September 29, 2022

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Round 1: The Santa Cruz Talboy 2023 is updated, not repaired

Round 1: The Santa Cruz Talboy 2023 is updated, not repaired

For Santa Cruz, the previous generation of the Tallboy was a bike that became something of a cult classic. It seemed to resonate with just about everyone who rode it, inspiring all kinds of unique custom chassis, some focused on making as much performance possible on the slopes as possible, others on making the XC machine more comfortable than a thoroughbred race bike.

Released in 2019, the Tallboy 4 hit the perfect spot when it comes to versatility, featuring geometric figures that allowed it to tackle the most challenging technical terrain without getting bored and lethargic on the trickier trail. It’s a trail bike through and through, with 29-inch wheels, 120mm of rear travel, and a 130mm fork.

Tallboy 5 . details

• Wheel Size: 29 inches
• Travel: 120mm, fork 130mm
• C & CC Carbon Frame Options
• 65.5° or 65.7° head angle
• Seat tube angle 76.6º (L, L)
• 438 mm Chain Support (L, Low)
• Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
• Weight: 28.75 lb / 13.04 kg (size L, X01 AXS RSV build)
• Price: $5,299 – $10,399

Santa Cruz didn’t want to mess with something good, so the Tallboy 2023 doesn’t deviate much from the outgoing model. The geometry has been tweaked slightly, the same goes for the kinematics, but it’s more of a fine-tuning rather than an overhaul.

Gloss Ultra Blue and Matte Taupe are the two color options for the fifth generation Tallboy.

Frame details

The most obvious change to the Tallboy frame is the addition of downtube storage, a feature now found on nearly every trail and enduro bike in the Santa Cruz lineup, with the exception of the Bronson (at least for now). A small latch next to the water bottle cage allows access to the compartment, and two pouches are included to store the tube, tools, and any other convenient snacks and accessories.

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Other than the new stock snack, Tallboy frame details haven’t changed much. There is fully oriented internal cable routing, a threaded bottom bracket, room for a 2.5-inch rear tire, and chain routing mounts. There’s also a universal sweat hanger, and a flip bracket on the rear shock mount allows for very precise geometry changes.

Engineering layout and suspension

The Tal Boy shock chip still remains, but the ability to change the chainstay length by 10mm has been removed, replacing it with size-specific lengths for each size. Chainstay lengths range from 431mm on the Petite to 444mm on the XXL.

The Tallboy seat tube angles are also size specific, getting sharper with each larger size. This helps ensure that much taller riders do not end up on the back of the bike when climbing.

The new Tallboy isn’t any weaker than before, but it’s got a little taller, with numbers arriving that match the rest of Santa Cruz’s lineup. The large reach size is now 473mm in the low setting, an increase of 5mm. Slightly sloping seat tube angles balance this increase, creating a relatively unchanged top tube length, which means the seated-up climb will look the same as before.

The Santa Cruz lowered the Tallboy’s leverage to give it a slightly less advanced shock curve, a change that also accompanied by less squat resistance early in travel, and a less aggressive drop later in the stroke. These changes were made to increase compliance with the bike’s small bumps, and to give it a more predictable suspension feel at all points of travel.

building kits

There are 6 models in the lineup, with prices starting at $5,299 for the Tallboy CR, which has a SRAM NX engine, Guide T brakes, a RockShox Pike Base fork and a Fox Performance DPS shock.

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At the top of the line is the $10,399 Tallboy CC X01 AXS RSV. That’s a big set of initials to indicate that it has Santa Cruz’s top-of-the-line carbon frame construction, SRAM’s AXS wireless electronic drivetrain, and Reserve 30 SL carbon wheels. Suspension charge on this expensive model is handled by the Fox Float Factory DPS shock and RockShox Pike Ultimate fork.

Ride Impressions

The Tallboy is not a down country bike, nor is it trying to be. Instead, it’s a machine that does everything and has “just right” air to handle. There’s no mystery or unpredictability to be found – it’s the rider who will bring these traits to the table, not the bike.

Honestly, maybe I can just drop the link to Mike Levy Tallboy 4 . review Here and call it good. There are more similarities than differences between the two versions, and the overall ride characteristics are nearly identical. It’s been a bit since I last rode a Talboy, but when I get out of my somewhat vague memories, I’d say the suspension feels better than before—it’s a bit softer overall, which makes the bike more comfortable in choppy parts of the trail. However, there was still plenty of support, and even when I used all the travel, there wasn’t any harshness at the end of the stroke.

The Tallboy’s strength lies in its versatility – it feels solid, and free of any unwanted jitter, even on bumpy, high-speed trails. The Maxxis Dissector/Rekon tire combination has performed well with the dry and dusty conditions that have prevailed lately, although I would probably put something more meaty for wet conditions or really try to get rid of the maximum downhill performance possible. I’d also likely replace the G2 brakes with some code if I were going this route, since there’s a lighter weight penalty and a noticeable performance difference. However, for general duty the G2 brakes work just fine, and upgrading the rotor to the new HS2 versions would be an easier way to increase the stopping power a bit.

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The handling of the Tallboy is very quiet and predictable, and the same is true for pedaling performance—it strikes a good balance between efficiency and traction. However, the weight paired with the more muted suspension feel makes it feel more like a short Hightower than the longer-travel hazy.

That doesn’t mean it feels heavy or lethargic—far from it—it’s just that there’s a noticeable difference between how it feels compared to something like the latest Trek Top Fuel, or even the Transition Spur for that matter. All of these bikes have 120mm of rear travel, but the Trek and Transition sit more on the aggressive XC side of the spectrum, and have a greater appetite for uphill running than the Tallboy.

These lighter, more lively options are great for riders trying to scratch the itch of down-country, but when gravity takes over, it’s the Tallboy that rides forward, with a more planted feel that delivers the confidence needed to reach higher speeds and more challenging trail features.

As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,” and that’s exactly what Santa Cruz did with Tallboy. It’s a high-end trail bike, with easy handling and all the frame features (and corresponding price tag) that Santa Cruz is known for.