|In the never ending effort to make the one bike fits all mountain bike Santa Cruz has come out with an improved (unless you don't like fun) version of its Hightower bike called the Hightower LT or Long Travel. This enhanced version of the Hightower comes with 150mm of travel front and rear compared to 135mm for the standard Hightower and takes a half a degree off the head tube angle to make it a little more slack at 66.4 degrees.
Other differences between the two include 29 inch wheels only for the LT and 29 or 27.5+ availability for the regular Hightower. The standard Hightower is available in 10 different kits while the LT only comes in 5 and each comes with its own unique set of 2 color choices. Both bikes come with the choice of Carbon C or Carbon CC frames. More on that later.
The Hightower LT is designed to be a bike that can take you up the hill and still let you bomb down rough terrain and not feel like your life is in danger. It shares the same front triangle with the standard Hightower but the reach is a little less and the head tube and seat tube angle are half a degree less. There is only 1 suspension setting compared to having 2 settings on the regular Hightower that can be changed by flipping the suspension chip around.
As for components there are way too many choices to list so we will talk about the big ones. Out of the 5 available build kits there are 4 different forks from the RockShox Revelation RC 150 to the FOX 36 F150 Factory fork. For the fork there are 3 choices, the FOX Float Performance DPS, FOX Float Performance Elite DPX and FOX Float Factory DPX Kashima. Cassette options consist of 9-46T, 10-42T and 10-50T. All models have SRAM brakes except the middle model that has Shimano XT M8000s. As for wheels the bottom end kit comes with WTB STP i29 TCS 29 wheels and the others come with a variation of the E13 TRS 30mm wheelset. All of the kits are setup tubeless with Maxxis Minion DHR 29x2.4 3c EXO TR tires.
Now back to that Carbon C and CC frame situation. There are 2 versions of carbon material that Santa Cruz makes the frame out of. The CC is their high grade carbon and weight .6 lb. less than the C frames. The goal was to make carbon options available to those who couldn't afford or didn't want to pay typical carbon bike prices.
Now for how the Hightower LT rides. We took out a few of the new Santa Cruz bikes including the Bronson and the 5010 and they all ride completely different. For example the Bronson was pretty unstable and difficult to climb with while the 5010 felt like it could accelerate up the hills with ease. The LT was kind of in the middle and climbed much better than the Bronson but still was not too spectacular when it comes to getting up the hills with ease. The Eagle drivetrain came in handy when it got really steep and so did the fact it was carbon and not too heavy. The Fox shock locked out nicely in the rear to avoid pedal bob and it was hard to tell if the 800mm bars helped or hurt the climb. I would kind of go with hurt it a little.
Coming down the hill was a whole lot different than going up. The LT is one of those point and shoot bikes where you just point it where you want to go and let er rip. It works better if you just plow a path over the rocks rather than try and navigate around them. The wide bars add more fun to the descent as well. The Bronson was a more playful bike on the decent but we think the LT can hit it just as fast. Plus the Bronson is a 27.5 bike where the 29er LT lets you crush rocks a little better. Both bikes have similar suspension components.
If you are thinking you want a 29er but don't want to sacrifice fun on the downhills then you may want to check out the Hightower LT. It may not be the bike to take on those 50 mile endurance rides but its definitely one to take to those Enduro races! It's the kind of bike that does everything pretty nicely but doesn't excel at one particular thing... its close though.