Earlier today, Santa Cruz Bicycles officially pulled the covers off the Hightower LT, a 150mm version of the successful Hightower. We sat down with Brian Bernard, digital marketing manager at Santa Cruz, to get a few additional details on this new 29er all-mountain bike.
What has changed since the introduction of the Hightower in 2016 that led Santa Cruz to create the LT version?
Mark Scott gravitated toward one for racing the Enduro World Series because of the speed that the 29er holds. About halfway through the year, he came to us asking if we could get a bit more travel out of the bike — in really rough terrain he was getting slowed down a bit too much.
We developed the long-travel links for Mark and Iago Garay, and everyone wanted them — we knew there was demand for this kind of bike. At the same time, 29ers have become much more accepted in all disciplines of the sport (see 29er V10), and they’re being raced with success at every level.
Our initial plan was to create a long-travel link kit, but we couldn’t get the performance level we demand out of just a link set.
So what specific changes did Santa Cruz make to the Hightower in order to give it 15mm of additional travel and relax the geometry?
The swingarm, links and shock are all different. The extra length on the fork had the effect of slacking out the head and seat tube angles about a half-degree.
Will Santa Cruz offer upgrade kits so current Hightower owners can convert their bikes into Hightower LTs?
No plans to do this at this time.
All the Hightower LT builds come with 150mm forks. What length forks have team riders been using?
Mark and Iago both run 160mm RockShox Lyriks. The bike will ride best with a 150 or 160mm fork.
It seems that the industry may be reaching a significant turning point in mountain bike geometry — steeper seat tube angles, growing reach numbers, shorter fork offsets. Do you think it’s a fair assessment to say that Santa Cruz is playing it safe by converting the existing Hightower platform into a longer-travel model while seeing how trail/enduro geometry sorts itself out in the next year or two?
I’m not sure that’s completely accurate, but maybe it’s not completely inaccurate, either. I think what we’ve done is to take a platform that people really like and squeezed a bit more out of it to respond to the way people are riding and racing our bikes.
Almost from the get-go, racers were long-shocking Hightowers, which we don’t condone, and don’t feel is safe, but it was a good indication that people were hungry for more out of the all-mountain 29er category.
What advice would Santa Cruz give riders who might not be sure which way to go when choosing between the Hightower and the new Hightower LT?
I think the Hightower is very nearly the perfect all-around bike — it can take on just about anything, you can run plus tires if you want, and it wouldn’t be at all out of place on a long cross-country ride.
The LT is just more. More travel, longer fork, bigger tires and wider rims, and so on. It’s designed for big terrain, and, like any bike, gives up a bit of pedaling efficiency to get there. It also gives up the ability to run plus tires. If you’re a more gravity-oriented rider, the LT’s going to be the way to go.