At a glance
Santa Cruz are head and shoulders above the crowd at the moment, yes they are quite literally Tallboy… I’ll get my coat!Buy Trail Bikes on
They do however, seem to be producing some of the very best bikes in several categories right now and their Tallboy C has been getting some pretty rave reviews.
Whilst it would be great if we could all afford uber carbon bikes Santa Cruz have recognised that the average mountain biker is on a budget.
So here we have the big wheeled Tallboy Alloy, a bargain at some £650 cheaper than the carbon version, although that is just on the cost of the frame, the weight penalty to be paid for that saving of approximately 1.5lbs.
Enough talk… Let’s ride.
The alloy frame is heavier than the carbon but it is not heavy in the scheme of things at 6.6lbs with shock and it is stiff and we would rather have a little extra weight than a flexible frame.
There is 104mm of VPP suspension, the lower link has grease ports and angular contact bearings, the upper link also sports contact bearings and all axles are oversized, the head tube is tapered.
Our medium test bike came in SPX XC spec and was running a Fox 32 F29 100mm up front and the upgrade option Fox RP23 out back.
Drivetrain is Shimano XT including the triple chainset up front. Braking is handled by Avid CR with 160mm rotors. There is a mixture of finishing kit, all good stuff from the likes of Easton, WTB and Thompson. Tyres are once again Maxxis Crossmarks and they have performed well throughout.
Our medium sized test bike weighed in at 28.1lbs on our scales.
On the trail
The sensation of being on a sorted bit of kit came through on the first section of trail, a big ummph a la required for getting a 29’er moving and the bike leapt into life. With speed established and a high cadence set the smoothness of the ride surprised me and the grip through the corners was quite bemusing, it was just so easy to go fast and as I went up through the gears it just got better and better.
Now before we go getting all carried away and letting the excitement of riding a jolly good bike go to our heads it is fair to say that there are some draw backs to running big wheels.
They do need either explosive power or slick gear changes to accelerate rapidly and there is a weight penalty that may bother the weight watchers amongst us. Steering through tight and twisty singletrack will never quite match that of a pin sharp 26’er and for the time being at least the format is restricted to shorter travel bikes and hardtails
Ok, we can go back to being carried away now.
The Tallboy is a stiff frame and power transfer is solid and reasonably responsive which makes dealing with the acceleration problem less of an issue than it might be, we learnt that if we were about to lose momentum we would go down a gear as we braked into the corner or entered the rough section so it is something you will adapt to. The Santa Cruz has not only got suspension both ends but it has good suspension at both ends, this helps carry that all important speed into and through corners and rough sections and we found ourselves thoroughly enjoying working the topography to gain momentum which this bike does with aplomb.
The geometry on the Tallboy is beautifully balance and the bike felt nimble and fun. Manuals and bunny hops were surprising easy to perform and we soon found ourselves popping and flicking down the trails. Cornering is good even in tight turns, there can be a tendency to run wide if steering around a corner but cranking the bars over bought the best out of the bike as that big contact patch just digs in and finds plenty of traction.
With the 100mm fork up front the Tallboy has a slight inclination to lift its head when going up the steep stuff but a bit of work on technique soon deals with the issue.
With gravity on your side it is fabulous fun to fly down the trails, rough sections can be manualled and swooping corners taken flat out.
Be warned though that this is still a 100mm travel bike.
It is often said that 29’er 100mm bikes feel like longer travel bikes and whilst they do ‘feel’ smooth it is a different thing to having more travel. Square edge hits and drop offs require travel as well as a wheels natural rolling ability, so do not think you can bludgeon your way through rock gardens and take on 6’ drops as the lack of travel will punish you.
The Tallboy is a superb ride, it has a poise and balance that enables it to feel smooth and almost calming, yet it encourages you to have fun.
Speed comes as standard and the grip will make you think you can corner like Valentino Rossi which you will be able to!
The only things you can say against the Santa Cruz are related to the negatives that come as part of the 29’er package.
There is added weight, handling is a touch slow and you need to learn to keep momentum.
All of these things are reduced to near irrelevance with the Tallboy as Santa Cruz have hit just the right note and time spent on the bike will mean you will adjust and forget them pretty quickly.
It is simple really, if you ride fast swoopy trails, love long XC rides but still like to ride more technical trails from time to time then the Tallboy would make a wonderful companion.
It is sensationally fast and fun yet somehow calming and relaxed and one thing is for sure, there is no way your mates will keep up with you… in short you will stand Tallboy… No really, where is my coat.Buy Trail Bikes on
This review was in Issue 12 of IMB.For more information visit Santa Cruz Bicycles
By Nigel GarroodNigel Garrood was one of the instigators of the IMB project and has been with us since the very beginning. This loveable rogue has more stories than the Bible and is known to enjoy a beer or two. On the bike, he’s fast and loose and often puts younger riders to shame. Equally he’s been known to suffer from the odd crash and carries the scars to prove it. He was once referred to as being a robot sent from the future to save us all!