2017 Santa Cruz Tallboy 3 – First Impressions

Words Cam McRae
Photos Dave Smith
Date Dec 1, 2016

Santa Cruz Tallboy 3 CC 29 XX1

The Tallboy wasn’t my first choice for our odd little corner of the mountain biking world. I recalled (after writing about it in April) it was 120mm of travel front and I knew it had 29″ hoops but I didn’t remember much else. I even forgot it was designed to be swappable between 29 and 27.5 Plus wheels. Either way, that sounds like an XC bike to me. I need all the help I can get and riding an XC bike around here can be like bringing a dove to a cockfight.

Santa Cruz Tall Boy - Fox 34

I didn’t have the Fox 34 dialled on my first ride but since that time it has exceeded my expectations.

There was some evidence on the other side. I’d heard many riders rave about the original TB. But they were either far better riders than I (Seb Kemp) or they generally rode terrain that is unlike ours (Mike Ferrentino). I liked the things they said about the bike, how it punched above its weight and had a lively feel, but I remained skeptical. The theme was consistent though; don’t judge 29ers until you have ridden this one.

Santa Cruz Tall Boy - Drive train

I’m having some issues I haven’t been able to solve with the XX1 Eagle – but only shifting into the 50t cog. I haven’t missed it much but I’ll keep tinkering until it’s sorted. Otherwise it’s been flawless. Maxxis DHF up front and DHR II in the rear are the perfect choice for the sloppy conditions we’ve been having, but the stock rear is a Maxxis Ardent Race. The tires have EXO casing and are 29 x 2.3.

I haven’t read any other reviews of the bike yet and I didn’t remember any of the key figures. Thanks to my crappy memory, the handful of rides I’ve done on the new TB have been unpolluted by preconception. Now that I’ve brushed up on some of the geo numbers I know the rear is actually a mere 110mm of travel, but I was right about the front end. On paper this is a bike that has no business frolicking around the Shore under a rider of my caliber. Here’s a look at the component spec of this TB model.

Santa Cruz Tall Boy - Eagle / xx1

Light stiff cranks XX1 contribute to the overall weight of 26.4 bs (11.97kg) without pedals.

Santa Cruz Tallboy

A slacker head angle, shorter rear stays by 11 mm, a slightly steeper seat tube and a roomier cockpit (longer front centre) are the geo change highlights.

Santa Cruz Tall Boy - Sram level R lever

The SRAM Level Ultimate Brakes have been excellent. Thus far I haven’t missed the tool free reach adjust.

Santa Cruz Tall Boy - Sram level R alt side

The Level brake is a streamlined version of the Guide with two pistons and claimed “superior heat management.” The feel and power have left me impressed and despite being aimed at XC and light trail use, they have excelled even on more challenging terrain.

Santa Cruz Tall Boy - no F d mount.

You could mount a front derailleur but the frame is optimized for 1x – so why would you?

Santa Cruz Tall Boy - nest of cables, SC brand cockpit

The 780mm Santa Cruz flat bar isn’t a re-brand – it was designed and engineered in house at Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Tall Boy - Industry 9

If you like loud hubs the Industry Nine Torch will not disappoint. Boost 110 up front and 148 rear.

Santa Cruz Tall Boy - Fox Flaot

The Rear shock is a Fox Float Factory with Kashima coat and the EVOL air spring option. The extra volume should increase sensitivity and the ramp can be further modified with volume spacers.

Santa Cruz Tall Boy - Fox 34

Like all recent Santa Cruz models, this is a striking frame with the banana yellow and emerald combo. Personally I’m partial to the dark grey and rust option.

The 29er version in gray. You can choose either colour for either wheel size and both 29er spec levels it appears.

The dark grey and rust option. Photo – Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Tall Boy - cables

This bike is part of a demo fleet so it’s covered with clear plastic adhesive for protection from hacks like me.

Santa Cruz Tall Boy - ass saver

This is just a shameless plug. Our fundraiser for the Stevie Smith Fund continues with this #longlivechainsaw Mudder. Pick one up in our online store.

Santa Cruz Tall Boy - Drive side

So far my overriding impression is that this bike is fast. And fun. And exuberant.

Another reason for my initial lack of enthusiasm for this bike was my experience with VPP. Since the first VP Free, which felt welded to the ground when I tried one briefly, I’ve never been wowed by Santa Cruz’s interpretation of this suspension system. That includes the most recent Nomad which I have ridden perhaps 10 times. I know many riders love this bike but I didn’t manage to figure it out and I haven’t yet had a chance on the newest Bronson. This bike has changed my mind about the VPP. Without much fiddling, I found the sweet spot in the rear travel and every ride since has been Hallowe’en. There’s more to learn but so far I love this bike.

