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Santa Cruz Tallboy D 29 2017 Review

An excellent all-around option for a rider who wants to attack a wide range of trail types.
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Price:  $2,699 List | $2,699.00 at Competitive Cyclist
Pros:  High fun-factor, super playful, rides like a longer travel bike
Cons:  Weak build kit
Manufacturer:   Santa Cruz
By Pat Donahue, Joshua Hutchens, Kurt Gensheimer, Kate Blake, Clark Tate  ⋅  Dec 13, 2017
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#21 of 27
  • Fun Factor - 25% 8
  • Downhill Performance - 35% 5
  • Climbing Performance - 35% 8
  • Ease of Maintenance - 5% 5

Our Verdict

The Santa Cruz Tallboy is a capable and efficient short-travel 29er. This redesigned 110mm bike provides nearly unrivaled downhill performance amongst 100-120mm travel bikes. In addition, the Tallboy maintains a spritely personality and high fun-factor. This bike has strong cornering abilities, allowing riders to pilot it aggressively with minimal effort. We credit the super short chainstays and a semi-slack head tube angle. Our testers give the Tallboy high marks for its climbing abilities, comfortable positioning, and efficiency. It is both confidence inspiring and playful on the trail. Our main complaint is the Tallboy D's build specification, which leaves a lot to be desired. We would upgrade to a dropper seatpost and a more adjustable fork. While $2,699 is a hefty price tag for a bike with sub-par components, the dialed frame design and stellar suspension design are top notch.

