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Long and tall.
When it was first introduced, the 29er platform varied so greatly from the then-standard 26 that it was immediately pigeonholed as a hardtail, XC-only brute. Since then, it has continuously defied a series of limiting assumptions — too ungainly, too heavy, unsuited for anything but very short travel — before Santa Cruz Bicycles' made what we thought was the perfect 29er, the original Tallboy. The Tallboy has now undergone two transformations, and the new Tallboy Carbon CC 29 X01 ENVE Complete Mountain Bike adds a series of new wrinkles. These include a set of ENVE M60 Forty wheels, obviously, and features imported from its enduro and more traditional trail bikes, including Boost rear spacing, re-designed linkages, and the brand's latest signature, a so-called flip chip that adjusts the frame's dimensions to keep the geometry the same whether you're running 29in wheels or 27.5+.
Considering its revered status among 29er enthusiasts, a new Tallboy is a big deal, but before we get into the changes it's worth dwelling briefly on the flip chip. The flip chip sits in the upper link and can be rotated to allow the shock mount to migrate. Being able to reposition the shock attachment point effectively accounts for the 9mm difference in radii between 27.5+ and 29in tires, keeping the geometry as static as possible across wheel sizes. SC first introduced this feature on the Hightower, but the brand seems to have perfected it for the Tallboy 3; changing the Hightower results in a slight change in head tube angle, but the Tallboy's head tube angle remains the same for 27.5+ and 29in wheels.
Compared to the previous Tallboy, the Tallboy 3 takes just a bit off the top of the head tube, dropping 2.2 degrees to fall from the standard 70.2 to a moderately slack 68 degrees. Courtesy of the Flip Chip's slight geometry alteration, that number stays the same whether you're running a 29in wheels with a 120mm fork or 27.5+ with 130mm. The frame's chainstays and reach also join the modern geometry movement; the stays are shorter by 13.3mm and the reach bumps up dramatically, gaining an average of 40mm depending on the size. (At 34.2mm, Large gained the least, and sizes Small and XX-Large gained the most: 43.8 and 45.6mm, respectively.) All told, the geometry tweaks add up to a chassis that's far more capable in virtually every trail situation than its predecessor.
The Virtual Pivot Point travel has also taken a turn for the crunchier, gaining an additional 10mm, which aligns the Tallboy 3 perfectly with the emerging crop of 4.5in, do-it-all trail 29ers. That's not to say it's just rolling off the press as one faceless frame in a sea of similar models, as the inclusion of Santa Cruz's Flip Chip means the Tallboy 3 can also revel in loose conditions with 27.5+. The Tallboy 3 is essentially two frames: a race rocket 29er with a long, stable geometry and a plus-size barge for floaty traction on surfaces ranging from off-trail snowscapes to rain-slicked root lattices. The beauty is that, instead of shelling out for two separate premium machines, you just need the Flip Chip, two wheelsets, and two forks.
Despite all the tweaks to geometry, the inclusion of a Flip Chip, and the centimeter of additional travel, the VPP design remains the same updated version featured on frames like the Bronson 2.0 and 5010 2.0. It's inspired by the enduro-minded Nomad, and the result is that the links stay out of the way, which lets the Tallboy 3 accommodate a piggyback shock's external can without giving up the bottle cage. The repositioned links also make for more ground clearance, lower standover, and an additional boost in stiffness to the already stiff Boost back end.
The latest VPP's changes aren't limited to wandering links, though; the system's tuning has also been tweaked. Where the old suspension curve described a deep "U," the new VPP's curve resembles a flattened check mark, with less dramatic ramping on either end of the arc. The results are that, during the initial and mid stroke, it boasts increased bump compliance to keep the tires glued to the trail for more traction across lumpy trails and root latticed climbs. It also maintains its predecessor's firm feel during accelerations, so it won't dampen the Tallboy 3's spirited kick while jockeying for position in a mass start or a finishing sprint. The shock's ramp-up arc doesn't dramatically alter as the shock compresses, so the pedaling platform stays consistent across travel, with less wallowing, bob, and bottom-outs — even while the Boost axle's path turns rearward to absorb bigger hits deep in its travel.