So far we’ve only had the bike in 29er mode and we only have a 120mm fork, but I hope to try it in PLUS mode

For details about the various spec options, pricing and the two wheel configurations check out our preview of the bike here…


You like?

Comments

steve
0
Steve  - Dec. 5, 2016, 1:08 a.m.

Can we have some photos of the workbench behind the bike?

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Dec. 5, 2016, 5:10 p.m.

I'll see what I can do - but they won't be professionally lit like Dave's shots.

Reply

steve
0
Steve  - Dec. 5, 2016, 10:25 p.m.

Thanks Cam!

Reply

0
Dave Smith  - Dec. 6, 2016, 11:18 p.m.

I can shoot the bench.

Reply

matt-mowish
0
Matt Mowish  - Dec. 3, 2016, 10:27 p.m.

Good Article on the new Tallboy. Having ridden a 5010 and Bronson with VPP 2 and now making the change to the VPP3 there is a noticeable difference in platform on all the bikes. It is small but makes a big difference after riding for a week straight - the bike just handles better than they have in the past.

For a light XC Bike that can do things like BCBR, Single Track Six or even riding more in the interior the Tallboy is a great bike. I am not at the level of Seb Kemp but ride this bike and it def. punches above its weight class. I run mine with 29er wheels and 130mm travel. When I am delving into the wet and chunky stuff I run it with the 27.5″ and it rides like a mini- mini-DH bike. Only thing I am not stoked on is the brakes. The Level Carbon on my bike work well but I would prefer more of the adjust readily found on XT or XTR brakes.

I live on the east coast and having owned a Hightower earlier this year and now changed onto a Tallboy I am happy I did. The HT is a great do everything bike however on the slow, tight and twisty stuff i found it cumbersome at times. The Tallboy 3 is a quick snappy and refreshing 29er to rip on. A lot of feedback has been brought to light about how this is more of an XC trail bike and not a light XC race bike and I would agree. Tallboy 3 isn't a Trek Top Fuel XC machine but it can still handle rip the trails and for someone at 200 - 215 lb this bike is a lot stiffer and still feels very strong underneath you when you are letting the bike ride underneath you.

Total blast to rip around on. (See pic attached)

On the note of shifting. Eagle has been tough to dial in and the shifting into the 50T was tricky. I ended up taking out one link more than I normally would and not running the B Tension as much - works like a charm now!

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Dec. 5, 2016, 4:09 p.m.

Thanks for the Eagle tips Matt. I'll try those tweaks if I'm still having issues. Killer ride with those colours!

Reply

jason-west
0
Jason West  - Dec. 2, 2016, 4:46 p.m.

I really really want this bike but $2800 for a frame is crazy, seriously

Reply

bogey
0
Bogey  - Dec. 2, 2016, 3:49 p.m.

I ran a TB1 and TB1.5 for years and really liked those bikes but they were ill suited for hard riding down steeper trails. I've recently gotten my hands on a TB3 and absolutely love it for Shore riding. The chassis seriously beefed up, the bike is far longer and the head angle is just right for this kind of bike. Besides bigger drops (which I don't do anyways), there's nothing that's I'd tackle on my Nomad that I won't tackle on my TB3. I definitely have to be more careful with my speed and lines but it is very confidence inspiring with the right tires (DHF and DHRII).

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Dec. 2, 2016, 2:51 p.m.

Cam I rode an old VP Free too. That bike had a multiple personality disorder that I could never make peace with. I rode FSR bikes for years after that, craving performance consistency. Are the newer bikes still like that? My VPP- riding friends say the later iterations are very different bikes.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Dec. 5, 2016, 9:28 p.m.

Totally a different bike. Lively, predictable suspension, easy set up. A new beast completely.

Reply

traildog
0
traildog  - Dec. 2, 2016, 12:29 p.m.

I want to love this bike and the hightower, but the seat tube angles just ruin it for me. You're right that the VPP kinematics have improved a bit, but it's mostly the new EVOL/Corset/Debonair air cans; they work really well with this type of leverage curve.

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Dec. 2, 2016, 2:49 p.m.

Having recently ridden a hardtail with a 76′ STA (which is steeper than my bike's static STA, which loses a few points to sag) now all I want is steeper steeper steeper.

Reply

bogey
0
Bogey  - Dec. 2, 2016, 3:43 p.m.

What is it about the STA that ruin it for you? Too steep or too slack? Have you ridden one?

Reply

traildog
0
traildog  - Dec. 2, 2016, 3:53 p.m.

