Review: Santa Cruz Tallboy LTC with SRAM XX1

Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of sampling the MTB industry’s best 29r’s on the market. All of which, I might add, are exceptional machines and with the right parts and group, can easily be tailored to your riding style and home terrain. While my Indy Fab rigid has proven to be more than fun on my local trails here in Austin, it’s still a rigid bike, limiting not only the lines you can take, but the speed at which you can take them. The latter being one thing I’ve found out the hard way: the faster you thrash, the harder you crash.

One might argue that riding a new bike on unfamiliar trails is a true test of the bike’s performance and the rider’s ability. While I’ll surely agree with that, seeing as how my experiences with many 29r’s have been on new trails, I will say that ripping your local trails on a new bike is the true test. Especially a more than capable ride like Santa Cruz’s Tallboy LTC. Add a Sram XX1 group and ENVE‘s tubeless-ready wheels and you’ve got more than enough reason to thrash fast.

At this point, I’ve spent enough time on a Tallboy to back my bold claims and even with this bike’s accumulated accolades since its inception, I don’t think anyone will disagree with me.

Check out more of my Trail Tested review of the Santa Cruz Tallboy LTC below!

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LTC denotes long-travel carbon. This 135mm VPP™ suspension travel bike is best suited for steep, rocky, mountain riding. As I’ve found not only in the Alps, but on my home trails, the bike’s abilities are never too much to handle. So why did I choose the LTC, over the Tallboy 2? Because of its versatility. I plan on traveling more with this bike, to parts of the world where all-mountain and downhill bikes reign. The Alps were only the beginning. I’d love to hit BC, the Trans Provence and even the Scandinavian trails. At home, I can dial in the ride to fit the singletrack or XC riding I do and still hit the bigger lines. So, in short: versatility is key.

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Santa Cruz specs this bike with the Fox Float CTD shock.

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Which offers fine-tuning of rebound, as well as three modes: climb, trail, descend.

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Paired with the Fox Float CTD front fork, you can fine tune any condition.

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This particular model came equipped with Shimano XTR brakes. Look, if you want hydraulic disc brakes, don’t fuck with anything else but Shimano. From SLX – XTR, you’ll have a much better experience. I’ve ridden other offerings and have never been more pleased as I am with my Shimano brakes.

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That said, don’t fuck with anything else but SRAM XX1. Seriously. It is the best mountain group on the market.

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11-speed, up to a 42t cassette and very lightweight. By eliminating the need for a front derailleur, you have your choice of a 28t up to 38t front ring. If you can’t hit something with 28t x 42t, you’re gonna walk it regardless.

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I will never spec a new MTB with anything but XX1.

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The kicker for this bike are the wheels. Holy shit, I never buy into the whole “carbon wheels are the best” thing on road bikes, but when it comes to tackling terrain, I can feel a huge difference with these. Also, the Maxxis High Roller 2 tire, which sits at 2.4″, is way overkill for Texas. I usually ride Ardents, which tend to be all I need. Still, the High Roller 2 deserves its reputation as a beast of a tire!

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While I have no complaints with the DT Swiss hubs (I even love the skewers!), I do wish Chris King would make an 11-speed mountain hub…

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Everything about this particular bike is dialed, save for one error. I was accidentally shipped a size large. Normally I run an XL, with a 90 stem. Since this is a large, I had to put a 110 stem on it. Does it affect the handling? Most certainly. Especially around tight switchbacks, which in my experience is already a bit difficult on a 29r. I’m in the process of working out a frame swap with Santa Cruz, I just wanted to point that out. If you’re thinking about getting a Tallboy, go to your shop and test ride one. They tend to run on the small side.

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So, enough of the tech jargon, how does it ride?

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The trails in Austin are almost all limestone, which means lots of shelves and steep drops. Most of which I could ride on my rigid, slowly. Since riding the Tallboy LTC, I literally smash over and down everything.

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In fact, I’m no longer really scared of anything. Which, as I said before, has its consequences. I’ve definitely wrecked harder on a Tallboy than I have on any other bike.

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One thing I’ve found is the bike’s ability to corner is uncanny. Even with the long-travel front end, when it’s dialed in, it’s not going down on a turn.

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The double track around town is suddenly some of my favorite terrain to ride.

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Limestone drops, ledges and rock gardens are eaten alive. Roots, slippery granite are no match. If there was a terrain best suited for a 29r, it’d be Austin.

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While I wasn’t stoked on the color, the bike looks great and it’s grown on me.

