Santa Cruz Tallboy 4 Review – What Is Extreme Country?

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The Tallboy 4 is Santa Cruz’s full suspension XC bike. It’s a 29r and we’ve had our hands on this CC model for the past week to give it a first ride review. It being an XC bike I naturally took it to an urban trail centre.

Before we get to my Tallboy review, Andi has prepared a complete first look article for you here that contains all the finer details of this bike. Worth a read before we get to my first ride thoughts on the Santa Cruz Tallboy 4 CC.

tallboy 4 first look santa cruz tallboy review
Available in XS,S,M,L and XL

Leeds Urban Bike Park, in.. Leeds

Now, Leeds Urban Bike Park is not your typical bike park. It’s crafted from an old golf course so the descents are far from vertical. It’s much more flow and pump than down and gnar and the red XC loop is pretty ideal for sessioning a bike that Santa Cruz refer to in their press release as ‘Extreme Country’. No really.

For the video I tried to find some usable licence free music that would illustrate the genre but the only thing the Youtube audio archive threw up for ‘Extreme Country’  (pun intended) was this… 

If you last 10 seconds then trust me, there’s no point carrying on.

Apparently this is what Youtube label as ‘Angry Country’. uh huh?

Anyway.. The bike?

We have a full carbon frame with a brand mixing combo of a Fox Performance Elite shock and Rockshox Pike Select+ fork at the front. The Shock gives 120mm of travel at the back and the Fork gives us 130mm at the front, which is a 10mm upgrade on the Tallboy 3.

SRAM X0 shifting with SRAM G2 Ultimate brakes featuring easy to use reach and bite point adjustment. And there’s a trigger for the Rockshox Reverb dropper post to complete the cockpit lineup.

So what’s changed?

Well, we now have not one but two ways to adjust the geometry. At the bottom of the shock is a flip chip which allows you to alter the geometry of the bike to a greater or lesser extent – Lesser in that it only moves the head angle by .2 of a degree. And on that note lets look at those angles and go ‘Aaaaah’.

This year’s Tallboy is super slack at 65.5 degrees. The flip chip adjusts that to 65.7. Not a huge difference but it does also change the stack, BB drop and standover too. It’s not a dramatic adjustment but for the sake of what is essentially a slightly odd shaped bit of metal it offers up something worth having a tinker with.

I didn’t flip it for this first look review but I will be playing with it in the future.

tallboy 4 mini mud guard santa cruz tallboy review
Small built-in mudguard protects the rear linkage.

A more noticeable change can be affected with the rear axle flip chip. This lets you extend the chainstay length by 10mm. Again, not massive but the extra clearance you get there does mean you can slot a slightly bigger tyre in. Up to 2.6 is the rated maximum with the long setting. Is ‘plus’ now officially dead?

The obvious form difference though is the suspension. The Tallboy now has Santa Cruz’s Lower Link VPP suspension system at the back and it’s here that the big changes have happened.

Previous Tallboy’s had the shock attach to the top tube. This obviously eats up a lot of space inside the main triangle. The new, Lower VPP, has the shock attach on the downtube. This has allowed all that space above to be reused and the big winner is standover clearance.

santa cruz tallboy 4 review

What is VPP Suspension?

VPP stands for Virtual Pivot Point and the quick answer is it is a way of separating the rear triangle from being directly connected to the front triangle, which it does by connecting the top and bottom points of the rear triangle by two counter rotating linkages.

By tuning those linkages along with the shock position (this year’s model has a lower shock position) the bike designer can ease or eliminate unwanted suspension characteristics like pedalling induced bobbing or brake jack.

In this case Santa Cruz have tried to design the Tallboy to have a consistent suspension action whether the rider is pedalling while sat down or stood up or neither. They just want the suspension action to be as independent from the riders input as possible, especially while climbing.

Has it worked with the Tall Boy?

Santa Cruz Tallboy 4 On the Trail

In a word.. Yes.

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This is a first ride review and I’ve only had a few days on this bike so far but the action of the rear suspension is the standout feature for me. The shock has three settings and each one has a noticeably dramatic effect on the suspension.

2020 Santa Cruz Tallboy First Look santa cruz tallboy review

I find with some bikes that the shock adjustment settings are, well… subtle. But that’s not the case here. The open setting feels super plush and comfortable. The mid setting instantly stiffens up the suspension action for long climbs and the so called lockout setting is dramatic enough that you can feel gravel vibrations – but without a full on lockout, hard tail style feel.

I will point out one issue though with the lower shock position. Yes, it means the front triangle is much cleaner and you can stick a couple of water bottles in there. And yes, it’s all lower so the standover clearance is better and that does make for great handling. But, the lever is now a long reach down while you are riding. A couple of times I actually dropped the seat post just so I could reach the lever on the fly.

If you have gorilla arms then this obviously won’t be an issue. But as my doctor told me, I have the spine of a 48 year old man. That’s a long reach down for me.

Admittedly, there’s not a great deal Santa Cruz could have done there. The whole point of this new suspension design is that it’s low. I shall endeavour to stretch more before I ride.

Another problem I had is that shock being so neatly hidden away makes it pretty hard to setup – especially when the suggested range for sag setting is just 11 to 13mm. It’s just pretty hard to see in there to get that right. But that’s a minor gripe – Once you are set you can forget. It’s not something you need to do every ride.

VPP in action

And how about that Lower Link VPP system in use? Well, all I can really say is that it works. This bike makes me almost enjoy climbs. It definitely flatters me.

The open setting of the Fox shock really does fool you into thinking there’s more beneath you than just 120mm and it stays plush all the way up the climb, even when you stand and stamp on the pedals. There’s no discernible pedal feedback.

The reach is not on trend length – at 450mm for the medium I rode that’s what I and my spine call comfortable. It’s a bike I feel I could ride a long way on. And if on the way we happen upon technical descents then that head angle will let me have all the fun I want.

This bike is not just a climber. It’s got a super slack (for an XC bike) 65.5 degree head angle which really helps get the most out that 130m Pike fork on technical descents. The ride is balanced and very stable at speed.

It’s almost a cliché to say it feels like a bigger bike on the downs, but a cliche only becomes a cliche if it’s true.


Calling this bike an XC bike may put off some prospective riders who I think would actually love it. It will be a great bike for those all day rides and big days out. It’s comfortable and very efficient. It’s not going to get you KOMs but it will probably improve your PBs – both on the climbs and the descents.

It’s got endurance and efficiency balanced with enough gnar to be a lot of fun.

Although undoubtedly coined by someone in the Santa Cruz marketing department, ‘Extreme Country’, I’m afraid to say, does sum up the new Tallboy 4 rather well.


The Models in the range

  • Frame Only AL: £1899
  • Frame Only CC: £3299
  • Tallboy AL D: £2899
  • Tallboy AL R: £3499
  • Tallboy CR: £4199
  • Tallboy CS: £4999
  • Tallboy CS RSV: £5999
  • Tallboy CC X01: £6199
  • Tallboy CC X01 RSV: £7299
  • Tallboy CC XTR: £8399
  • Tallboy CC XX1 AXS RSV: £9299 *

Santa Cruz bikes are distributed in the UK by Jungle Products Ltd.

If youve got any questions then stick them in the comments and I will do my best to get you answers.

*For your convenience we have prepared the words ‘HOW MUCH!?’ complete with exclamation AND question mark. Feel free to cut and paste this in the comments below. You’re welcome.

Review Info

Brand:Santa Cruz
Product:Tall Boy 4 CC
Tested:by Mark for 3 days

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