At a glance
Santa Cruz is probably best known for its iconic Syndicate Team and V-10 downhill machine. Still, their offering of high end XC, enduro and all mountain bikes can compete with the biggest brands in the industry. We took the Hightower for a spin during the Backside Bikes test day in Verbier, Switzerland. With such a short time on the bike, you cannot call this a full on test, but I wanted to share my first impression of this bike anyway.Buy Trail Bikes on
About the brand
Santa Cruz was founded in 1993 by Rich Novak, Mike Marquez and Rob Roskopp. Rob was a former pro skateboarder and had a signature model with Rich’s skateboard company Santa Cruz. The two went into a partnership with Mike who had experience in bicycle suspension. Together with Tom Morris they developed the first Santa Cruz mountain bikes.
In 1999 they purchased the patents for Outland bikes’ VPP suspension design, and in 2015 the company was bought by the Dutch PON group, who also owns Gazelle, Cervelo and Focus. Currently the Santa Cruz frames are made in Asia. Frames are then shipped to their assembly location in Santa Cruz USA, before being shipped out to the clients.
They offer a lifetime warranty on manufacturing and workmanship errors, and interestingly enough a lifetime warranty on bearings. They also support local trail building initiatives with their Pay Dirt program. You can submit a project and get a grant from Santa Cruz in order to build more trails.
Sadly, on their website there is nothing to be found on sustainability, how they plan to limit waste, or other environmental issues.
The bike tested is the Santa Cruz Tallboy CC X01 in size XL. It has 120mm travel in the rear and 130mm travel in the front. Specced with a Rock Shox Pike Ultimate fork and a Fox Float Factory shocks. Drivetrain is a Sram X01 Eagle with the XG1295 cassette. Sram G2 brakes tried their best at slowing you down, while the X1 Eagle Carbon crankset was there to transfer your leg power to the back wheel. Maxxis Minion tires on DT swiss wheels made the bike complete. Nice touch was the Burgtec stem, a bit of a shame to find Santa Cruz’ own carbon bars on there.
The bike has a flip chip to change suspension characteristics and geometry, as well as an adjustable dropout which enables you to lengthen or shorten your chainstay by 10mm. This bike retails for 8399 Euro but there are various other models available starting at 3199 Euro.
Out on the trail
As our time was limited on this bike, we skipped most of the climbing and went straight up with the chairlift to the red bike park trail in Verbier. In the short bursts of climbing we did do, the bike handled ok. It’s not a XC race machine at all, but you’ll get there.
Once you point this beast in the right direction however, it’s easily forgotten that this bike only has 120/130mm of travel. The long top tube feels spot on, and really helps you rail the corners, while the 65.5 degree head angle let’s you take on the steep stuff. Don’t get me wrong, the bike’s travel certainly doesn’t feel bottomless (I definitely found the bottom on some occasions), but it is nice and progressive. The geometry is the bit that makes this bike ask for more on the descents.
With my 1.88m the XL fitted me perfectly. Going through rock gardens and on the jumps the bike felt really well balanced. Cornering was a joy too, especially medium radius bermed corners made the bike feel very stable. I never had to shift my weight or make any mid turn balance adjustments.
Component wise, you can’t really fault the setup. Eagle X01 is a great groupset, and although I am not a huge fan of Sram brakes, these G2 RSC’s didn’t give me any trouble out on the trail. Bike setup was smooth and it’s easy to balance the front and rear shocks. Reading your sag on the shock is a bit of a fiddle, but that's the price to pay for the Santa’s suspension design. On the good side, you can fit a full size water bottle on it even on the smaller sizes
The Tallboy is definitely a bad influence. It’s the type of friend that encourages you to go bigger, further and higher. We were quite sad that we had to return the ride after just a morning out on the hill. But in the few runs we did, we could tell the bike handles superbly, and really encouraged us to let ‘er rip. This isn’t the ideal bike for razzing round alpine bike parks and doing gap jumps, the Tallboy is the perfect ride for those that pedal up with the aim to enjoy the descents.Buy Trail Bikes on
This review was in Issue 66 of IMB.For more information visit Santa Cruz Bicycles
By Jarno HooglandJarno's life has revolved around two wheels ever since he swung a leg over his first BMX at age 4. After a BMX and DH racing career, he moved on to work for bike shops, distributors and brands before ending up in the editors seat at IMB. Based in the ultimate testing ground in the Swiss mountains, he runs his guiding operation and makes sure every IMB issue is filled with top notch content.