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Riding the Santa Cruz Tallboy 4

The 2020 Tallboy 4 is a purposeful looking bike.

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.

The new Tallboy 4 is the latest bike to receive Santa Cruz’s lower-link design.

Geometry:

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.

The Tallboy 4 climbs like a goat!

The ride:

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!

What goes up must come down, and boy does it come down fast!

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.

The Tallboy 4 is all about fun at the end of the day.

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.

Spec options:

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.

Tidy cable routing is just one nice design feature on the new Tallboy

Final thoughts:

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! Visit our Demo Bikes page for more information or see our range of stock.

Four-piston brakes and a 1×12 drivetrain make the Tallboy a super-capable bike.

The Coastal Challenge: The Racing

uphill+grinder

Ok gang, this is a long one… Grab a coffee and be prepared to take a few extra minutes to get through this long-winded race recap. I have broken my TCC experience into 2 parts: ‘The Racing’ and ‘The Damage’. I’ll upload ‘The Damage’ as a separate post to this one.

I flew down to Costa Rica four days ahead of the race start. My plan was to stay near where Stage 1 started, relax a little bit, and to acclimatize to the heat and humidity.  I rented a room in Manuel Antonio (also a National Park), and had access to an amazing beach. I managed to get in the workouts that I had planned, and I knew I was in great shape. I have to admit that I was struggling with boredom though. Tapering is tough enough, let alone when you’re away from family and friends.

I felt quite acclimated by the time I headed back to San Jose to sign in for the race and meet up with the rest of the athletes, and I planned to go full-gas on stage 1 the next morning.

The beach just down from my pre-race stay

The beach just down from my pre-race stay

When I arrived at the race hotel (in San Jose) that afternoon, I quickly spotted Karl Meltzer (Speedgoat)  and  Ian Corless. I had never met either of them before, but from listening to Ian’s TalkUltra podcast, I kinda felt like I knew them. It was nice to feel like part of the gang, and I wasn’t feeling as lonely as I had the previous days.

On the morning of Stage 1, we all hopped on a bus at 4am and headed to the start. I had a great visit with Joe Grant for the 3 hr trip. The two of us may approach things bit differently, but both of us have a real passion for running, and the bus ride just flew by. I’m sure everyone thought I was a bit nuts, but I did a warm up before the stage start. I always do one, regardless of the race length: I like both the physiological effects, and the psychological familiarity.

STAGE 1

Right off the gun I headed to the front. Everyone seemed very cautious, and I certainly wasn’t pushing it, but I slowly opened up a gap on the rest of the field. By about the 1 hr mark, I had 2-3 minutes on second place (Iain Don-Wauchope). After that point, the route got more technical and was getting excited…too excited.

I had my head down as we passed through some farmland, and I missed a critical right hand turn. I knew the route was supposed to hit a climb around then, and the wrong turn I took put me onto a climb. In hind sight, I so obviously should have turned around after a couple minutes….but I didn’t. I kept going until near the top of the climb, and until the local Zip-line Guide was motioning to me that I was off course.

CRAP…I turned around and absolutely pinned it. As I got close to what would turn out to be the correct route, I had lost about 10:00 minutes. But then I made mistake #2. Another racer had missed the same turn and was coming towards me. Between his broken English and my panicked, broken Spanish, we decided that the correct route was in fact the way I had just come down….so I hammered back up the hill…right to the top this time.

Midway stage 1: back on the correct route

Midway stage 1: back on the correct route

When the reality hit me, my heart felt crushed. I knew I had to turn back again and fully retrace my steps to the last flagging. When I found the correct route, I could see that I just threw away approx. 25 minutes… and the lead. I had been pushing hard for that lost 25:00, and I kept pushing hard (mostly out of anger) all the way to the finish. I managed to claw my way back through most of field, and limited my damage to about 14 minutes behind Iain (the stage winner).

