Santa Cruz gives the Tallboy a trail bike makeover

Version 3.0 goes from XC racer to trail terror

Santa Cruz has just unveiled the redesigned Tallboy. The latest version is longer upfront, shorter in the back and slacker than its predecessors. The sum of these changes is a short-travel trail bike with a penchant for speed. Read on for the details and first ride impressions.


Tallboy 3 highlights

  • Longer reach, shorter chainstays, slacker head angle
  • Available in 29er and 27.5+ builds
  • 120mm of front suspension (130mm for 27.5+)
  • 110mm VPP rear suspension 
  • 73mm threaded bottom bracket
  • Front derailleur compatible
  • Available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL
  • Pricing from $6,499-$7799 (UK and Aus pricing TBC)
  • More affordable build kits to follow
  • Available in May

A Tallboy in name alone

Version 3.0 of the venerable Tallboy is a drastic departure from the two previous iterations. In truth, the second-generation Tallboy wasn’t a redesign as much as it was a quick refresh to keep on target in the component standards shooting gallery.

The quick-release rear end was replaced by a 142x12mm thru-axle, a direct-mount was added for the front derailleur, as was internal routing for a dropper seatpost. The latest Tallboy also gets a standards reboot, receiving ‘boosted’ thru-axles at both ends, internal cable routing, and a much cleaner removable mount for a front derailleur.

The Tallboy’s geometry remained unchanged through the first two generations and in this regard, the new Tallboy is an entirely new machine that’s in line with the growing crop of short-travel 29er trail bikes.

Like its forefathers, the Tallboy 3 comes equipped with a 120mm suspension fork (thankfully now with 34mm stanchions). The head tube angle is 2.2 degrees slacker at 68 degrees. The front center has been lengthened as well. The frames now sport 40-50mm longer reach numbers across the five frame sizes and come stock with stubby, 50mm stems and 760mm handlebars.

The 29er versions of the tallboy still come stock with 120mm forks, but now they have the more robust 34mm chassis:

The 29er Tallboy still sports a 120mm suspension fork, but its mounted to a head tube that’s slacker by two degrees

Santa Cruz also steepened the seat tube by .6 degrees to 73 degrees. The seat tube is also approximately 30mm shorter. This results in appreciably better standover clearance and compatibility with longer-stroke dropper seatposts. In fact, medium through XL Tallboys will come with 150mm droppers. The XXL boasts a 175mm dropper, while the size small makes do with a still ample 125mm version.

Last but certainly not least, the chainstays on the Tallboy 3 shrink by 11mm to 17in/432mm. 

Like the nomad, bronson, 5010 and hightower, the new tallboy gets a repositioned vpp linkage to shorten the rear end:

Like the Bronson, 5010 and Hightower, the Tallboy gets a repositioned VPP linkage that shortens the rear end

So now that the Tallboy sits firmly in the trail bike category, does this mean there’s room for a purebred cross-country full suspension in the company’s line? Room, yes. But according to Santa Cruz, demand for such a bike is an open question.

Not just a 29er

The tallboy has been made over into a trail bike:

Just like the Hightower, the Tallboy 3 is available in 29er and 27.5+ versions. The same flip chip arrangement in the upper VPP link is used to more or less preserve the bike’s geometry between wheelsizes. In transitioning the 29er Tallboy to the 27.5+ role, the rider will also need to swap or lengthen the 120mm fork to 130mm. The 27.5+ complete Tallboy is equipped with a 130mm Fox 34.

Like the hightower, the tallboy sports a chip in the upper linkage to the geometry when switching between 29in and 27.5+ setups. (it’s shown here in the

A flip chip in the upper VPP link and a fork swap are required to go from 29 to 27.5+ on the new Tallboy

To start with, Santa Cruz is offering two 29er builds and one 27.5+ version. I’m testing the Tallboy 29 CC with the premium XX1 build and Enve M60 HV wheels. Weight for a size medium is 25.8lb / 11.7kg.

If the bikes shown in this initial launch are outside your budget, hold tight — additional Tallboy builds at more affordable price points will be available in the coming months.

Early impressions

Stay tuned for an in-depth review of the tallboy, as well as a comparison of the 29er and 27.5+ versions:

Since its introduction in 2009, the Tallboy has stood at the rowdy end of the cross-country bike spectrum. From the outset, Santa Cruz opted to spec the bike with a 120mm suspension fork, which increased the scope of its ability and made it harder to pigeonhole as strictly an XC rig. As a former Tallboy 2.0 owner, I categorized it as a one-bike quiver for the trail biker who is also an avid endurance racer.

While still light enough to be flogged in amateur endurance races, the handling of the Tallboy 3 is considerably different. Thanks to the shorter chainstays, it’s noticeably easier to loft the front end through rock gardens or to pedal kick off ledges. Riders familiar with the older versions may need to adjust their body language to suit the Tallboy’s new trail bike mannerisms. It’s a steer-from-the-hips machine that can keep pace with the likes of Evil’s Following, the Yeti SB4.5c or the recently-released Norco Optic. 

Despite drastic geometry changes and a 10mm bump in suspension travel, the Tallboy’s stellar pedaling performance remains intact and may have gained a bit of confidence in coping with bigger hits.

Santa Cruz made some kinematic changes in the redesign. The initial leverage ratio is higher, making it more sensitive to small bumps and improving traction. The mid-stroke is firmer than previous versions, requiring more force to move the rear end deeper through the stroke, so it conserves its travel until it’s really needed. 

While my time on this new bike is limited, it’s quite clear that the Tallboy 3 has unabashedly embraced the trail bike side of its previously split personality. You could think of it as downsized Hightower, or as a big-wheeled 5010. Either way, the result is the same — a swift trail bike that’s more capable than its predecessors.

Stay tuned for a long-term review as well as a comparison of the Tallboy’s performance with 29in and 27.5+ wheels.