Close on the heels of their new Superlight 29 and Highball Alloy 29ers, the new Santa Cruz Tallboy LT takes their big wheeled bike count up to six and holy crap is it impressive.
The Tallboy LT will launch with both carbon fiber and alloy models. It takes their Tallboy 29er bike, slackens the angles and bumps travel to 135mm in the rear mated to a 140mm fork. Santa Cruz likens it to being a 29er version of their Blur LT. That’s a lot of travel for a 29er bike, but the Tallboy LT pulls it off miraculously. We’ve been testing an XL on our home trails for the past few weeks, and as one of our testers, Jay, put it, it’s a big bike, but it never felt cumbersome. Santa Cruz’s VPP full suspension bikes tend to be among those that we can hop on and feel instantly at home, and this new model is the same way. We’ll do a separate post about how it rides – for now let’s check out the details…
The Tallboy LTc uses the same one-piece monocoque carbon fiber and pivot tech as with Tallboy and Highball, which is covered in this post and is what their engineers are quite proud of. It’s their secret sauce that makes the frames super stiff and strong. To protect their methods, the factory that makes Santa Cruz’s frames only makes their frames, so tech is not shared with other brands. With their carbon frames, they say they make them stronger than they need to be. Even so, the new Tallboy LT carbon frame ended up being one of the lightest carbon frames they’ve ever made.
How? They designed out as many aluminum and bonded parts as possible. Everything that could be molded in was. That means the shock mounts except for the threaded alloy inserts (which have a nicely counter bored hole for the bolt), dropouts and brake and ISCG tabs are molded in rather than bonded on after construction. Plus, co-molded and net molded parts are stronger and more reliable. Cable guides, threaded BB and threaded shock mounts are the only parts bonded on after molding.
VPP is two short links that counter rotate. That gives it a unique shock rate, which SC tunes to give it a very supple action at sag with various rising rates as it moves either way in travel so it doesn’t top or bottom out too harshly.
The same linkage is on both carbon and alloy TB LTs with the exact same shock and linkage placement. When testing, they played with a number of different travel settings and 135mm rear wheel travel seemed to hit the sweet spot. It also meant there were enough fork options to match up. They spec it with a 140mm fork, but it’s designed for 130mm to 150mm front travel. Why not go bigger? Lack of fork options is one reason. It would also stretch the wheelbase and create some really oddly slack angles. Lastly, they’re already running one of the shortest head tubes (just 3.9″ to 4.3″) we’ve seen and the handlebars are already in danger of being too high on the Medium frames. Add a taller fork and that problem gets worse. That’s not to say they won’t ever make a longer travel 29er, but with the apparent growing interest in 650B bikes, there may not be a market for anything bigger.
The main difference between the two is the carbon frame gets a 142×12 rear thru axle and alloy frame is standard QR. This difference was done to keep the cost of the complete bikes down for the alloy version. It’s not that the frame would have been more, but current 142 wheelsets are more expensive. Engineer Joe Graney says as wheelset prices come down, they’ll probably offer it on the alloy model. Lest you worry about buying the alloy version at launch and have it be outdated too soon, he also said they measured stiffness with both options on the alloy model and didn’t see any noticeable difference.
Both bikes have ISCG05 tabs, recessed grease ports on the lower linkage and cable guides for dropper posts. Both models have shapely, wide tubes that keep things stiff, but the carbon frame’s fat top- and downtubes exaggerate how big this bike really is.
The full carbon design means no extra parts in the rear drop out like with the Syntace X-12 system. Frames and bikes will ship with DT Swiss’ thru axle to let you place the release arm at any angle you want. It’s designed only for 142×12. There are no adapters to convert the frame to QR, which in this day and age of convertible hubs and wheels shouldn’t really be an issue for someone in the market for a bike at this price point. This minimizes parts and complexity, following their “keep it simple” design philosophy that’s carried throughout the frame. To wit:
They stuck with a round seat tube and standard clamp on 34.9 top mount front derailleur on both. This design makes it easier to find replacement parts in a pinch and keeps the frame simple and lighter, too. Oh, and it means you’re not locked into SRAM or Shimano DM standards, except that there are versions and…screw it, it’s confusing and that’s why they simply went with a round seat tube. It’s also why they went with IS brake tabs rather than direct mount, because it’s easier to replace an adapter than molded in threads. You’ll notice this theme carries across all bikes.
