Ain't no tower high enough.
Santa Cruz blessed us with the Hightower early on in 2016. A bike to rival the Bronson, though with less travel, the 27.5+ compatible 29er captured the hearts of many riders. So, why change it? Because, while quite capable with 135mm of travel, the designers for Santa Cruz, and many of their pro riders, live life with the belief that more of a good thing is probably better. With their new Hightower LT Carbon CC mountain bike frame, Santa Cruz has shown us that more can indeed be better. Six inches of supple VPP suspension gives you the squish you were missing from the standard Hightower, so you're ready to gobble up rock gardens and race down mountains like nobody's business.
The industry has viewed 29ers with a mixture of love and hate over the past decade, but recently, with more reliable, stable, and confidence inspiring bikes being released with 29in wheels, we're finding that more riders are growing to love the lower rolling resistance and ability to cover more ground with each pedal stroke. That's especially evident in all-mountain and enduro circles. Given that changing preference, we weren't surprised that Santa Cruz followed up the XC-hungry Tallboy with the Hightower, effectively ushering 29ers into the world of enduro, and we're stoked to see the addition of a long travel 29er to the menu. While the Hightower was well loved for its increased rolling speed and ability to roll over rocks that would have deflected you off of the trail on a smaller wheel, some of the gnarlier riders found that its 135mm of suspension wasn't enough to keep up high speed in super rough terrain, thus the 150mm Hightower LT was born.
The Hightower LT doesn't stray terribly far from the standard Hightower in overall geometry. In fact, they share the same front triangle all together. 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 is a relatively obvious way to change 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 new FOX Float Factory DPX Kashima coated rear shock is paired with the most up to date iteration of VPP to dial in more mid-stroke support, so you don't have to worry about sinking through all of your travel too quickly when sending it down rock gardens or big drops. 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 received a miniscule 2mm stretch 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 generous 2.5in tire, enabling a substantial amount of rubber to keep contact to the ground, so you don't need to worry about getting squirly on shale and blown out corners.
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 experience and trial and error have produced a meticulous method for one-piece carbon layups using unidirectional carbon to reduce excess material in overlapping joints. The front triangle is assembled as one piece together, rather than separate tubes bonded together in a mess of resin as an afterthought.
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.
- Santa Cruz's ultimate 29er for enduro schralping
- 6in travel maintains higher speeds on rougher trails
- New VPP linkage and swingarm for suspension that feels bottomless
- Slacker 66.4-degree head tube angle feels bombproof on descents
- CC level carbon for unmatched stiffness and decreased weight
- Designed for extreme riders who need more travel from their 29er enduro beast