SANTA CRUZ Tallboy Al – Quick Test:by c_g

Note: With the Quick test format here at TNI Europe we are starting a new series. Quick tests as the name implies are not classical tests of at least one month, as usual on TNI, but they compile the impressions we have collected within a few hours or days of riding a specific bike. Recently we had the opportunity to perform several such “Quick tests“ of which we will report one by one in the coming weeks.

Given by the recent introduction of the Tallboy LT by SANTA CRUZ (here), I begin with the SANTA CRUZ Tallboy AL. The Carbon framed Tallboy has been reviewed in depth by Grannygear and some fellow riders back in 2010 (here) and now us Euro riders have been given the chance to ride this platform in the alloy version. You all know, the Tallboy Al is only the “little brother” of the original Tallboy (at the time of its introduction a ground breaking new carbon design). However, looking at the Kermit- green intensively sculptured frame the is not even a hint of the AL Tallboy being subtle or shy. With the exception of the frame material, all characteristics of the the Tallboy Carbon are carried over to the AL version – the much praised VPP rear suspension (with externally greasable main bearings), the tapered head tube, the BSA bottom bracket, the clamped front derailleur mount and the 135 mm quick release axle on the rear wheel. Although this bike has its roots in California, all cable routing runs are external throughout, which for us always is a nice and functional touch.

The strongly curved top tube ensures a very good stand-over clearance and its excellent rigidity makes for an equally good optimal power transfer. The one-piece rear triangle is also made beautifully. The German distributor Shock Therapy (just like SANTA CRUZ themselves) offers the Tallboy as frame kit, consisting of the frame and FOX RP2 or RP23 Kashima coated shock or as a complete bike with several kits. Our test bike came with a functional Shimano XTgroupset, a Rock Shox Reba RL fork and and robust DT-Swiss wheels.

RIDING IMPRESSIONS: Once seated and adjusted, I immediately felt right at home on the Tallboy. I´d put he position to be comfortably compact and yet still nicely efficient. More than with many other such bikes I felt more IN than ON the bike. Overall it is a very agile steering bike, which combined with the excellent frame rigidity provides for optimal steering precision.

With the Tallboy Al I am constantly tempted to turn any trail into my personal playground – use every little ledge and undulation for tricks – that is how agile and playful it handles. At higher speeds it requires a steady hand to keep the agility at check. When things get wild I could detect a small amount of flex in the rear triangle, which to me came purely from the rear triangle and not from the strong and direct linkage and pivot points. The rear end is particularly active yet still very efficient when seated. For my riding style I felt it did rather well even without the platform switched ON.

By its suspension performance it feels significantly more capable than the “only” 100mm of travel suggest – even larger blocks are ‚swallowed’ with confidence. When standing or hammering out of the saddle, the rear becomes more tricky and shows a overly active side by a strong pedal induced bobbing – only the provided platform ON is able to keep the pedal induced action tamed. The suspension then changes from positively plush to firmly active, which to me feels better anyway. When riding the bike I often wondered how it would do with a 120 mm fork – as it was, I had the notion that the RS Reba reaches its limits earlier than the rear suspension.

One thought came to my mind a several times riding the Tallboy and that was how I wished for more travel on the SANTA CRUZ Tallboy and just when I sat time to write down my impressions I see the news of a 135 mm travel Tallboy LT to be introduced – supposedly the same characteristic and handling, but a bit more All-Mountain tuned with the plus in travel and slacker angles …. yummy – sounds promising to me!!!

The only downside (apart from the slightly squatty rear when standing) to me has been the sub-standard part selection. The 160 mm discs front and rear are definitely undersized for the proper usage and the triple chain ring combination’s frequently had some hard ground contact, The 2.1er MAXXIS Crossmark tires did well under the dry conditions of this quick test, but sure would not be my permanent choice fort his bike.

QUICK TEST RESULT: The first-class frame of the SANTA CRUZ Tallboy trail to me ooozes FUN out of every weld and joint. More than many other bikes,it combines the relaxed soul of a trail surfer with the performance of an ultra-modern full suspension bikes. With some modifications in the component it makes a very cool trail and touring bikes in my opinion. The desire for a more travel version has already come true … now I am hoping for the opportunity of a longer test on that bike.