Shootout: One Long Race, Four Bikes Compared

27.5 29er

The Builds and Bottom Line

Lap 1 – Tallboy C

  • Frame: XL 2013 Santa Cruz Tallboy c (matte carbon / red)
  • Fork: Fox 32 Float 29 120 FIT CTD w/ Trail Adjust
  • Shock: Fox Float CTD w/ Trail Adjust
  • Wheels: ENVE Twenty9 XC on Chris King 28h hubs
  • Brakes: Shimano XTR Trail
  • Shifters: Shimano XTR SL
  • Crankset: Shimano XTR – 42/30 Chainrings
  • Rear Der: Shimano XTR Shadow +
  • Front Der: Shimano XTR
  • Cassette: Shimano XTR – 36/11
  • Chain: KMC X10SL Gold
  • Seatpost: Thomson Masterpiece 30.9
  • Saddle: WTB Silverado Carbon
  • Stem: Thomson X4 90mm
  • Handlebar: Easton Haven Riser
  • Grips: ODI Flangeless Longneck
  • Tires: WTB Nano front and WTB Nine Line rear
  • Front Brake Rotor: Ashima Airotor 160mm
  • Rear Brake Rotor: Ashima Airotor 140mm

Bottom line: True “all-rounder” and the king of momentum. Extremely capable racer but comfy at the same time. Faster than it feels and a real energy saver over the long haul.

Lap 2 – Bronson C

  • Frame: XL 2013 Santa Cruz Bronson c (Tennis yellow)
  • Fork: Fox 34 TALAS 27.5 160 FIT CTD w/ remote
  • Shock: Fox Float X
  • Wheels: Un-branded carbon rims on DT hubs
  • Brakes: Shimano XTR Trail
  • Shifters: Shimano XTR SL
  • Crankset: Shimano XTR Triple
  • Rear Der: Shimano XTR Shadow +
  • Front Der: Shimano XTR
  • Cassette: Shimano XTR – 36/11
  • Chain: Shimano XTR
  • Seatpost: KS Lev Dropper
  • Saddle: Specialized
  • Stem: Thomson X4 50mm
  • Handlebar: Easton Haven Riser
  • Tires: Maxxis High Roller front and WTB Wolverine rear
  • Front Brake Rotor: Shimano ICE Tech 180mm
  • Rear Brake Rotor: Shimano ICE Tech 160mm

Bottom line: “Playful” bike that wants to be flicked around. It hides its travel and pedals very well… but keep this thing pointed downhill to really see it shine.

Lap 3 – Tallboy LTc

  • Frame: XL 2013 Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc (Matte black / orange)
  • Fork: Fox 34 Float 29 140 FIT CTD w/ trail adjust
  • Shock: Fox Float CTD w/ trail adjust
  • Wheels: ENVE Twenty9 AM on Chris King 28h hubs
  • Brakes: Shimano XTR Trail
  • Shifters: Shimano XTR SL
  • Crankset: Shimano XTR 42/30 Chainrings
  • Rear Der: Shimano XTR Shadow +
  • Front Der: Shimano XTR
  • Cassette: Shimano XTR – 36/11
  • Chain: Shimano XTR
  • Seatpost: Fox D.O.S.S. dropper
  • Saddle: WTB Silverado Carbon
  • Stem: Thomson X4 70mm
  • Handlebar: ENVE DH Riser (cut to 780mm)
  • Grips: Grips: ODI Flangeless Longneck
  • Tires: WTB Vigilante TCS front and WTB Wolverine rear
  • Front Brake Rotor: Ashima Airotor 180mm
  • Rear Brake Rotor: Ashima Airotor 160mm

Bottom line: The “monster truck” that will eat any trail and is the most forgiving of the bunch. Great combination of all day pedal-ability and fun factor. Can’t help but smile when this one takes you for a ride.