The carbon frame gets Shimano’s new thru-axle rear derailleur direct mount standard. The design makes the system stiffer overall, and any of their (2013) derailleurs can be used simply unbolting the knuckle.
The Tallboy LTc’s carbon tubes are very shapely. And very big. It creates a very stiff front end, which keeps the bike stable and in control even with huge wheels and travel. The head angle is 1.5º slacker than the regular Tallboy, coming in at 69.5º.
Grease ports are easily accessed from the bottom of the lower linkage and are tucked out of harm’s way. A thermoplastic bashguard on the downtube keeps the frame safe from mean ol’ rocks and stick. The ISCG05 chain guide mounts are quite thick, and the lower link is offset to offer better clearance for a guide. A metal chain guard is bonded to the frame to keep chain suck from ripping into the carbon.
True to Santa Cruz’s KISS mentality, the bottom bracket is a simple threaded external cup system. No pressfit or BB30 anything.
A rubber bumper prevents the rear triangle from bottoming out into the linkage (left). The seat tube is molded around the upper linkage, which lets them bring the seat tube forward slightly more for wheel clearance and still put the linkage points exactly where they want them.
The bent top tube keeps stand over clearance very good even on the XL. The molded carbon pivot points are thick…everything about the bike looks over built, but it’s still so light. Seat tube angle is 72.6º, around half a degree slacker than the regular Tallboy.
TALLBOY LT Alloy
The alloy model gets hydroformed top- and down tubes that are just about as shapely as the carbon one, just not quite as big.
Both have continuous cable mounts for a dropper seatpost.
Plenty big tapered head tube with external headset lower keeps things simple.
The tube that connects the seat- and chain stays is huge, making for a very stiff rear triangle.
Other than materials, the key difference is the rear dropout. The alloy model gets a standard QR.
ISCG05 tabs come on the alloy model, too, but no downtube guard. The silver lower linkage was a CNC’d pre-production piece, stock units will be forged and black as shown on the carbon bike.
WEIGHTS, PRICING & AVAILABILITY
Both versions will come in Medium, Large and XL sizing. The Tallboy LTc with R/AM (mostly XT, Elixir 5 & Shimano hubs) build will run $4,399 and SPX/AM (more XT, including brakes, Easton cockpit & DT hubs) for $5,299.
The Tallboy LTa with those builds will run $3,199 and $4,299 respectively, so you’re looking at about a $1,000 to $1,200 premium for the carbon frame.
The LTa weighed in at 29lb 5oz (M), 29lb 8oz (L) and 30lbs even (XL) with an XT build, Rockshox Reverb & WTB Frequency rims (not a stock build option).
The LTc with an all XTR build, Reverb post and the same wheels (DT rear hub, Chub front) comes in at 26lbs 14oz for both Medium and Large, and 27lbs even for XL (different handlebar & stem). Why the same weights for the two smaller sizes? One frame is painted, which adds up to 200g versus the matte clear coat. If you want the lightest possible bike, go with the matte clear coat.
The size medium frame with shock came in at 5lbs 4oz painted. Claimed weight is 5.3lbs for a large with RP23 shock, which could be about right if it’s not painted. Regular Tallboy carbon is 5.1lbs. For comparison, the Blur LT carbon is 5.6lbs (it does have a slightly longer shock, though). All non-photo’d weights are claimed from SC.
The alloy model is available now and the carbon version will come online in May. Color options are yellow/black and matte/orange in carbon and gray or a powder baby blue in the alloy. At launch, the alloy model isn’t included in their custom color paint configurator, but we suspect it’ll get there eventually. Higher end ENVE carbon wheels built with DT rear/Hive Chub front hubs will be available in July as part of a new ultra build kit. All the Santa Cruz folks raved about the difference in stiffness these wheels add to a 29er bike.
Look for a full ride report soon!