Review: 2012 Santa Cruz TallBoy AL 29er
Having fun while mountain biking is the essence of the sport. It is the quintessential reason why most of us take to the trails and to the sport. Now, imagine taking that “fun factor” and amplifying it by a few degrees… and that’s what you get when riding the Santa Cruz TallBoy 29.
I love riding full suspension 29er mountain bikes. This is no secret, and upon receiving the boxed up TallBoy, visions of Christmas day as a kid and the accompanying youthful excitement made me giddy. I immediately named the TallBoy “Kermit” which suited the bright green rig that I got to call my own for a short 2.5 months of testing.
The alloy Tallboy was introduced in early 2011 to give Santa Cruz an price point full suspension 29er to complement its highly acclaimed carbon model. Our original coverage got up close and personal with the technical specs, so I’ll just focus on this bike’s build and how it rode. Let’s begin with the specs…
- Frame: Forged Aluminum
- Fork: Fox Float 29″ 120 Kashima FIT RLC taper
- Rear Shock: Fox Float RP 23
- Bars: Easton EC 70 685mm
- Drivetrain and Brakes: Shimano XT all around
- Wheels: Mavic TN 719 disc rims laced to DT 350 15mm front hub and DT 350 rear hub w/ DT 14/15 gauge spokes, alloy nipples
- Size/Weight (sans pedals): XL, 28.37lbs (actual)
For some odd reason I have an affinity for climbing. Not that I am especially adept at it but because I enjoy the pain of it, and descending… well, let’s just say I am learning to love it. Yeah, I’m “off!” And the TallBoy being a true expression of the term “All-Mountain” allowed me to experience climbing and the fun of descending at a whole new level.
The Tallboy AL climbs with agility and great stiffness laterally (for a full suspension bike), I never noticed bottom bracket flex or chain rub and I’m a fairly big, powerful rider. Once at the summit, instilling a sense of confidence as I charged down to the depths below is what this bike’s game is all about. Carving turns and absorbing rocks, roots and crevices is the bike’s forte and it is as forgiving as any for poor line choice or unfamiliarity with a new trail.
A sense of sitting “IN” the bike rather than “ON” the bike is something I really liked about the TallBoy. Similar to my experience on the Kona Hei Hei Supreme 29, I felt an immediate sense of being a part of the bike rather than having to take extra time to get to know the handling and balance. The rear shock (Fox Float RP23) performed without hesitation and once adjusted to my body weight and riding style was a perfect addition to the frame geometry. In addition, Santa Cruz’s VPP (Virtual Pivot Point) frame design seemed to really help “firm up” the ride when standing and laying the smack down on the pedals.
The Fox Float 29 fork has become a new favorite of mine with its ability to be adjusted “on the fly” from a fully locked out position for climbing on smooth surfaces or fully “on” position for descents. In addition, the 15mm thru-axle without a doubt added a stiffness factor that allows for precise handling and cornering with the needed forgiveness offered through the shock… a great combination!
I had the opportunity to race XTerra on the TallBoy and as with any full-suspension bike a few great attributes are afforded the rider: 1) less lower back soreness, 2) greater ability to run well after mountain biking (due to less fatigue in my humble opinion)… a big plus for any multisport competitor and 3) choosing a less than optimal line is forgiven as a result of the damping of the TallBoy. The only way perhaps to make this bike even better would be to make it in carbon… wait, they’ve already done it. If you need to keep the price point down while still enjoying all that the TallBoy has to offer, the Aluminum version is a darn good bike.
The TallBoy is a bike that I would purchase for the “All-Mountain” experience. Not a true “climbers bike” (see the Santa Cruz HighBall for that) but “Kermit” did a great job creating a sense of fun when riding and confidence that while one’s bike does not make the rider, riding the Tallboy sure as hell doesn’t hurt!
MSRP: $1,850.00 – Frame only and add $123.00 for the Fox RP23 rear shock
AS TESTED: $4,199.00 – SPX XC 29 package plus $123.00 for the Fox RP23 rear shock