Released in 2019, the Tallboy 4 hit the nail on the head when it came to versatility, with geometry numbers that allowed it to handle trickier technical terrain without feeling dull and lethargic on smoother trails. It’s a trail bike through and through, with 29” wheels, 120mm rear travel and a 130mm fork.
• Wheel size: 29″
• Travel: 120mm, 130mm fork
• C&CC carbon frame options
• 65.5º or 65.7º head angle
• 76.6º seat tube angle (size L, low)
• 438mm chainstays (size L, low)
• Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
• Weight: 28.75 lbs / 13.04 kg (size L, version X01 AXS RSV)
• Price: $5,299 – $10,399 USD
Santa Cruz didn’t want to mess with a good thing, so the 2023 Tallboy doesn’t deviate that much from the previous model. The geometry has been tweaked slightly, and 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 Tallboy.
The most obvious change to the Tallboy’s frame is the addition of down tube storage, a feature now found on nearly every trail and enduro bike in the Santa Cruz line except the Bronson (at least for now). A small latch next to the water bottle cage allows access to the compartment, and two pouches are included to store a tube, tools, and any other snacks and accessories that will fit.
Aside from the new snack stash, the Tallboy’s frame details haven’t changed much. There’s fully routed internal cable routing, a threaded bottom bracket, room for a 2.5” rear tire, and mounts for a chain guide. There’s also a universal derailleur hanger and a flip chip on the rear shock mount that allows for very subtle geometry changes.
Suspension design and geometry
The Tallboy shock twist chip remains, but the ability to alter the chain stay length by 10mm has been removed and replaced with size-specific lengths. Chainstay lengths range from 431mm on a size Small to 444mm on an XXL.
The Tallboy’s seat tube angles are also size-specific, getting more pronounced with each larger size. That helps ensure taller riders don’t end up too high over the rear of the bike when climbing.
The new Tallboy isn’t slacker than before, but it’s gotten a bit longer, with range numbers that match the rest of the Santa Cruz lineup. The reach for a size large is now 473mm on the low setting, an increase of 5mm. Slightly sloping seat tube angles balance that increase, creating a top tube length that remains relatively unchanged, meaning the seated climbing position will feel almost the same as before.
Santa Cruz lowered the Tallboy’s gear ratio to give it a slightly less progressive shock curve, a change that’s also accompanied by less anti-squat early in the stroke and less aggressive sag later in the stroke. Those 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.
There are 6 models in the lineup, with prices starting at $5,299 USD for the Tallboy CR, which has a SRAM NX drivetrain, Guide T brakes, a RockShox Pike Base fork, and a Fox Performance DPS shock.
At the top of the line is the $10,399 CC X01 AXS RSV Tallboy. That’s a lot of initials to designate that it has Santa Cruz’s highest-end carbon frame construction, SRAM’s AXS wireless electronic drivetrain, and Reserve 30 SL carbon wheels. Suspension duties on that expensive model are handled by a Fox Float Factory DPS shock and RockShox Pike Ultimate fork.
The Tallboy is not a cross-country bike, and it doesn’t try to be. Instead, it’s a do-it-all machine with a ‘perfect’ feel to it. No sketches or unpredictability to be found – it is the rider who will bring those traits to the table, not the bike.
Honestly I could probably leave the link to Mike Levy’s Tallboy 4 Review here and call it good. There are more similarities than differences between the two versions, and the general handling characteristics are nearly identical. It’s been a bit since I’ve last ridden a Tallboy, but based on my somewhat hazy recollection I’d say the suspension feels better than before – it’s a bit softer overall, which makes the bike more comfortable on rough sections. of the trail. There is still plenty of support though, and even when I used the full stroke, there was no harshness at the end of the stroke.
The Tallboy’s strong point is its versatility: it feels solid, free from unwanted crunch, even on the roughest, highest-speed trails. The Maxxis Dissector/Rekon tire combination worked well for the dry, dusty conditions that have prevailed of late, though I’d probably put on something a little meatier for wet conditions or to try to squeeze as much downhill performance as possible. I’d probably trade the G2 brakes for some code too if I went down that route, as there’s only a small weight penalty and noticeable performance difference. Still, for general use, the G2 brakes work fine, and a rotor upgrade to the newer HS2 versions would be an easier way to increase stopping power a bit more.
The Tallboy’s handling is very smooth and predictable, and so is the pedaling performance: it strikes a good balance between efficiency and traction. That said, the weight combined with the duller suspension feel makes it feel closer to a short-travel Hightower than a longer-travel Blur.
That’s not to say it feels heavy or lethargic, far from it, it’s just that there’s a noticeable difference between how it feels compared to something like the newer Trek Top Fuel, or even a Transition Spur for that matter. All of those bikes have 120mm of rear travel, but the Trek and Transition sit more on the aggressive side of the XC spectrum and feel more uphill than the Tallboy.
Those lighter, livelier options are great for riders trying to scratch the downfield itch, but when gravity takes over, it’s the Tallboy that steps forward, with a more planted feel that provides the confidence needed to hit higher speeds. and more challenging trail features.
As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and that’s exactly what Santa Cruz has done with the Tallboy. It’s a refined trail bike, with easy-to-use handling and all the frame features (and corresponding price) that Santa Cruz has become known for.
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