The 2019 Tallboy is virtually identical to the model we tested although it's now offered in different colors.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award   
Price $2,699.00 at Competitive Cyclist$5,099 List$4,899 List$4,409.00 at Competitive Cyclist$3,499 List
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Pros High fun-factor, super playful, rides like a longer travel bikeExcellent climber, aggressive geometry, rim/tire combinationLightweight, playful, well-rounded, modern geometry, solid component specificationExtremely well-rounded performance, confident and predictable descending, superb climbing abilitiesAffordable, nice component specification, lively, fast climber, lightweight
Cons Weak build kitExpensive, big impacts are less supportive, handlebars have too much backsweepNot a brawler, Fox 34 fork can be overwhelmedNot the most aggressive long-travel 29er, spendyNon-aggressive tires, steeper head tube angle, requires skilled pilot in rowdier terrain
Bottom Line An excellent all-around option for a rider who wants to attack a wide range of trail types.An aggressive 29er with geometry to get rad while retaining a sporty and nimble feelWe loved the old version, but believe it or not, the new Ibis Ripley is even better.A well-rounded enduro shredder that can serve as an excellent daily driver.The Canyon Neuron CF 8.0 is a lively, lightweight, mid-travel trail bike with an XC attitude.
Rating Categories Santa Cruz Tallboy D 29 Ibis Ripmo GX Ibis Ripley GX Eagle Santa Cruz Hightower LT XE Canyon Neuron CF 8.0
Fun Factor (25%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
Downhill Performance (35%)
10
0
5
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
6
Climbing Performance (35%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
9
Ease Of Maintenance (5%)
10
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5
10
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7
10
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7
10
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6
10
0
7
Specs Santa Cruz Tallboy... Ibis Ripmo GX Ibis Ripley GX Eagle Santa Cruz... Canyon Neuron CF 8.0
Wheel size 29" 29" 29" 29" 29"
Suspension & Travel Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) - 110mm DW-Link - 145mm DW-Link - 120mm Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) - 150mm Triple Phase Suspension - 130mm
Measured Weight (w/o pedals) 31 lbs 15 oz (Medium) 29 lbs 7 oz (Large) 28 lbs 14 oz (Large) 30 lbs 2 oz (Large) 28 lbs 10 oz (Large)
Fork RockShox Recon Silver RL 29 - 120mm, 32mm stanchions Fox 36 Performance - 160mm, 36mm stanchions Fox Float 34 Performance 130mm 34mm stanchions Fox 36 Performance Elite - 150mm, 36mm stanchions Fox 34 Rhythm 130mm 34mm stanchions
Shock Fox Float Performance DPS EVOL Fox DPX2 Performance Elite Fox Float Performance DPS EVOL Fox DPX2 Performance Elite Fox Float DPS Performance
Frame Material Aluminium Carbon Fiber Carbon Fiber Carbon Fiber "C" Carbon Fiber
Frame Size Medium Large Large Large Large
Frame Settings Flip Chip for 27.5+/29 Wheels N/A N/A N/A N/A
Available Sizes S-XXL S-XL S-XL S-XXL XS-XL
Wheelset WTB STP 23mm ID w/ Novatec Hubs Ibis 938 Aluminum Rims 34mm ID w/ Ibis Hubs Ibis 938 Aluminum Rims 34mm ID w/ Ibis Hubs E*Thirteen TRS+ Rims 29mm ID w/ Novatec Hubs DT Swiss M 1900, 30mm ID front and 25mm ID rear
Front Tire Maxxis Minion DHF EXO TR 29 x 2.3" Maxxis Minion DHF WT 29 x 2.5" Schwable Hans Dampf 2.6" Maxxis Minion DHR II 29 x 2.4" Maxxis Forekaster 2.35" EXO 3C Triple
Rear Tire Maxxis Crossmark EXO TR 29 x 2.25" Maxxis Aggressor WT 29 x 2.5" Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.6" Maxxis Minion DHR II 29 x 2.4" Maxxis Forekaster 2.35" EXO 3C Maxx Speed
Shifters SRAM NX SRAM GX Eagle SRAM GX Eagle Shimano XT SRAM GX Eagle
Rear Derailleur SRAM NX 11-Speed SRAM GX Eagle 12-Speed SRAM GX Eagle Shimano XT 11-Speed SRAM GX Eagle
Crankset RaceFace Aeffect 30t SRAM Descendant 30t SRAM Descendant Alloy 32T RaceFace Turbine 30t Truvativ Stylo 6K DUB 30T
Saddle WTB Volt Sport WTB Silverado WTB Silverado 142mm WTB Silverado Pro Iridium Trail
Seatpost Race Face Ride - Rigid 31.6mm KS LEV-SI-150mm Bike Yoke Revive 160mm RockShox Reverb Stealth - 150mm Iridium Dropper
Handlebar Race Face Ride Lo-Rise - 760mm Ibis Aluminum Bar - 780mm Ibis 780mm Alloy Santa Cruz Carbon - 800mm Iridium Flatbar
Stem Race Face Ride 50mm w/ 35.0mm Clamp Ibis 3D Forged Stem 50mm w/ 31.8mm Clamp Ibis 31.8mm 50mm RaceFace Aeffect R 50mm Iridium
Brakes SRAM Level Shimano Deore XT Shimano Deore 2 Piston Shimano XT M8000 SRAM Guide T
Measured Effective Top Tube (mm) 607 628 625 631 620
Measured Reach (mm) 426 473 475 453
Measured Head Tube Angle 67-degrees 65.8-degrees 66.5-degrees 66.0-degrees 67.1-degrees
Measured Seat Tube Angle 73.2-degrees 76.1-degrees 76.2-degrees 71.1-degrees 75.0-degrees
Measured Bottom Bracket Height (mm) 329 343 338 335
Measured Wheelbase (mm) 1151 1220 1210 1197 1196
Measured Chain Stay Length (mm) 436 436 434 444 442
Warranty Lifetime Seven Years Seven Years Lifetime Six years

Our Analysis and Test Results

April 2019
The 2019 Tallboy is unchanged aside from a new paintjob and some component tweaks and a slight bump in price to $2,699. Performance will not be heavily affected. We expect a redesigned Tallboy for the 2020 model year. April 2019.

Get sideways on the Santa Cruz Tallboy.
Get sideways on the Santa Cruz Tallboy.

Fun Factor


This Santa Cruz likes to party. Our testers unanimously agree this bike has the highest fun factor in the test due to its maneuverability, downhill prowess and obvious desire to be airborne. This bike is a prime example of the kind of modern geometry that can silence the 29er hate. Imagine monster truck wheels with rally car handling, and you have the newest iteration of the Tallboy.

If you are like most of the mountain bike world, you live for the downhills. Simply put, downhills are fun. The semi-slack head angle and stout chainstays result in a balanced bike that provides excellent stability, a stiff rear end, and optimal body positioning when attacking the descent. Testers agree the Tallboy is extremely comfortable in the air and inspires riders to seek out any roll, stump, or rock to launch. This bike is extremely wheelie friendly, inviting the test riders to manual or raise the front wheel often.

