As stated previously in the Santa Cruz Tallboy 3 27.5 Plus review, I am not a professional cyclist and I do not work at a bike shop or in the bicycle industry in any capacity, so the views expressed are strictly my own. With that said, I greatly appreciate how many of you have visited the site and contacted me regarding my posts on the Tallboy 3, so I felt I would try and contribute a little further with an additional $0.02 on other bikes one might consider and takeaways from current mountain bikes in general.
With Sedona just a two hour drive away, Sedona Mountain Bike Festival seemed like a pretty good excuse to head up to red rock country and try out some bikes on some awesome trails. I got to ride pretty much everything I wanted to, with the basic goal of trying out other bikes that I would maybe consider or buy if I didn’t have my Tallboy 3. I wanted to try other directly comparing plus bikes, some alternatives, and just some other cool bikes as they were available in general. It was surprisingly not as much about validating my purchase, as I’ve been really happy with the Tallboy 3, but more about the fact that it’s just fun to try different bikes and see what else is out there.
For the most part, all bikes were taken out on a loop that was about 35 minutes long or so with about 10 minutes on road and crushed rock walking path to and from the venue to get initially acquainted with everything and make any needed adjustments at the start of the trail. The trail section of Sinkhole/Jordan > Ant Hill > Grand Central > Adobe Jack had a good mix of just about everything: short punchy ups and downs, longer climbs and descents, smooth dirt, red rock, rocky, and rooty sections with about 800 feet of climbing. Luckily, the friend I rode with and I ride nearly identical setups on the bike, so we were each able to take a different bike out and switch after each lap without having to go back to the event and go through the checkout process again. On Friday, we were able to try four different bikes on this course. In the interest of not making these posts too cumbersome, here are the first two.
A different take with a very similar approach to my current bike, the Ibis Mojo 3 sports up to 2.8” wide plus tires but instead of being switchable to 29” wheels as well, it is compatible with smaller 2.3 and 2.5” 650b (27.5”) tires, with Ibis citing that all of the 650b tires effectively place the bottom bracket height about the same distance from the ground when set to proper pressure with a rider aboard. Other similarities to the Tallboy 3 include the DW suspension linkage, which is similar to the VPP suspension linkage Santa Cruz employs. The Mojo 3 features 130 mm in rear travel though, more in line with the 120 I kind of wish the Tallboy 3 had. I’m not exactly sure which spec I demoed, and suspect it might have had a few parts replaced over the years, but I believe it was more or less the approximately $5500 “special blend 1x Werx” with its SRAM X01 group, Rock Shox Pike fork, and Kashima Coated Fox Factory Float with EVOL air sleeve.
This bike ended up being my favorite bike ridden the entire weekend and the only bike that would threaten the re-purchase of my current rig. It essentially answered my wishlist on the Tallboy 3 by adding 20 mm of travel in the rear and a slightly higher bottom bracket. The head tube is actually a little more slack at 66.8* versus the Tallboy’s 68* though handling and overall feel were similar. But the Mojo 3 did feel a little more active and lively than my current rig while still retaining good composure and pedaling. My only real gripe with the bike was the color, which was slightly faded ketchup red.
My end criteria for determining how much I liked the bike was if I would consider buying it if I were again in the market. And the answer is yes, IF the price was the same or very close the Tallboy 3 Carbon C. The bike (as tested) retained the firm pedaling platform that I love about the Tallboy and added a little more playfulness, but the difference was not significant enough that I would really be able to justify a substantial ($1000) price increase. Ibis does offer the bike in very comparable Shimano SLX 1x11 build spec with Fox Performance shock front and rear, Fox Transfer dropper post, and aluminum wheels at the same MSRP as my Tallboy 3, Carbon C, S+ build at $4599. This would be a tough decision if I had to do it again, but I guess the deciding factor would be if I wanted more travel in the rear or if I wanted the ability to run 29” wheels.
The demo Mojo 3 I rode would be a little more comparable to the CC level Santa Cruz offerings based on frame weight and price, and in that ballpark again, the criteria would be if you wanted the ability to run standard 27.5” wheels or 29” wheels, but I do like that Ibis offers so much customization of builds and that the Werx builds come with a solid carbon wheelset, with the least expensive Werx build, the Special blend 1x, coming in at $5300 MSRP with carbon wheels, but a slightly lower spec SRAM NX groupset.
I’m getting a little long winded on the Ibis, but for anyone considering the upper end offerings of the Tallboy 3, it might be worth a look. I really enjoyed this bike, I just kind of wish it came in more fun colors. As stated previously, I think it all comes down to which other wheel/tire sizes you think you might run. For the trails I ride, if I'm going to leave the plus life, it will be for 29" wheels, so the edge goes to the Tallboy 3. Having said that, and having ridden a lot of plus bikes over the three days, I can say I am firmly planted in the 27.5+ camp, and even more specifically the 27.5 x 2.8 camp. I don't think you could make a bad decision between the two, and I mean that in the best sense possible.
A dedicated plus bike with 150 mm travel in the front and 130 mm travel in the rear, the Rocky Mountain Pipeline is capable of fitting a massive 3.25” tire, fully in line with their description of Intended Use being Aggressive Trail. The Pipeline utilizes a 4-bar rear end that looks and feels very independent of the rest of the bike, providing a lot of small bump compliance in a very active package. Initially the bike felt twitchy and very upright, but not unpleasantly so once I got used to it. The flip chip in the rear shock linkage offers a mind-numbing 9 different position options to tweak the suspension ramp-up and the head tube angle up to 1.6 degrees. Admittedly, I don’t know which position this one was in, so that might have had something to do with the high feeling front end, even with a 150 mm fork.
I didn't love the bike at first, immediately coming off the Ibis, but the more I rode it, the more it grew on me. The bike pedaled very well, and didn't feel long or overly burly like the suspension might indicate. And with an MSRP of $4799, it's just a no nonsense shredder. Everything on it is very straight forward with its Shimano XT 1x11 group, Fox Float Factory 34 Fork, Fox Float Factory DPS shock, and Rock Shox Reverb dropper, and very much in line with the competition, save for the all aluminum rear end. And with the 750 MSL model coming in at $3999 with lower spec'd suspension but still keeping much of the XT kit, the Pipeline is really accessible for similar bike to the Tallboy 3, Ibis Mojo, Yeti SB 5+, and even the Santa Cruz Hightower.
I don't know if it's the sexiest bike out there, but it seems to speak softly and carry a big stick because it pedals well, is agile in handling and for the most part rides like it has less suspension when you want it to but has it when you need it to. With this much travel it is more directly in line with the Santa Cruz Hightower, and compared to my memories of it, this bike seemed to pedal better or more efficiently. In both wheel sizes, the Hightower always felt like a lot of bike, and felt big, where the Pipeline has a nimble feel more inline with the Tallboy 3. For those considering the Hightower, especially if you're on a budget, I would strongly urge you to try out the Pipeline, which would serve as a very capable and versatile aggressive trail bike.
Thanks for reading part 1, I have a handful more bikes that I got to spend some time on that I will continue posting in the following weeks. As always, if you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact me.