Still spry after all these years.
Santa Cruz Bicycles' Tallboy began life as a spry 29er that could hit above its travel weight but was considered by most to be a burly XC bike. Oh how times have changed. The latest Tallboy Carbon CC 29 X01 Eagle Complete Mountain Bike makes the case that wagon wheels and 4.3in suspension platforms may be the ideal set-up for riders who like to get rowdy but prefer to traverse the backcountry rather than riding a lift up a mountain. The drivetrain is equally happy to climb, with SRAM's X01 Eagle cassette offering the ultimate granny gear for when the gradient exceeds your ambitions.
The Tallboy has changed a bit over the years, making it one of Santa Cruz's most commonly tweaked designs. Despite the changes, it's also remained one of the brand's most perennially loved models. 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—even if it may be somewhat old news by now. 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 3; 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 the previous Tallboy, the Tallboy 3 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 29in wheels with a 120mm fork—as it's set up here—or 27.5+ with 130mm. The frame's chainstays and reach also joined the modern geometry movement during the bike's latest remodel; 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.
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. In all cases, the redesign was inspired by the enduro-minded Nomad, and the result is that the links stay out of the way, which lets the Tallboy 3 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 3's reworked linkage means it's one-by only, but it still comes equipped with ISCG 05 tabs. The threaded bottom bracket is another 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'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, but SC still ships it with 2.35in tires, which we think occupy the sweet spot of cush and traction without getting top floppy and muddying trail feel.
- A trail bike that pedals like an XC race machine
- 5in of aggressively fast VPP travel
- Flip-chip enables compatibility with 29in and 27.5+ wheels
- 74-degree seat tube angle optimizes pedaling efficiency
- Longer reach shifts weight forward for better traction
- Carbon CC frame saves weight without sacrificing strength
- X01 Eagle drivetrain provides the ultimate bailout gear