Tallboy 29 Carbon CC XTR Reserve Complete Mountain Bike
Not long ago Santa Cruz lacked a dedicated bike for cross-country racing, so brand loyalists opted for the Tallboy when they wanted a snappy trail bike that could rack up miles as quickly as possible. With the return of the Blur to the XC race scene, Santa Cruz was free to fine-tune the Tallboy 29 Carbon CC XTR Reserve Complete Mountain Bike into a true short-travel weapon, and this year it comes to us redefined, with a new trail-hungry personality that offers deeper travel, and an all new suspension design built to soak up rougher terrain, while still rolling atop the 29-inch wagon wheels we covet for soaring up climbs. While it seemed to be a trend that shorter travel bikes were expected to be ridden slower, we're pretty sure we've never geared back our speed on a fun trail just because we didn't have deep travel, and we appreciate Santa Cruz having an understanding for our drive to keep a lively and rowdy ride going on our shorter travel whips. As such, the new tallboy is built to be more capable than ever, with new geometry that boosts confidence on the descents, while maintaining the lively climbing properties we love. And if the new geometry isn't enough, Santa Cruz spec's this particular build with Shimano's new race-ready XTR 12-speed groupset, along with their in-house Reserve carbon rims laced up to snappy Industry Nine Hydra hubs, leaving nothing to be desired for the discerning rider and racer.
We suppose that with Santa Cruz's Bronson and Hightower getting makeovers in the suspension department, we shouldn't be all that surprised to see tweaks to the Tallboy went in the same direction. The new Tallboy follows the trends of its deeper-travel siblings, moving the VPP suspension down to a lower-link that offers improved stabilization in the roughest terrain, while an extra 10mm of travel helps soak up additional rocks and roots that the previous Tallboy would have shied away from. This makes the new ride more confident than ever, ready for bigger trails, rutted out lines, brakes bumps galore, and even turning the odd set of rollers into doubles—but not at the cost of climbing. The new suspension is designed with the same engineering principles as the brand's longest travel bikes, making it just as at home riding cross-country as it is extreme backcountry. Santa Cruz's VPP suspension is designed to stabilize the suspension when you're putting power down on the pedals, meaning the rear end ceases to bob, providing a much more responsive and lively feel when you hammer up steeps, so you aren't wasting all of the power you put down. This is achieved with counter-rotating links that are carefully arranged to resist activation by pedaling forces, all but eliminating bobbing under power.
But suspension is hardly where Santa Cruz stopped on upgrades with the new Tallboy. The bike sees a full makeover this year, with entirely different geometry, but continues to use the flip-chip we saw in previous years for adaptable geometry that can be tuned to your own personal riding needs. In the front things start out with a much slacker head tube angle that shifted from the 68-degrees in years past to the ultra-long 65.5-degrees it is today (with the flip chip in Low). This slack head tube elevates the confidence of the Tallboy when you point it downhill, providing improved handling in rough and jarring terrain, and boosting control at high speeds. With the head tube's shift into the slacker realm, balance needed to be achieved to maintain the bike's reputation for lively pedaling and handling, so the engineers at Santa Cruz opted to move the seat tube angle up a few degrees to a steep perch of 76.3 degrees—a full three degrees steeper than the previous model, allowing you to stay on top of the bike when pedal power matters, and keeping the cockpit compact enough for comfort when handling the bike in rowdy terrain.
In previous years the flip-chip on the Tallboy seemed to beckon for loftier 27.5+ hoops, but this year it serves a purpose tuned more acutely to riding style preferences. The flip chip not only tweaks head tube and seat tube geometry, but it also offers a full 10mm of adjustability to the stubby-short 430mm chainstays, which allows riders of all sizes and riding styles to make the necessary tweaks to feel right at home. This combines with a low bottom bracket for a combination that's built to thread the needle, rail berms, and launch out the other side with power and confidence.
With changes happening left and right on the Tallboy, thankfully Santa Cruz's Carbon CC frame construction remains unchanged and for this top-tier CC frame designation, the engineers use a higher modulus carbon versus the standard Carbon C model, so less material is required to hit the same strength and stiffness numbers. Less material equates to less weight, and well, we'll always take a lighter bike for any occasion. Climbing and just motoring along the flats is easier with less mass to haul around, and a stiffer chassis is more efficient at getting the power to the rear wheel and requires less body English while negotiating technical trails.
The frame's front and rear carbon triangles are built as whole pieces rather than glued together from separate bits. This method saves weight and increases structural integrity by allowing Santa Cruz to wrap carbon continuously around key junctures. It further reinforces the frame with less material while eliminating stress risers that result from bonded construction methods. Finally, the carbon is also compacted from the inside and the outside for a more even finish that avoids any structural defects, excess material build-up, and resin pooling for—you guessed it—even more weight savings.
Final details include a threaded bottom bracket that's what we've come to expect from the California-based brand, and it's a strong selling point for those who don't like dealing with the tricky tolerances and creaky interfaces of press-fit models. Santa Cruz specs this model with some of our house favorite components, with a Shimano XTR drivetrain for precise shifting and seemingly endless gears, plus a plush combination of FOX rear and RockShox front suspension that offers 120mm and 130mm of deep travel, respectively. This 29-inch version comes equipped with 2.3in Maxxis rubber, which occupies a sweet spot of cush and traction without feeling too sluggish, bouncy, or vague.
- The Tallboy boosts travel for more all-around capability
- 10mm deeper travel soaks up more rocks, roots, and trail chatter
- New lower-link suspension elevates stability and confidence
- Super slack head tube feels controlled descending at high speeds
- Stay perched for the pedal fest thanks to steep seat tube angle
- Flip chip allows you to tweak angles and chainstay length
- Longer reach increases high speed stability
- Carbon CC frame saves weight without sacrificing strength
- XTR 12-speed drivetrain offers huge gear range for all-day epics