First ride: 2023 Santa Cruz Tallboy gets updated, not overhauled

For Santa Cruz, the previous generation of Tallboys was a bike that became a cult classic. It resonated with nearly everyone who rode it, inspiring all kinds of unique custom builds, some of them focused on getting as much downhill performance as possible, and others more comfort than a pure race bike. With focused on making a XC machine.

Released in 2019, the Tallboy 4 hit the sweet spot when it comes to versatility, boasting geometry numbers that allowed it to handle tricky, technical terrain without feeling sluggish and sluggish on the Mellow Trail . This is a trail bike through and through, with 29” wheels, 120mm of rear travel and a 130mm fork.

Tallboy 5 Description

• Wheel Size: 29″
• Travel: 120mm, 130mm Fork
• C and CC carbon frame options
• 65.5º or 65.7º head angle
• 76.6º Seat Tube Angle (Size L, Low)
• 438mm chainstay (size L, lower)
• Size: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
• Weight: 28.75 lbs / 13.04 kg (Size L, X01 AXS RSV Build)
• Price: $5,299 – $10,399 USD
, santacruzbicycles.com

Santa Cruz didn’t want to mess with a good thing, so the 2023 Tallboy isn’t that far off from the previous model. The geometry has been adjusted a bit, and the same goes for the kinematics, but this is a fine tuning rather than a complete overhaul.

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

frame details

The most obvious change to the Tallboy’s frame is the addition of downtube storage, a feature now found on nearly every trail and enduro bike in Santa Cruz’s lineup except 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 stash a tube, tools, and any other snacks and accessories that will fit.

Apart from the new snack stash, Tallboy’s frame details haven’t changed that much. There’s a mount for fully guided internal cable routing, a threaded bottom bracket, room for a 2.5” rear tire, and chain guides. There’s also a universal derailleur hanger, and a flip chip on the rear shock mount that allows for very subtle geometry changes.

Geometry and suspension layout

Tallboy’s shock flip chip remains, but the ability to change the chainstay length to 10 mm has been removed, replaced by a size-specific length for each size. Chainstays range in length from 431mm on the XXL to 444mm on the smaller size.

The Tallboy’s seat tube angles are also size-specific, becoming sharper with each larger size. This helps ensure that tall riders won’t get too far behind the bike when climbing.

The new Tallboy isn’t any slack compared to the first, but it ended up being a bit longer, with reach numbers that match up with the rest of Santa Cruz’s lineup. The sizable reach is now 473mm at the low setting, an increase of 5mm. The slightly steeper seat tube angle balances out that increase, creating a top tube length that’s relatively unchanged, meaning the seating position will feel almost the same as before.

Santa Cruz lowered the Tallboy’s leverage ratio to give a slightly less progressive shock curve, a change with a lower amount of anti-squat at the start of the voyage, and a less aggressive drop later in the stroke. Those changes were made to increase the bike’s small bump compliance, and to give it a more predictable suspension feel at all points of travel.

make kit

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

At the top of the line sits the $10,399 Tallboy CC X01 AXS RSV. There are too many initials to specify that it has Santa Cruz’s highest-end carbon frame construction, SRAM’s AXS wireless electronic drivetrain, and Reserve 30SL carbon wheels. Suspension duty on that expensive model is handled by Fox Float factory DPS shocks and RockShox Pike Ultimate forks.


ride print

The Tallboy isn’t a downcountry bike, and it’s not trying to be. Instead, it’s an all-around machine that has the ‘just right’ air to handle. There’s no sketchiness or unpredictability—it’s the rider who will bring those traits to the table, not the bike.

Honestly, I could probably skip Mike Levy’s link Tallboy 4. review of in 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 the last time I rode a Tallboy, but except for some of my vague memories I’d say the suspension feels better than before – it’s a little softer overall, which Makes the bike more comfortable on the choppy parts of the trail. There’s still plenty of support, though, and there wasn’t any stiffness at the end of the stroke, even when I used the full travel.

The Tallboy’s strength is its versatility—it feels solid, free of any unwanted twitches, even on harsh, high-speed trails. The Maxxis Dissector/Recon tire combo has worked well for the dry, dusty conditions that have been prevalent lately, though I’d put in something more meaty for wet conditions or really just trying to get the most downhill performance possible. If I were to go that route, I’d probably just swap out the G2 brakes for some of the code, as there’s only a small weight penalty and a noticeable performance difference. Still, for normal duty the G2 brakes work fine, and the rotor upgrades in the new HS2 versions will be an easy way to push the stopping power up a bit further.

The Tallboy’s handling is very quiet and predictable, and the same goes for pedaling performance – it strikes a fine balance between efficiency and traction. That said, the weight combined with a more muted suspension feel makes it feel closer to a short travel hightower rather than a long travel blur.

That doesn’t mean it feels heavy or sluggish – far from it – it’s just how it feels compared to something like the latest Trek Top Fuel, or even a transition spur for that matter, There is a notable difference between this. All of those bikes have 120mm of rear travel, but the Trek and Transition sit more on the aggressive XC side of the spectrum, and have a higher appetite for running uphill than the Tallboy.

Those lightweight and lively options are great for riders trying to scratch that downcountry itch, but when gravity takes it the tallboy moves forward, with a more planted feel that hits higher speeds and more challenging trail features. Provides the necessary confidence to

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


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