Someone asked me recently if I thought they should proceed with the acquisition of a additional new Mountain Bike to fill a slightly different capability category than the bike they already had on hand… Given this was prior to social distancing, I resisted the urge to slap them vigorously and scream that yes cunt, of course you should.
Rather than answering their question, I decided to make them feel a sense of realism that would naturally lead them to the conclusion that they need to transact by asking them this question:
“How many summers do you think you have left?”
Not as in, until you die, but how many usable summers do you think you have until you’re totally cunted and have to surrender to the Cyborg eBikeification, which according to SOME PEOPLE I know appears to be around 53 years old. But seriously, this is a question that you need to start asking, as you’ll soon realise that actually, once you pass 40, why the fuck would you want to wait?
And it’s this mentality that fuelled the arrival of the Tallboy 4 into the Dirty hanger:
There was also some history here, with my penchant for Tallboy’s reaching back to the TB2 as well as a TB3, which somehow managed to slip through the review cracks even though I put over 1,000km’s on it in preparation for The Pioneer before the Blur 3 raced in at the last possible second and stole it’s glory come race week.
But there is also general history here that can’t be ignored. In my own echochamber, the OG Tallboy (Yes, that fucking excellent orange model) was the first real 29er that didn’t make you want to cut your hands off. It rode properly, so much so that it quickly became an SC top seller and forced the Lord Roskopp retirement fund to move to the Bahamas ASA-fucking-P.
It’s very important to note however, that this new Tallboy 4 is NOT like any of the first 3 you may have been familiar with. It’s completed it’s multi year journey from XC Bandito wagon to a chiseled trail assault weapon which likes to wolf whistle at downhillers:
With the Blur 3 dropping into the line up, this always made sense. The minute that rocket ship arrived in the atmosphere, it had put the Tallboy 3 into a weird space… Not XC enough, but also not really with the Geo & travel arrangement to step up into the next weight division.
The Tallboy 4 moves the legend into a space which is where most of us ride most of the time, plus comes armed with the glorious new lower link VPP platform which gives it the weaponry to make the most of its new found direction in life. Going very fast with the right Geo and less travel is SO fucking 2020 right now it might as well be a pandemic in its own right.
Being overbiked has been so fucking hot the last few years that I wanted to get in on the ground floor as we all overcorrect to be underbiked. Yes, its getting hotter and hotter to go from “Peace through superior firepower” to turning up to a gunfight with a flick knife claiming that you’re really a ninja.
Actually, I really just watched this launch video and decided I really needed one:
The Luca Shaw wet dream aside, this video does a good job of labelling the intent of the new Tallboy, it’s not pretending to be an XC rocket any more, and while it wants to hark back to it’s original roots whilst climbing, it definitely wants to steal porn mags from it’s big brother, Megatrons, room when it comes to descending. Its a tantalising concept.
How is this really supposed to work?
So 3 of you may be wondering, if I operate a Blur 3, which takes care of my inner Bandito self flagellation duties, and a Megatower, which is assigned to conducting tactical nuclear warfare, is the TB4 supposed to take up that narrow slither in between those two huge circles in the MTB Venn diagram which the marketing department calls ‘Trail riding’?
Yes, by trail riding I am referring to what you call ‘Mountain Biking’. The every day garden variety mountain biking that we all used to do before segmentation and specialisation invaded our brains. Yes, there was a time and place where, aside from the Geo numbers, everything about this bike would have been pretty much the only bike we would have ridden.
Don’t worry, I’m the last person to start trying to advocate for quiver killing, to do so would make me a GOP level hypocrite. But it is nice to have a machine in the line-up that crosses many spectrums and capability envelopes. As this first look goes to press, I am still trying to work out exactly where those capabilities lie and how far the boundaries are, but I can confirm the Tallboy 4 makes it a shit load of fun trying to find out.
On some of the local terrain I have at my disposal, it’s a coin toss if I would reach for the Blur 3 or the TB4 to maximise a riding window. Before it was a very distinct decision process when choosing between the Megatower and the Blur, but the TB4 definitely muddies the water.
The Tallboy appears to be too energetic for full scale Enduro sifting, but too mischievous on the descents to surrender itself to Bandito bondage & lycra, so it appears it’s for days where you just want to ride without any considerations or free of labelling a ride to be of a particular persuasion.
Yes, it appears the latest Tallboy has successfully continued to run with the baton of it’s predecessors by being simply just a Mountain Bike.
The build out
As per usual I’ve done my thing of looking at the full build specs and run screaming from the website at the heavy SRAM influence, instead opting for the most expensive method for building a bike in 2020… Part by fucking part.
