I’ve been eying the new Santa Cruz Tallboy since I first announced its introduction in July. With my compressed Interbike trip this year (just a single day), I had a long list of bikes to test and only 8 hours and two legs at my disposal. It came down to my last bike of the day (pretty typical actually) at the Santa Cruz booth as I pedaled out with a large Santa Cruz Tallboy 29er at my disposal.

Santa Cruz Tallboy 29er Bike Review

The bike arrived just as I was about to slip out on the Blur LT Carbon, which ended up being perfect timing. A quick pedal change and shock adjustments and I was out on the trails of Bootleg Canyon.

Santa Cruz Tallboy Spec

This test bike was built up with an excellent trail-worthy parts spec (essentially the SPX kit):

  • Fox F29 RLC 15QR 120mm Fork
  • Fox RP23 Rear Shock delivers 100mm rear squish
  • Avid Elixir CR brakes
  • Shimano XT drivetrain
  • Easton Monkey Lite XC carbon riser bars
  • Crank Brothers Joplin seatpost
  • Mavic TN719disc Rims, Chub front hub, DT rear hub
  • Kenda Small Block Eight tires

Santa Cruz Tallboy 29er Review

By this time, my legs were spent (this was bike #7 of the day) and I was juiced up on more PowerBar liquid, goo and protein  bites than any human should ever consume in an 8-hour period. But, my legs were easily able to pedal the Tallboy–it felt effortless. This bike is a surprisingly-sprightly climber with oodles of efficiency and trail feel.

I was able to ascend up some technical terrain on West Leg Trail without so much as a flinch from this bike. It simply powered through any obstacle I encountered and asked for more. The rear wheel hooked up extremely well in the loose/rocky terrain of Bootleg Canyon. Front-end wander was pretty much non-existent as the balance of this bike is completely dialed for trail riding. Only on the fire road climbs did I notice the rear end bobbing a bit more than I’d like. However, with a quick flip of the Propedal lever on the Fox RP23 had me pedaling uphill with the best of them.

At speed on the downhills, the Tallboy continued to shine. This bike feels like a great trailbike–it just happens to have 29-inch wheels. It inspired confidence and was a ton of fun on drops, rock gardens and even on the small bridges, ramps and the lone teeter totter.

Apparently I was having a bit too much fun because after I dropped the skinny to flat, my rear tire suffered a pinch-flat. Luckily I was right at the mountain bike patrol tent with a new tube in hand–thank you very much!

I was able to rally down the rest of the trail with a huge smile on my face as I railed corners and plowed through rocky terrain. This bike, my friends… is for real.

Good Tallboy

  • It just feels fast
  • Comfortable geometry
  • Smart looks
  • Smooth climber with excellent hook-up
  • Excellent descender with the ability to snake through both tight/technical and open/flowy trails
  • Good weight (guessing 28 lbs.)

Bad Tallboy

  • Without Propedal engaged on the Fox RP23, rear suspension bobs a bit much on extended climbs
  • Tires were undermatched (Kenda Small Block Eight)
  • Not yet available to the public

Santa Cruz Tallboy 29er Review

Bottom Line: Santa Cruz Tallboy 29er

This bike was the most fun of the seven bikes ridden at this year’s Interbike Outdoor Demo. I’m hoping to get onboard one in the Spring for a full-on flog-fest, but trust me… this bike is a keeper.

Buy Now: Available at CompetitiveCyclist.com


About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground. Follow Jason Mitchell on Google+.


  1. Hey Mark… it really doesn’t have an equivalent, but I’d say it’s attempting to come in between the Blur XC and LT–even though it has less travel. That’s just the way the bike feels to me.

    I think it would be a stellar all-mountain trail slayer for all conditions. Sounds a lot like the Blur LT Carbon to me.

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  3. Hey Mike

    It’s going to be a little heavier and potentially not quite as capable in the rough stuff, but both are very well-balanced and well-mannered trailbikes. Obviously the Tallboy may not be able to take the drops that the Mojo can, but rolling smoothness will be about equal.

    The Tallboy felt as comfortable as my own bike from the get-go.

  4. Thanks. I rode the Mojo at Downieville this summer and was blown away. Going to hit Wilder ranch next weekend (Santa Cruz demo day) to try the Tallboy before I make a decision. It will be hard to beat the Mojo – which is the bike I’m leaning towards. I just wish the Mojo came with a tapered head-tube.

    • The Mojo is amazing, no doubt, but the Tallboy is also a stellar ride. The only downside is you’ll have to wait awhile before it’s available. And, you might not be able to build it up quite as light as a Mojo (if that’s your thing).

