Santa Cruz Hightower LT: Let’s Play!

The 2018 version of Santa Cruz's legendary 2018 Hightower is fun, agile and leaves plenty of room for manoeuvre.

Myles Kelsey, Images by Rob Ward |

The 2018 Santa Cruz Hightower LT is the complete trail bike designed for everyone. Smart frame sizing and generous reach means that it’s a bike that can get up the hill efficiently but can be tweaked and adapted to any riding style for the glorious descents and tracks the bike is designed for.

Here’s the low down…


The VPP suspension system has been refined over the years yet still operates on the same basic fundamentals which keep the rear-end essentially functioning independently of the main frame via short linkages. The ride benefits of such a system include increased pedaling performance, efficiency over small bumps, square edges and a mild mannered ride under hard braking. There are a total of five different price points available and all enjoy a lifetime warranty on the frame and bearings.

The VPP system that Santa Cruz run on their bikes works incredibly well and this is the weird thing about this bike – on the climbs it feels like you are on a 120mm travel bike yet, when rolling flow trails, enduro lines and tame DH lines it feels more like a 160mm bike.

The ride is playful, agile and incredibly confidence inspiring. It’s not a nervous ride.


Santa Cruz takes rider feedback seriously and this is evident in the attention which has been given to the frame sizing. The combination of a generous reach, genre appropriate wheelbase, low BB, short seat tube and short headtube across the five size curves on offer, means that riders can run seats and bars slammed without having to cramp into a smaller reach.

This thought process and approach to frame sizing is something a lot of other manufacturers are seemingly slower to adopt and is one of the reasons I really liked the ride – it just fits so well!

The benefits of ample reach means the pilot has a lot of room to move around and manipulate the bike on the trail. This extra space ensures there is never too much weight over the front or too much hanging off the back and keeps things pinned on the trail.

In terms of aesthetics Santa Cruz score a cool 10 with this Hightower LT. The compact frame layout, tidy shock linkage, neat cable routing, sassy colourways and smooth lines are a work of art. Be warned, water bottle space is tight on this bike but that just means more post-ride beers are on the cards.

Santa Cruz Hightower


Despite repeated protest from the Santa Cruz HQ I held on to the bike for a month so I could thrash it around our favourite local flow trails and tame DH runs alike. A bike is the sum of its parts and when the geometry, kinematics, damping and components are on point they yield an amazing ride. This was the case with our test bike.

The top-of-the-line Fox damping front and rear is nothing short of being exceptional

The top-of-the-line Fox damping front and rear is nothing short of being exceptional, providing support throughout the travel to pop off of obstacles or hold a line through off-camber rocky turns alike. The bike does not wallow deep into its travel in high speed bermed turns, or on the take-off of jumps, meaning minimal rider input is required to manage things when in the gnar. I boosted some big jumps during this test and one of them, in Tokai, I hit at around 50kph and easily landed 13m from the take off.

This bike is not only strong, it has a nice progressive feel to the suspension so I never felt any end of travel bottom out. Also worth noting is just how quickly the bike settled after these big hits. The high quality suspension, with good kinematics at play, kept my confidence up to keep flying down the trail. In terms of suspension settings I went a little quicker with the rear rebound settings which gave a little more pop over the jumps, kept the bike rolling marginally quicker down the trail and made the ride a little more active everywhere.

Santa Cruz Hightower



An entry level Hightower Carbon C frame with a Rockshox Revelation RC 150 fork, Fox Float Performance DPS shock, SRAM NX drivetrain, Race Face bar and stem comes in at a coolish R72 495. I have ridden those parts on various bikes and can attest to their capability.

On the other end of the price point scale the top-of-the-range Hightower LT Carbon CC frame with SRAM XX1 Eagle, Fox 36 F150 Factory fork, Fox DPX Kashima shock, SRAM Guide Ultimate brakes, Reserve Carbon 30 rims, I9 hubs, Santa Cruz carbon bars comes in at a hot R170 995.

At the time, when we reached out to Santa Cruz for a large Hightower LT to test, they were in between shipments on size and so we were sent a custom-specced bike to ride. The build kit on our test bike was pretty much close to their top option with cSixx carbon wheels, bars, chain ring and chain guide, SRAM XX1 / XO drivetrain, SRAM Code brakes, complete with the Fox Transfer dropper post, Fox Factory Kashima FIT 160mm fork and the Fox X2 rear shock.

The Take Out

For prospective buyers, who are considering a Hightower or Hightower LT, you should know that the LT is built for enduro racing. But due to the light weight and pedal efficiency of this bike it’s undoubtedly also suitable for trail riding too.

The 15mm more travel (read: more fun!) and slight geometry tweaks of the LT add versatility to this bike and you will never be caught wanting ‘more bike’ for trail rides and tame DH runs. Its an exciting bike! Did someone say beer?


The Numbers:

Size: Large, with 150mm fork

Weight: 13.2kg

Wheelbase: 1195mm

Seat Tube: 450mm

Head angle: 66.4

BB height: 338mm

Reach: 443mm

Chainstay: 438mm

About The Reviewer: Myles Kelsey is a former World Age Group Downhill Champion


READ MORE ON: santa cruz Santa Cruz Hightower trail Trail Bikes Trail Riding

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