The Tallboy 2 is the successor to the original Santa Cruz Tallboy, a pioneering 100mm 29er and consistent bestseller for the US company since its launch back in 2009. Quite understandably, Santa Cruz haven't strayed far from the DNA of the original bike, and we think you'll be glad of that.
Riders familiar with the Tallboy will feel right at home on the second version. That's because all geometry is identical to that of the older bike. The Tallboy is no longer out of reach for the vertically challenged, either, the addition of a size Small making it work for those at and slightly above the 5ft mark. If you're really a tall boy then you'll have to plump for a carbon version, though – the XXL size will not be produced in aluminium.
Ride & handling: Big wheel stability plus short travel agility
We trialled the Tallboy 2 in Braemar, Scotland. It proved to be the ideal natural testing ground to exploit its talents. Gruelling climbs were scaled efficiently through a combination of a flex-free rear end and bob-shrugging VPP suspension action. As soon as the trail flattens, riders will realise why Santa Cruz stuck with the original bike's geometry – for a 29er it's an ever-agile and keen machine.
The Tallboy 2 is a bit of a hooligan on the descents. Crank some momentum into the bike and the stability and rollover capability of those large hoops really comes into play.
As soon as gravity is on your side then it's easy to forget that this is a 4in cross-country bike, the only occasional reminder coming in the form of the 70.2-degree head angle. Keep your weight back and carry on, let the revised suspension ratio deal with the terrain, and recalibrate what you thought was possible on an XC bike.
Keep those cranks level…
It almost feels as though you can't tell the new Tallboy what it can and cannot do – personify the Tallboy and it would need a restraining order to keep it from scrapping with the new Santa Cruz Solo trail bike.
In a similar way to the Solo, the Tallboy 2 uses a slammed bottom bracket height, a smidge over 13in for our XL test bike. Once you adjust this figure to accomodate for the suspension sag, you realise that the Tallboy is a bit of a ground-hugger; gulley runs and rock gardens caught us out a few times. It didn't take long to adjust for the lack of clearance, though. We found ourselves pumping with level cranks rather than risking grounding out.
Suspension at both ends comes from Fox's CTD line, the 120mm Float 32 CTD fork doing an impressive job of matching the efficient and inspiring feel from the back of the bike. We found it best in Trail mode, though – the Descend setting tended to dive a little too much for our liking.
Frame & equipment: An evolution
A size Large carbon version of the new frame tips the scales at 4.9lb (2.2kg) – that's a quarter of a pound lighter than the first-generation bike, while the aluminium version manages to shave a third of a pound.
The suspension has been tweaked slightly. Pivot points have been relocated, while the VPP linkage has been tuned to offer improved pedalling efficiency as well as a slightly more linear feel throughout the 100mm of travel.
Meanwhile, the alloy pivot hardware has been extensively reworked, with an innovative sealing system to ensure durability in the toughest of environments. The new hardware is also extremely simple and quick to remove from the bike, ideal for the home mechanic to overhaul. Santa Cruz never rush to accept new standards, either, so the Tallboy sticks with a tried-and-tested 73mm threaded bottom bracket shell along with IS brake mounts.
Both the carbon and aluminium bikes are now compatible with direct-mount front mechs, and Santa Cruz have even developed a trick snap-on rubber chainstay protector to help keep things quiet and chip free.
Santa Cruz Tallboy 2 Carbon
Our test bike was kitted out with a premium build, including a Shimano XTR triple setup and matching stoppers, plus ENVE's stunning carbon 29 XC wheelset. The result was a sub-25lb (11.3kg) superbike, but with a price tag to match – US$9,717 (UK complete prices are to be confirmed, but a carbon frame retails at £2,499).
The only disappointment came in the form of Maxxis' Ikon tyres. Despite offering quick rolling and decent levels of grip, the thin construction left us puncture prone. Meanwhile, for a similar experience that's kinder on the wallet, the aluminium frameset of the Tallboy 2 starts at £1,749/US$1,950.
The Tallboy 2 is more of a facelift than an all-new development but, critically, Santa Cruz have kept all the right things. The Mk2 Tallboy is a lighter, stiffer and more complete package than its predecessor. Best of all, it's available to more riders than ever. If it doesn't stay a bestseller we'll be surprised.
- Fork: Fox 32 Float 29 CTD Kashima, 120mm
- Shock: Fox Float CTD Kashima
- Drivetrain: Shimano XTR 3x10
- Wheelset: Enve 29 XC Carbon
- Brakes: Shimano XTR
- Handlebar: Easton Havoc Carbon
- Stem: Easton EA70
- Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth
- Saddle: WTB Silverado SLT
- Tyres: Maxxis Ikon 29x2.2in