The Hightower LT was once a thing of legend. Often the bike chosen by talented-yet-modest local shredders, they’d be the first to gain every climb on long backcountry epics yet still find a way to edge out others on their long-travel enduro steeds at the bike park. At the time, it was slightly unusual to see a mid-travel 29er as such a capable rig, only because the Hightower LT was well ahead of its time. Now in an era when mid and long-travel 29ers rule the scene, the Hightower Carbon CC XX1 Reserve Mountain Bike has had a head start in its development, and has been engineered to the level of trail-mastery. Situated comfortably between the downcountry-minded Tallboy and the Enduro-bruiser that is the Megatower, the new Hightower is ready for absolutely anything that you can throw on it. Pedal it all day in rugged high-alpine terrain and you’ll dance through root-filled climbs to find yourself flying down technical ridges, all with a huge smile on your face. All-new geometry stretches the bike to thrive in rowdy terrain while integrated flip-chip technology allows for adjustable geometry to cater to different trails and riding styles. The lower linkage VPP brings technology from the Megatower to offer stable traction on the descent while simultaneously improving the way the rear-end tracks while climbing. Once you ride it, you’ll realize that it's ready for any downhill challenge yet still begs to be pedaled up for another lap once you're down.
Throughout Santa Cruz's lineup, 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. It remains as that, but as a more capable bike than before, stretching its reach out a 20mm (on sizes small through large), offering more room in the cockpit to play with, while a more relaxed head tube elevates confidence on the descent. The new head tube angle sits a full 1.5-degrees slacker than the previous Hightower in High mode, and 1.8-degrees slacker in low, stretching things out to power over bigger rocks and chunder than ever before. And while this stretched out cockpit can come at the cost of pedal efficiency, Santa Cruz designers mitigate sluggish climbing by moving the seat tube to a steeper angle, adding an additional 2.3-degrees in low setting, or 2.8-degrees in high. The results are a bike that's steeper and more capable than the LT, and with more pep in its step for tackling steep climbs than the previous Hightower.
The new Hightower amps up travel just a bit with 140mm of VPP suspension in the rear, and 150mm up front. This is combined with a new suspension design that takes cues from the Megatower and Nomad. Instead of relying on the upper-link driven design, the new Hightower enjoys the increased bump compliance, and glued-to-the-trail traction you'll experience from a lower-link mounted shock. This lower-link VPP platform is something that's previously been reserved just for gravity-fueled sleds, but we saw it grace the Bronson last year, stretching it into the enduro category for a feel that can tackle gnarlier steeps, and turn around to soar back up climbs. This means the new Hightower is more downhill capable than before, but without sacrificing it all when you set your quads on fire to earn your descent.
Santa Cruz combines the new lower-link suspension with flip-chip technology for adaptable geometry, so you can slacken things up for park laps with your crew, and steepen things, lifting the bottom bracket, and bringing in the head tube to a steeper angle for taking on all-out endurance backcountry expeditions, where every pedal stroke takes you further from the last cell tower, and you don't turn around until the sun is down, or you're out of water. The switch is easy to make with the turn of an Allen wrench, 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 for attacking climbs.
While changes have happened left and right on the Hightower, one thing remains a constant, and that's Santa Cruz's carbon frame construction, with its legendary strength and unwavering stiffness. This particular Hightower benefits from the top-shelf Carbon CC layup, which drops weight, thanks to its use of a higher-end carbon, resin, and manufacturing process that sheds grams without sacrificing an ounce of strength or stiffness. You can count on this lighter Carbon CC version to drop anywhere from 250-to-280-grams below the lower-spec Carbon C model, making it well worth the upgrade if you covet a lighter build.
This build of Hightower combines a finely tuned ensemble of cherry picked components, starting with the upgraded Santa Cruz Reserve 30 wheels, which provide all of the strength and stiffness benefits of carbon hoops. The 30mm internal width hosts lofty trail tires, so you can comfortably float on 2.4 - to - 2.5 - inch wide trail tires for gripping loose corners, and enjoying a bit of pneumatic suspension allotted from the loftier sizes. To bolster additional strength at the spoke face, these Reserve Carbon wheels are reinforced along the spoke nipple interface to prevent them from pulling through at high spoke tensions, and during aggressive riding. These crem-de-la-crem hoops are combined with SRAM's XX1 Eagle AXS 12-speed drivetrain for providing plenty of range on the days that tickle 5-digit ascent numbers, while a Rock Shox Ultimate suspension package cushions the biggest blows on the descents that follow.
- The beloved Hightower receives a nuanced redesign for insane capability
- 5.5 inches of plush suspension absorbs big hits and sequential impacts
- VPP lower-linkage tracks through uneven terrain without wavering
- XX1 AXS drivetrain supplies instantaneous feedback and a clean cockpit
- Flip-chip lets you adjust frame geometry to match your style of riding
- Carbon CC frame is the lightest in the line while feeling stiff and supportive
- Fox Factory Float 36 Fork offers buttery smooth Kashima-coated goodness