The biggest mistake that I made on the day came next though. I didn’t have a real plan for recovering. I was hot and tired and thirsty, but I kinda just wandered around the camp area for a couple hours before I managed to get in  some fluids and have something to eat. What I expected at the finish that day, as far as camping and amenities, was totally different than reality. I didn’t adapt very well to the camp situation…which is a pattern I repeated many times again.

On the bright side though, camp 1 was where I got to meet a lot of the other athletes (and race staff). We were all going to be suffering together, and it was nice to meet AnnaSamantha, Nikki, Ashur, Cheryl, Chris, Fidel…

STAGE 2

After a sleepless, sweaty, uncomfortable night in my tent, I was surprisingly ready to pin it on stage 2. From the course profile I knew that there were a pair of good climbs at the start, and a 5-6km long beach section at the end. I was excited to see how the beach stretch would play out.

I took the lead from the get-go, with Joe and Iain on my heels. I felt strong and decided to push the pace a bit after about 10 minutes. To my surprise, Joe and I put a small gap on Iain. We crested the first climb and stuck together for most of the descent, but by the bottom I had pulled away just a bit. (At the time I didn’t know it, but Joe unfortunately rolled his ankle).

Joe and I cresting climb 1

Joe and I cresting climb 1

When I realized that I had some time on the those two guys, I decided that I needed to take advantage of the situation; I pushed hard, hoping to open up as much time as possible. By the time I hit the long beach I was feeling really good, and the last 5km (beach) didn’t bother me at all. I knew that I was feeling good, but that most others would be hating this last section.

I managed to win the stage (set a new CR) and put 30 minutes in to Joe and Iain. I had taken the over-all lead by about 16 minutes, but I was really worried about how I would recover again at night. I didn’t kill myself on the day, but I absolutely needed to take better care of myself than yesterday…which was a lot easier said than done! (It turned out that Joe rolled his ankle bad enough that it took him out of contention for an over-all placing. He just dealt with it, without any complaining, and kept trucking through the remaining stages).

That night I managed just under 2 hours of sleep, but I felt like I did a better job on my food and fluids…plus, much less sun exposure during the afternoon.

STAGE 3

This one began with a river section, one that everyone had been warning us about. After 3km on the gravel road, we hit about 7km worth of river. It was rocky, wet, VERY slippery, and it had many side to side crossings in order to follow the most efficient route. My plan was to just stick with Iain and to protect my lead. But Iain’s experience on this terrain really showed that morning. I swear that I was putting out 20-30% more energy than him as we made our way through the river. My mistakes were almost always choosing to cross at the wrong spots. If I had just stayed behind and followed, I would have been much better off by the end of the river.

To compound my River problems, I fell (multiple times actually) and smashed my waist pack bottles on a rock. I didn’t fully realize the consequences until about the 1:30 mark, but I had lost 1100 of my race Calories in the river…..almost everything I had for the stage!

refueling with what I could grab at AS2

refueling with what I could grab at AS2

I have to admit that I was battling with bonking for the rest of the stage. Iain was strong, and I couldn’t follow him. It was no longer about ‘protecting’ my lead, but rather ‘damage control’ now. Without the fuel I was used to, I struggled with my stomach, but I managed to run a very respectable stage….just that Iain crushed it!

We both came in under the previous CR, but Iain had put 18 minutes in to me. That meant he had the over-all lead by just under 2 minutes: essentially even-steven at the mid way point of TCC.

That afternoon and evening were not good. I had ‘gone to the well’ for the last couple hours that morning, and my body wasn’t happy. I was really sore from several falls in the river, my stomach was a mess so I wasn’t really eating, and once again…I slept like crap.

mens results after stage 3

mens results after stage 3

STAGE 4 (the derailment)

Iain and I began the stage together, and for about 15 minutes I was bluffing quite well. I wanted to see how he was feeling, and more importantly give the appearance that I was strong. Well….that didn’t work at all! As soon as the climb got steeper, Iain effortlessly moved away from me as I slowed and struggled. My stomach was so bad that I had to stick to water for the first few hours…anything else and the nausea was really bad. Jeffrey (from CR) caught me and dropped me up the climb too. He was looking strong… and I felt like I was going through a grinder.

