New Bike Day: 2018 Santa Cruz Hightower LT


I've been a fan of Santa Cruz bikes since I worked as a bike shop mechanic in the late 90's. But the idea of owning one (as a high school kid) never seemed like a reality. At that time spending $2,000 or more on a bike seemed crazy to me (although in 2019 it seems like a steal, with modern bike price tags easily exceeding $10,000). So at 16 years old, I took advantage of my employee discount and bought more reasonable bike. A 1999 GT XCR3000 was my first full suspension bike. And I was super proud of it - iDrive and all. Then, later I rode a 2003 Giant AC-2 that I bought used in 2008. I had that bike for a solid 10 years and it was still in great shape - kudos to Giant, but I just wanted something a bit more modern. Even within the past 5 years, mountain bike technology has progressed leaps and bounds. From the widespread adoption of 1X drivetrains, to the recent wheel size debate, to the modern long and low geometries, mountain bike technology has come a long way.

Then, during a recent trip to Jackson, WY, I had some time to check out the Jackson Hole bike park, and I wasn't super excited about the on-site bike rentals. I found an awesome shop in town called Hoback Sports which demos Santa Cruz (among others). So I got set up on a 2018 Hightower LT demo (with awesome rental helmet too... ew.)

It was the C S build and I think it changed my life. I ended up demoing it for 2 days because I was having so much fun in the bike park. Anyways, I rode every trail in the park multiple times and the seed was planted.

A few months later, as a birthday treat, I found a local shop near my home in Southern California called The Path (awesome shop) and demoed a regular Hightower for a day. It was a CC X01 build with Reserve carbon wheels. Definitely out of my price range, but I wanted to get a feel for the 135mm travel option. For a few hours I roamed the nearby trails of Santiago Oaks Regional Park with a giant grin on my face. At this point I was seriously considering buying a new mountain bike for myself, and I wanted to ride at least a couple of different bikes before making the purchase.

I have to say that the Hightower was a really awesome trail bike, but I did notice a pretty big difference compared to its LT (long-travel, 150mm) counterpart. I didn't think a 15mm difference in front and rear travel could make that big a difference, but I was wrong. On the regular Hightower, I felt that I really wanted that extra bit of travel. After this demo, I was pretty set on the Hightower LT as my next bike.

Next came the mental gymnastics of trying to justify the price tag.

Santa Cruz offers several tiers of builds including options for mid to high end components, low and high grade carbon, as well as alloy or carbon wheels. After a LOT of obsessing and a LOT of waffling, I finally decided on the C R build, which is the lowest priced carbon option at a mere $3999 for the newest model year. Then, being the savvy bargain hunter that I am, I started searching for deals. None to be found for the brand new 2019 version. But... The 2019s had just been released and I noticed that many retailers were trying to offload the 2018 models, sometimes at a discount. A certain online retailer was offering the 2018 Hightower LT (HTLT) for 10% off, reducing the 2018 HTLT C R $3899 price to about $3500. Not too bad. But I still had cold feet about dropping $3500 on a shiny new bike and continued to waffle on it for another couple of weeks.

I was getting pretty close to pulling the trigger on it at a 10% discount, when one morning I got an email notice saying select Santa Cruz bikes 20% off. My heart raced as I checked to see if the 2018 HTLT was one of them. It was. Did they have a Medium frame in stock? They did. Did they have it in the wicklow green? They did. Was it really marked down 20% to under $3200? It was.

I had never been so happy to drop $3200 in one shot.

Three days later Christmas came early:

I built it up the next day and the rest is history.

Happy riding!


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