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The 29er, formerly a docile XC creature, has recently begun to exhibit a peculiar strain of all-mountain rabies. The new breed is untameably aggressive — longer, slacker, and with more travel — and no specimen embodies the breed's defining traits better than Santa Cruz Bicycles' all-new Tallboy Carbon CC Mountain Bike Frame. It's the third iteration of what many of us thought was the terminal example of wagon wheel machines, and it's only gotten faster with each new realization. This time around, SC has equipped the Tallboy with a host of features imported from its enduro and more traditional trail bikes, including Boost rear spacing, re-designed linkages, and the brand's latest signature, a so-called flip chip that adjusts the frame's dimensions to keep the geometry the same whether you're running 29in wheels or 27.5+.
Considering its revered status among 29er enthusiasts, a new Tallboy is a big deal, but before we get into the changes it's worth dwelling briefly on the flip chip. The flip chip sits in the upper link and can be rotated to allow the shock mount to migrate. Being able to reposition 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. (At 34.2mm, Large gained the least, and sizes Small and XX-Large gained the most: 43.8 and 45.6mm, respectively.) All told, the geometry tweaks add up to a chassis that's far more capable in virtually every trail situation than its predecessor.
The Virtual Pivot Point travel has also taken a turn for the crunchier, gaining an additional 10mm, which aligns the Tallboy 3 perfectly with the emerging crop of 4.5in, do-it-all trail 29ers. That's not to say it's just rolling off the press as on faceless frame in a sea of similar models, as the inclusion of Santa Cruz's Flip Chip means the Tallboy 3 can 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 FOX Factory 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 — even while the Boost axle's path turns rearward to absorb bigger hits deep in its travel.
We're happy to report that Santa Cruz's Carbon CC frame construction also remains unchanged. For the top-tier CC frame designation, the engineers use a higher modulus carbon than the standard Carbon C model, so less material is required to hit the same strength and stiffness numbers. Less material equates to less weight, and, well, you can see where we're going with this. Climbing and pure speed both benefit when there's less mass for your engine to propel and a stiffer chassis makes for more efficient power transfer and cat-on-carpet tracking through techy trail furniture.
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 — you guessed it — even more weight savings.
As with the 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. The Tallboy 3's 27.5+ mode accommodates every manufacturer's 2.8in tires, but some 3in models may have clearance issues. Understandably, its clearance decreases as a 29er, but it still accommodates tires in the 2.35in range, which we think defines the sweet spot of cush and traction without getting top floppy and muddying trail feel.
- An XC mountain bike frame with a hunger for trail terrain
- Versatile amount of VPP travel combines XC with trail riding
- Moderate geometry climbs well with point-and-click tracking
- Flip chip allows for 27.5+ and 29er builds with one frame
- Uncompromising stiffness and weight with Carbon CC construction
- Reworked geometry proves Santa Cruz Bicycles is always willing to push further
- Item #SNZ009Q
- Q & A
I think I'm in love...
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
I've been riding a hard-tail for years and have always struggled to stick with others on descents, rocky sections, or root-filled stretches. So, I knew I wanted to go hardtail and I knew that I wanted something that was a little bit XC, a little bit trail. That was the easy part.
When I looked at the landscape of bikes, I was basically lost. There's so much choice and so many options sound great albeit with many too purpose-built for someone who needs a jack-of-all-trades style ride. Enter the Tallboy.
It's just awesome. Easy to dial-in the fit, great manner on both fast XC and when the terrain gets a bit more technical, and just a hot looking ride (with plenty of compliments already).
I opted for a build with a dropper post for some added versatility and that was a smart move. Otherwise, I have a great XT 1x build with a 32t in front and the new 46t rear cog and can basically get up even the steepest pitches.
If you are trying to get something that is fast, fun, pretty light, and serves a cross-section of purposes, the Tallboy is the way to go. You won't be disappointed.
SC rounds out the stable!
SC launches its newest generation of the Tallboy with more travel,updated geometry and the ability to run it as a 29r or a 27.5+. The 68 degree headtube and 110 mm of VPP travel gives the newest generation much more depth allowing the bike to descend as well as it climbs. That combined with the new boost spacing (incredible lateral stiffness)rounds out this perfect specimen of a trail/XC bike. Flip the chip and run it as a 27.5+ for desert-dry conditions or winter riding allowing you to shred with wider tires and more traction peace of mind.
We have frames expecting to arrive in mid- May so reserve yours today. If you need help with a custom build or have general question feel free to reach out to me direct.
Wes Branham- Account Manager-Bike