Color us flattered.
Big wheels, light weight, and short travel conspire to create this universally acclaimed trail bike, and on this Santa Cruz Tallboy 29 Carbon S Reserve Complete Mountain Bike it makes some conscious concessions to add performance where it counts and save that hard earned cash elsewhere. Ultimately, it's a unicorn of a ride that can go toe-to-toe with a dye-in-the-wool XC race bike and hang with many full-fledged enduro rigs on those rugged descents deep in the backcountry. Part of it's due to the Tallboy's refined VPP suspension and equal parts dialed geometry allowing you to climb and motor along the flats and ridgelines while offering confidence descending chunky, steep terrain. We hope we never have to pare down our stable, but if we had to keep one bike around that could handle it all better than most, the Tallboy would make the cut for sure. Having ridden the local trail networks around Santa Cruz's HQ, were certain that the terrain helped inspired those travel and geo numbers but we're really amazed how well that translates to a do-it-all rig on almost any trail you'll subject it to.
Kicking it all off, the 68-degree head tube angle hits a sweet spot on a 29er of being relaxed enough to inspire 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 lets you pedal along with efficiency while soaking up trail chatter so you can ride faster and for longer with more comfort. The big wheels simply roll over rocks, roots, and bumps better than smaller wheels letting you carry more speed and momentum by reducing the angle of attack the wheels face over trail furniture. Fork duties are handled by a FOX Float 34 Performance at 120mm which once again hits that sweet spot between smoothing out big hits and drops without being a bob-fest, pogo stick for the rest of the ride.
New for the 2019 Tallboy, Santa Cruz isn't offering a plus build kit anymore and instead offers that ability on the new Bronson and 5010. We don't feel like that’s a deal breaker since our favorite version of the bike is in its 29er guise. That doesn't mean that the bike isn't compatible with plus wheels and tires anymore, 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+ tires provide greater bump compliance and more traction 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 pedaling bob sapping your forward momentum across the 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 be remiss to forget 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 Santa Cruz is so confident in its quality that it's backed by an impressive lifetime warranty as are the included carbon rims. While this frame isn't quite as light as the CC version, that money saved is wisely invested in the Reserve 27 hoops where the drop in weight and stiffness will be way more appreciated in rotational weight than on the frame. Internal cable and stealth dropper routing clean up the frame's aesthetics and protect the shifting cable housing as well as the 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 rear scrubbing speed with both power and modulation.
- A 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