Sometimes less is more.
Always a perennial favorite for all-around trail domination, Santa Cruz's Tallboy Carbon 29 S Complete Mountain Bike can happily toe the start line at a mid-week cross country race with its sporty 110/120mm travel, and once the weekend comes around, it's happy to do some backwoods trail exploring over rugged terrain. Big wheels and short travel are certainly a recipe that’s been popular on bikes lately, and when paired with the Tallboy's refined geometry, it really shines on the climbs, when pedaling along ridgelines and descending precipitous and aggressive terrain. What always continues to impress us is just how capable it is descending, given its responsive handling and ability to accelerate out of corners and make quick work of steep climbs and long fire roads where pedaling efficiency is prized. There's no doubt that the local trail networks around Santa Cruz's HQ inspired the travel and geo numbers and it's amazing how well that translates to ride feel on such a wide variety of trails around the globe.
First off, the 68-degree head tube angle hits a pretty good sweet spot on a 29er and inspires confidence on the descents without being so slack that it feels lazy for a large portion of the rest of your riding. Out back, 4.3in of VPP travel allows you to pedal along with efficiency while soaking up trail chatter letting you ride for faster and longer with more comfort. The big wheels simply roll over trail furniture better than smaller wheels allowing you to carry more speed and momentum by reducing the angle of attack through rock gardens, braking bumps, and root lattices. Up front, a FOX Float 34 Performance 120mm fork again hits that sweet spot between smoothing out big hits and drops without being a bob-fest, pogo stick for the majority of the ride.
One thing worth mentioning about the 2019 Tallboy, is Santa Cruz isn't offering a plus build kit anymore and instead offering up that ability on the new Bronson and 5010. Not a huge deal since our favorite version of the bike is in its 29er guise. That doesn't mean that the bike isn't compatible anymore, mind you, it's still interchangeable between 27.5+ and 29in wheels thanks to the flip-chip located at the shock's linkage. The flip-chip maintains its geometry between both wheel sizes, but you'll still need to swap in an air spring to take your fork to 130mm when you're converting to 27.5+ wheels. This will be a welcome modification for some Tallboy owners, as the 27.5+ wheels provide greater bump compliance and tons of grip over loose, drifty trail surfaces.
The Tallboy employs the third generation of Santa Cruz's VPP suspension platform, which attaches the FOX Float Performance DPS shock's eyelet and the upper link underneath the top tube for greater stiffness and increased stand-over height. The lower link configuration is revised as well, now tucked above the bottom bracket to prevent rock strikes and flinging debris from damaging it. The third-gen VPP suspension retains the praised pedaling efficiency you've come to love from VPP, making it an ideal platform for XC racing and trail riding without pedal bob sapping your forward momentum across flats or slowing uphill progress on long climbs. Another thing to note, Santa Cruz improved its VPP platform for this third iteration with better sensitivity off the top and over small bumps, as well as preventing it from wallowing in the middle of its travel, so it feels more active and tracks the ground noticeably better.
We'd remiss to forgot mentioning the provided carbon frame, which is both stiff and durable while dropping some serious weight over aluminum ones. This frame features guards on vulnerable areas which offers peace of mind when you're thrashing it on the trail, and SC is so confident in its quality that it's backed by an impressive lifetime warranty. Internal cable and stealth dropper routing clean up the frame's aesthetics while protecting the shift cable and RockShox Reverb dropper hose from dirt and debris. This version's "S" kit comes with SRAM's GX Eagle drivetrain, giving you a massive 500% gear range without having to deal with a clumsy front derailleur. Also from SRAM is its Level TL brakes pinching the 180mm rotors front and back to scrub speed with power and precision.
- Cross-country fast and trail capable 29er
- 4.3in of VPP suspension optimizes efficiency and traction
- 120mm FOX 34 Performance fork smooths out rough terrain
- Flip-chip allows you to swap between 27.5+ and 29in wheels
- Carbon C frame is impressively stiff and light
- GX Eagle 1x12 drivetrain with massive 500% gear range
- BOOST axle spacing stiffens up the 29in wheels