Santa Cruz Tallboy Mountain Bike Review

Santa Cruz Tallboy Review

Price

Pros​​​​

Wide tires, excellent grip, comfort

Cons

Low-end kits leave you wanting

Summary

​Santa Cruz Tallboy is in a class of it's own when it comes to pure climb power and grip, with very few drawbacks this is a bike you want to take on your next mountain trek.

Our Rating

​89/100

Manufacturer

When it comes to 29ers, the Santa Cruz Tallboy holds a special spot in mountain bike history.

In 2009, many riders were still skeptical of the massive 29” wheels. The Tallboy came around that year and changed everyone’s minds. These days, Santa Cruz continues to stay ahead of the trends with this versatile and playful trail bike that accommodates both 29” and 27.5” plus tires.

Technical Specs

FRAME SIZE: small (for riders 5’ to 5’4”), medium (5’4” to 5’9”), large (5’9” to 6’), extra-large (6’ to 6’3”), and carbon-only XXL (6’3” to 6’7”)
BRAKE TYPE: SRAM Level Brakes
SHIFTER: SRAM NX1 Drivetrain
RIMS: WTB ST i23, Race Face AR, and Race Face ARC
TIRES: Front Maxxis Minion or Maxxis Rekon, Maxxis Crossmark II or Maxxis Ardent Race
PRICE RANGE: $2,699 to $7,999

When looking at the specs, it’s important to note that the Tallboy maintains its geometry when in the 27.5+ and 29” configurations thanks to the flip-chip on the upper link.

We would be remiss if we didn’t bring up the 110mm Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension found on Santa Cruz’s full-suspension bikes. The bike responds to the trail and not the ride due to the suspension’s ability to isolate the forces from braking and pedaling.

If one could describe the personality of the Tallboy, it would be mischievous. This personality fits because of the shorter chainstays (about 17”), longer reach, and 68-degree head angle.

Other features worth noting are the bottle cage mount, integrated headset, threaded bottom bracket, removable front derailleur mount, radial contact bearings, and internal carbon tubes to ensure hassle-free and precise routing of seatpost and derailleur cables.

Frame Size

The Santa Cruz Tallboy is available with aluminum, Carbon C, and the higher-end, lighter-weight Carbon CC frames. There are five size options: small (for riders 5’ to 5’4”), medium (5’4” to 5’9”), large (5’9” to 6’), extra-large (6’ to 6’3”), and carbon-only XXL (6’3” to 6’7”).

The reach for the different sizing options are 15.9”, 16.9”, 17.7”, 18.7”, and 19.8” for the small, medium, large, extra-large, and XXL respectively.

Brake Type

The Tallboy utilizes disc brakes. Specifically, the kits mostly feature SRAM Level brakes. They are known for their excellent stopping power in all conditions. If you are putting your bike together yourself, you should know that installation necessitates taking the grips off the bar assembly.

Santa Cruz Tallboy Cables

Shifter

The SRAM NX1 drivetrain (featuring 30-42 gearing) comes standard with most of the Tallboy kits. The SRAM NX1 is one step below the GX1 and is a fairly new 11-speed shifter. Expert riders have found that this performs shifting duties reliably and consistently and that the drivetrain is solid.

Santa Cruz Tallboy Shifters
Santa Cruz Tallboy cables

Rims

The rims that come with the kits include the WTB ST i23 for the low-end 29ers, Race Face AR, and Race Face ARC for the high-end kits. The strength-to-weight ratio for each of these options is exceptional.

Tires

The front tires on the 29er kits are the Maxxis Minion, and on the 27.5+ kits, you get the Maxxis Rekon for both the front and rear tires. The rear tires on the 29er kits are the Maxxis Crossmark II or Maxxis Ardent Race (on higher-end kits.) Maxxis tires are overwhelming favorites among riders, and they provide excellent bite.

Santa Cruz Tallboy Rims Review

Price Range

For exact prices on the Tallboy, you really need to visit an authorized Santa Cruz bike dealer since different shops will have different price tags. But, for the various frame alternatives, we can give you retail prices. Also, when you have a dealer put your ride together for you, you can expect to pay more. With that said, here are the MSRPs for just the kits and frames:

  • Tallboy Aluminum Frame: starting at $2699
  • Tallboy Carbon C Frame: starting at $3899
  • Tallboy Carbon CC Frame: starting at $6799

We give you the “starting at” prices because Santa Cruz has many different kits with high-grade parts available. For instance, the high-end XX1 and XX1+ kits cost $7999 and weigh under 26 and 27 pounds respectively.

What We Like

There’s a lot to like about the Tallboy. Riders can pilot aggressively with minimal effort thanks to the bike’s strong cornering. It also gets high marks for its efficiency, comfortable positioning, and climbing abilities.

Pros

  • Rides with the comfort of a longer travel bike
  • Super playful and high fun factor
  • Beats other bikes in its class when it comes to climbing

What We Don’t Like

The biggest complaint we hear from riders is that the low-end kit comes with less than stellar components. For instance, many bike enthusiasts have mentioned updating the fork and dropper post. Many riders prefer the dropper post so they can move the seat out of the way for downhill sections, technical sections of trails, and for cornering.

Cons

  • Some of the low-end build kit options may not appeal to more seasoned riders
  • Only available from authorized Santa Cruz dealers
  • The rims have a history of denting but not to the point of being problematic

Buying Advice

You can’t ignore the differences between riding the Tallboy with 29” tires and 27.5+ tires. Where standard tires flounder, the 27.5+ tires flow above the dust and find grip in desert-dry conditions. And, the low tire pressures pull the bike through slick monsoon conditions. On the other hand, the Tallboy’s history comes to the fore in its 29” form. Uphill or downhill, the 29er configuration will allow you to experience the bikes true speed and agility.

If you are a 29er fan or got into trail riding with the growing popularity of the 27.5+ and you have ever had even the slightest bit of interest in giving the other side a try, then the Tallboy is your opportunity to experience both configurations in one bike.

Additionally, you will love the Tallboy if you are looking for an all-around trail bike that is capable of remaining fairly aggressive while slaying climbs. When in rougher terrain, this is one of the most capable short-travel mountain bikes.

Conclusion

You can confidently master a broad spectrum of trails with the Santa Cruz Tallboy.

This model takes care of difficult climbs like an XC racer and flies down burly hills like all-mountain bikes. 

The great suspension platform, dialed geometry, and well-built frame set this ride apart. If you are in need of an all-around mountain bike that can tackle a broad array of trail types, then you should seriously consider purchasing the Tallboy post haste.

About the Author Max Shumpert

Over the last few years, I’ve taken my love of the outdoors, hiking, skiing, trekking and exploring to the next level by starting this site. I started a bike shop in Denver, CO, and have seen amazing growth over the last few years. Getting paid to do what I love has been a dream come true for me. That’s also what led me to start BikesReviewed.com. In my shop, I spend a large amount of time helping people find the perfect bike for them and the style of biking they’re going to be doing. It only made sense that I expanded my reach and got online, making it possible for me to help people all over the world. If biking and staying fit is your priority, too, you’ve come to the right place.

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