Santa Cruz Hightower LT – Review

November 12, 2017 MTB Enthusiasts of Utah

If you’re at all familiar with the original Hightower this beauty is going to look wildly familiar, and for good reason.   Other than some minor tweaks to the rear triangle, post mount brakes, 15mm additional rear travel and some hot new paint the bike is all but the same, which is a very, very good thing.   I had been on the original Hightower for going on 6 months prior to owning the LT and couldn’t wait to get on this steed to compare the two.


I went with the X01 Reserve build through Guthrie Bikes.  I upgraded to a Factory X2 with climb switch out back and a Factory Fox 36 Rc2 set at 160mm.  This is pretty much the exact setup I had on my original Hightower.  I wanted these dialed with similar setups to compare any differences.

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Ride Impressions:

When I first stepped on the LT the bike felt pretty much exactly the same as the original Hightower.  It felt like home.  I headed over to Corner Canyon to ride Jacobs Ladder, which is my go-to every time I get a new steed.  It’s a good climb, fun descent and makes for a decent baseline for a new bike.

Halfway up the first climb I continued to have the same thoughts, this is the same bike.  No change.  Which, like I mentioned before is a very good thing!  Then I got to the descent.  The LT likes to party.  The original Hightower held it’s own, but the additional 15mm of travel on the LT was definitely noticed and welcomed.  Call it what you want, bottomless, plush, all I know is it was welcomed and I wanted more of it.   It was one of those rides where you get to the bottom and think to yourself how bad ass mountain biking is.  Then the data nerd in me looked at my stats and I realized I PR’d a majority of my climbs and decent.  New bike high?  Maybe.

Over the next couple of months I put the LT through it’s paces, logging several hundred miles on the tame trails in Corner Canyon, somewhat rowdy trails in Park City and the technical trails of St. George – the LT held it’s own.  Even after several ~30 mile rides with decent climbs I was incredibly surprised by how versatile it is.   You can take this bike anywhere.   One of my first high-end mountain bikes was an aluminum Bronson back in 2013.  I loved that thing and to this day it’s one of my favorites.  This bike reminds me of that, but the added 29 wheels turns this in to a bit rowdier of a steed.

I should note a couple months before putting a leg over the LT, I demoed the new Nomad 4.   What a mistake that was – I had to have it and bought it the next day.  Best mistake I ever made.  It was fun riding the Nomad back to back with the LT.  While I’d give the LT the upper hand on climbs, the Nomad was extremely manageable.  Downhill the Nomad takes the fun factor 8 days a week, but numbers don’t lie.  The LT is a pure-bread race bike and took the time trial wins the majority of the time.  More on the Nomad coming soon.

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I’m sure some of you are wondering what the consensus on the Reserve Wheels are.  I had them both on the LT and Nomad.   I’ve been on them all, ENVE, Ibis, Nobl, etc.  I think the selling point on the reserve wheels was when I smashed a square edge at mach chicken, blew the tire, but not even a blemish on the wheels.  I was probably running less pressure than I should have.  One of these impatient moments where you forget to check pressures.  Reserve wheels don’t care – they held up like champs.  I could really go on longer here, but let me just reference you to the Danny Mascaskill video where he ‘tests’ them.

Final Take:

If you’re looking to consolidate your herd of bikes and want a one bike quiver then you really should take a spin on the LT.   It’ll take you anywhere you want to go and even some places you probably shouldn’t go.  Like I experienced on my first run, hopefully you’ll be reminded how bad ass mountain biking is.

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