The train was definitely off the tracks here

The train was definitely off the tracks here

We spent a lot of the stage up high in the mountains, and I actually managed to take in some of the beautiful scenery. Trying to focus more externally was my way of coping with the hell that my body was going through.

When we finally got done with all the climbing, I had moved back ahead of Jeffrey (he maybe put a bit too much effort in on the climb), but Iain was long gone. I was able to get a few gels into my stomach, and that really helped my ability to safely tackle the 10km (or so) worth of technical descending back down to  sea-level. I was broken and battered when I finished the stage, and felt like I had the beginnings of heat stroke. Iain had been strong all day and put almost 40 minutes in to me (3:58:41 vs 4:37:07 for me). The over-all race was essentially out of my reach.

For the first time in the race, I actually got some real sleep that night. Four hours felt good, but I needed way more to balance out my account. Unfortunately, the rain began overnight, and everyone had to scramble in the dark to put the waterproofing on their tents. The general outlook for an early/dark start was grim.

STAGE 5 (in the ditch and on fire)

Wow! I did not want to start this stage. I was tired, bloated, nauseous , and really sore…especially my arm. We had to take  a short boat ride across the river to get to the start, followed by some standing around, but I was glad to have the cool rain falling.

I had joked the night before with Joe (and Karl I think), that the only way I could make up 40+ minutes on Iain would be if the skies opened up and turned the course into a slip-and-slide. Well, I got what I wanted. I usually love the mud…and maybe I would fare better than Iain?? If only I wasn’t feeling like a bag of death.

Iain was strong and confident at the start, and dropped Joe and myself in no time. I just couldn’t get the engine going. Curling up at the side of the road was much more appealing….but i pushed on. By AS1, Iain had 15 minutes on me, but thats when the route turned really muddy. I had a little talk with myself at that point:

“This is it Mike…there will be no other opportunity to claw back time…give everything you have right now, even if it means going down in flames”

I ran hard for the next hour. It really hurt, but somehow I had pulled back 5 minutes on Iain….he was only 10 ahead. But then things got really bad for me. The rain had stopped, the sun was out, and it was hot…but I wasn’t sweating. I was cooking hot, with a crazy headache…and unable to physically keep my eyes open at times. My CNS system was fucked right up, so I made sure to stop at every single water crossing, and lay down in the water to cool off.

My problems only got worse, as it was obvious I was retaining a LOT of water. My hands were swollen up like sausages, and my fingers were all numb. It had to be Hyponatremia, and I needed electrolytes really badly. I got lucky…an athlete doing the adventure course (I feel like a jerk for not knowing his name) gave me a tube of electrolytes. I did my best to choke some down, but it was obviously too little too late.

The last couple hours of the stage  were a total blur to me. All I really remember is falling down A LOT, and that the finish line was NEVER coming. The minute I crossed the line, Luke (from X Sport Medic, the race medical team) saw how bad I was. He took amazing care of me, focussing on getting my temperature/Heat stroke under control, and slowly pulling me out of the horrible fog I was in.

mid-way stage 5: my eyes are telling the story

mid-way stage 5: my eyes are telling the story

I’d like to say that things turned around for me that afternoon in Drake Bay….but it didn’t. I was still retaining a ton of water, and I just couldn’t shake the Heat Stroke. Plus, I was becoming more and more aware at how much my right arm hurt. I was pretty sure it was broken, but there was more going on….an infection had taken hold too.

I din’t want to give up on Stage 6 at that point, and I still had around an hour and a half lead on third over-all, so I toughed it through one of the worst nights of my life. I had delusions of being able to walk the last stage and still manage second place over-all.

Once morning rolled around though, It was painfully obvious that I would be putting myself in major trouble if I attempted to tackle Stage 6. With Luke (doctor) as my voice of reason, the decision was made to pull the plug. AND, I needed to get on the first flight back to San Jose, so that I could get medical attention at the hospital. It was actually a relief when I packed my backpack and headed to the airport with Luke. Getting to the hospital ASAP was the right move.