      Post your thoughts after you get some saddle time. Looking forward to hearing your take on the Tallboy.

  5. I had my mind all made up to get a Niner RIP 9 and then suddenly the Tallboy creeped into focus. It will be cheaper than the build I was considering for the RIP, and lighter it seems in the XT kit. But SC is new to the 29er scene while Niner, well, that’s all they do!! Any advise?

  6. Alonso

    Such a tough call… I know the guys at Niner REALLY well. In fact, I happened to run into Chris and Steve (co-founders of Niner) on my way onto the trails with the Tallboy. We chatted for awhile and I gave them a hard time for not being at the Demo and they were eye-balling the Tallboy with some serious interest.

    I told them I’d let them know how it rides. Now that the dust from Interbike is settling, I’m going to reach back out to them. I’m still hoping to get a RIP in here for a long-term review. I posted my thoughts on the new RIP last year:


    You can’t go wrong with Niner… they have had their struggles this year with some unfortunate engineering challenges, but they are determined to make good. I really like both Chris and Steve and keep in touch with them regularly.

    Now the Tallboy… well… there’s no way to say that Santa Cruz doesn’t make a great bike. They surveyed the market and rode every 29er out there worth its salt and simply made a killer bike.

    The only thing that really puts the Tallboy in a better spot is the carbon frame. The ride quality of carbon is unsurpassed.

  7. Kent Robertson on

    I was disappointed I wasn’t able to get a ride on the Tall Boy at I-bike. How would you compare it to some of the other 29er 4-4.5″ offerings out there? I rode the Salsa Big Mamma, the Rocky Mountain Altitude 29, and the Turner Sultan at Bootleg this year and liked them all quite a bit but my favorite is still the Sultan. I also really liked the Rip 9 we rode the last two years.

    We did ride the Blur LTc and came away very impressed with the lateral stiffness, quietness,and the controlled plushness of the rear end.

  8. Kent Robertson on

    Oh yeah…. and the freakishly light weight of the Blur LTc was impressive. I assume the Tall Boy would be similar.

  9. @Kent

    Yeah, the fact that I was able to slip in and slip out on a Tallboy was pretty much luck–especially given the popularity of that bike.

    Of the 29ers you rode, I’ve only ridden the Big Mamma, which was well… so-so (definitely not one of my favorites). I should get my hands on the Altitude 29er soon and the darn Sultan has eluded me now for two years at the Demo. I’ve heard so much good about the Sultan, but have yet to ride one… I’m hoping to make that happen.

    But, I think you’ve got a taste of the beauty of carbon fiber in its stiffness and quietness. Carbon really makes the Tallboy that much better and aids in weight reduction. Turner isn’t known for their lightweight designs and I’m sure the Sultan is a bit heftier than the Tallboy.

    The Tallboy was light, but since it’s a 29er… it’s going to be a little heavier. It did feel light though. I’m guessing it was in the 27-28 lb range.

  10. So I rode the Tallboy last weekend at the Santa Cruz demo day. My impressions are consistent with your write-up. The bike was wicked fast and climbed really well. I did not feel any drag like I do with the a few other 29ers that I have ridden. Descending the bike tracked very well and gave me a lot of confidence to push it harder. I really opened it up in the single track and it was blast – just blew through everything.

    The trails at Wilder Ranch at this time of year are pretty smooth. The suspension felt great with no noticeable bob, but the trails really did not push the bike that hard. I could have a lot of fun on this bike and it’s a serious contender for a dailyrider.

    When I rode the Mojo it was at Downieville, which is the real deal. It was hands down the best bike I had ever ridden. It made my current ride, a Maverick ML7 with a DUC32, feel like a Huffy. Needless to say the Maverick went on eBay shortly after I returned. It’s hard to say how the Tallboy would do at Downieville. My gut says it would do ok, but nothing compared to the Mojo. I talked with a couple of guys at the demo day that owned Mojo’s and were testing the Tallboy and all were sticking with their Mojo’s… They liked all of that travel.

    • Mike… nice to hear that I’m not off my rocker here. The Tallboy is for real, no question about that. The Mojo is also a killer, killer bike. You couldn’t go wrong with either one. So, did you pull the trigger on a Mojo?

  11. Nope. Not yet. I will in a bit, need to save up a few $$$’s. For now just hammering my single speed and my original Ibis Mojo Ti.

    • Surprisingly, the Hei Hei 2-9 is a really fun bike and much more affordable than the Tallboy. Granted it has less travel (80mm vs 100mm), so it’s not a perfect comparison. However, if you are looking for a great all-round 29er FS bike, the Hei Hei 2-9 is a great option.