Lap 4 – Highball C

  • Frame: XL 2013 Santa Cruz Highball c (Matte black / silver)
  • Fork: Fox 32 Float 29 100 FIT CTD w/ trail adjust
  • Wheels: ENVE Twenty9 XC on 32h hubs. ethirteen xcx front and DT 340s rear
  • Brakes: Shimano XTR Race
  • Shifters: Shimano XTR SL
  • Crankset: Shimano XTR 39/26 Chainrings
  • Rear Der: Shimano XTR Shadow +
  • Front Der: Shimano XTR
  • Cassette: Shimano XTR – 36/11
  • Chain: Shimano XTR
  • Seatpost: Thomson Masterpiece 30.9
  • Saddle: WTB Silverado Carbon
  • Stem: Thomson X4 90mm
  • Handlebar: Easton Haven Riser
  • Grips: ODI Flangeless Longneck
  • Tires: WTB Nano front and rear
  • Front Brake Rotor: Ashima Airotor 160mm
  • Rear Brake Rotor: Ashima Airotor 140mm

Bottom line: The “racer.” A true speed machine with amazing acceleration and climbing ability while also being nimble and quick in the turns. Though very lightweight, it stays grounded and stable at speed also making it a good all day rider.

Photos courtesy of Clint Claassen.
Read about his adventures here: claassenmtb.blogspot.com

Any Questions? Observations and suggestions? Clint is here available to answer!


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  • Don says:

    The 5010 (Solo) instead of a Bronson would have been nice, but you take what you can get. Good read. Thanks.

  • Jon Dickey says:

    Clint,
    I really enjoyed the article. Thanks for the write up! I have been debating on getting a Tallboy c or LTc for a while. I have a great hardtail for racing. Which do you think is better?

    • Clint Claassen says:

      Hi Jon,
      It kind of depends on where you want to ride with it. If you’re looking to just have a little squish on the same trails that your hardtail has been good for, and you might want to race some xc on it, go with the TBc. If you’re looking for a fun trail bike and a completely different experience vs. the hardtail, go with the LTc. You’ll be able to easily go places that may be a little too punishing on the hardtail while still being able to pedal all day if you want.

  • Hufdaddy says:

    Supercool review. Thanks for doing it. Might of cost you the win, but I really enjoyed the read.

  • MTBDad says:

    Thanks Clint!
    Enjoyed your observations, good write up.
    Have seen you race several times, don’t know how do it-work full time/train/race!!!

  • marc says:

    Cool format for an article. I agree with some of the other commenters that it would be nice to see the solo/5010 c in the mix instead of the longer travel bikes for xc type racing specifically: Tallboy c vs Solo c.

  • r1Gel says:

    This is awesome. Brilliant idea. And great writing! I felt I was right there with you on the singletrack 😉
    MTBR should have more of these types of “reviews.”

  • Alex says:

    Nice writing overall but I have say anyway that to me the race taken as comparison ground for the tested bikes has really little to do with the purpose the Bronson is made for, therefore the reported impressions about the model are really not very significant.
    We are talking about a 30 lb, 150-160 mm travel, gnarly Enduro racing machine made to tackle almost downhill grade race trails, serious jumps and all what comes in between.
    Do it all over at some Bronson’s proper home ground and all would feel quite different.

  • mtnbike1 says:

    I’m a big SC fan and have raced both first year models of the Tallboy C and Highball on many different races courses over the past few years. Made podium on almost all my local races with both bikes. I’ve raced the National Endurance Shenandoah 100 mile race on both, and have to say the Tallboy is much better for comfort on longer races, with much less numbing and back issues. The Highball however is faster for out of the saddle sprints for positioning on starts and passing. I love the using the Highball for full throttle race pace on shorter, less technical courses. On my regular training rides on a techical course with lots for roots and rocks, my timing is better on the Tallboy, which is surprising since I’ve always thought of hardtails having major advantages for climbs, weight and pedal efficientcy. Thanks for the coverage, great bikes.

  • Tom says:

    My take away from this is that there continues to be no better endurance racer than a 100 mm 29er — though the Turner Czar is my weapon of choice! 🙂

  • sharon says:

    Great way to test a bunch of bikes! This is the ideal test but yes the rider fatigue would be an issue. A better way might be to just go for a ‘ride’ and try to maintain a good pace for each bike to see exactly how much faster each bike is.

    But as a multi lap race at this level even with fatigue Clint seemed to and should be able to maintain the pace!

    It would have been interesting to through a Nomad into this mix. Compare the three wheel sizes of the same ‘style’ of bike. Such as the more All Mountain bikes etc.

    Interesting read regardless!

  • Sean says:

    Hi Clint, great write up, just wondering I noticed you were on an XL Bronson? How tall are you?

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