Review: Santa Cruz Tallboy LT 29er Mountain Bike
While a few cracked ribs sidelined me from the reportedly great riding out in Sedona, AZ, for the launch of the new Santa Cruz Tallboy LT 29er, we were able to get one in for some local testing a week or so later. Santa Cruz’s mountain bikes tend to work well for us, the kind of bikes we can hop on and immediately feel right at home. The new Tallboy LT is no different.
We took it up to Carven’s Cove in VA for a little rocky, rough descending (and leg melting climbs!) and flogged it around our local tight, twisty and rooty singletrack here in Greensboro, NC. Between the two locations, we got in quite a few miles on some gnarly terrain to test the travel…of which the Tallboy LT has plenty, particularly for a 29er. And it used it with surprising grace and agility.
More surprising, though, is how well the bike handled itself on our flat, very XC trails. It absolutely hammers!
Our size XL test bike was the carbon fiber frame with full Shimano XTR drivetrain, WTB rims and Fox fork and shock. A quick refresher: It’s built on their VPP suspension design, has 135mm travel in the rear mated to a 140mm fork. Both carbon and alloy frames are available with various build kits or as framesets (frame & shock).
The first thing everyone commented on was how big this bike is. Its presence was amplified by the fact that we were testing an XL – it’s a massive monster truck of a bike. A masher capable of crushing anything in front of it while remaining lightweight and nimble. Yep, it possesses oil and water traits, and that’s what makes it special.
Those roots in the pic above? Plow through them at full speed and never look back. Two or three foot drop? What drop? Fast, smooth singletrack? Eat my dust, sucka. Lung busting climb? Bring it on.
Seriously, the versatility of the Tallboy LT will not only have 29er naysayers reconsidering their beliefs, it’ll have 29er fans rethinking what’s possible. Like me. For the most part, I’m a 29er convert…until you get up to about 140mm of travel, then I like the flick ability of a 26″ bike. If I were at a park and catching a lot of air, I think I’d still prefer the Blur LT. But if Santa Cruz said pick one to ride for the entire year? The Tallboy LT would be it. In fact, if I were forced to ride only one bike of any brand in any wheel size, this one’s in my final three.
Why? Because it’s not just a good 29er. It’s not just a good long travel bike. It’s both, and it somehow manages to be a good climber and XC bike, too.
If this sounds like an overly positive fanboy review, sorry. Those that don’t like the VPP suspension probably still won’t like the VPP suspension. It’s very soft through initial travel, which has the unfortunate effect of making the bottom bracket seem lower than it is and causing pedal strikes more often. That said, the BB height on the Tallboy LT is 0.6″ higher (13.4″ versus 12.8″) than the regular Tallboy, and we didn’t experience many hits.
The head angle is 1.5º slacker (69.5 versus 71), too. This makes it incredibly stable during most riding. On a couple of occasions I felt it start to wash just a bit during flat high speed cornering. It was minimal and controllable, but it was there as a clear indicator the bike was being pushed. But it didn’t wander when climbing, which was a pleasant surprise.
Jay, one of our other testers, perhaps said it best: It’s a big bike, but it never felt cumbersome. All that travel is there when you want/need it, but it doesn’t get in the way of flat out pedaling performance. Because the suspension is soft in the beginning of the stroke, it eats roots, rocks and trail variations for breakfast. Because there’s so much travel, there’s plenty left for the big hits and drops, too. The pics here don’t do it justice, but Carven’s Cove has a few notoriously rocky descents with plenty of obstacles buried under leaves. You can’t help but hit them, and the bike took it in stride and handled it confidently at speed.
Our test bike came in at 27lbs 10oz with a Rockshox Reverb dropper post. On the trail it felt lighter. It’s weight never even registered when riding it. For a couple of rides, I put on a Thomson seatpost (dropped a good bit of weight) and rode it hard. It was glorious. It also showed that the bike was just fine set up for XC riding. Depending on tire selection and cockpit parts, you could very easily drop a bit more weight if your trails aren’t too gnarly, then just beef things up for the weekend trips to the mountains. (Weights for both models in a size run are here)
Others we’ve talked to have been equally impressed with the bike. At the very least you owe it to yourself to try it out if a demo truck rolls by (or bug your local dealer). We ride a lot of bikes and this one’s among our favorites. Jay wanted to buy it, but sadly SC needed it back for their demo fleet.