      BUT… if you are looking for the best of the best… it’s going to be hard to beat the Tallboy!

  12. Kona Hei Hei 2-9 100mm tavel front and rear for 2010. I have never ridden any 29er. I hope to get on one soon somewhere and see how they feel.

  13. The Hei Hei 2-9 with 100mm travel should be a serious contender in this space–especially at the $3499 pricepoint it’s coming in at. Looks like a solid spec.

    I really liked the 2009 version with 80mm travel, so 100mm travel should suit it even better. Looks like I’ve got some calls to make to Kona to get onboard the 2010 model!

  14. Jason I need some advice. I live in Australia so demoing a Tallboy or Rip 9 isn’t possible. I live on a mountain range so there are lots of ups and downs, making climbing and descending equally important. I love trail riding and single track, but a two foot drop or jump is about as extreme as I get. I also race two or three 50 – 100km endurance races a year that I try to be competitive in for my age group. Given my circumstances and your experiences with the Tallboy and the Rip 9 which of these bikes do you think would best suit my needs? Thanks mate.

  15. Jay

    I need to get on the Superfly 100 for a comparison. At this point I can’t say much other than what I can glean from others who have ridden it. I’d say the Superfly seems to be made as an XC racer at heart while the Tallboy was built as a trailbike. Anyone ridden both?

  16. I’ll bite on the compared to Mojo thing. I ride a 650b Mojo SL and have been for a year and 1/2 now. This is for a shorter rider under 6′.

    First if you are interested in pure shock absorption and plush feel, the 650b Mojo can’t be beat–it is very well balanced. It is hard to compare a 140mm travel bike to 100mm even if the 100mm bike is a 29er.
    Despite all the marketing of longer suspension by companies, big wheels really can let you ride stuff with less suspension. Trust me I never thought I would be back on a hardtail at my age but am riding a hardtail 29er as my other bike beside the Mojo right now. One key is building responsive light 29er wheels if you are a smaller guy.

    This bike with a ultra-lightweight wheelset will roll better than anything I have ridden so far in a suspension bike, including the Fisher Superfly (because of the shorter wheelbase and more responsive out of the saddle performance of the Tallboy) and the Ibis Mojo SL. (VPP gives you a bit more out-of-the saddle chain tension than the DW-link) and that shows here with the redesigned VPP on a shorter travel bike.

    I rode a fairly technical steep climb with the Tallboy and it was just spot on repsonsive climbing (I love to lock out a shock on climbs and let the carbon frame do what it is supposed to.) Sorry Mojo climbing you are now second…err third place (Tallboy first, 29er hardtail second, Ibis Mojo 650b just barely third.) Ibis Mojo 26er….not even in the ballpark….

    The only issue I had was the fact that the shocks (in this case rp23 with boost valve) need more custom tuning to make it more effective and supple on the Tallboy. At normal pressure I would blow thru the travel at bumped up pressure it just was not supple enough on the downhill. So guess which bike wins on the downhill.

    I do a lot of long commutes of road and forest service road between super gnarly trails on long rides. The Tallboy, with a custom tuned shock (probably from Push industries) next year will be my bike of choice replacing the Ibis Mojo.

    Hope this helps, super suspension comparison is really not what I am interested in for my next bike. I am interested in a bike that does everything well, very much especially climbing technical stuff and still lets me get back home being fairly unbeaten up.

  17. >>> oh yea, and superfly despite the marketing is a 10% longer travel 33% more expensive bike with at least in the smaller sizing, with an inch and 1/2 longer wheelbase that makes it steer and respond slower in the smaller size compairson. With anyone 6′ or over or looking for downhill absorbsion at the expense of climbing effectiveness, Superfly split pivot/abp with 10% more suspension 110mm vs 100mm and with superior shock tuning would be the winner.

  18. @J2… So cool you have a 650b Mojo SL! I didn’t know you could configure it like that. What fork are you using and how’s the tire clearance? I assume you need to use some low-profile tires to prevent rubbage?

    So… you’re also sold on the Tallboy eh? Definitely an impressive bike… gotta get on that new Superfly though.

  19. @J2 — thanks for the breakdown on these bikes. The Tallboy sounds like a real sweet bike. I contacted the Santa Cruz dealer near me and the only way they will get one is if I order it. According to the bike shop guy, I am the first to inquire about the Tallboy. He also said that they wont put orders into Santa Cruz until next February. The 29er market in my area has not caught on, especially with dual suspension 29ers.