The most difficult part about riding the Tallboy is figuring out where to pull a manual and where to boost.
The most difficult part about riding the Tallboy is figuring out where to pull a manual and where to boost.

Santa Cruz outfitted this bike with the ultra-aggressive Maxxis Minion DHF Tire, allowing for maximum bite while leaning into corners. This reliable traction provides riders with the ability to carry speed through berms as well as flatter corners. Carrying additional speed through corners reduces the amount of pedaling required to get back up to speed to attack the next trail feature. Holding speed is crucial when it inherently takes more power to get the wagon wheels rolling from a standstill. Working smarter is fun, working harder is not.

Our testers agreed that the lack of a dropper seatpost is an enormous hindrance on the Tallboy. Not being able to move your seat out of the way when the going gets rough is nearly a cardinal sin in 2017. Also, testers feel the weight of this bike is tiresome on longer rides when bouncing and popping around almost 32 pounds of bike gets exhausting, tedious and sloppy.


The Tallboy is among the fun factor standouts. It's playful, but not nearly as spritely as the Ibis Ripley. Where the Ripley slices precise lines and willingly hops from one to the next, the Tallboy prefers to hold a steady trajectory. It's still maneuverable but has hints of an aggressive attitude. The aggressive Santa Cruz Hightower LT and Yeti SB5.5 score well for their jolly charging attitudes. longer travel Santa Cruz Hightower and Commencal Meta TR both score an 8 out of 10 for their more capable personalities.

This yellow speed wagon is not the least bit discouraged by steep or rowdy downhill.
This yellow speed wagon is not the least bit discouraged by steep or rowdy downhill.

Downhill Peformance


The Tallboy is a speed demon that attacks challenging trail features and gnar in a manner that no other test bike can. The Tallboy has the chops to charge technical trail features and provides the illusion that riders are piloting a burlier, more aggressive vessel. Wide open descents are stable, composed and fast. Unfortunately, the lack of a dropper post forces you into a more upright position than is desirable and prevents testers from charging this bike to its full potential.

While the power is adequate, testers didn't care for the cheap feel of the Sram Level brakes. We're being pretty picky here, the brakes functioned well enough when it was time to shut things down.

When pure speed is your idea of fun time, the Tallboy is an excellent option. This bike maintains its composure at high speeds and doesn't flinch when the gets got choppy. Testers find the Ibis Ripley to be a better option for those who seek a nimble feeling on tighter trails. Still, the Tallboy felt quick in all downhill sub-categories including getting up and over obstacles and fast cornering and exit speed.

The Tallboy has the ability to inspire confidence in riders and convince them to go faster.
The Tallboy has the ability to inspire confidence in riders and convince them to go faster.

Testers described the Tallboy as confidence-inspiring. It rides in a more aggressive manner than its 110mm of travel might suggest. Gone are the days where a bike's rear wheel travel determines the rowdiness of terrain it can handle. Traditionally, a bike equipped with 110mm of travel should be an XC race bike or super-light trail bike. This Santa Cruz defies that logic in a loud manner. Riders repeatedly stated that they would be comfortable taking the Tallboy on burlier all-mountain terrain without hesitation. A slacker head angle allows riders to aim it down steeper terrain without feeling like they will get ejected over the bars without notice. The lack of a dropper post seriously limits testers from comfortably cranking the speed to 11. The Maxxis DHF inspires serious confidence to attack the trail while keeping the front wheel out of trouble.

The Tallboy has sharp and precise handling. It responds well to rider input and continues to dispel the perception that 29ers handle like hot air balloons. Testers note that it's easy to get the front end up and over trail obstacles while the ultra-short chainstays encourage manuals and wheelies. Santa Cruz's VPP suspension, mated with the previously discussed Maxxis Minion DHF front tire, assures excellent traction. The bike feels grounded through chunkier terrain. The Maxxis Crossmark rear tire leaves something to be desired although testers state that it is largely a non-issue in our rather dry test conditions.


