Raise The Bar
If big wheels and high speeds are what you’re after, the Enduro World Series-bred Santa Cruz Hightower LT CC X01 Reserve complete mountain bike is a truly worthy steed. Building on the legacy of the critically acclaimed Hightower, the longer travel Hightower LT blends the handling required to be competitive come race day with a playful side that remains inspiring when conditions are somewhat less demanding.
Where the 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 World Series 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 Plus 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, courtesy of a flip chip, in favor of a fixed position upper link that’s been updated to provide the aggressive feel demanded by some of the fastest enduro racers on earth.
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, its 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 have been 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.
Of course, this build of the Hightower LT includes some of the finest components available. It begins with a worthy suspension package, courtesy Fox. The fork is a 36 FLOAT FIT4 Performance Elite unit, paired with the FLOAT DPX2 Performance Elite air shock. This setup offers an incredibly supple stroke, easy on-the-fly adjustments, and a superior range of tuning options that allow both savvy suspension tuners and those less fussy about their setups to achieve exceptional feel with a minimum of effort. SRAM’s phenomenal X01 Eagle 12 speed groupset provides the gear range necessary to tackle huge rides, while the Guide RSC brakes deliver the control and modulation necessary for negotiating technical sections of trail at blinding speed. The Rockshox Reverb dropper post enables the necessary on-the-fly saddle height adjustment, while the Santa Cruz carbon fiber handlebar offers a perfectly tuned balance of stiffness and flex that simply surpasses many of the best aftermarket carbon fiber handlebars available.
And perhaps most exciting, this version of the LT rolls on Santa Cruz’s Reserve carbon rims, laced to a DT Swiss 350 hubset. The Reserve rims showcase Santa Cruz’s carbon fiber expertise, with a highly refined profile and reinforced nipple beads that nearly eliminate any chance of failure. And should you defy those odds, the Reserve rims are backed by a no-nonsense lifetime warranty, just like Santa Cruz’s carbon fiber frames.
- Enduro World Series inspired ride for control at flat-out speeds
- 6in VPP travel tuned for extra bottom-out resistance
- 74-degree seat tube angle optimizes pedaling efficiency
- Longer reach shifts weight forward for better traction
- Carbon CC frame saves weight without sacrificing strength
- X01 Eagle drivetrain and Santa Cruz Reserve 30 AM Carbon Wheels