Some people have wanted more travel on their 29ers in recent times. Big wheels are being pushed into more technical trail riding duties and are no longer the reserve of mile-munching endurance machines. Santa Cruz offers the regular 100mm Tallboy with 120mm forks to relax the steering and bolster the travel, but the market is now clearly out there for more.
Enter the Tallboy LT (Long Travel), a trail oriented 29er with 135mm of rear wheel travel. It’s rated to handle forks with up to 150mm of travel up front. At the moment, 140mm is the longest travel 29er fork that you’ll commonly find; giving it the green light for 150mm forks shows some foresight, as I’m sure the product will exist in the future. You can also fit the LT with 130mm forks for quicker steering but it’s really built around 140mm travel, and that’s what Santa Cruz spec’s on their complete bike packages.
It’s pretty clear that Santa Cruz knows their stuff when it comes to carbon construction. The tube profiles are smooth and rounded with very few tightly radiused bends. Relatively simple forms make it easier to get good compaction of the carbon when curing and reduce the likelihood of production faults such as folds or kinks in the lay-up. Once again it’s a case of form meets function rom Santa Cruz, with fashion playing a secondary role. That’s not to say the bike is ugly, far from it 0 I really liked the simple yet curvaceous style of the Tallboy and the in-your-face colour tends to grown on you (as mentioned, there’s also matte carbon, orange).
With a long fork, big wheels and rugged trial riding as its intended use, stiffness is always going to be a key factor – nobody wants to ride a long travel noodle! Laterally, the Tallboy is amongst the stiffest and most solid feeling bikes that I’ve ridden, regardless of wheel size. There’s very little to give within the two short links of the VPP suspension system and a triangulated one-piece swing arm is equally solid. There’s a pretty good chance it’ll stay that way too; Santa Cruz has been running the VPP design for many years and any bugs have been worked out of the system. It’s also nice to see touches like grease nipples on the lower suspension link and the Tallboy LT comes equipped with ISCG05 mounts in case you want to mount a full chain guide.
How’s it ride?
Point the bike downhill and the fun really begins. It may be more agile than many of its longer wheelbase competitors but it still manages to bomb through rock gardens in a solid and unflustered manner – it’s planted, composed and makes you feel pretty bulletproof. The steepish head angle does require a little extra attention when things get really steep but for the most par it’s a case of point and plough. There’s no doubt the ultra-stiff frame and precise steering Fox 34 fork assist, but I feel that much of the credit needs to go to the rear suspension.
A well sorted short-link four-bar system like the VPP can offer some great performance characteristics. The dual rotating links offer greater control over the axle path than is possible with a single pivot or host link design. This allows the designer to change how the suspension interacts with bumps and chain tension at differing points within the travel. On the Tallboy the initial travel is quite rearward, and this combined with the roll-over effect of the big wheels really helps the bike maintain momentum over square edge bumps. Deeper in the travel the axle path turns more vertical to limit the increasing chain stay length, ensuring that you don’t feel the suspension tugging back on the drive chain. While the actual variation in the axle path is relatively small, the benefits are clearly felt. In addition to reacting better to square edge bumps, can also assist when climbing. The wheel wants to travel in a more rearward arc but the chain is pulling forward. These forces oppose each other and stiffen the suspension slightly to reduce bob or ‘squat’. The harder you pedal, the more the bike resists bob – pretty clever really. It’s called anti-squat and most suspension bikes have it to some degree, it’s just that it can be dialled for greater effect with this short-link four-bar, whilst minimising the negative effects. Everything is a trade-off to some extent and too much anti-squat can either limit climbing traction (turning the bike into a hard tail_ or it can disrupt your rhythm as the chain tugs the pedal backwards.
The Tallboy LT c is a brilliant do-it-all trail bike. It’s light and efficient enough to take the biggest of climbs as well as dabble in marathon events. Aside from a few extra grams and the tall bar position, there’s no reason why this couldn’t be a thoroughly competent XC racer – as long as you’re in it for fun. However, where it really comes into its element is in the technical trail riding and long days on the dirt. With plenty of travel and the added forgiveness that 29-inch wheels provide, the Tallboy LT just laughs at drop-offs and rock-step littered terrain. It does all of this while still retaining an agile feel that belies the size of the bike and the travel. Santa Cruz may have taken their time before leaping into the long travel 29er race, but it’s safe to say that it’s been worth the wait!
Santa Cruz Bicycles Tallboy LT