The Tallboy is in the middle of the bike pack for its downhill skills. It is very good for its travel range but doesn't come near the capabilities of some the longer-travel options. For more authoritative downhill skills in a 29er, check out the Hightower.

Comfortable  fast  and efficient. The Tallboy makes climbs decisively less painful.
Comfortable, fast, and efficient. The Tallboy makes climbs decisively less painful.

Climbing Performance


If it sounds like the Tallboy is a playful, downhill crushing vessel, that is correct. Santa Cruz also created one of the best climbing bikes in our trail bike review. This bike places climbers in a comfortable and efficient seated position, getting in and out of the saddle, and keeping your weight balanced while doing so, is effortless. The Tallboy doesn't require too much labor to punch it uphill or maneuver through switchbacks. Many bikes with slack head angles feel like the front end wants to wander if not properly weighted. The semi-slack Tallboy tracks well and allows the rider to relax and enjoy the burn on the ascent.

Multiple testers complained that the Maxxis Crossmark rear tire does not hook up well on loose, sandy climbings while out of the saddle. There is no worse feeling than being gassed near the top of a long climb and having your rear wheel spin loose. The lack of traction on the Crossmark would be a crippling issue in wetter and leafier locations. Swapping it out for another tire, say a Maxxis Minion DHR or High Roller II, is a relatively inexpensive upgrade with huge performance benefits. Multiple testers say that despite being the heaviest trail bike in our test, the extra heft was not often noticeable when climbing. Only one tester notes that the weight is an annoying inconvenience when powering uphill.

Santa Cruz's VPP suspension design provides an excellent pedaling platform, and the Tallboy doesn't ride too far down in its travel. We don't get more than the occasional pedal strike, and pedal feedback is a complete non-issue. As with most 29-inch bikes, if you stall out on the climb, the first few pedal strokes are laborious to get back to speed and regain momentum. Climbing is one area where our skepticism about the lower grade components on the Tallboy did not materialize.


The Tallboy earns top honors for its climbing prowess. Due to its comfort and pedaling efficiency, this is among the best options for long climbs. Only the Ripley compares to the Tallboy's ratio of climbing proficiency to descending skills. The Pivot Mach 429 Trail can keep up on the climbs, but it's not as exciting heading up or downhill.

The Tallboy was three seconds ahead of the slowest bike in the climbing test  the Trek Fuel EX  on average. It's combination of comfy cockpit  easy handling and efficient pedaling comes together to get it up the hill in a hurry.
The Tallboy was three seconds ahead of the slowest bike in the climbing test, the Trek Fuel EX, on average. It's combination of comfy cockpit, easy handling and efficient pedaling comes together to get it up the hill in a hurry.

We pitted the Tallboy against four other short-travel trail bikes in timed uphill benchmarking trials. They reported that the Tallboy is the faster climber than the Giant Anthem, Niner Jet 9, Specialized Camber, Trek Fuel EX. The test course was three minutes long on average and is a switchbacking climb with a few rocky sections and one rock step.

The Maxxis Minion DHF front tire allows riders to drive the Tallboy in an aggressive manner through corners.
The Maxxis Minion DHF front tire allows riders to drive the Tallboy in an aggressive manner through corners.

Cornering, Handling, and Body Language


OutdoorGearLab testers praise the Tallboy for its confidence and predictability in the corners. The bike allows testers to confidently dip into corners with a good sense of where the dreaded break-away point resides. One tester did use the common qualifier that the bike cornered well for a 29er. Cornering on this wagon-wheeled speed machine does require some attention, anticipation and proper setup. There is a penalty for coming into corners on a sloppy line. Poor corner entrance can lead to harsh braking through the corner, which kills valuable momentum. This is where the 29-wheeled Ibis Ripley really stands out. It corners like a 27.5-inch bike.

One tester notes that the lack of a dropper post makes for an upright stance when riders would prefer to be low in the attack position. The Tallboy requires that shoulders dip and rear ends shoot skyward when navigating rough terrain. We find that the lack of a dropper post results in a feeling of being on the bike as opposed to being in the bike.

Despite having a rigid seat post and seat constantly bumping your nether regions, this bike handles beautifully. Having the Maxxis Minion DHF, with its gloriously-defined shoulder knobs, wrapped around the front wheel only intensified the pleasure of guiding the Tallboy through corners. The Maxxis Crossmark mounted on the rear wheel made for a bit of a drifty rear end that toed the line between fun and sketchy. The rear tire would be a serious issue in wetter, muddy conditions.