  20. Jason, the Moj is really amazing with 650b wheels do a search Mojo 650b on mtbr forums I have posted quite a bit there about it.
    Stans ztr 355 (light and responsive.) Cut down Pacenti Neo Moto 2.3 (He now makes a 2.1 Neo that will fit. It is very close. Btw, both the Blur XC C LT C would fit my Neo that I have on the Moj with roughly 2 xs as much room) Fox Talas Front Shock. All of the Fox Crowns will fit 650b. Honestly the Moj built this way is very close. But I would say the Tallboy gives me about 5% more if I build a lightweight wheelset. I think if I build my own wheels up on Stans Race or 355 29er rims I can get a really lightweight rolling wonderful bike that will be close to Moj (My Moj frame weighs about 2433 grams I beleive the Tallboy weighs in around 2442 grams)
    650b is a great compromise for guys that don’t want to go whole hog 29. The definetly handle everything better than 26″ wheels. (I will hurt myself on those now.)

  21. @Jason – You should try to get on a Fisher Superfly 100 for a test ride. Today I went to the Trek/Fisher Demo Day here in my area, and when I arrived, there were a half dozen guys that had ridden it and they couldn’t stop talking about how awesome the bike was. I heard three of the guys saying they were going to be putting orders in to get the bike. Unfortunately I didn’t have my riding shoes with me, so I didn’t get to ride it. Being priced at $5600, it’s not an affordable bike for most of us. The Fisher HiFi 29 is similar to the Superfly 100 and priced more for us common folk.

  22. @J2
    I’m not so sure I’m into the 650b thing with all the mods it might take, but a 29er-esque Mojo would be amazing!

    Thanks for the reminder… emailing the Trek Product Manager to make sure I’m in line. Superfly has been on my mind…

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  25. Hey Jason…after reading your reviews I need the manufacturers to make me my own model! After reading up on the DW-Link, 29ers, and carbon fiber…I’ve decided I need a Mojo SL 29er or a SC Tallboy with a DW-Link. What the heck!! I was ready to go on the SC Blur carbon…but now that I’ve read all your reviews and done more research I’m pretty sure I’d be having buyers remorse and thinking the classical “grass is always greener.” So obviously SC isn’t going to make a DW-Linked bike…so should I hope and pray for Ibis to make a 29er? Oh well…maybe while I’m waiting the cost of the new SRAM XX group will drop!!


  26. Brett… YUP… Ibis just needs to get on with making a 29er so we can all jump onboard. The SC Tallboy is the best alternative right now.

    But, there is a DW 29er on the market… the Turner Sultan. BUT, it’s not carbon. However, word on the street is it rides awesome. I’ve yet to swing a leg over one as it continues to elude me at Interbike every year.

  27. As an industry “insider” :) do you have any insight to Ibis making a 29er? I read their FAQ’s and got the impression they didn’t even LIKE 29ers!

  28. Brett… no official word from Ibis. They do like 29ers, but I’m not so sure on their plans. I’ve heard of several people putting 650b wheels on their Mojos and loving them. But, I’d just stick with 26ers since you can get tire rub and such… just not worth it, IMO.

  29. I sent an email…and Scot Nicol resonded: “We’re looking closely at the 29 thing, but since they are only sold in 1 of the 34 countries we sell to (the US), it’s not an economically viable option for us now. It’s catching on though and we are watching it closely. we have to be able to justify the development costs, which are considerable.”

    I would have been willing to wait for an Ibis 29er if it was in development…but not looking like something for this decade.

    With that in mind…and my previously described riding habits, do you think the mojo or the tallboy would be the way to go? If this was the bike for your brother :) with my habits…? Everything is special order around here…so no way to ride and my “vacation” time is non-existent right now.

  30. Hey Brett… just sent you an email on this.

    I suspected Scot would say that. Re-tooling their molds, etc. is very expensive. They are focused on the Mojo HD right now and a 29er is well off into the future.

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  32. I live in the UK and ride big miles, race 12hr and long distance events, in your opinion would the Tallboy suit over the Blur xc? I’m just over 5 10 and 69kg so I like a light bike, especially wheels. In terms of wheels what is light in the 29er options? Still a limited choice over here.

  33. Scoot…

    So long as you’re willing to be the only 29er rider in the UK, I’d say go for it! :-) It is interesting that 29ers have been really slow to catch on over there–not exactly sure why.

