First ride: The 2023 Santa Cruz Tallboy is updated, not revised

First ride: The 2023 Santa Cruz Tallboy is updated, not revised

For Santa Cruz, the previous generation of the Tallboy was a bike that had become a cult classic. It has seemed to resonate with nearly everyone who has ridden it, inspiring all sorts of unique custom builds, some of them focusing on getting as much downhill performance as possible, and others on transformation. into an XC machine with more comfort than a purebred race bike.

Released in 2019, the Tallboy 4 hit the sweet spot in versatility, with geometry numbers that allowed it to handle trickier technical terrain without feeling dull and sluggish on softer trails. It’s a trail bike through and through, with 29er wheels, 120mm rear travel and a 130mm fork.

Details of Tallboy 5

• Wheel size: 29 inches
• Travel: 120mm, 130mm fork
• Carbon C and CC frame options
• 65.5º or 65.7º head angle
• 76.6º seat tube angle (size L, low)
• 438 mm chainstays (size L, low)
• Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
• Weight: 28.75 lbs / 13.04 kg (size L, X01 AXS RSV construction)
• Price: $5,299 – $10,399 USD
santacruzbicycles.com

Santa Cruz didn’t want to mess with a good thing, so the 2023 Tallboy doesn’t deviate that far from the previous model. The geometry has been tweaked slightly, the same goes for the kinematics, but it’s more of a fine-tuning than a complete overhaul.

Gloss Ultra Blue and Matte Taupe are the two color options for the fifth generation of the Tallboy.

Frame details

The most obvious change to the Tallboy’s frame is the addition of downtube storage, a feature now found on almost all trail and enduro bikes in the Santa Cruz lineup. exception of the Bronson (at least for now). A small latch next to the bottle cage provides access to the compartment, and two pouches are included to store a tube, tools and any other snacks and accessories that may fit.

Other than the new snack stash, the frame details of the Tallboy haven’t changed much. There’s fully guided internal cable routing, a threaded bottom bracket, room for a 2.5-inch rear tire and mounts for a chain guide. There is also a universal derailleur hanger and a flip chip on the rear shock mount that allows for very subtle geometry changes.

Geometry and suspension layout

The Tallboy’s shock rollover chip remains, but the ability to change the chainstay length by 10mm has been removed, replaced with size-specific lengths for each size. Base lengths range from 431mm on a small size to 444mm on an XXL.

The seat tube angles of the Tallboy are also size specific, getting steeper with each larger size. This helps ensure that taller riders won’t end up too far off the back of the bike when climbing.

The new Tallboy isn’t slacker than before, but it’s gotten a bit longer, with reach numbers that match the rest of the Santa Cruz lineup. Reach for a size large is now 473mm in the low setting, an increase of 5mm. Slightly steeper seat tube angles compensate for this increase, creating a relatively unchanged top tube length, meaning the seated climbing position will be almost the same as before.

Santa Cruz lowered the Tallboy’s leverage ratio to give it a slightly less progressive shock curve, a change that also comes with a lower amount of anti-squat early in the travel and a less aggressive drop more late in the race. These changes were made to increase the bike’s small-bump compliance and to give it a more predictable suspension feel at all points of travel.

Building kits

There are 6 models in the lineup, with prices starting at $5,299 for the Tallboy CR, which has a SRAM NX drivetrain, Guide T brakes, RockShox Pike Base fork and Fox Performance DPS shock.

At the top of the range is the Tallboy CC X01 AXS RSV at $10,399. That’s a lot of initials to say it has Santa Cruz’s most premium carbon frame construction, SRAM’s AXS wireless electronic drivetrain and Reserve 30 SL carbon wheels. Suspension duties on this pricey model are handled by a Fox Float Factory DPS shock and RockShox Pike Ultimate fork.


Journey impressions

The Tallboy is not a downhill bike, nor does it try to be. Instead, it’s a do-it-all machine that feels “fair” to its handling. There’s no sketchiness or unpredictability to be found—it’s the rider who will bring those traits to the table, not the bike.

Honestly, I could probably drop the link to Mike Levy Tallboy 4 review here and call it good. There are more similarities than differences between the two versions, and the overall driving characteristics are nearly identical. It’s been a bit since I last ridden a Tallboy, but going from my somewhat fuzzy recollections, I’d say the suspension feels better than before – it’s a little softer overall, making the bike more comfortable on choppy sections of trail. There’s still plenty of support, though, and even when I used all of the travel there was no harshness at the end of the stroke.

The strength of the Tallboy is its versatility – it feels solid, free of any unwanted contractions, even on rougher trails and at high speeds. The Maxxis Dissector/Rekon tire combo worked well for the dry dusty conditions that have been prevalent lately, though I’d probably put something a little meatier for wet conditions or really trying to get the performance as downhill as possible. I would also probably swap the G2 brakes for some code if I went that route, as there is only a small weight penalty and a noticeable performance difference. Still, for general use, the G2 brakes work well, and a rotor upgrade to the newer HS2 versions would be an easier way to increase stopping power a bit more.

The handling of the Tallboy is very quiet and predictable, and so is the pedaling performance – it strikes a good balance between efficiency and traction. That said, the weight combined with the more toned down suspension feel makes it more akin to a short-travel Hightower rather than a longer-travel Blur.

That’s not to say it feels heavy or sluggish – far from it – it’s just that there’s a noticeable difference in how it feels compared to something like the newer Trek Top Fuel, or even a Transition Spur for that matter. All of these bikes have 120mm of rear travel, but the Trek and Transition are more on the aggressive XC side of the spectrum and have more appetite for sprinting uphill than the Tallboy.

These lighter, snappier options are ideal for riders trying to scratch the itch of the downcountry, but when gravity takes over, it’s the Tallboy that pushes forward, with a more planted feel that provides the confidence to reach. higher speeds and more challenging track characteristics.

As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and that’s exactly what Santa Cruz did with the Tallboy. It’s a refined trail bike, with easygoing handling and all the frame features (and corresponding price tag) that Santa Cruz has become known for.


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