Ease of Maintenance


Price is important when deciding which bike to purchase. It is also beneficial to keep maintenance costs in mind. Full suspension bikes have suspension pivots, linkages, and bearings that allow the front and rear triangles to move. Some designs are more complex than others. It can be a good idea to ensure that your local shop is knowledgeable about a certain design prior to purchasing an exotic boutique brand. In addition, forks, rear shocks, brakes, drivetrains, and dropper posts all require attention. That's the only benefit with our Tallboy having a rigid seat post.


Santa Cruz bikes use a dual-link suspension system with collet axles to hold everything together. This is a relatively straightforward design that requires some light torque values. The stock bearings are low quality and tend to wear out quickly. RockShock recommends more frequent service intervals for the bike's fork and rear shock than Fox alternatives. SRAM brakes require a more involved bleed process and corrosive fluid than Shimano. Find out more about our maintenance rankings in the Trail Mountain Bike Review.

Frame Design and Measurements


The Tallboy uses Santa Cruz's Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension design, featuring short, stout suspension links that rotate in opposite directions as the bike moves through its travel. This results in a progressive suspension design, providing different levels of stiffness throughout the stages of its travel. This suspension design is widely-regarded as one of the most effective for isolating pedaling and braking forces from the suspension. One drawback is that this design can be high-maintenance. The angular contact bearings require significant attention, proper torque, and are reputed to be creaky. We didn't run into any issues with the Tallboy during our test period.

The Santa Cruz has short chainstays and a slack head tube angle which lead to this bikes frolicsome personality.
The Santa Cruz has short chainstays and a slack head tube angle which lead to this bikes frolicsome personality.

We measured the Tallboy's head tube angle at 67-degrees, which is slacker than was typical for a short-travel 29er a few short years ago. Back then, 29ers of this travel range sported ultra-steep 71-degree head angles. The newer, semi-slack geometry makes the bike comfortable on steeper downhill terrain and higher speeds. The tradeoff can be less direct steering on climbs. This isn't an issue with the Tallboy as its 436mm chainstays provide a stiff rear end and nimble and playful trail manners. The bike features boost spacing, with an extra 10mm of axle spacing up front and 6mm in the rear. Internal routing for a dropper post and rear derailleur make for clean lines.

NOTE: Santa Cruz constructed the Tallboy with adjustable geometry, activated via a flip chip in the frame, to accommodate 27.5+ wheels. Since we tested the Tallboy as a 29er, we focus on the low/29 geometry setting.

The Tallboy is a short-travel 29er with mid-travel personality thanks to aggressive geometry.
The Tallboy is a short-travel 29er with mid-travel personality thanks to aggressive geometry.

Build


The Santa Cruz Tallboy D scored well in our performance rankings. The same is not true of its components. While the frame geometry is undeniably dialed-in, Santa Cruz opted for some less than stellar components on this particular build. We feel the components fit the style of riding intended for the bike but skimped in performance.

Fork and Shock — Santa Cruz outfitted this version of the Tallboy with a RockShox Recon RL 120mm travel fork. Testers admit that they were skeptical about the fork, but its performance is respectable. Still, multiple testers experienced difficulty setting up the rebound adjustment. Purchasing a stiffer and more adjustable fork is a spendy endeavor, but options such as the RockShox Pike or Fox Float 34 would undoubtedly enhance the ride.

The stealthy Fox Float Performance shock received praise from testers noting that it is predictable and efficient. This shock is ultra-reliable and easy to use, however, advanced riders might seek out a shock with more adjustability.

The Fox Float Performance shock performed well and kept the rear end planted.
The Fox Float Performance shock performed well and kept the rear end planted.

Wheels and Tires — The Tallboy comes with WTB STP i23 tubeless compatible 32 spoke rims laced to Novatec hubs. Our bike, which we ordered through Competitive Cyclist, came set up tubeless. A 23mm internal width is definitely on the narrow side by modern standards but seems reasonable for the cross country/trail application. The Novatec hubs have decent engagement and go unnoticed.