Yeah, too slack. Even their effective measurement is a little optimistic as tall riders with a lot of seat post extension will only be farther back. And as @cr4w points out you also lose a few more points to sag, even more so on steep climbs when the weight shifts back. They claim 74 for the Hightower but at my saddle height of 770ish mm (normal for L) it's actually more like 73, as confirmed through analyzing with Linkage after noticing the slack feel on a test ride.

Reply

bogey
0
Bogey  - Dec. 2, 2016, 4:36 p.m.

I guess it depends on what you call too slack. I haven't measured my actual STA yet but but I'm guessing 73.5 to 74 degrees which is perfect for all- around riding for me. I do have it in the high setting with a 120mm fork though so that's as steep as you can realistically make it. I find that the high setting works really well and helps reduce the all-too-common pedal strikes and steepens the angles a bit.

For me, I find that 73-74 is the sweet spot for ascending, descending and especially rolling singletrack. Any steeper and I find that my weight is not balanced when on anything other than a steep climb.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Dec. 6, 2016, 9:47 a.m.

Bogey: seat tube angle is meaningless when descending, unless you're in your seat, which you shouldn't be 😉

We'll have to measure ours but I do not think your TB can possibly have an actual STA of 73 or 74 - it'll be less by several degrees at least. And that means that the more post you like to show, the further in the back seat you'll be when pedaling. An effective STA of 73-4 IS perfect for most people, but many modern bikes have effective STAs in that range but an actual STA in the high 60s, and that's problematic for certain body types.

Reply

bogey
0
Bogey  - Dec. 6, 2016, 12:19 p.m.

Pete, I totally disagree on the STA for descending. I've ridden a few bikes now that have such slack actual seat angles that the bikes are awkward to ride. The saddles basically disappear so far forward that I lose a stabilization point. I constantly work the bike with my thighs and knees when descending.

Also, I descend with my saddle in multiple positions depending on the trail. It isn't about all the way up or all the way down. For a pumpy, less steep descent I'll go 2/3 down so I can steer and stabilize the bike with my thighs and knees.

I'll measure my actual STA but I can tell you already that it is not in the high 60's and I'm 6'5″ tall so I have quite a bit of post showing.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Dec. 2, 2016, 10:53 a.m.

A little more on the Eagle issue. I've had the bike on the stand and cable tension and limit screws are set correctly - and it works perfectly there. I don't have the tool to set up the gap but based on symptoms that's likely not the issue. It seems most likely that there is some problem with the cable routing and it's pulling and releasing as the suspension moves - but I haven't been able to cure it yet. I'll do some more sleuthing and see if it's better today.

Reply

0
mevp  - Dec. 2, 2016, 11:18 a.m.

Sounds like e-shifting is the answer. I just threw up a little bit in my mouth typing that…

Reply

tehllama42
0
Tehllama42  - Dec. 2, 2016, 9:30 p.m.

Worth looking to see if it's something that happens near sag, but not at full extension (i.e. on the stand) - if need be air down the shock and see?

Reply

dan
0
Dan  - Dec. 3, 2016, 5:56 p.m.

Perhaps do a test with shift cable routed outside of the frame. This may confirm your suspicion.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Dec. 5, 2016, 4:08 p.m.

I have done some pulling and tweaking and turning and I think it might be solved - but I need to get it back on the trail to confirm. It's a little snowy now but I'm going to try and get out tomorrow anyway.

Reply

gg
0
gg  - Dec. 2, 2016, 10:07 a.m.

Cam is that a crack above the front shock mount ?
Look obvious and nasty !

Reply

0
Dave Smith  - Dec. 2, 2016, 10:52 a.m.

The frame is covered in 3M protective tape so what you're seeing is the dirty edge of the tape that I wasn't able to clean up.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Dec. 2, 2016, 10:52 a.m.

Like Dave said. Not a crack thankfully!

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Dec. 2, 2016, 6:32 a.m.

"Our test version is priced at…" Nice! You guys really know how to keep us hanging waiting for the next installment. 😉

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Dec. 2, 2016, 9:53 a.m.

Doh! Updated. Thanks!

Reply

bjag
0
Bjag  - Dec. 2, 2016, 12:14 a.m.

Let me just say, Transition Smuggler!

Reply

tehllama42
0
Tehllama42  - Dec. 2, 2016, 9:31 p.m.

Carbon Smuggler…
If they roll out a new Covert, I'll be having to explain tongue prints on my monitor to family members

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Dec. 5, 2016, 9:51 p.m.

A refresh on the Smuggler is probably due. Boost, a 34.9 seat tube and carbon. Please.

Reply

tehllama42
0
Tehllama42  - Dec. 5, 2016, 10:07 p.m.

For sure. I'm just hoping it comes with a longer travel sibling with the exact same treatment.

Reply

Please log in to leave a comment.

Trending on NSMB