Thursday, November 4, 2010

Let's Talk Tallboy

My new Tallboy has seen action for about six weeks but since the weather has caved, and our singletrack season is over, I thought it would be a good time to post a short-term review.

The Specs
- Large Tallboy Frame with Fox RP23 shock
- Cane Creek 110 Mixed Taper headset
- Stans 355s laced to DT Swiss 240s by Mike C.
- Fox F29 100 FIT RLC w/15mm axle
- SRAM XX Drivetrain with 39/26 Front and 11/36 Rear
- Magura Marta SL brakes
- Thomson Masterpiece Seatpost
- Thomson X2 Stem
- Edge Mtn Riser Bar, 700mm wide, uncut
- Ergon GP1 Leichtbau Grips
- WTB Silverado Saddle (still not sure if this is my saddle Nirvana)
- Time Atac XS Ti Carbon pedals

The tires obviously affect the overall weight, but with semi-lightweight 600g tires my Tallboy weighs 24.3 lbs. This is a huge improvement over my 2008 Turner Sultan which was close to 27 lbs. Bikes like the Tallboy, the Trek Superfly 100, and the Specialized Epic 29er have made full-suspension 29ers a viable race option.

The Ride
I dig it. If I had to choose one word to describe the ride, it would be “snappy”. It rides with the kind of snappiness that will make it tough to choose the hardtail next season. Four inches of travel is perfect for endurance racing and definitely smoothes out the bumps nicely. This bike will take the edge off of trail sections like Tuffy’s Rim during the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde and the Bustle Creek descent at Pierre’s Hole. The wheelbase is a bit longer than my Air9 hardtail and tight switchbacks are a little trickier but the low BB helps. Speaking of low bottom brackets...

Shock Pressure & Pedal Strikes
A lower BB for better cornering was part of my criteria for a new bike. The claimed BB height on the Tallboy is 12.8” but a rider’s weight effectively lowers the BB by about half an inch once you factor in the sag. Too little PSI in the shock means too much sag, which results in a BB that is too low, which results in lot of pedal strikes. At first, I was running too little PSI and whacking my pedals on a lot of rocks. Five PSI either way changes the ride quite a bit on this bike. At 168 lbs (no gear), I am running 160 PSI in the shock with the ProPedal on 2 and that seems to be the best balance between a comfortable ride and a firm pedaling platform. The ProPedal helps the bike ride higher up in its travel and keeps the BB where it should be.

The Drivetrain
I was really enjoying the SRAM XX until I went for a ride in the Big Holes where I was missing my 22 x 34 option on the steepest climbs. I did several big rides in the Big Holes in October and at some point during each of those rides I was wishing I had another cog in the back. However, the Big Holes are a unique place in that the trails tend to go straight up and then straight down. If I decide to race the 100-mile version of Pierre’s Hole next summer I will definitely have a triple chainring on the front of the Tallboy because of the relentless Dry Creek climb. However, the 26 x 36 is plenty for the Cream Puff, Mesa Verde, and Old Pueblo.

I have to admit that I was expecting more out of SRAM XX. It is a nice drivetrain but my “old” 9-speed setup of XTR cranks, XTR front derailleur, XO gripshift, and XO rear derailleur shifted every bit as well. SRAM would score points with me if they would hurry up and release a 10-speed gripshift.

I am a BIG fan of the Shimano 15mm E-thru axle on 29” forks. I admit that I didn’t think it was necessary at first but now I am a believer. The steering is crisp and precise and the big fat quick release is genius because the axle tension is the same every time and makes wheel removal and installation a no-brainer.

15mm E-Thru System

If you plan on carrying a water bottle on your Tallboy, flip your shock around and buy a side-loader bottle cage. I was getting really frustrated by hitting the blue ProPedal lever with my water bottle every time I took a drink until I flipped the shock around. The Arundel “Other Side Loader” cage works very well and is easy to load without looking down.

Flip your shock to make room for a 24oz bottle

Santa Cruz nailed the geometry and the tire clearance with the Tallboy. A 2.25 Schwalbe Racing Ralph tire has plenty of room to spare. A pet peeve of mine is to see a sweet mountain bike with crappy rear tire clearance. The built-in chainstay protector and zerk fittings for greasing the BB pivots are nice touches as well.

Zerk fittings are below the BB

Santa Cruz uses a combination of an in-set top race with an external bottom race called a "mixed set" headset

11-36 in the back

Interesting Note: Santa Cruz specs the Q166 SRAM XX cranks but the Q156 clears the chainstays just fine

1 comment:

Buzz said...

Thanks for the report Dave. I wuz wonderin'. Saw one over at the CBO warehouse the other day...a nice build like yours.

I was droolin' all over me self!