    As far as wheelsets, I haven’t really looked at comparable weights, but it appears we’re talking about 200 grams more than comparable 26ers. Maybe you can skip the pub twice a week to save those 200 grams? Just kidding… here are some wheelset comparisons:

    Crank Brothers Cobalt: 1540 grams (26) or 1759 grams (29)
    Easton XC One: 1585 grams (26) or 1720 grams (29)
    Ellsworth XC: 1495 grams (26) or 1795 (29)
    WTB Laserdisc Trail: 2000 grams (26) or 2040 grams (29)
    IndustryNine XC: 1610 grams (26) or 1740 grams (29)

    As far as the lightest, durable 29er wheels go, it’s really pretty darn close between all of the above except the WTB’s. None of those wheelsets are going to be cheap, but the Easton XC One (which happens to be the lightest) can be had in the $700 range, which is easily $200+ cheaper than everything else but the WTB’s.

  34. Thanks Jason,

    Think it is due to our rideable trails being much technical and tight due to the more confined areas in which we can ride compared to the more open areas over there or in Europe. We are lucky if we have more than a 6 mile lap for a 12/24 hour race. Admittadley we now have our first single lap 100 mile race up near Scotland…

    Thats why I tend to race overseas if I can, quite fancy the Leadville 100…need a (fast) partner for the Transrockies if you know anyone…

  35. Hey Jason,
    I am looking to ride La Ruta this fall and wanted to pick your brain on this bike. I have a 2003 trek and I can’t lock out my shocks so it is not a viable option for La Ruta, and upgrading them is the price of a new bike. Then I went into Guthrie’s and saw the 29er, and I unfortunately fell in love, but am a little worried if this is the bike I need for La Ruta? I know I can ride it for years here in Utah and wherever else I go, but is this the steed I want for 4 days of hell? I appreciate your feedback and your site is pretty cool!

  36. Patrick

    So, I can’t speak from experience since I’ve never ridden La Ruta. I have heard about the terrain and looked through last year’s photos and 29ers are pretty common. Looks like nearly half of the riders are on big hoops. For rolling dirt roads and loose terrain, there isn’t much better than a solid 29er. If you’ve got the means, there’s no question that the Tallboy would be a great bike for that race.

    What are your major concerns with the Tallboy?

  37. No major concerns, but most of the Ruta riders are on hardtails, and at $3600 there isn’t much room for any upgrades. I planned on $2500 but if this Bike has it all then I don’t mind. I am not to worried about the downhills there, it is those killer uphills. Thanks for the quick reply!

  38. 29ers do require a little bit more effort to get up to rolling speed, but once there, maintaining your momentum is gloriously rewarding as you fly up and down obstacles. You could get a killer 29er hardtail for $2500, but when you get back to UT, you’ll appreciate the suspension of the Tallboy… trust me!

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  40. Patrick

    For LaRuta go with a hardtail 29er, this race is 80% fire roads and I think there was maybe 200 yards of singletrack. Most of the pros were on hardtails and running really narrow tires !! Good luck it is not as bad as people make it out to be

  41. “We’re looking closely at the 29 thing, but since they are only sold in 1 of the 34 countries we sell to (the US), ”


    That man needs to get out more. My RIP niner was an oddity here in New Zealand 2 years ago but these days there are a fair few 29ers about. Australia is similar.

    It does matter how big it is. Mine’s 29 inches.

  42. Hey Jason, I’m looking at the tallboy, but I’m 5’10” and fall in the middle of the medium and the large. I had a medium blur xc, and loved how I could move the bike around. It felt quite nimble. The seat was quite high because I have long legs and a short torso. My next bike I figured I’d go with a large scott spark 20. I never felt good on the Scott. It just felt big. On corners I used to fly around I was now having to hit the brakes because I couldn’t make them at the same speed. Also with climbing, I couldn’t climb the bike as well. I felt like I really had to make an effort to keep it down. Any recommendations with a tallboy?

    • Loran

      Great questions and commentary on the subtle differences between sizing. For the most part, I go by top tube measurements and have found that I’m most comfortable with something between 23-24 inches. This can vary though with stem length and other factors, but in general, that’s where I’m most comfortable.

      I’m a similar height (5’11” – 32″ inseam) and I always have that same problem–which size should I ride? I have felt very comfortable on a 24″ TT (Large Ibis Mojo) and have also felt super-comfortable on a 23.3″ TT (Medium Felt Compulsion 1).

      If at all possible, I’d ride the M and L at your local dealer. If not possible, I think if you were comfortable on the M Blur (23″ TT) then I think you would be just fine on the M Tallboy. 29ers can be a little unwieldy, so having a little smaller frame might keep things in check.

      Best of luck in your decision!

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