Tallboy 29 R Complete Mountain Bike
Santa Cruz's Tallboy used to be synonymous with cross-country speed demon, and while we're not here to say it doesn't still dominate in XC-disciplines, we can say with confidence that its branched out far from its original 100mm limits of days past, diving into all-mountain capabilities with 120mm of travel in both front and rear. When Santa Cruz resurrected the Blur it opened new opportunities for the Tallboy, allowing it to move from a short-travel whip built for smooth ribbons of singletrack into a much more capable all-mountain steed that we like to categorize as down-country. Does is still speed through XC race day with the podium in its line of sight? You bet, but now with slightly slacker geometry, and a demeanor capable of threading the needle through trees, and charging deep rock gardens when race day is over. In its newest iteration the Tallboy 29 Carbon R Complete Mountain Bike shows its true capability with a slack 65.6-degree head tube for massive stability, a steeply perched seat tube for powering up steep climbs, and new lower-link VPP suspension that elevates comfort at high speeds.
Because Santa Cruz's Bronson and Hightower got makeovers in the suspension department, it doesn't come as a huge surprise to see the 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 there's also 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.
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 pressfit models. There's also a fender to protect the rear shock from dirt and debris, as well as molded protectors for the downtube and chainstays. Santa Cruz specs this model with a solid set of components that keeps the price reasonable for budget-conscious riders without sacrificing much in the way in of performance. It starts with Fox suspension boasting 120mm of rear travel and 130mm up front, a SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain with a wide gear range for tackling steep terrain both uphill and down, SRAM Guide T brakes that are more powerful than the Level brakes found on previous generation Tallboys, and a Race Face dropper post as standard equipment. The whole package rolls on 2.3in Maxxis Minion rubber, which occupies a sweet spot of cush and traction without feeling too sluggish, bouncy, or vague.
- Santa Cruz's alloy Tallboy gets more capable and rowdy
- 10mm deeper travel soaks up more rocks, roots, and trail chatter
- New lower-link VPP suspension improves performance across the board
- Super slack head tube feels controlled descending at high speeds
- Steep seat tube angle allows for comfortable & efficient pedaling
- Flip chips let you tweak geometry and chainstay length
- Longer reach increases stability and high-speed composure
- Aluminum construction keeps price from breaking the bank