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… and it’s really given me a new motivation to be a better rider because let’s face it, if you show up on a bike like this, you better be able to shred.

Now, my biggest issue with reviewing a bike like the Santa Cruz Tallboy LTC is the price. It’s not cheap. By any means. This build in particular comes close to $10,000. Now, my recomendation would be to go with the aluminum model if you can’t front the $3,000 frameset but don’t skimp on the parts. Go with XX1 for sure. SRAM also makes exceptional mountain wheels. My point is, this is the bike to own, so it comes at hefty cost but the technology you get in a MTB far surpasses the tech used in most carbon road models. I mean, look at all the moving parts!

That said, I know people who have three or four mountain bikes and I feel like the Tallboy LTC is the best ‘do anything’ bike. It may not be the best at all sorts of riding, but it’s damn close.

While I sort out the frame size with Santa Cruz, I’ll keep you posted on my perception of this bike, which will surely change. For now, I’m learning both my riding limits and the capabilities of this performance machine.

Get pitted!

  • http://www.rideforadream.ca/ Micah

    Let’s see some riding shots!

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      I need to roll out with someone to do that. Coming soon…

    • Spencer Olinek

      Video.

      • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

        easier said than done.

  • Richard Smith

    “Not stoked on the colour”!?!? This is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL COLOURED BIKE IN THE WORLD!

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      I meant that I wasn’t stoked on it at first…

  • Wayne

    How does the Tallboy compare to the Bronson?

    • brennan

      Bronson is a 650b 150mm trail bike. Different animals based on personal preference–wheel size, travel length, riding style. There is enough info out there to break down the differences between 26”, 650b, and 29”, but it really comes down to riding a bike to make an educated decision. I personally really like the Solo/5010 for an all purpose full suspension mtn bike.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Yes, the Bronson is 650B, but the geo and overall feel of the bike is close to the Tallboy LTC. My belief is that wheel size is dependent upon rider height. 5’5″ ride 26″ – 5’10” ride 650B – 6’0 ride 29r. It’s not an exact science, but it’s a good starting point. FWIW, Santa Cruz agrees with that, for the most part.

      I’d choose the SOLO / 5010 over the Bronson though if it were me.

      • AttackCowboy

        Damn, I guess us 5’11” guys will just have to wait till the next wheel size revolution ; )

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          har har you know what I meant

      • Sean Curran

        I’m with you on this, although it doesn’t seem like many out there are (or maybe its not what the mainstream industry wants us to think). I was amazed how much more stable and confident I felt on my first 29er hardtail, I had just come off a 26″ hardtail with fairly similar geometry (Low and slack). It felt like I had found a good balance between being in vs being on the bike. I’m 6’4″, I still have a couple of things I dislike about my current geo related to the big wheels, (a low BB is not fun on the big wheels, even though it nice on the 26) but I think I’ll get them worked out when I go custom someday.

        This all said, some short riders love there 29’s, so each to his own. In the end, the wheels being in the right places is more important than their actual size.

        • Guest

          I am 5’5″… and really enjoy riding my 29er, down hill that is. Personally i think it is more based on your riding style, and the local trails you ride.

      • kyle

        I am 5’5″… and really enjoy riding my 29er, down hill that is. Personally i think it is more based on your riding style, and the local trails you ride. Height has nothing to do with wheel size.

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          Which is why I said it’s preference.

  • CM

    drool…

  • Glenn Weatherson

    Come ride Downieville.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      I really really really really really want to. When’s a good time of year?

      • Glenn Weatherson

        Early spring and fall. Summer gets too dusty and crowded and right now there’s probably a little snow and ice on top that’s only going to get worse through winter. Next year dude! Let’s try to break her.

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          Sounds like a plan!

  • John

    That is a sexy bike. Forgive my ignorance (MTBs are somewhat foreign to me), but does that frame not have dropouts? It looks like the axles slide through the hubs like motorcycle wheels.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Through-axles. They slide in and screw down. Much more stable…

      • brennan

        laterally stiff. most notable in how the bike tracks in corners….or so they say.

  • elknotty

    Love this bike, on an “unrelated” question… what camera bag do you use on trails?

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      The Acre Hauser or a Topo designs mountain “hip” bag.

  • Noel Smith

    Man.. your stable of bikes is staggering. By “reviewing the bike” do you mean they gave you one to keep… for free?!?

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      they gave it to me to keep for 6-months like all media bikes.

