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A glance through any glossy-covered cycling magazine might have you convinced that beefy all-mountain and enduro bikes are the only trend to watch this season, but diving into the details shows that it isn't just the super-slack, long and low sleds that are redefining expectations out on the trail. The 2017 Santa Cruz Tallboy Carbon 29 S Complete Mountain Bike pushes past the edge of traditional XC distinctions with spacious geometry and versatility to revel in the rough and rocky just as much as buttery smooth singletrack loops.
This particular build gets kitted up to hit the dirt with SRAM's workhorse GX 1x11 drivetrain, Level TL hydraulic brakes, a dropper post, and a set of silky Race Face AR24 hoops. In addition to all of that, the Tallboy also has a flip chip now, which toggles to maintain the same geometry whether you're running 29 or 27.5in hoops.
This isn't the same Tallboy we've been abusing since 2009, though—it was hit with the SC update hammer in 2016. Considering its revered status among 29er enthusiasts, the Tallboy's updates were a big deal, but before we get into the changes it's worth dwelling briefly on the flip chip included in this model. The flip chip sits in the upper link and can be rotated to allow the shock mount to migrate.
Re-positioning 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 a 29in wheels with a 120mm fork or 27.5+ with 130mm. The frame's chainstays and reach also join the modern geometry movement; the stays are shorter by 13.3mm and the reach bumps up dramatically, gaining an average of 40mm depending on the size. All told, the geometry tweaks add up to a chassis that's far more capable in virtually every trail situation than its predecessor.
The updated Virtual Pivot Point travel has also taken a turn for the crunchier, gaining 10mm of travel, which aligns the Tallboy 3 perfectly with the emerging crop of 4.5in, do-it-all trail 29ers. The inclusion of Santa Cruz's Flip Chip sets the Tallboy 3 apart from the crowd and lets it also revel in loose conditions with 27.5+. The Tallboy 3 is essentially two frames: a race rocket 29er with a long, stable geometry and a plus-size barge for floaty traction on surfaces ranging from off-trail snowscapes to rain-slicked root lattices. The beauty is that, instead of shelling out for two separate premium machines, you just need the Flip Chip, two wheelsets, and two forks.
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. It's 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 3'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.
We're happy to report that Santa Cruz's Carbon frame construction also remains unchanged. Though it's not as light as Carbon CC construction, the Tallboy Carbon enjoys the same stiffness, durability, and strength. The difference is that it's made with a less costly carbon fiber that carries a tiny bit more weight and brings a big reduction in overall price.
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 added weight savings.
As with 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.
- A trail bike that pushes the boundaries of 29ers
- Responsive pedaling platform with 4.5in of VPP travel
- Spacious geometry for sending bigger lines
- Flip chip is compatibile with 27.5+ and 29in wheels
- Carbon construction reduces weight and increases stiffness
- Santa Cruz leads the industry with innovative design
- Item #SNZ00BL