We're happy to report that Santa Cruz's Carbon CC frame construction also remains unchanged. For the top-tier CC frame designation, the engineers use a higher modulus carbon than the standard Carbon C model, so less material is required to hit the same strength and stiffness numbers. Less material equates to less weight, and, well, you can see where we're going with this. Climbing and pure speed both benefit when there's less mass for your engine to propel and a stiffer chassis makes for more efficient power transfer and cat-on-carpet tracking through techy trail furniture.
The frame's two carbon triangles are built as whole pieces rather than glued together from disparate bits, a method that saves weight and increases structural integrity by allowing Santa Cruz to wrap carbon continuously through and around key junctures. This process reinforces the frame with less material while eliminating the artificial stress points that result from bonded construction methods. Finally, the carbon is also compacted from the inside and the outside for a more even finish that avoids any structural defects, excess material build-up, and resin pooling for — you guessed it — even more weight savings.
As with the its slacker stablemate, the Hightower, the Tallboy 3's reworked linkage means it's one-by only, but it still comes equipped with ISCG 05 tabs. The threaded bottom bracket is another feature that we've come to just expect from the California-based brand, and it's a strong selling point for those who don't like dealing with the tricky tolerances and creaky interface of press-fit models. The Tallboy 3's 27.5+ mode accommodates every manufacturer's 2.8in tires, but some 3in models may have clearance issues. Understandably, its clearance decreases as a 29er, but SC still ships it with 2.35in tires, which we think occupy the sweet spot of cush and traction without getting top floppy and muddying trail feel.
- The ultimate XC machine for pure racing speed
- Superlative build kit capped with ENVE wheels
- 4.3in of the third generation of VPP suspension
- Cross-country geometry that tilts toward trail aggression
- Switches between 29in and 27.5+ wheel standards
- One of the industry's leading carbon construction processes
- Threaded bottom bracket reduces dreaded, mysterious creaks
- Q & A
On the top of my shortlist
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
For a hard tail rider like me itâs so nice to find a FS race rig that I feel I can live with. The tallboy has always been at the top of the class in this arena and the 3rd version of it keeps it at the front of the class. It took a couple rides to tune the suspension to where I really wanted it (as it usually does) and at that point I found myself considering, dare I say, racing on it? I still havenât turned in my highball but Iâm tempted on some courses to run the tallboy. Handling is top notch, climbing is fluid and efficient, energy saving when you are hitting the descents. I have a hard time finding fault in the tallboy, itâs my kind of bike. Feel free to contact me with specific questions or help. email@example.com 801-204-4699
MOUNTAIN GOAT THAT LOVES TO SHRED
- Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
If you live and mountain bike in Salt Lake area, you have to do the Wasatch Crest Trail (including PUKE HILL) at lease once a year. With the light weight CC carbon combined with the X01 Eagle I was able to clear PUKE HILL for the first time in my life. This bike is a mountain goat that does not want to be stopped. Don't be fooled by its willingness to climb though, it was just as fun to rip down the trail. This bike was begging for more on the choppy downhill sections of the Mill D trail as well.
I am 6' 1" tall 200lbs. Having been on the boarder of a large and X-large frame I have always opted for the playfulness of a large. According to Santa Cruz I should be on an X-large, so I took their advise and went with the X-Large. The bigger frame was surprisingly playful when I wanted it, but super stable on the climb and decent. If you find yourself on the boarder between two sizes I recommend going bigger.
Outside of riding chair lifts this bike does it all. The bike is light and playful while remaining stable. The X01 Eagle never left me feeling like I needed another gear on the climb or spinning out on the decent. The Rock Shock Reverb dropper post made the alternating terrain a breeze to transition from cruising downhill to the surprise climb without skipping a beat. For a mid travel 29/27.5+, this bike has been able to take on anything I could throw at it.
If you have any questions about this bike or any other bike or gear shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 801-523-4053