Santa Cruz has been on a roll this year developing aggressive 29ers. It started with the enduro-ready Megatower, followed a few months later by the redesigned Hightower. Now, the venerable Tallboy has been overhauled making it one of the most progressive short-travel 29er trail bikes on the market. Read on for the details.
Santa Cruz Tallboy 4 Highlights
- 130mm front travel/120mm rear travel
- Lower-link-driven VPP suspension
- 65.5-degree head angle
- Adjustable geometry
- Complete bike price range: $2,699- $10,399
- Carbon frame price: $3,099
- Alloy frame price: $1,999
- Available now
A decade in the making
The original Tallboy marked Santa Cruz’ entry into the 29er market back when geometry was steep and the general cycling industry consensus was that this wheelsize was only suited to cross-country riding. A decade later, 29-inch wheels have become the dominant wheelsize across all major disciplines, from cross-country to downhill.
As the times have changed so, too, has the Tallboy. It’s morphed from an endurance XC bike in its first and second generations to a short-travel trail bike in its third iteration. Now, with the release of the Tallboy 4, it’s clear that Santa Cruz is aiming to push the boundaries of what a trail bike can be capable of.
Santa Cruz Tallboy 3 Versus Tallboy 4
There are some key changes between these two generations of Tallboys. Before proceeding, it’s worth mentioning that the women’s-specific Juliana Joplin shares the same frame and receives the same changes from its previous version as well.
The most obvious difference is the orientation of the rear shock. The Tallboy 4 follows in the footsteps of the Megatower and Hightower with a new lower-link-driven VPP suspension. This arrangement made it easier for the company to tune the rear suspension characteristics to its liking.
Along with the new suspension layout comes a 10mm increase in rear suspension travel to 120mm. Accompanying the bump in rear travel is a corresponding increasing upfront to 130mm suspension forks.
The Tallboy 3 was designed to accommodate 29-inch wheels with a 120mm fork or 27.5+ wheels with a 130mm fork. Though many Tallboy 3 owners (myself included) preferred the bike’s handling with 29er wheels and a 130mm fork.
Since the Tallboy 3’s introduction in 2016, interest in the 27.5+ platform has cooled considerably. The latest Tallboy is designed exclusively around 29-inch wheels with the ability to clear tires up to 2.6-inches wide.
These suspension changes are just a part of the story. Santa Cruz made drastic changes to the Tallboy’s geometry. In fact, this short-travel machine is slacker than some 160mm enduro bikes currently on the market.
Santa Cruz Tallboy 4 Geometry
The latest Tallboy is a significant departure from those that came before. It features adjustable geometry, thanks to a modular dropout system it shares with the Megatower and Hightower.
Head angle and seat tube angle vary ever so slightly, but the 10mm change in chainstay length is significant. Riders seeking a more nimble bike may opt for the shorter, 430mm position. Those who favor high-speed stability are likely to go long. The longer, 440mm position may also find favor with taller riders, too.
We received the Tallboy for test this afternoon and put it together and threw it on the scale. Weight for the top-end CC build is 27.91 lbs for a Medium without pedals. It’s a good weight for a bike sporting the sturdy Carbon Reserve wheels and meaty Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR tires.
Another quick observation is a Fox EVOL DPS shock is employed in the rear while a Rockshox Pike Select+ is called upon for duties upfront. They seem to pursue the components that are best in class as we do prefer the Pike up front and Fox DPS on the rear on shorter travel duties.
The rear tire clearance is indeed significant as this 2.3 DHR tire looks anemic in the space provided by the stays. 2.6 knobby tires with some mud and debris stuck to them are welcome in this space.
And finally, we’ll share that the downtube is massive for a 120mm rear travel bike and its boxy figure exudes a quality of stiffness. We’re eager to see it perform on the trail. Quality throughout the frame and each component and the build seem absolutely dialed.
We have a Tallboy 4 in for test at the moment. Check back in a few days for our first ride review.