We’ve known Santa Cruz were planning a longer-travel version of the 100mm Tallboy 29er since we chatted to them about compatibility with the awesome 140mm Fox 34 suspension fork last summer. The addition of a simple LTc suffix to the Tallboy name and a broadly similar design belies the fact that the new carbon bike blows the doors off our previous trail bike performance benchmarks.
The initial stats are certainly impressive: 135mm of rear wheel travel via the proven, grease ported, user serviceable pivot VPP2 suspension system makes it one of the longest travel 29ers currently available. It’s also the first Santa Cruz trail bike to use a 142x12mm rear axle for increased stiffness and security. They’ve stayed with a conventional screw-in bottom bracket and a clamp-on front mech for cleaner lines with increasingly popular single-ring setups. An ISCG 05 chainguide mount and dropper post remote guides are fitted to back up its hardcore ride credentials.
However, at 2.4kg/5.3lb for the naked carbon frame option in large (the yellow painted option is 2.54kg/5.6lb) the Tallboy LTc is outrageously light for the generally hefty longer-travel 29er category. In fact it’s only 90g/3.2oz heavier than the 100mm Tallboy and lighter than the 26in-wheeled Blur LTc. Our Shimano XTR equipped test bikes weighed less than 28lb even with almost a kilo of heavy-duty tubeless tyre at either end and a RockShox Reverb dropper post.
It also says something about the proprietary carbon layup that the more affordable alloy framed Tallboy LT version, also launched today, weighs nearly 700g/1.5lb more to mimic the same strength and stiffness metrics. It’s identical in geometry, suspension and features otherwise though, apart from a quick-release rear axle and the option to upgrade from stock black or blue to Santa Cruz’s new CCCP custom paint programme.
The carbon (top) and aluminium (bottom) Tallboy LTs share many of the same features. The alloy frame weighs 1.5lb more but costs US$700 less, at $1,999 compared to $2,699 (including Fox RP23 shock)
How does it ride?
We were lucky enough to ride both the carbon and alloy Tallboy LTs in Sedona, Arizona for several days at the press launch. We've also spent the past few weeks secretly ripping up our UK test trails on the LTc. Ripping up is exactly what it’s done to most of our well worn trail bike benchmarks, too. Initial impressions are of a very well balanced and friendly bike, that sits you securely into its travel but gives sharp, clearly communicated feedback from every corner. It’s built around 130-150mm forks, but with a head angle of 69.5° with a 140mm fork it’s not a slacked-out, downhill-specific sled.
The 34 fork and rearward-swinging rear wheel suck up big rocks, roots and man sized drops without flinching. It also holds a carving line or dirty drift as long as you want and belittles ball-shrinking toothy tech situations that it’s lured you into at warp speed. In fact it’s definitely worth warning that the combination of Kashima coated shock and fork plus big wheels hides trail trauma and the normal speed sensation triggers almost too well. That makes heading into sections way faster than usual a genuine hazard until you recalibrate or just relax and trust the bike to deal with the consequences.
While the rider/pedal responsive VPP action won’t suit fans of ‘invisible’ suspension it does make popping the bike up, over and/or off bigger trail features easy. Add its impact swallowing ability and it’s way more fun and 3D dynamic than most glued-to-the-ground 29ers we’ve ridden. Point it back up though and that same suspension drives hard and direct, with clear traction feedback adding fuel to its technical climb tenacity.
There’s enough reach-around on the steering to keep tight switchbacks manageable and stop flop and wander as you head skywards. Even with hefty Maxxis Ardent rubber fitted it sauntered nonchalantly up sections we normally only clear very occasionally. Upgrading to a set of ENVE’s carbon AM wheels and lighter tyres for the latter phases of testing added even more kick to the acceleration and showcased the carving stiffness of the chassis even further.
Since its launch in the Arizona desert, Guy Kesteven has been putting the Tallboy LTC through its paces on home turf. You can see it in action at Dales Bike Centre and Stainburn in Yorkshire during a cover shoot for What Mountain Bike magazine in the video above
Guy Kesteven: "If it sounds like the Tallboy LTc has blown even us cynical sods away, then it has. There are bikes that can match it for runaway truck speed and outrageous confidence on descents but nothing that can also climb fast enough to crush the coagulated hearts of dedicated cross-country bikes. Yes, the bare frame costs more than the bikes most of us dream of buying. However, when the comparison you keep using to explain its performance to people is “like a carbon Nomad, but with an electric motor in” then sometimes even excessive cost is justified. A true benchmark setter and the best fast, fun, ego boosting all-round trail bike I've ridden in a four-figure testing history."
- Build: Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc XTR XC29
- Frame: Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc, proprietary carbon fibre layup
- Fork: Fox 34 Float RLC 15QR, tapered steerer
- Rear shock: Fox Float RP23 Kashima
- Wheels: WTB Frequency 23 29er rims on Hive 15mm front and DT Swiss 240 142x12mm rear hubs
- Tyres: Maxxis Ardent LUST tubeless, 29x2.25in
- Crankset: Shimano XTR M985, 24/34/42t
- Gears: Shimano XTR M985
- Brakes: Shimano XTR M985
- Finishing kit: Easton Haven 120mm carbon bar, Thomson 90mm stem, RockShox Reverb seatpost, WTB SLT saddle
- Weight: 27.86lb/12.64kg
- Sizes: M, L (tested), XL
- Colours: Matt carbon/orange, gloss yellow/black
- From: www.santacruzmtb.com / www.santacruzbikes.co.uk
Geometry (size L)
- Top tube length: 612mm/24.1in
- Seat tube length: 495mm/19.5in
- Head angle: 69.5°
- Seat angle: 72.6 °
- BB height: 341mm/13.4in
- Chainstay length: 456mm/17.9in
- Wheelbase: 1,142mm/45in