The third iteration of Santa Cruz’s venerable 29er blends the best of enduro and cross-country traits into a playful ride that will have you seeking out every opportunity to get this bike in the air. As a bonus, the Tallboy allows for 29er or 27.5+ configurations. It’s the epitome of the trail category, no matter which configuration you run.
Like the 5010 and Bronson before it, the new Tallboy benefits from a relocated lower linkage, which now sits above the bottom bracket instead of below it, increasing BB clearance. Tried and true Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension remains, too. Santa Cruz engineers, however, focus more on the Instantaneous Center (IC), or the virtual center point around which the axle rotates when suspension is activated. The suspension design is aimed at reducing pedaling bob by addressing the rider’s body position, pedaling movement, and even braking forces. The process is complicated, but it enables the bike to run smoothly on climbs while remaining active for full travel on the descent. You know that bottomless suspension feel everyone’s after? The Tallboy’s got it.
It excels in small bump compliance, and it climbs like a cross-country bike. On sustained climbs we noticed barely any pedaling bounce. We expected some harshness on descents, but it never came. Drop the post, get low, and the suspension breezes through its motion with a limitless, consistent feel. That’s surprising, given the paltry 110 millimeters of travel. Yet the Tallboy feels so smooth in the mid-stroke that you’ll assume you’re on a 130-millimeter bike.
The Tallboy’s versatility is due, in part, to its newly revamped geometry. A steeper seat tube angle (73 degrees) makes for a more powerful and comfortable climbing position, while shorter 17-inch chain stays put the rider further over the rear axle. Santa Cruz also designed the new Tallboy with a slacker 68-degree head tube angle, which in conjunction with a 1.57-inch bottom bracket drop, improves stability down rocky, nervous descents and sweeping corners.
The other component of the Tallboy’s versatility comes from its ability to shape-shift from a 29er configuration to the burgeoning 27.5+ platform. The Boost hub spacing accommodates both wheels sizes (with plenty of room to spare) for up to 27.5 x 3.25-inch tires. To switch between wheel platforms, just unscrew the Flip Switch from the upper suspension linkage, flip it, and then re-insert it. You’ll also need to swap out the fork and, of course, the wheels. The switch keeps the bike’s geometry nearly identical between the two wheel options, though flipping the chip to the High position without swapping to 27.5+ wheels adds 0.25 degrees to the head tube and seat tube angles. If you do this, it will change the handling characteristics of the bike. The 29er version is built around a 120-millimeter fork, and the 27.5+ option works with a 130-millimeter fork. The bike isn’t sold with both fork and wheel options, so you’ll have to source some parts on your own if you want to swap between the two platforms.
It’s light, at 26.1 pounds (29er configuration). With Enve M60 wheels and Maxxis tires, it was easy to air the bike out. We found ourselves launching and hucking every chance we could. It’s a testament to the Tallboy’s exceptional handling. This bike is as fun and playful as any 27.5-inch trail rig out there.
And for all of you lady shredders, the Juliana Joplin also received the same updates and improvements as the Tallboy. The two bikes share the exact same frame — with different paint schemes — with the same versatile and snappy ride characteristics. The Joplin comes with women’s specific components like saddle and bars, and the rear shock is tuned for lighter riders.