Santa Cruz Tallboy LT C Extended Test Ride

Santa Cruz Tallboy LT (Long Travel) Carbon
Santa Cruz Tallboy LT (Long Travel) Carbon

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Santa Cruz Tallboy LT Carbon Extended Test Ride

When Santa Cruz announced they had a Long Travel Tallboy in the works I was immediately intrigued.  I had put miles on our race Tallboy’s and I while I enjoyed them.  I have followed (and been dropped) by our racer Jon Collins on his Tallboy on all sorts of trails – I knew with the right rider the original chassis has incredible capacity.  However at 230lbs with different skill set and aspirations I was looking for a slightly different chassis.  From the first technical releases I felt that the LT Carbon with its larger diameter structure,  12×142 thru-axle and additional 35mm of travel over the standard Tallboy would be a good fit for my riding progression.

Tallboy & Tallboy LT C

@jcyouknow Santa Cruz Tallboy and the LT C loaded in the Sprinter to go rip

I have previously published a write up on my transition from 26 to 29” wheels (on BikeCo.com) so I won’t rehash too much of the learning curve.

The Tallboy LT Carbon is simply a blast to ride.  The bike is fast across the flats and climbs.  The refined suspension will handle descents from chunky and technical to flat out fast.  I have run the bike from undulating up and down trails to steep rocky drops and just about everything in between.   This bike highlights bigger mile rides with technical features.  This bike will eat up medium to chunky trail features with the larger diameter wheel and additional travel.  If you want a 29 with additional capacity – this is one to put on your short list for sure.  Unlike many of it’s long travel 29 counterparts this bike is refined, trail capable and gimmick free.

Santa Cruz has brought top of the line carbon fiber technology to their entire lineup.  The bike is stiff throughout with a taper headtube and thru axle rear end.  I have put the bike down a handful of times with no issues on the frame.  My bike doesn’t suffer any mystery creaks or wiggles even after months of hard riding.

The LT C is nimble for a 29” bike.  It behaves predictably when put in the air (no experience with huge doubles, etc…) and rides quite poppy.  For my riding style I find that preloading the bike rearward before launch keeps the front end attitude up.  Body positioning and movement are important to getting the most out of the bike (get out your Mastering Mountain Bike Skills by Brian Lopes and read up).  Staying active pumping the bike will be the difference between the bike rolling the trail and you riding the bike.  I don’t get the 29” dead feeling so often talked about – be active on the bike and push it to the next level!  The bike rides aggressively on its front wheel at speed in corners.  At times it feels like the rear wheel is just along for the ride – however once you get used to loading the bars to get the front end bite it isn’t as disconcerting as one would think.

My bike has gone out as a test rig with different riders from The Bike Company.  The consensus after even 1 or 2 rides is it is: planted, confident, and most importantly fun.

I’m not going to give it a ranking with a number of stars, or chain rings or anything like that.
The best compliment I can give the Santa Cruz Tallboy LT C is that I look forward to riding it.
I get to test a lot of products – and I find myself excited to get back on my bike.  If you are investigating a long travel 29 do yourself a favor and have a discussion with your resource about the LT C.

Below I have listed some of the various upgrades & products that have taken my Tallboy LT C to the next level.

