on the downhills. You might think this stretched-out cockpit comes at the cost of pedaling efficiency, but the Santa Cruz designers mitigate sluggish climbing by moving the seat tube to a steeper 76.7-degrees, putting you in a more comfortable position for tackling steep climbs and hammering out high-mileage days.
While previous versions of the Hightower used an upper-link VPP configuration, the current bike enjoys the increased bump compliance and glued-to-the-trail traction you'll only get with a lower-link mounted shock. This lower-link VPP platform is something that's previously been reserved for gravity-fueled sleds like the Nomad and Bronson but has slowly trickled down to the rest of Santa Cruz's lineup, the reason being that it simply rides better in every situation while also lowering the bike's center of gravity to ensure confident, predictable handling.
Santa Cruz combines the new lower-link suspension with flip-chip technology for adaptable geometry, allowing you to slacken things out for park laps with your crew, or steepen things up for taking on epic backcountry missions with thousands of feet of vertical gain. The switch is easy to make with the turn of a hex key, and changes the geometry quite significantly. The bike comes to you in Low mode, with a head tube angle that sits low and long at 65.2-degrees, perking up to 65.5 in High mode, while the seat tube angle shifts from 76.7 in Low, up to 77.1-degrees in High for a pedal-friendly position that's ready to attack the climbs.
One thing you can always count on with Santa Cruz is their legendary carbon layups, boasting next-level strength and unwavering stiffness in the face of rock rolls and root lattices. This particular bike utilizes Santa Cruz's Carbon C layup, which makes for a resoundingly stiff frame for swift acceleration and unflappable poise when you're pointing it down lines that question your confidence. It uses a bit more material than Santa Cruz's CC level top-tier carbon, which adds a touch of weight, but comes with some serious price savings that keep your bank account in mind so you can save your budget for a bike trip or two. The frame is backed by Santa Cruz's exceptional lifetime warranty, so you'll have extra peace of mind when you're pushing the edge of your limits.
*Due to unprecedented demand in the global supply chain and the bike industry over the last 18 months, material weight and exact components are subject to change. We are working diligently to keep tech specs updated, and any adjustments will be minor. If you have any questions, reach out to a Gearhead by chatting online or calling 1-888-276-7130.
- Santa Cruz's flagship 29in trail bike can handle any trail
- 145mm of rear travel eats up rocks, roots, and log rolls
- Lower-link driven suspension improves small bump compliance
- Long and low geometry increases stability on fast descents
- Steep seat tube angle boosts your pedaling efficiency
- Flip-chip lets you tune the geometry to match the terrain
- Carbon C frame is stiff, strong, and won't break the bank
- Shimano XT drivetrain, Fox Performance fork, Reserve carbon hoops