[Test] Santacruz Tallboy LT Carbon

[Test] Santacruz Tallboy LT Carbon

27/09/2012
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27/09/2012

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We were very curious to try out this 29er with 135mm rear and 140mm front travel. We, at MTB-Forum, believe that these travel movements are the maximum limits for a 29-inch bike since beyond these specifications, it becomes difficult for engineers to design an agile bike which isn’t too heavy.  So, we got to work and in the span of a few weeks put the Tallboy to the test. This included a five-day trip to Livigno (Italy), where the bike practically never “rested”.

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Out of the Box

The carbon frame with the rear shock weighs 2.43kg (Santacruz’s stated weight); however, what is more interesting is the bike’s total weight, as we recorded it: 12.14kg, without pedals but with a 2.3 inch front tire (Bontrager 29.4) and a 2.1 inch rear tire (Specialized Ground Control). We mounted these tires and also applied a latex gel (anti-perforation) since the existing 1.9 inch Kenda tires were not considered adequate for this type of bike.

Lots of detail and care went into the frame, including: the rock guard under the downtube, the grease ports to lubricate the bearings, the 142x12mm rear pivot and the ISCG05 attachment for the chain guide. Another important point is the vpp links, kept very short to increase the frame’s rigidity. In terms of the frame’s geometry, the headtube angle is 69.5 degrees and the height of the bottom bracket is 340mm.   Other geometric data can be found here.

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The suspension system has the best Fox can offer, that is, the Float RP23 Factory Series rear shock with the Kashima Coat and the Float 34 front shock, also with the Kashima Coat. The pro pedal is distinctly noticeable when in the off position; however, we’ll leave this to the test ride.

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The Tallboy has the Hope Race Evo M4 disc brakes with four pistons. When we received the bike, the levers were mounted in the British style, that is, with a left-handed rear brake control. To switch the levers while leaving the master cylinder (oil reservoir) in the upright position, we had to remove the brake cable and attach it to the lever that was suitable for us. This was personally done by Danny Macaskill in the Mottolino parking area. It’s not for nothing that he worked as a mechanic in a bike shop.

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The bike has the Stans No Tube ZTR Flow wheels with 25.5mm inner rims; therefore, they are suitable for all-mountain bikes and with large tires that can use anti-perforation gel (latex). The Industry Nine hubs are beautiful and function smoothly.

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Moving on to the transmission, the Tallboy mounts the complete Shimano XTR group with a double 26-38 chainring set and an 11-34 cassette cogset. The adjustable seatpost is the new Crank Brothers Kronolog with a handlebar-mounted control lever.

In the Field

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First of all, the tormenting climb to the Tamaro hut: a steep, disjointed, 300-meter ascent with terraces that try to bounce you out of the saddle. The first thing we noticed is the bike’s lightness, easy to take uphill. On the negative side, the coupling of the 26-38 chainring set doesn’t help the unfit riders.

The closed position of the Fox Float RP23 pro pedal is very evident, causing a reduction in the sag and leading to less peddle-induced bob on steep grades. Unfortunately, the Fox 34 front shock can’t be shortened, yet the front doesn’t tend to rise. This is also because all the spacers were removed from the headset, an aspect that can be further improved by substituting the remaining part of the top headset cup with a flatter one.

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Now we come to the descent. We open the pro pedal and lower the Kronolog and let the tires roll on the treacherous terrain found on the upper Tamaro. The suspensions work really well. They are very sensitive to the small bumps while at the same time progressive so the bike avoids bottoming. The fork’s compression at slow speeds is highly valued, ideal for the slow, steep tracks where the fork doesn’t bottom out.

Attacking with the bike on a short spurt is easy, even when leaving the pro pedal open. Obviously, the peddling action isn’t as positive as when the pro pedal is closed, but this isn’t too troublesome.

On the fast and broken tract, the Tallboy reacts very well. The suspensions work well together, the bike is stable, and the wheels work as intended, thanks to the sturdiness of the ZTR Flow which has thicker spokes. We can say that this optimal function can only be invalidated by the selection of bad tires. We recommend that you put the most pronounced  and fattest tread up front while going for something that permits a smooth running function for the rear, without sacrificing on the sturdiness of the tire’s wall. Don’t let yourself get taken in by the “minimum weight” virus when it comes to tires, considering that the Tallboy lets you go all out in descents. This also explains the use of the ISCG05 attachment which we see well partnered with a light chain guide like the Truvativ X Guide.

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Mount Bernina in the background. The descent started off on a trail full of switchbacks

Let’s get to heart of the matter, the area where many of you have doubts about the 29ers. We said it before during our review of the Trek Rumblefish and we can confirm it now: where the rubber meets the road, if a 29er has been well designed, it can ride better than a 26-inch bike. The reason for this can be found in the stability that the wheels offer even at lower speeds, on technical tracks. On terrain which doesn’t require more than the 140mm of travel offered by the Tallboy (for example, see the section on the terraces), we found ourselves keeping the bike balanced longer than with a corresponding 26-inch bike, giving us more time to perform a nose press movement to change trajectory.

Some of you would say, “We told you so”. Too bad that at the time these preachers were talking things up, 29ers like the Tallboy and the Rumblefish didn’t exist yet. In addition, the few attempts made to create a trailbike back then were limited by the bike’s geometry, making it too long and too heavy (and lacking components like the Fox 34).

Let’s also include a few words on the Hope Race M4 disc brakes. They are capable of modulation: it takes quite a bit to lock them up, something we don’t know whether to attribute also to the detailed design and manufacture of the discs. The braking point doesn’t change, not even when superheated, and its action is equal to a light, four piston brake, not exaggerated, but constant.

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With regards to the Crank Brothers Kronolog adjustable seatpost, we should say that some problems occurred with the cable provided by Crank Brothers: it was too short (that’s what CB claimed). The bike was provided by DSB, which mounted the seatpost according to instructions but couldn’t avoid the “inconvenience”, that is, the saddle would drop one to two centimeters in the pedalling position (see the reviews on Pinkbike and MTB-News.de). In fact, an error in the cable’s tension (in this case too tight because the cable was too short) prevented the pincher from applying the correct closing force. The problem should have been resolved with the updated version in which an indicator helps select the correct tension. The updated Kronolog arrived late and will be tested independently.

Conclusions

Overall, the Tallboy LT Carbon convinced us. Its selling points are its weight, the harmonious relationship between the two suspensions, and the rigidity of the wheel-frame mating. It is a true all-mountain bike with a good downhill character. The negative side is the price.

Frame list price, including rear shock: Euro 3,599.00
Tallboy price (as reviewed), but with Fox 34 and XT kit: Euro 7,199.00

DSB Bonandrini