Riding the Santa Cruz Tallboy 4
The Santa Cruz Tallboy 4, new for 2020 is the latest of their bikes to be updated, and has followed suit with the rest of the line-up and the lower-link driven shock.
The new Tallboy comes with 120mm of travel out back, and 130mm up front. With numbers like that, it would be easy to write it off as a twitchy XC bike, better for riding uphill and on flat XC trails than anything else. But you would be wrong. Very wrong!
The premise behind the new lower-link bikes is that the new leverage curve on the shock both enhances suppleness and small bump sensitivity at the start of the stroke, but ramps up towards the end. What this means is that it’s comfortable and grippy when the rider is sitting on the bike, but when they hit large bumps it resists harsh bottom-outs.
Not only have Santa Cruz moved the shock to the lower link, but they’ve given the geometry a total overhaul in line with modern standards. It has a slightly longer reach, similar BB height, and importantly a super slack 65.5 degree head angle and a steep seat tube angle of 76.5 degrees. It’s in these numbers that the magic happens.
With the new geometry, the bike takes on a very different character, without wanting it to sound like a cliché, the Tallboy 4 really is a downhiller’s XC bike. The head angle might be slack, but the seat angle helps keep that front wheel weighted. This is the magic of their new-school geometry, and while these numbers may not be particularly progressive on a big travel enduro sled like the Megatower, it certainly is when applied to the Tallboy.
Ride & Handling
You’re probably asking how this feels on the trail, with a rightful amount of skepticism. Well, it’s certainly a very different feeling bike to most out there. The short travel combined with the steep seat angle and light weight make it a breeze on the climbs. I found myself standing sprinting on technical climbs where I would sit and spin on my Nomad, and cleaning technical sections that I quite often wouldn’t even attempt. You point this thing up, and it goes! Not only is it light and responsive, it has the grip to put that power down.
What goes up must come down though, right? And boy does this thing come down. The slack head angle and long reach on the new Tallboy make this thing super stable, it absolutely rips down the trails. I found that you can pick up speed quite quickly, and the geometry inspires confidence to ride this bike fast! You have to be careful though; the lack of travel means that rowdy moves can catch up with you a little quicker than on a longer travel bike, and there’s certainly less margin for error. It definitely isn’t as forgiving a ride as it’s longer travel counterparts, but it rides with the same character – fast with a plush rear end that ramps up quickly.
Riding on Fromme on the North Shore, I found myself riding as fast as my Nomad in places, the bike really coming to life on the smoother trails such as Lower Expresso. I did find that the arm pump set in a lot faster than on my Nomad however!
The Tallboy 4 certainly isn’t an XC race bike for the reasons you would imagine. It sits somewhere in a niche between the Blur (XC race) and the Hightower (aggressive trail), so I guess this makes it a slightly less aggressive trail bike. Either way, I get it, and there will be others out there that do too. “Downhiller’s XC bike” makes sense to me, as somebody who always prioritises fun over climbing prowess and would never own an XC race bike.
It may seem as though lately Santa Cruz have been consolidating the design of their lineup of bikes, and it could appear that there are a lot of very similar bikes in the lineup, but I don’t think this is a bad thing. They have certainly refined their design template and that’s no bad thing, but all of their bikes fall into a very deliberate bracket. You simply have to choose your wheel size, and choose your travel for your intended riding.
So who is the new Tallboy for?
The Tallboy is really a swiss army knife of a bike, but it’s not for everyone. Maybe you love the climb, and don’t mind sacrificing a little comfort on the descents on your ride. Perhaps you like to put a lot of miles into your rides and don’t want to give up pedal efficiency whilst enjoying the ride. It could also be a great bike for stage racing, for example BC bike race. It would also make a great second bike, if your first bike is a downhill bike or a long travel enduro rig.
The 2020 Santa Cruz Tallboy 4 is available in both Aluminium and Carbon, C and CC models, in a range of build specs, from basic to bling. Complete bikes start at $3649 for a solid build with SRAM SX Eagle 12sp and Santa Cruz’s legendary build quality. The carbon C models start at $5649 and the range tops out at $13699 for an AXS wireless CC build with carbon Reserve wheels. Incredibly all models (apart from the base model aluminium) come with a 12sp drivetrain, either a 35mm stanchion Rockshox Pike or a Fox 34, 4-piston brakes. These features to me speak volumes about the bike’s intentions of being a real shredder, both up the hill and down. Check out the full specs here.
The new Santa Cruz Tallboy 4 is a bit of an oddball of a bike, ushering in a new age of capable mountain bike geometry. For something that climbs like it does, it really has no business being such a ripper on the descents. I can only suggest you try one!
Dealing in Santa Cruz bikes since their infancy, Steed Cycles is Canada’s oldest and biggest Santa Cruz Dealer. We have a fleet of Santa Cruz bikes available to demo and hold stock of all the bikes we demo, so don’t hesitate to contact us to try or buy one!