Our favorite tire in the test  the Maxxis Minion DHF  provides unrivaled bite in the corners.
Our favorite tire in the test, the Maxxis Minion DHF, provides unrivaled bite in the corners.

The Maxxis Minion DHF 29 x 2.3" mounted up front provides excellent bite and is an overwhelming favorite amongst OutdoorGearLab testers. The fast rolling Maxxis Crossmark rear tire is questionable on climbs and could prove troublesome in wet conditions. The Crossmark is an obvious and relatively inexpensive component to swap out.

The Maxxis Crossmark was reasonably obedient during our testing  however  could prove useless in wet or leafy conditions.
The Maxxis Crossmark was reasonably obedient during our testing, however, could prove useless in wet or leafy conditions.

Groupset — This Tallboy comes outfitted with a SRAM NX1 1x11 drivetrain with 30-42 gearing. SRAM NX is the relatively new 11-speed groupset that is one step below GX1. Testers found this drivetrain to be solid and perform shifting duties consistently and reliably.

The SRAM Level brakes had adequate stopping power in all conditions we encountered during our test period. Testers found the brakes to have a low-quality look and complained that installation requires removing the grips from the bar assembly.

The rigid seatpost on the Tallboy was the only major strike against this speed demon.
The rigid seatpost on the Tallboy was the only major strike against this speed demon.

Handlebars, Seat and Seatpost — One thing became very clear during testing, the Tallboy needs a dropper post. In 2017, being able to move your seat out of the way for cornering, technical sections of trails and downhill sections is the norm. All of our testers wanted one on this bike, and we believe it will enormously enhance the Tallboy's performance.

A 35.0mm bar and stem pairing create stiff and responsive handling.
A 35.0mm bar and stem pairing create stiff and responsive handling.

This bike has a 760mm Race Face Ride Lo-Rise with a 35mm clamp. This newer bar diameter adds an element of stiffness, and the width seems appropriate for a medium sized cross country or trail bike.

Notables — It's nice to have a water bottle cage option in the front triangle.

Build Options


We tested the Tallboy Aluminum D build which rolls in at a $2,699. Santa Cruz offers plenty of build kits to address rider needs.

The 27.5+ version comes in at $2,699 and is also spec'ed with a RockShox Recon SL fork and SRAM Level brakes. The plus-sized version sports the same frame but features wider tires and will offer enhanced traction and confidence.

The Aluminum R1X build kit gets you a Fox Rhythm 120mm fork and upgraded SRAM Level T brakes for $2,999. Those who prefer a more supple fork might find the extra $400 justified, it's probably one of the least expensive ways to upgrade the Tallboy's front end. Other than that the R1X build is not tremendously different than the D build we tested.

To get a dropper post, you need to drop $4,599 for the Carbon S build, which features a Fox 34 fork, A Sram GX 1x11 drivetrain and high-end Sram Level TL brakes. Consumers hell-bent on a dropper post might opt to purchase a one for the aluminum Tallboy without making the cost leap into carbon fiber.

The Tallboy encourages riders to think of the trail as mother nature's playground.
The Tallboy encourages riders to think of the trail as mother nature's playground.

Value


Santa Cruz is a well-respected brand in the mountain bike world. With that premium name and build quality comes a premium price tag. $2,699 is a tough pill to swallow for a bike with no dropper post that sports a RockShox Recon SL fork. That being said, the frame and suspension design performance are worth top dollar and this bike is an excellent option for someone looking to upgrade components over time.

Suggested Upgrades


As one tester puts it, the Tallboy is "a bike to grow with." You'll want to upgrade a number of components over time, as your budget or skill level demands. We'd start with a dropper and a new rear tire. Next, we would move on to a burlier, more adjustable fork and possibly a higher grade rear shock. Again, that R1X build could treat you well if you want a better fork right out of the gate.


Conclusion


The Santa Cruz Tallboy can conquer a wide variety of trails with confidence. This bike handles long climbs like a cross country racer and charges burly downhills like an all-mountain bike. What the Tallboy lacks in components, it makes up for in a well-designed frame, dialed geometry, and a great suspension platform.


Pat Donahue, Joshua Hutchens, Kurt Gensheimer, Kate Blake, Clark Tate