Iain dominated the second half of The Coastal Challenge, and ended up with a wide margin of victory (even if I had been abler to finish, he had me beat). With my DNS on stage 6 though, it opened up a battle for 2nd and 3rd. Those spots ended up going to a pair of Costa Rican athletes who raced hard and deserved the podium: Ashuf and Roiny.

As for me, just as I thought it was over, I began a new 6 day stretch of hell.

 

To be Continued in the next post, ‘The Damage’…

Thanks to Ian Corless for all the amazing photos. You can see his complete TCC galleries here

Santa Cruz Bronson – 650B Enduro Racer in Carbon and Aluminum

April 14,2013

Bronson_Profile_Yellow_5

Natural carbon Bronsons will be offered in a number of color graphic options and if you pop for the Enve carbon wheel option, you can get them matched to your bike.

Santa Cruz has been busy this season and secretive about its plans – the first of which is the Bronson 650B line. The six-inch-travel VPP design will be offered in both carbon and aluminum in a wide number of build kits (Shimano and SRAM) that range in price from $4150 to $10,419, so there is a Bronson suitable for both thousandaire and millionaire Enduro pilots alike. Most of the release is about the top-line Enve/SRAM XXI build, which is quite stunning. The new carbon frame is updated with all of the bits that were developed for the Talboy LTC – co-molded aluminum pivot bosses, and the simplified swingarm design. The lower rocker is still sturdy aluminum and all the main suspension bearings are adjustable.

Black Bronson

Billed as an enduro racing bike, the Bronson should put the mid-size 27.5″ wheels (650b) to the ultimate test.

Bronson Details:
• 27.5″ (650b) wheels
• 142 mm rear axle spacing.
• New molded rubber swingarm and downtube protectors.
• 2 x bottle cage mounts.
• Forged upper link.
• Forged aluminum lower link with angled grease ports: offset for chainguide clearance.
• Collet axle pivots: lock in place without pinch bolts.
• Angular contact bearings: all pivots.
• Direct mount rear derailleur hanger option: standard hanger comes as stock.
• Full carbon dropouts and disk mounts.
• Co-molded aluminum hardware on frame pivots: no bonding.
• Carbon ISCG-05 tabs.
• Routing for Reverb Stealth dropper post.
• 73mm threaded BB.

The Bronson

The aluminum-frame version is pretty sweet looking too. Geometry is adjusted for 27.5 inch wheels, so the 67-degree head angle is going to feel closer to 66 on the trail.

Bronsons will reportedly be the spearhead for the Syndicate’s push into the European enduro racing scene, where the Santa Cruz sponsored team plans to do some damage. Rumors have it that Santa Cruz, which has been cautious to enter new markets, has been testing the Bronson for an extended period, lending credibility to the notion that the mid size wheel is much more than a fad. If you remember, SC was reluctant to offer up a 29er, but when they did, it was an instant hit. We expect the Bronson to follow suit. Is there a 650B V-10 hiding in the new Santa Cruz factory? Syndicate riders say nay, but I am thinking, yeah.

Bronson-A-3_4-White

Bronson. Aluminum.

Bronson frames follow much of the new design improvements ushered in by the Tallboy LTC – a simplified swingarm design, sturdy aluminum rocker links, and adjustable angular contact bearings in the suspension pivots, but there are some new tricks, like internal dropper post routing and a direct-mount front derailleur (SC originally espoused that a clamp-type was best for those who ran and single chainring). Santa Cruz hinted that the Bronson was only the first of two big releases this spring. Sea Otter may hold another gem. we’ll keep you posted.

For more informaiton, you can check out this Pinkbike article here: http://www.pinkbike.com/news/Santa-Cruz-Bronson-650B-Enduro-Racer-in-Carbon-and-Aluminum.html

For more information straight from the source, please visit http://www.santacruzbicycles.com/bronson-carbon/