True, there were plenty of full-suspension 29ers before the Santa Cruz Tallboy, but its arrival marked a huge shift in the way that big-wheeled trail bikes were perceived. It was nimble, composed in corners, and accordingly, it quickly dispelled many of the mythological shortcomings of “wagon wheels.” And much like the Tallboy, one might tell the same story about the Tallboy LT Carbon. It was one of the first longer travel wagon wheelers that aggressive riders really felt at home on. And while it’s been unchanged for a few seasons now, it’s still every bit as capable as it was on day one.
The VPP suspension platform is prized for its pedaling efficiency, so it almost goes without saying that the LT pedals really well. Santa Cruz nerds will be quick to point out that the suspension feel is reminiscent of previous generations, as opposed to the newest models, which have been designed to provide a stiffer mid-stroke.
As a result, the LT hugs the ground a bit more than both the Bronson and 5010. Granted, it’s certainly possible to get it off the ground, but it takes a bit more effort to do so. And while the suspension isn’t as playful as Santa Cruz’s 27.5-inch offerings, the upside is that it gets a bunch of grip, especially on off-camber corners.
While riding the LT, one of the first things that’ll hit you is balance — this thing has it in spades. The back end isn’t short, but since the cockpit isn’t particularly long, it’s quick to manual. I found it long enough to be stable when pointed down the trail, but the low bottom bracket and neutral steering allow it to change direction without an unreasonable amount of body English.
And when combined with the planted-feeling suspension, you get the impression that there isn’t much that’ll unsettle it. Lastly, because of the standover clearance, it’s also easy to size up if you’re on the fence, which certainly helps the LT accommodate a wide range of body types.
In typical Santa Cruz fashion, the finishing on the Tallboy LT is immaculate. Whether you’re looking at the sleek, integrated down tube and chainstay guards or the collet-style pivot hardware, it’s evident that the LT is designed to be user friendly. In fact, the degree of refinement makes it easy to overlook some of the subtle touches, like the superb cable routing.
And despite its modestly light weight, Santa Cruz also built to the LT be incredibly durable. The ride strikes a nice balance between being stiff enough to be responsive, while still having just enough flex in the rear end to keep it tracking smooth.
Since it’s a VPP bike, the lower link can potentially pack with mud in super-wet conditions, although a simple mudguard will cure the problem. Beyond that, there’s really not much to nitpick. Honestly, it’s a nicely refined package.
The LT is a hard bike to categorize, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s light enough to be fast in an XC race, but in the hands of a capable rider, it’ll make short work of hard trails. Sure, you’ll see plenty of other LTs in the wild, but there’s an obvious reason for that — the secret is out that it has very few shortcomings. And if you’re able to get over not having the most obscure bike at the trailhead, there’s a lot to like about the Tallboy LT.
Love the build in this review? Check it out in our Featured Bikes Program.