There are some compelling reasons why the Tallboy has flourished at the top of 29er wish lists and sales charts since Santa Cruz rolled out its forebear in 2009. In addition to the wagon wheels and their big, aggressive angle of attack, the original Tallboy was one of the first 29ers to approximate the nimble dexterity of a 26in bike, sloughing off the myth of the ungainly 29er. A few minor changes and untold miles of shredded trail later, the Santa Cruz Tallboy Carbon CC 27.5+ X01 Eagle Complete Mountain Bike returns with the same surprisingly plush-yet-reactive 4.5in platform of VPP suspension that made the Tallboy such a 29er superstar; however, it does so with rims sized to add a bit more dexterity and a lot more cushion and traction.
Considering its revered status among 29er enthusiasts, a new Tallboy is a big deal, but before we get into the changes it's worth dwelling briefly on the flip chip. The flip chip sits in the upper link and can be rotated to allow the shock mount to migrate. Being able to reposition the shock attachment point effectively accounts for the 9mm difference in radii between 27.5+ and 29in tires, keeping the geometry as static as possible across wheel sizes. SC first introduced this feature on the Hightower, but the brand seems to have perfected it for the Tallboy; changing the Hightower results in a slight change in head tube angle, but the Tallboy's head tube angle remains the same for 27.5+ and 29in wheels.
Compared to previous models, the newest Tallboy takes just a bit off the top of the head tube, dropping 2.2 degrees to fall from the standard 70.2 to a moderately slack 68 degrees. Courtesy of the Flip Chip's slight geometry alteration, that number stays the same whether you're running a 29in wheels with a 120mm fork or 27.5+ with 130mm. The frame's chainstays and reach also join the modern geometry movement; the stays are shorter by 13.3mm and the reach bumps up dramatically, gaining an average of 40mm depending on the size. (At 34.2mm, Large gained the least, and sizes Small and XX-Large gained the most: 43.8 and 45.6mm, respectively.) All told, the geometry tweaks add up to a chassis that's far more capable in virtually every trail situation than its predecessor.
The VPP travel has also taken a turn for the crunchier, gaining an additional 10mm, which aligns the Tallboy perfectly with the emerging crop of 4.5in, do-it-all trail 29ers. That's not to say it's just rolling off the press as on faceless frame in a sea of similar models, as the inclusion of Santa Cruz's Flip Chip means the Tallboy can also revel in loose conditions with 27.5+, as it's built here. The Tallboy is now essentially two frames: a race rocket 29er with a long, stable geometry and a plus-size barge for floaty traction on surfaces ranging from off-trail snowscapes to rain-slicked root lattices. The beauty is that, instead of shelling out for two separate premium machines, you just need the Flip Chip, two wheelsets, and two forks.
Despite all the tweaks to geometry, the inclusion of a Flip Chip, and the centimeter of additional travel, the VPP design remains the same updated version featured on frames like the Bronson 2.0 and 5010 2.0. It's inspired by the enduro-minded Nomad, and the result is that the links stay out of the way, which lets the Tallboy accommodate a piggyback shock's external can without giving up the bottle cage. The repositioned links also make for more ground clearance, lower standover, and an additional boost in stiffness to the already stiff Boost back end.
The latest VPP's changes aren't limited to wandering links, though; the system's tuning has also been tweaked. Where the old suspension curve described a deep "U," the new VPP's curve resembles a flattened check mark, with less dramatic ramping on either end of the arc. The results are that, during the initial and mid stroke, it boasts increased bump compliance to keep the tires glued to the trail for more traction across lumpy trails and root latticed climbs. It also maintains its predecessor's firm feel during accelerations, so it won't dampen the Tallboy's spirited kick while jockeying for position in a mass start or a finishing sprint. The shock's ramp-up arc doesn't dramatically alter as the shock compresses, so the pedaling platform stays consistent across travel, with less wallowing, bob, and bottom-outs — even while the Boost axle's path turns rearward to absorb bigger hits deep in its travel.
We're happy to report that Santa Cruz's Carbon CC frame construction also remains unchanged. For the top-tier CC frame designation, the engineers use a higher modulus carbon than 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, you can see where we're going with this. Climbing and pure speed both benefit when there's less mass for your engine to propel and a stiffer chassis makes for more efficient power transfer and cat-on-carpet tracking through techy trail furniture.
The frame's two carbon triangles are built as whole pieces rather than glued together from disparate bits, a method that saves weight and increases structural integrity by allowing Santa Cruz to wrap carbon continuously through and around key junctures. This process reinforces the frame with less material while eliminating the artificial stress points 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.
As with the its slacker stablemate, the Hightower, the Tallboy's reworked linkage means it's one-by only, but it still comes with a threaded bottom bracket. That's a feature that we've come to just 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 interface of press-fit models. The Tallboy 3's 27.5+ mode accommodates every manufacturer's 2.8in tires, but some 3in models may have clearance issues. Understandably, its clearance decreases as a 29er.
- A mountain bike with XC pedaling and all-mountain tire clearance
- Versatile 4.5in of VPP travel combines XC with trail riding
- Moderate geometry climbs well with point-and-click tracking
- Flip chip allows for 27.5+ and 29er builds with one frame
- Uncompromising stiffness and weight with Carbon CC construction
- Eagle drivetrain adds the ultimate bailout gear
- Reworked geometry proves Santa Cruz Bicycles is always willing to push further