Okay, so the Santa Cruz Rotobeef might have been our little April Fools but, as with so many things, there was a grain of truth in there. While we were out amongst the red dust and rocks of Sedona, Arizona, to see the new Superlight29 and Highball Alloy, we were shown something entirely new and sworn to secrecy. Happily we can now talk about it, which is a relief.
There is a long travel Santa Cruz 29er and Tallboy LT is its name. In fact there’s a pair of LTs – one with an alloy frame, the other made from carbon fibre. As the name suggests, it sits as a bigger, angrier brother to the 100mm travel Tallboy. The Tallboy has been an incredibly popular bike for Santa Cruz, indeed, over in the ‘states it outsells all the other bikes in the SC range.
With the current crop of rufty tufty long travel 29er forks now available, it was somewhat inevitable that they’d create a new platform to suit the likes of the Fox 34 fork and create something for people who want to be able to hit things harder, launch further and generally get radder than they previously could on big wheels.
Both Tallboy LT platforms offer 135mm of rear wheel travel and are designed to have a 130-150mm travel fork plugged into the tapered front and run a head angle that’s 1.5° slacker than the non-LT version at 69.5°, geometry beign exactly the same on the carbon fibre and aluminium frames. The thinking behind the bike was to have something that felt as stable as a Nomad to ride but could be pedalled to places with less effort. That said, it’s not designed to be as hard hitting as the Nomad, occupying a niche more like a big wheeled Blur LT.
All the usual Santa Cruz features are present and correct on both frames. The neat, short VPP linkages run on angular contact bearings and have grease ports that sit out of harm’s way. Thanks to the collet bolt design they’re very simple to strip apart should the need arise. In keeping with their thinking on such matters (“if it ain’t broke…”), there are no odd BB standards to be found, just the usual threaded item. Similarly they’ve shunned any of the Direct Mount front mech standards in favour of the usual clamp on design to keep things clean should you want to run a 1×10 drivetrain. In a nod to the hard hitting intentions of the bikes, there’s an ISCG05 mount and both frames are fitted for dropper posts.
Santa Cruz Tallboy LT carbon
The LTc is the range topping, full carbon fibre frame and as you’d expect it’s a technical tour de force. Using their proprietary one-piece layup technology they’ve been able to create a frame that’s amazingly light for what it is. With the standard Kashima coated Fox RP23 shock it comes in at 5.3lbs for the raw large sized frame, which puts quite a lot of 26″ wheeled bikes at the same travel to shame. Even so, Santa Cruz say that this frame is overbuilt by a fair margin to ensure there are absolutely no durability issues.
Having been shown a cutaway of the frame, you can see why. Everything is extremely neat, both on the inside as well as the outside. Being able to precisely control what goes where means there’s no waste and therefore excess weight. That’s also helped by the fact that there are fewer alloy parts on this bike than on any other Santa Cruz frame. For example, the only bits of metal in the swingarm are two threads for the linkages.
Something that might raise an eyebrow or two is the fact the LTc is sporting a 142x12mm through axle rear end, the only bike in the current Santa Cruz lineup to do so. It’s partly for stiffness and partly for ease of use, although SC reckon the gains aren’t huge. In fact, on the more affordable LT alloy, they’ve kept the 135mm QR to increase the availability of hubs and keep complete bike costs down.
The Tallboy LT Carbon is going to be available from distributor Jungle Products during late May. A frame with Kashima coated RP23 shock will cost £2,699, with complete bikes starting at £4,399 for the R AM29 build kit with Rock Shox Revelation RL Dual Air forks.
The SPX AM29 complete bike with Revelation RL Dual Air fork and XT drivetrain will be £4,999 while those with deep pockets will be after the 1×10 XTR equipped AM29 kit with Revelation RL Dual Air fork at £6,199. If you want to upgrade the fork to a Rock Shox Revelation RCT3 then add an extra £100, and if you desire the really rather good Fox 34 Float RLC then budget an extra £319.
Tallboy LT alloy
As you’d expect, the hydroformed aluminium sibling is a fair chunk cheaper than the carbon offering at £1,879 with shock and powercoated frame, although as part of the Custom Colour Choice Program you can get a load of different colours and finishes for an upcharge. The downside is that there’s a bit of a weight penalty to be paid to get something that approaches the carbon frame in strength and stiffness – and that’s around a pound and a half of extra mass on the frame.
The Tallboy LT alloy is going to be available sooner though, with an estimated arrival date of late April. There will be two complete bikes, starting at £3,299 with the R AM29 kit and Rock Shox Revelation RL Dual Air and the SPX AM29 kit with the same fork at £4,099. The Revelation RCT3 and Fox 34 remain as options.
Tallboy LT carbon – The Ride
Unsurprisingly for a bike coated in Shimano XTR and weighing around 28lbs, it accelerates hard. It’s not prone to wallow and seems to translate pedal turning into forward motion, the larger wheels muting small trail chatter. Despite running reasonably weighty UST Tubeless 2.25″ Maxxis Ardents, it got up to speed and stayed there with little effort. I found that in the first few corners the handling took a bit of getting used to. The feel through the front end is that of a slack, sturdy bike, but turn the bars and the bike darts quickly to where it’s aimed. While a 26″ wheeled 160mm travel bike needs to be coaxed and cajoled into turning by leaning plenty and honking on the bars, the Tallboy LT does as it’s bid, instantly.
While this resulted in lots of veering off line as I attempted to reconcile the feeling of stability with the fast handling action, it was something I soon got used to. Yes, the extra rotating mass does require a bit more effort if you want to sling the bike around in really tight stuff, but even then it feels like a mini downhill bike.
It happily consumes rough, rocky sections in a way a bike with five inches of bounce has little right to, maintaining speed and a lively feel throughout. It definitely felt at it’s best with some big bars and a little stem – if you’re a lighter person or lack masses of upper body strength then you’ll need all the extra leverage you can get to help you move the bike around.
Suspension wise, the VPP system transmits enough feedback to let you know what’s going on under the rear wheel and you can really feel it bite down for traction when heading uphill. Downhill it does an excellent job of making bumps disappear and the custom tune on the Fox shock doesn’t feel wayward mid corner, happily picks itself out of tight turns. It’s such a fun bike for riding fast that I found myself wondering if an even harder tune would make it feel even keener. That may be more to do with my predilections than any fault with the standard bike.
The feeling of confidence can lead to some speed perception problems – sometimes you simply don’t realise how fast you’re going on the way into corners or rough sections. When that happens the bubble bursts slightly; this isn’t a bike with masses of suspension to spare, it just tricks you into feeling that it is – and that’s great fun. It’ll cover distance happily, make light of all but the most obscenely technical sections – and you’ll struggle to get the smile off your face throughout.
It’s not a bike that’ll do it all, but it is a bike that’ll do a hell of a lot; from techy rock sections to mile munching, the Tallboy LTc is excellent fun. Stiff and light with a reassuringly planted feeling. Where it excels is in high speed, fast carving turns that demonstrate the sheer amount on traction on offer from the bike, especially mid-corner. If you wind it up fast enough to get things sliding, it’s beautifully controlled. Hero drifts await on corners that would make lesser bikes into nervous wrecks.
There are still some things where I’d rather be riding a 26″ bike, but if you have fast, rocky and steep trails near you then the Tallboy LTc makes excellent sense. It’d eat up trail centres at speed, devour Peaks rock gardens and keep you entertained on Lakeland epics. This Californian Kool Aid tastes delicious.