Small changes, huge effect! Californian company Santa Cruz did not reinvent the wheel with the Santa Cruz Hightower LT – instead they optimized the existing model for even better downhill performance. The fact that this has paid off shows in the results of this comparison: 1st place!

For an overview of the test fleet head to the main article: Let’s go Racing! – The 10 fastest enduro bikes in test

The Santa Cruz Hightower LT is the more downhill-oriented version of the already famous Hightower. Thanks to a new rocker and a reworked rear linkage, the bike has 150 mm of travel instead of 135 mm and slightly slacker geometry. The front triangle, however, remains unchanged. Unlike the Hightower, the LT variant is not compatible with plus tires, but is optimized solely for the use of 29″ wheels. Alongside the brand new FOX DPX2 air shock fitted at the back of the Hightower LT, you’ve got Santa Cruz’s very own Reserve carbon rims. These offer a good compromise between stiffness and flex, and are quick to pick up speed. Unfortunately we had a pinch flat on the rear tire, however, which we had to patch with tire plugs. The rest of the components are high quality and well chosen, with the exception of the small 180 mm disc rotor up front – a monster bike like this needs the additional stopping power of a 200 mm rotor, especially on long descents.

Santa Cruz Hightower LT

Santa Cruz has done a great job of overhauling the rear linkage. Although it offers only 15 mm more travel, the rear suspension of the Hightower LT feels like it has much more. The shock reacts sensitively on small bumps, generates lots of traction, yet provides a high degree of feedback – perfect! Combined with the large wheels and the balanced geometry, the Hightower LT is a confidence-inspiring rig that stays composed and in control over and through the gnarliest rock gardens.

Santa Cruz Hightower LT Santa Cruz Hightower LT
Santa Cruz Hightower LT
Helmet Giro Switchblade | Goggle Oakley O-Frame | Shirt ION TRAZE_AMP | Shorts ION TRAZE_AMP | Shoes ION RASCAL

“Off the brakes and go” is the motto! Thanks to the rather short main frame (Reach 443 mm in size L), little effort is required to manoeuvre the Hightower LT through turns. In general, the Hightower LT gives a very light-footed impression and generates a lot of speed, even on flat sections. During sprints it quickly picks up pace and it climbs with ease, but the seat tube angle could have been somewhat steeper for climbs.

The Santa Cruz Hightower LT in Detail

Fork Fox 36 Float Factory 150 mm
Rear shock Fox DPX2 Factory 150 mm
Brakes SRAM Guide Ultimate
Drivetrain SRAM XX1 Eagle
Seat post RockShox Reverb Stealth
Stem Race Face Turbine R
Handlebar Santa Cruz Am Carbon Bar
Tires Maxxis Minion DHR II
Wheels Santa Cruz Reserve 3o Carbon
Price

€ 9,899

Santa Cruz Hightower LT
Revised
The new rocker gives the Hightower LT 15 mm more travel and a different progression curve. On the other hand, you won’t find a flip-chip on the Hightower.
Santa Cruz Hightower LT
Patched
The only flat we had was with the Santa Cruz Reserve carbon rims. With stiff carbon wheels the danger of snake bites increases – this is also the reason why most pros rely on alloy rims.
Santa Cruz Hightower LT
Too small
On a test track with a 170 meter drop over 1 kilometre, the brakes weren’t that important, but for steeper and longer stages, larger 200 mm rotors are a must.
Santa Cruz Hightower LT
Super tight
The tire clearance on the sides is good, but if you ran larger volume or a more aggressive tire with a bigger diameter, it could get very tight!

The geometry of the Santa Cruz Hightower LT3

Size S M L XL XXL
Seat tube 390 mm 420 mm 450 mm 490 mm 510 mm
Top tube 577 mm 605 mm 627 mm 653 mm 692 mm
Head angle 66,4° 66,4° 66,4° 66,4° 66,4°
Seat angle 73,7° 73,7° 73,7° 73,7° 73,7°
Chainstay 438 mm 438 mm 438 mm 438 mm 438 mm
BB Drop 32 mm 32 mm 32 mm 32 mm 32 mm
Wheelbase 1146 mm 1173 mm 1195 mm 1223 mm 1261 mm
Reach 398 mm 423 mm 443 mm 468 mm 498 mm
Stack 609 mm 614 mm 618 mm 628 mm 646 mm
Wheelsize 29″ 29″ 29″ 29″ 29″
Santa Cruz Hightower LT
The greatest asset of the Hightower LT is its enormous versatility. Potent enough for the hardest tracks, and at the same time fun in everyday use – we are in love!

Conclusion

The Santa Cruz Hightower LT is not only super fast, it’s a load of fun too! The acceleration is great, the handling in corners is very well balanced, and the rear suspension is in a class of its own. If you’re looking for a bike that is more than just fast, offering a more complete and rounded package, this is the bike! The price, here, is the only thing out of kilter.

Strengths

– composed and agile at the same time
– a lot of fun to ride
– brilliant suspension

Weaknesses

– price!
– carbon rim caused a pinch flat


For more information head to santacruzbicycles.com

The test fleet

For an overview of the test fleet head to the main article: Let’s go Racing! – The 10 fastest enduro bikes in test

All bikes in test: Canyon Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Team | Giant Reign Advanced 0 | Lapierre Spicy Team Ultimate | Nukeproof Mega 275 RS | Pole EVOLINK 140 29 | Rocky Mountain Altitude Carbon 90 | SCOTT Genius 900 Tuned 2018 | Specialized S-Works Enduro 29 | YT JEFFSY 27 CF Pro Race

Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer