First Look | The New Santa Cruz Tallboy Is Basically A Minitower!

Launched back in 2009, the original Santa Cruz Tallboy arrived in the lineup as the brand’s very first 29er mountain bike. Equipped with the dual-link VPP suspension design, 100mm of rear travel and a 100mm travel fork, the Tallboy soon found favour with XC riders and marathon racers all around the globe, who praised it for its efficiency and fast-rolling demeanour. It also happened to be a ripping bike to ride on technical singletrack too, at a time where a lot of 29ers were pure garbage. Even with its 71° (!) head angle, the Tallboy will always be remembered as being one of the first 29ers on the market that was actually fun to ride.

A Tallboy History Lesson

As 29in wheels gained in popularity over the next few years, so too did the Tallboy. So popular in fact, that it eventually killed off Santa Cruz’ own 26in Blur. Well, at least for a while anyway…

Building on the success of the original, Santa Cruz then rolled out the 2nd generation Tallboy in 2013, which kept a fairly similar recipe, but added in a 142x12mm thru-axle and gently reworked geometry. That rework included kicking the head angle back a whole 0.8° to make it 70.2° – how very slack!



Three years later, as plus tyres became all the rage, Santa Cruz brought out Tallboy 3.0. Using Boost hub spacing and a clever flip-chip in the lower shock mount, the Tallboy introduced the ability to accommodate 27.5+ wheels for those who wanted chubby rubber. It also bumped up in travel a touch to 110mm on the rear, and offered the option to run a bigger 120-130mm fork. It was still fast and efficient, and you could still set it up as a long-haul speedster, but its slackened and lengthened geometry pushed its technical capabilities far beyond what riders had come to expect from previous iterations.

And that brings us along nicely to this new bike; the 4th generation Tallboy.

santa cruz tallboy 4.0 2020
It says ‘Tallboy’ on the tin, but this one looks nothing like the last one.

So The Santa Cruz Tallboy 4.0 – What’s Changed?

Err, well, everything! Just look at it – it is absolutely nothing like the old one! Really, aside from the name, this Tallboy has very little in common with its predecessors.

Much of this is because of the Blur – the 100mm travel 29er race bike that Santa Cruz re-launched last year. With the Blur snatching back its mantle as the XC/marathon speedster of the range, the Tallboy has been freed up to stretch its legs and wade deeper into the trail bike pool. It hasn’t just waded in though – the Tallboy has performed an all-mighty cannonball!

santa cruz tallboy 4.0
Internal cable routing ports up at the head tube.
santa cruz tallboy 4.0
The Tallboy goes 1x specific with a rigid one-piece swingarm. Note the adjustable dropouts and textured anti-slap chainstay guard.

Less Tallboy, More Minitower

Visually speaking, the new Tallboy bears a striking resemblance to its bigger 29er siblings; the Hightower and Megatower. Structurally speaking, the new frame is chunkier, lower and more aggressive in its stance. The Tallboy kisses goodbye 2x compatibility, with the rigid one-piece swingarm adding a vertical upright in place of where the front mech would have sat, which boosts back-end stiffness.

Geometry pushes well into the future with a significantly longer front centre, a reduced fork offset, a pretty-steep 76° seat angle, and a very-slack-for-its-category 65.5° head angle. Bear in mind that’s the same head angle that the Hightower has, and only half a degree steeper than 160/160mm travel Megatower. Pwoar!

There’s been a slight increase in suspension travel to 120mm on the rear, though Santa Cruz is still spec’ing the Tallboy with a 130mm travel fork. The Tallboy also sticks with 29in wheels, but it is no longer compatible with 27.5+ rubber. As with the Hightower and Megatower models, Tallboy is now 29er only, perhaps signposting that the plus tyre craze has come to an end – at least on full suspension bikes anyway.

santa cruz tallboy 4.0
The Tallboy carries over the VPP dual-link suspension system, but the orientation is very different.
santa cruz tallboy 4.0
The shock is now driven by the lower VPP link, and sits much lower in the frame where it anchors onto the downtube.

VPP Gravity Linkage

The suspension system is still a dual-link VPP design, but the shock position has changed to sit much lower down in the frame. We’ve seen this lower link-mounted shock design used on other Santa Cruz models like the Nomad, Bronson, Megatower and Hightower, but the 120mm travel Tallboy is the shortest travel frame yet to receive this new-school ‘VPP Gravity Link’ system.

Instead of being mounted underneath the top tube like the old Tallboy, the shock is now anchored to the downtube, where it’s driven by the lower VPP link. This helps to lower the bike’s centre of gravity, but according to Santa Cruz it also provides a more consistent leverage ratio between the rear wheel and the shock, with a steadily progressive rate from start to finish.

Speaking of leverage ratios, the Tallboy has been designed to be run specifically with an air shock, so no coils allowed here. You can fit a piggyback shock though – as long as it’s not one of those enormous Fox X2 or Cane Creek bangers. For those worried about the vulnerability of the shock position, Santa Cruz has added a neat mudguard to shield the stanchion from rear tyre spray.

santa cruz tallboy 4.0
The world’s cutest mudguard shields the shock stanchion from rear tyre spray. The lower shock mount also encompasses a geometry flip-chip.

