Following up on the Santa Cruz Tallboy 3 Carbon C S+ review including the 6-month update here, and my overall thoughts on the mountain bike market from May of 2017 here, I wanted to take a moment and provide a two year ownership report of the bike, and what else I’ve learned and now see changing. I also wanted to thank everyone for visiting the site, commenting, and reaching out with kind words and questions on these posts.
Virtually all of my previous comments made about the bike remain true. I still wish it had a touch more rear travel, was a bit lighter, and the SRAM Level brakes continued to be terrible. So much so, that the levers were replaced under warranty yet again (that’s twice now). It was similar issue where they just seemed to squeeze and stay engaged, with no modulation or power control. It turns out that SRAM is on their third or fourth version of these brakes and are now date stamping the levers just under the rubber housing where the cables enter. This allows them to track the version to hopefully iron out any future issues.
Upgrades and Updates
My brakes were just replaced with the new levers, hopefully for the last time, and they are now functioning as they should, though it’s tough to really feel confident or positive about them in general, given the issues.
I recently swapped to the carbon "next" version of the 10mm Race Face handlebar and saved 215.1 grams on the bar alone. The RaceFace Next 35 10mm rise bar is 760mm vs the standard bar’s 780mm, which actually feels more appropriate, but even that length difference should only account for about 6-12 grams max, so it really does show just how heavy the stock bar is at a whopping 405.4 grams versus the svelte 190.3 grams of the Next 35 model. At just $140 on Amazon Prime here, it's a pretty light and stout bar for the price.
The Maxxis Rekon+ tires have been nothing short of awesome. I retired the rear about 4-6 months ago and moved the front to the rear, and was given a Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.8 tire that I now have on the front. The Schwalbe has been equally as good, though I know they can sometimes be prone to easy cutting, and the sidewall does feel a little less robust overall, but fingers crossed it continues to hold up. I’m really happy with both tires, and would definitely recommend the Rekon as being durable and a good all-rounder. The Nobby Nic has a slightly more rounded profile, side to side, and I like that on the front for cornering traction, though ride and feel otherwise is fairly similar.
Perhaps most interesting is that Santa Cruz has quietly stopped selling this bike and the Hightower in 27.5+ guise starting with MY2019 bikes. The Tallboy 3 and Hightower are now a 29er only. The new 5010 and Bronson are now available in 27.5+, but even those are shod with 2.6” tires in lieu of the 2.8” of former SC Plus bikes. It sounds like Santa Cruz’ stance on plus 2.8 and 3.0 tires in general has changed in favor of more versatile 2.6” options as discussed here: https://www.santacruzbicycles.com/en-US/news/thoughts-plus-wheels-tire-widths
Being that I ride primarily in rocky Arizona could be why I jumped on the 27.5+ bandwagon so hard, it rolls over all of that so well, and keeps better traction over the loose over hard conditions. So, it’s difficult to say if I would notice a big difference going down to a 2.6” tire, but I feel fairly confident that I wouldn’t want to go much smaller.
Although the push across the industry the last two or three years was with 27.5+, it now seems that most are finding this mid-plus to be the happy compromise, with a 2.6” tire up front and maybe a 2.5 or 2.4 out back. I say that in looking at the MY2019 lineup from Santa Cruz that no longer has bikes switchable between 27.5” and 29”. Not being in the market for a new bike, I’m not entirely up to speed on everything new coming out, but it seems that the trend is more to either the beefy 27.5 x 2.5 – 2.6 size or the 29 x 2.4’s.
The new Specialized Stumpjumper is interesting that they now offer short (130mm) and long (150mm) travel versions of the 27.5” or 29” wheel size, and those are different frames, but both can fit up to 3.0” tires, but Specialized does not have a bike in the new lineup standard with plus tires. If I were in the market, the new Stumpjumper would be near the top of my list of candidates now that it ditched most of the proprietary components and has a threaded BB. It’s also rather interesting that the frame is the same from Comp carbon up to S-works. Gone are the days of getting the heavier carbon composite and potentially layup at the lower tiers. This makes it easier than ever to buy a lower tier bike and upgrade any as needed down the road.
The $5500 Expert Level Stumpjumper in ST, 27.5, and 29” looks to be the bang for your buck sweet spot with GX Eagle group, Traverse Carbon wheels, and Rock Shox Pike RC fork up front.
The MY2019 Santa Cruz 5010 would also be a top candidate fitting squarely into everything I like about my current bike, including plus size tires, and it has a little more travel than the Tallboy 3 with 130 mm front and rear. The last generation 5010 was pedaled very well and was a great bike that I strongly considered purchasing, but was a one wheel size only rig at that time. The MY2019 model has the flip chip option to adjust the head tube angle and bottom bracket and can fit up to 2.8” tires. This pretty much ends up being everything that was on my wish list from the Tallboy 3, save for the ability to run 29 wheels, which I don’t really know that I would prioritize anymore. The same Carbon C S level spec has an MSRP of $4899, equipped with GX Eagle group, it’s a solid buy. I also think it would probably be difficult to justify the comparably spec'd Stumpjumper Expert mentioned above when this bike comes in $600 less MSRP.
The Tallboy 3 with Plus rubber has been a great bike. It has actually made mountain biking in general, a lot more fun too. Not that it wasn't before, but the confidence and playfulness just makes riding in all conditions more enjoyable. It's really great that bikes are so capable now, able to pedal really well, while being able to handle some pretty gnarly stuff. And that gnar factor has really pushed my limits in what I'm able to or willing to try to ride, and having a bike that inspires to push you in that way is what it really all boils down to... having fun.
If you think you're only looking at 29" builds, but would still want the possibility of running 27.5+ down the road, I think it still remains a great buy, and is very versatile and capable. I also think it's a great entry to more trail oriented bikes for the XC and roadie crowd since it still pedals really well, while being plenty capable of handing some much gnarlier trails than the rear travel would suggest.
Thanks again to everyone that has read, commented, and emailed on this and the other mountain bike related posts. Your support is what keeps me motivated and makes it all worth it.