tallboy lt carbon with marzocchi tst r

LT C featuring new custom tuned Marzocchi TST R rear shock

Rear Suspension
Once I had an idea of what the LT C and 29” wheels where all about I sat down with Joe Binatena and Tracy Sledge at BikeCo.com to discuss squeezing a bit more performance and refining the feel of my bike.  I felt I had to run too little sag on the shock in order to not stroke through the travel too quickly.  The bike felt as though it had a slight “hinge” feel in the rear suspension when carving “s’s” – it was very distinct at low speeds.  We worked on the Fox RP23 to modify its ramp rate.  After some custom tuning we were able to refine the ramp rate and remove the hinge feel.  The modified ramp rate also allowed me to run more initial sag without running through the travel too quickly.  I felt that the RP23 performed admirably for nearly all my riding needs on the bike.  Having pedaled different bikes with Fox CTD I can see that would be a nice improvement to the RP23 – although I may still look into a bit of ramp rate tuning.  Recently I have upgraded rear shocks to the Marzocchi TST R (note this shock has stroke modified).  The Marzocchi TST R is an incredible fit for my LT C.  The Trail Selection Technology provides a pedal platform range from near full lockout to wide open plush.  If you are looking to take your 29” Trail bike to the next level of trail capacity it would behoove you to investigate the TST R rear shock.

Fork
I have run the new 34mm Fox Float CTD 140mm fork since the bike was built.  Testing our CTD tune packages provided me a chance to learn what a big difference on trail personality forks will produce.  The stock configuration felt okay – it ramped nicely and with the 34mm stanchions I didn’t feel any flex out of the front end of the LT C.  As our 34 CTD tune package advanced we were able to give the fork the small bump compliance.  The BikeCo 34 CTD tune is comparable to my previous 26” Ti-Sprung forks.  The tuned Fox fork is a much more confident front end.  The Tallboy LT C has geometry capable of big speed and now my fork can match the bike without feeling “skippy” across the trail.  In a turn the planted front end keeps rubber on trail and doesn’t build up the repeated skipping impacts that can overload a tire’s compound and tread’s ability to hold a line.

Suspension Overview
The modifications made to my Tallboy LT Carbon take the chassis to another level.  To me it is important to take a long, hard look at ramp rate to maximize the performance of your 135mm chassis for trail use.  While many trails I ride use all of my available suspension I do not feel the bike bottom out.  When a suspension bottoms hard the spring rate suddenly becomes infinite – meaning you have no suspension and it may shoot you all over the trail.  Controlling how your suspension handles full load situations will directly impact how confident your bike feels.  Tuned ramp rate produces an infinite feeling suspension.  Proper handling suspension (and tire technology) will make you faster, period.  You will be able to go into corners faster, maintain more speed through the corner, and if your bike is in control leaving the corner you can add pedal strokes before the next corner or feature.

34 CTD Fox Tune

@joebinatena working his magic on BikeCo’s 34 CTD fork tune

Cockpit
I have run a variety of cockpits on the Tallboy LT C.  The bike has a neutral personality with a very high speed capacity.  I have found that neutral bars paired with a bit of a slow stem setup are my favorite.  When I ran slow bars and slow stem combos the bike became a bit dead for my taste.  Conversely the bike became nervous at speed when paired with quick handling bars.  Cockpit setup is critical on bikes that like to run hard on the front wheel in corners (most VPP bikes).

Tires
There isn’t a perfect tire for every rider in every condition.  This bike will change personality with your tire selection.  I find I run faster tires (compound and tread pattern) on the 29” wheels than my 26” on the same trails.  Something to take into account with your Trail setup 29” rig – your rim width will have an optimum tire width range.  If you run too wide of tires on narrow rims you will have a balloon effect and not utilize your side knobs.  The opposite is wide rims with narrow tires which leads to excessively flat tread patterns which lead to chatter on trail and flats.  Talk to your resource to find the optimum range of tires for your setup and usage.

Other Notes
I do not run a chainguide on this bike.  The Shadow Plus rear derailleur combined with good technique kept my chain on even in chunky fast sections.

Bikes like this are a great example of how building equity with your resource will pay dividends.  When a shop takes your needs into consideration with a proper consult and continues to work WITH you after the sale you will get the most out of your purchase.  Ask questions, be heard, don’t be afraid to Demand More from your bike shop.  I see a lot of riders ripping the trail IN SPITE OF what they ride – not because of it.  If you are spending this kind of money you should enjoy every ride.
See you on the trails – Nate@BikeCo.com

tallboy lt carbon carwreck

Tallboy LT C on the aptly named “Car Wreck” trail

 

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