Tallboy Carbon XT Reserve Mountain Bike
Over the course of four generations, the Santa Cruz Tallboy has evolved from a twitchy cross-country rig into a stable and efficient trail bike that pushes the limits of what a 120mm travel bike can do. Santa Cruz calls it the "gravity rider's XC bike," which makes sense given this bike is meant to cover ground as quickly as possible without shying away from the rowdiest of descents. It's all thanks to Tallboy's progressive geometry, bump-gobbling VPP suspension, and meticulous Santa Cruz refinement that make for one helluva short-travel steed. This particular model also benefits from the weight savings and improved handling of Santa Cruz's Reserve carbon wheels, backed by arguably the best warranty on the market.
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 the suspension is hardly where Santa Cruz stopped on upgrades with the latest Tallboy. The bike sees 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 pedaling power matters, and keeping the cockpit compact enough for comfort when handling the bike in rowdy terrain.
In previous generation Tallboys the flip-chip seemed to beckon for loftier 27.5+ hoops, but on the Tallboy v4 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.
The frame on this Tallboy uses Santa Cruz's Carbon C construction, which is their second-tier carbon. It's just as strong as the higher-level CC carbon, though a little bit heavier. The carbon layup process remains the same, just with a different carbon modulus that's a bit more budget-friendly, which is why you're able to score the Carbon C at a much more modest asking price. All you sacrifice is a modest 250g weight penalty.
- Go fast, go far, and rip the descents with this short-travel trail bike
- 4.7in of VPP rear travel soaks up rocks, roots, and trail chatter
- Slack head tube boost stability on high-speed descents
- Steep seat tube allows for comfortable and efficient pedaling
- Flip chips let you tweak geometry and chainstay length
- Carbon C frame rivals performance of CC frames at a lower cost
- Reserve carbon wheels improve handling and require less truing
- Shimano XT drivetrain offers phenomenal shifting and reliability