  • brennan

    Only change I would make to the set up would be a Thomson dropper post over the Reverb. I hope you have a shop that is good at rebuilding them. At least it was set up on the underside of the bar.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Never heard of a problem with the Reverb, unlike the Thomson, which seems to give people problems.

  • Morgan Taylor

    Nice to see you’ve swung a leg over a proper mountain bike! I was thinking I’d have to find a bike for you when you came to BC, but the TBLTc is a great choice up here.

    The ENVE rims are a treat, very strong and stiff and yet still very light. With long travel and big wheels, light rims go a long way to making the bike handle “normal”. I rode this bike when it was launched in Sedona almost two years ago and they weren’t spec’ing carbon rims yet. It was much more beastly.

    You’re going to be thanking various deities for that HR2 if you ever do make it to true technical terrain. I am usually a bit less overt when endorsing a particular product such as you have with Shimano brakes or the XX1 group, but I am a bonafide Ardent hater.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Agree with most of this but the Swiss Alps qualify as “true and technical”

      • Morgan Taylor

        If you told most people around here that a 90mm stem and Ardents were considered adequate for the terrain, they would likely laugh at your definition of “technical”. Dedicated XC guys do run stems that long and some scary tires, but you’re highly unlikely to see a Tallboy LT set up that way. That’s what the (highly successful) original Tallboy platform is for.

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          Ardents are great for Austin, never ridden your trails, but that’s the beauty of a stem and tire swap when you need to. Two simple changes that will affect the ride.

  • Velo666

    I will try not to fuck anything else but XX1 but doesn’t it have the same quality function as the wolf tooth setup?

    • btdubs

      Nope, XX1 has a larger gear range 11-42 as opposed to 11-36 (currently achievable) and a MUCH better 1-by-specific derailleur linkage. The rear derailleur pivot point stays in the same place as you shift across the cassette for much better shifting in the rough.

      I myself am waiting on Shimano’s electronic single-ring drivetrain. Which will happen, eventually.

      • http://hopecyclery.blogspot.com/ Hope Cyclery

        10-42 not trying to be a dick, you can jam a 42t on an 11-36 cassette by removing the 17t from it. XX1 goes a step further by allowing you to run a smaller chainring for more clearance, climbing, etc, while still having a decent descending gear (10t)

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Who else makes 11 speed cassettes with a 42t max? Also, XX1 predates wolf tooth.

  • Marc T

    What chain ring are you running? 28t? 30t? I’m considering a TB ltc with 28t and was wondering how that would handle. I’ve heard that VPP prefers larger rather than smaller rings…

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      34t

    • Eric Nicks

      I’m running a 28t with my tallboy LTC without a problem. I didnt notice any change in the suspension characteristics over a 32t that I used to run.

  • naisemaj

    I normally ride full rigid but I demo’d a tall boy through fruita and it was some of the most confidence inspiring fun I’ve felt from a full suspension! I similarly wrecked myself harder than I ever could on the f
    Rigid.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Thrash hard, crash hard!

  • Mike Kimbro

    Spectacular bike! My poor little Superlight just went out behind the house and hung himself. :(

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      It’s ok, I found my IF and my Pugsley trying to gang rape the LTC.

      • Mike Kimbro

        That’s what it gets for looking so damn sexy!

      • Jamie McKeon

        lmao

  • Kerry Nordstrom

    Ready for the Colorado Trail? Once a year, we organize a shuttled ride from Kenosha Pass to Breckenridge. You’re up over treeline at Georgia Pass and it’s 33 miles from start to finish. Tough ride, incredible terrain.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      I’m into it!

      • Kerry Nordstrom

        We could of course find someone who isn’t riding willing to shuttle a few bikes for a more impromptu ride. Keep me in the loop on your travel schedule!

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          werd

  • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

    Backcountry has the Tallboy LTC in XL and XXL for $1,600 right now…
    http://www.backcountry.com/santa-cruz-bicycles-santa-cruz-tallboy-carbon-142-with-fox-ctd-kashima

  • Cody

    How does this compare to the SB-95 you rode? Both bikes I am drooling over…

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      The SB-95 felt a lot like the Ripley in the sense that the frame seemed to resonate more. I don’t know how else to describe the sensation but it felt kinda “hallow” when you started the hammer on it or hit technical sections. I’m not sure if it’s the layup of the Tallboy, or the tubing profile but you don’t feel that at all. Personally, I would go LTC because 135mm – 150mm travel is a lot more versatile IMO.

  • Wyatt Stanton

    Which WTB is that?