Adjustable Geo

Like the Megatower, the Tallboy offers two-way adjustable geometry. There’s a flip-chip in the lower shock mount, and that gives you both High and Low geometry settings. In the High position, the head angle sharpens to 65.7°, the seat angle steepens to 76.2°, and the BB height lifts by 3mm. Santa Cruz recommends running the bike in High first, and trying out the Low position if you’re riding particularly steep descents where pedal clearance is less of an issue.

You can also adjust the chainstay length via a neat flip-chip in the rear dropout, which allows you to set the rear centre length at 430mm or 440mm. Aside from tweaking weight distribution and handling, Santa Cruz says this is useful for taller riders on bigger frames, who are able to run the longer chainstay position to provide a better balance between the front and rear wheels.

The longer 440mm setting also gives a you a touch more tyre clearance, with room for up to a 29×2.6in tyre. A separate brake adapter and derailleur hanger come supplied with the frame for when you want to change the dropout position.

santa cruz tallboy 4.0
There’s a secondary dropout flip-chip for altering the chainstay length.

Other noteworthy changes in the Tallboy’s geometry include a dramatic shortening of the seat tube lengths. On a Medium size for example, the seat tube shrinks from 420mm to 405mm, which gives you an extra 15mm of clearance to run a longer dropper post. Reach has also increased substantially, with an extra 20mm or so across the size range.

Speaking of sizes, the new Tallboy is available in six frame sizes from the humongous XXL, all the way down to a brand new itty-bitty XS size. That’s actually a big deal, because this new Tallboy is the first 29er that Santa Cruz has ever made in an XS size. This has mostly been made possible because of the new suspension layout, which provides more flexibility with lowering the top tube for the smaller frame sizes. Oh, and of course we’ll also see this XS size in the Juliana equivalent – the Joplin.

Santa Cruz Tallboy CC 4.0 frame geometry.

Are There Frame Options?

Yes there are!

Santa Cruz will be producing the Tallboy frameset in both CC and C carbon options. As with other Santa Cruz models, the CC version is made from a higher quality carbon fibre and so offers the same strength and stiffness as the cheaper C carbon frame, albeit with a weight drop of somewhere around 150-200g. The cheaper complete bikes will come with the C frame, and the more expensive builds will come with the CC frame.

There will also be alloy frames too. They have exactly the same shape and suspension design as the carbon Tallboys, and you also get the same lifetime warranty. However, the metal Tallboys do miss out on the adjustable chainstays, and the size range is capped at S-XL.

As of right now we don’t have Aussie pricing or availability on the alloy Tallboys, but we’ll be sure to update this story once that info comes through.

santa cruz tallboy 4.0
There are both C and CC carbon frame options for the Tallboy. Alloy frames will be on offer too.

What Tallboys Are Travelling To Oz?

Lusty Industries, the Australian importer for Santa Cruz Bicycles, will be bringing in four complete Tallboy models that are due to arrive in mid-October. As mentioned above, there’ll only be carbon Tallboys to begin with, but we can’t imagine the metal bikes will be that much further away.

The range will start with the $8,099 Tallboy C S, and end with the $14,999 Tallboy CC XX1 AXS RSV – a model we predict will be very popular with riders who hate vowels. All models get 130mm travel forks, a 2.3in Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR II tyre combo, and RockShox Reverb dropper posts.

Extra picky? You’ll also be able to get the Tallboy CC frameset on its own with a Kashima-coated Fox Float Factory DPS shock for the not-inconsiderable sum of $5,499. Custom-built perfection don’t come cheap.

santa cruz tallboy c s
We’ll be seeing the Tallboy C come into Australia with this SRAM GX Eagle kit. At ninety nine bucks over $8k, this is your ‘entry level’ Tallboy.

Santa Cruz Tallboy C S GX

Don’t want to fool around with spiders? The X01 kit steps up with carbon bars and SRAM G2 RSC brakes, while being built around the lighter weight CC frameset. Trick.

Santa Cruz Tallboy CC X01


santa cruz tallboy xtr
For the Shimano fans, Santa Cruz will have one solitary XTR-equipped Tallboy model coming into Australia. A RockShox Pike Ultimate fork, Chris King headset and Reserve wheels are invited to the party too.

Santa Cruz Tallboy CC XTR RSV

santa cruz tallboy axs xx1 reserve
If one gear cable is too much for you, consider the XX1 Eagle AXS build kit, which gets a wireless rear derailleur, among other niceties like SRAM G2 RSC brakes, carbon bars and Industry Nine hubs. All for less than $15k too. Bargain!

Santa Cruz Tallboy CC XX1 AXS RSV

santa cruz tallboy
Low-slung and stretched out – the new Tallboy is taking its 29in wheels well into the future.

We’ll be getting our paws on the new Tallboy in the near future, so stay tuned for our first impressions of this newly radicalised 29er. In the meantime, you can get more info via the Santa Cruz Bicycles website.

Given all the changes, what do you think of the new 4th generation Tallboy? Does it look like it’s swung in the direction you’d hoped? Or is this one too far removed from the Tallboy we’ve previously loved so much? As always, tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

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