A whole lot of bike for the money.
If you're looking to hit the trails on one of the most versatile bikes in our lineup without breaking the bank, have a look at the Santa Cruz Tallboy 29 D Complete Mountain Bike. Its aluminum frame, with the same VPP platform found on the costlier carbon models, and smart component spec will get you rallying the singletrack while saving plenty in the bank for trips and upgrades down the road. This is seriously one capable machine that has us doing a double take at its asking price.
A little less than a decade ago, the original Tallboy caused quite a stir in the mountain bike world as a wagon wheel machine that had lively handling and dispelled any preconceived notions folks had about how 29in wheels were supposed to ride. This latest v3 model of the Tallboy retains that praiseworthy handling and adds a bit more versatility and a slightly more trail centric demeanor allowing it to handle more aggressive trails while still pedaling quite efficiently when linking up the fun bits.
With this version, Santa Cruz offers the ability to perform as a cross-country rocket and a surefooted trail bike. The bike alone is that versatile, however, it becomes even more so since its built to accommodate 27.5+ wheels as well as 29in wheels, as it's presented here. This split personality is enabled by the reversible “flip chip” at the upper link. Setting the flip chip to the “low” mode relaxes the head angle by roughly half a degree and lowers the bottom bracket, which makes for an ideal setup when paired with the slightly larger diameter of 29-inch wheels. The slightly smaller 27.5+ wheels pair with the “high” setting, allowing for similar clearance between the bottom bracket and the ground. The upshot is headache-free swaps between wheel sizes, which gives you more options than when hitting the trail.
The Tallboy sports 110mm of travel and its governed through the latest version of Santa Cruz’s VPP suspension platform. As with all VPP bikes, the Tallboy’s counter-rotating links are carefully arranged to resist activation by pedaling forces, which all but eliminates unwanted bobbing under power. This being the latest iteration of VPP, it’s tuned to provide more mid stroke support than previous generations, so it resists wallowing about in the meat of its travel while still offering sensitive off the top performance and enough progression to prevent harsh bottom outs.
Excellent suspension gets you far, however, another extremely important supporting role has to go to that of its carefully tuned geometry. At 68 degrees, the head angle sits at a sweet spot making it nimble enough that it's still active and responsive on tight trails, yet slack enough to offer stability and confidence on faster, rougher, and steeper ones. Furthermore, the 17-inch chainstays also enhance its versatility, allowing it to change directions quickly while retaining enough length to provide ample traction when the trail points skyward. Both the head tube and the chainstays mate to a moderately roomy cockpit, positioning the rider in, rather than on, the bike for intuitive handling.
As we stated above, this version of the Tallboy is built from aluminum, which is a boatload cheaper than carbon and is highly resistant to impact damage. This choice of material is still lightweight and stiff making the Tallboy D a fitting partner for both new riders and seasoned cyclists. The build kit continues the value trend with a trail-ready suspension package comprising of a 120mm RockShox Recon RL fork and FOX's Float Performance DPS rear shock. This combination offers easy set-up, on the fly adjustments, and a smooth, controlled feel. SRAM's NX drivetrain and Level brakes handle shifting and braking duties, with cockpit pieces coming from Race Face, and last but not least, a wheelset with WTB ST i23 TCS rims laced to SRAM hubs.
- A cross country 29er with trail capabilities
- 4.3in of plush and efficient VPP travel
- 74-degree seat tube angle optimizes pedaling efficiency
- Longer reach inspires confidence on steep and fast trails
- Aluminum construction is durable and lightweight
- Flip-chip enables compatibility with 29in and 27.5+ wheels
- SRAM NX drivetrain provides a wide gear range