The Santa Cruz Tallboy – Rising Above the Competition

Ron Murray is the co-owner of iRide bike shop in Stowe and is our local guru when it comes to all things bike related. He’s been riding bikes since Moses split the seas and his nickname around these parts is Father Ron. He wrote this Tallboy review back around Easter (thus the biblical references) and, in true MTBVT style, we’re just getting around to publishing it now. No matter, though, because whatever Ron says, it’s gospel. Now brothers and sisters, sit back in your pews and enjoy this latest sermon from Father Ron. Amen.

As a recovering Catholic, I remember learning all about Judas and how he supposedly betrayed Jesus to the Romans. This viewpoint has many debatable facets but I won’t go into them here. Suffice to say I did not believe it then and I don’t now – however the most important concept I took away from all those CCD classes was that Judas was also the skeptic. He did not believe blindly without investigation and questions. He asked for proof!

So what does all this have to do with a bicycle you ask? Specifically the Santa Cruz Tallboy Carbon 29er? Well, let’s pose some questions: Are bigger wheels better? Does carbon fiber VPP suspension enhance ones cycling experience? Are tubeless tires an upgrade? Are ten speeds on a cassette an improvement? If I spend five Gs on a bike will it make me a better rider?

Well ladies and gentlemen, after investigating the Tallboy by test riding it on hundreds of miles of trails I can unequivocally say the answers are: most of the time, YES, sometimes, seems to be the case so far, and if you can swing it you won’t regret it.

I have been riding the Tallboy for a year now and I feel that at this point it’s the best trail bike I have ever pedaled. And I’ve ridden many bikes. There are plenty of 29er bikes out there that are of poor-to-average quality but the Tallboy is exceptional!

For starters the bike is beautifully engineered and built and it has the best pivot design out there. The suspension requires very little maintenance and it’s intuitively serviceable when needed. And best of all, the traction and pedal-ability of the VPP design is simply amazing. The softer you run it the better it is. Just look at Santa Cruz’s DH World Cup results: these guys are pedaling with four inches of sag on their bikes and are able to sprint well enough to beat the competition.

The Tallboy design, coupled with the larger contact patch of the 29er tire means gobs of traction. If you spin over your tire on a wet, loose climb it is due to very poor form, not the bike. Basically, the Tallboy will let you get away with a lot of technical indiscretions. Uphill is actually fun on this bike and it sets you up for the real reason we ride – to shred downhill as fast as possible and narrowly avoid injury.

This brings us to the eternal (did you think we were done with the biblical references?) debate about bike geometry. In reference to head tube angles and their effect on steering, one could generalize that steeper head angles (73 to 71 degrees) feel quicker when turning at slow speeds and twitchier at higher speeds. Slacker head angles feel slower (less nimble) at slow speeds. The head angle debate is very lively when discussing 29er frame designs. Basically, every 29er steers a bit different from its brethren and feels very different from a 26-inch bike. This is another area in which the Tallboy stands taller than the rest. Its handling feels as close to a 26 as possible; in other words, ­ natural and intuitive.

To summarize – they nailed it!

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