We've been in love with the Hightower since its release back in 2016, but with the constant progression that comes along with the bike industry, it doesn't take long for us to start nit picking details and dreaming up ways we think an outstanding bike can become outstanding-er. We know we can't be alone with the feelings of always pining for more, because Santa Cruz answered our dreams in just a year from the original Hightower's release with the new Santa Cruz Hightower LT Carbon CC 29 X01 Eagle complete mountain bike. With the increased suspension, the Hightower LT blew us out of the water with its true all-mountain and enduro capability, and paired with SRAM's generous gearing and smooth shifting of the X01 Eagle groupset, we're having a hard time thinking of a way to beat it.
Ultimately, the Hightower LT remains similar to the original Hightower in overall geometry. In fact, the two frames share the same front triangle altogether. The key changes are those 15 additional millimeters of travel and the head and seat tubes, both of which are half a degree slacker. While increasing the travel on the bike is a quick and easy way to spot the change in the way a bike rides, the most significant difference between the Hightower and the Hightower LT's geometry is seen in the rear triangle. It maintains the same dual-upright design as before, but saw a redesign in the linkage and a new swingarm, which proved to be necessary in order to keep the well-loved VPP characteristics present with the new rear shock.
The FOX Float Performance Elite DPX2 rear shock features a recirculating oil damper to enhance control, as well as a Dual Piston System with three on-the-fly settings to adapt to a wide variety of terrain. The DPS valve design offers full lockout without compromising bump compliance, ride control, or efficiency. FOX's EVOL linear spring curve gives forks and shocks plushness off the top, extra mid-stroke support, and more tunable bottom-out progression, allowing you to tap into the ideal pairing of front and rear-end feel. Plus, FOX's Kashima coating on the Float lends itself to unmatched smoothness as you (ahem) float through your travel without jolts and harsh snags.
The chainstays are stretched by a miniscule 2mm beyond the compact 435mm stays on the Hightower, so you won't have to worry about increased difficulty and strain on technical climbs full of big power moves. At 1mm higher when unloaded, the bottom bracket did see a small lift, but once sagged-out, the bottom bracket should sit even with or slightly lower than the bottom bracket of the Hightower. The flip chip present on the Hightower and Tallboy is lost on the LT, since the bike is intended to stay in race-ready geometry at all times and it's no longer built for 27.5+ wheels. While the shift away from plus compatibility may be alarming to some riders, plus wheels and tires currently lack the resilience that 29ers have when sending it through chunder, and Santa Cruz saw this flaw. Since the bike is intended for much more aggressive riding, it's critical to know that your tire won't burp under you if you need to hit a drop to flat. With that said, the bike is still able to roll with up to a 2.5in tire, enabling a substantial amount of rubber to keep contact to the ground, so you don't need to worry about getting squirrely on shale and blown out corners.
Santa Cruz chose to pair this particular build with SRAM's Eagle X01 groupset for precise shifting, light weight, and unsurpassed gear ratios. With a 10-50t cassette, you'll find you're well taken care of with most of the standard gearing you'd find on an 11-speed cassette, but with the extra generous 50t bailout cog. While it might remain largely unused for the majority of your riding, the bailout cog can be an ultimate lifesaver on long climbs where a 42t just doesn't offer you enough give to make it to the top. This particular build uses SRAM's GX eagle cassette, which was recently released as an alternative to X01 and XX1, it's slightly heavier but saves quite a bit on price.
Carbon construction has always been something that Santa Cruz has taken seriously, and it set the bar high with its CC level carbon. CC carbon frames are a full 250-280g lighter than their C level counterparts, so you can shed some extra weight while maintaining the same stiffness and durability you've learned to expect from Santa Cruz. Years of R&D experience have produced a meticulous method for one-piece carbon layups using unidirectional carbon to reduce excess material in overlapping joints.
This clean construction, done with an internal bladder that presses outwards against the mold while the carbon cures, also incorporates perfect ports for internal cable routing and running dropper posts, so routing is easy. Internal cable routing also makes for a bike that's easy to clean and maintain, with the perk of being aesthetically pleasing. In a testament to quality, Santa Cruz stands by its carbon construction with a lifetime warranty on the frame, which extends to the bearings in the linkage, so you can ride with confidence into new and rougher terrain.
- Go faster on rougher trails with 6in of travel
- 6in VPP linkage and swingarm for suspension that feels bottomless
- Feel bombproof on descents with slacker head tube angle
- Unmatched stiffness and super light weight from CC level carbon
- Eagle X01 groupset offers smooth shifting and unmatched gearing
- For extreme riders who need more travel from their 29er enduro sled