- Santa Cruz Tallboy 4 CC Frame, Large – Set to high mode and short chain stays, currently with the Fox Float factory Kashima shock. I did run it for an extended period of time in low mode, so the recent change to high mode it to try and discern the differences between the two
- Fox 34 2020 140mm fork – Hmmmm, more on this below, but so far, this oddly may be the weakest link in the line up
- Maxxis Assegai 2.5 WT EXO+ Maxx terra front tire*
- Santa Cruz Reserve Carbon 27 wheelset, with DT350 Boost hubs – The most logical thing to do here was make the Tallboy share wheels with the Megatower, but that would have fucked up those times twice a year when I wanted to take photos of them both side by side. So, it was on with a slightly narrower and more, dare I say the words, ‘trail focused’ set of the superb SC Reserve wheels with the 27mm internal width. I almost went I9 on the hubs, but ultimately fell into welcoming my 5th pair of Swiss hubs to the shed, boring, but insanely reliable and great support locally
- XT M8000 single pot brakes
- Chris King Drop set
- Thomson 40mm stem, in the 31.8 old school style
- Enve DH bar, cut to 780mm – The great older one with the subtle graphic, not the new one with numbers attached to it
- ODI Aggressor grips – Probably need to change these to Ergon old cunt winged grips at some stage
- Shimano XT M8100 12 speed shifter pod
- Wolf tooth dropper remote
- Chris King BB – “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten“
- Shimano XT M8100 170mm cranks with a 30T XT chain ring
- One up V2 180mm dropper*
- Seat from some conglomerate cycling barn in California
- Shimano XT M8100 Pedals
- Shimano XT M8100 51-10 12 speed cassette
- Shimano XT M8100 12 speed chain
- Shimano XT M8100 12 speed Rear D
- Maxxis Ardent Race rear tire – WTF, who puts this on as a rear tire? Someone who is either supremely gifted as a rider, or who had too many random tires kicking around in the shed in perfect condition.
- 180mm dropper – The first time I hit the backyard track and the seat tried to remove my scrotum I realised the days of 150mm droppers are over. Out comes the Fox Transfer, in goes a One Up components V2 dropper. An extremely necessary change. If you’re switching to a new lower link VPP frame, make sure you get the longest dropper you think you can manage
- Assegai upfront – Because I was all about the trail on this bike, I rocked a 2.3 DHF up front. Fuck that, 2.3 is dead as well. Out goes the DHF and in comes Tirezilla in the form of the 2.5 Assegai. Ridiculous yes, but also hysterical fun.
With a touch under 400km’s travelled together thus far, we’re not even at the halfway mark of what can be considered proper testing, but probably enough of a sample size to start making a few notes and judgements.
Not trying to sound Italian here, but if riding the Megatower is like making voluptuous love, then the Tallboy 4 is more like a torrid session in the gym toilet with a cross fit junkie who wants you to know how many times they can roll over a truck tire before they vomit on their lulu lemon gear.
Which is to say, it’s a far more visceral experience.
Suddenly trails that the Megatower shoots in the head before saying hello became sexy again, as in, the majority of trails that I find myself on week in and out. My locally available smorgasbord tends to lean towards the lower grades, so being able to lower travel and lean up the weight meant that things suddenly got a whole lot more lively.
Climbing is definitely less of a chore when compared to big bike days and while it doesn’t quite match the Blur 3, the TB4 won’t make you grovel. Undulating trails are easier to attack and pop through as the excellent TB4 chassis mated to the shortest travel lower link driven lay-out available somehow manages to give you both some sprightliness as well as surprising levels of smoothness and support at the same time.
I have had this thrilling experience of sticking the TB4 hard into a turn and absolutely drilling it out the other side with the kind of energy usually only seen from a cat when it hears the Rodfathers voice. The combination of that superb SC chassis, the new VPP platform, short travel and Geo you don’t usually see in a package like this all adding up to making this a single track predator which wants to ride all day.
It’s a bit like a Megatower fucked a BMX and this is what popped out of the maternity ward. The upsides of this are you get a hot rod for trails that don’t want to kill you, but the downsides are you may end up going so fast you either reach the limits of your skill set quite quickly, or worse, you start to get over confident. This is what happened to me.
Ah yes, the awkwardness of that trip to Rotorua for the LAST Landy mission ever. I referred to this in the Megatower post, where I found out the difference between thinking you’re fast on your shorter travel bike and actually having the skills to be genuinely fast… With some predictable results:
Yes, it was a group ride fuelled by delicious helpings of toxic masculinity that most of us are usually too tired for these days, with penis measurement devices at the ready for each run. I was genuinely sure my ‘Mini Enduro’ bike (New category bruh!) was going to pop out of a bowl of pumice and put a cap in these long travel fools, but as my pop tart ejected from the toaster I was pumped full of lead and left question my life choices on a day of riding solo as my shred ego dribbled out my ass and down my legs.
What didn’t help me in this situation is I had been for a ride in the forest solo the day before and had a riot of a time, absolutely loving railing the new machine through pumice turns popping it’s way down jump lines. If you had to pedal all day in a place like Rotorua, then this bike is near the top of the short list for sure.
But while I was being stuffed into the gimp box the next day by the big bikes & big dogs, I realised that riding machines like this is either best done solo, with similar level machinery or in the hands of very skilled pilots (I’m looking at you Professor A Badd). Right now I’m loving that the TB4 is just an authentic give it all a bash mountain bike which wants to party all day, categories be damned.
It’s also a reminder how much the big bikes can neuter terrain for you, so it’s nice to be back on a bike where you really have to ride it as opposed to be able to just be a passenger by pointing and holding on. As I said, visceral.
Quick tech sidebar
Good shit – The new XT 12 Speed groupset is fucking sensational. Yes, my whole life I have lusted after XTR, and I indeed love it on the flagship of the fleet in the Megatower, there is something highly authentic about the new XT. You can’t beat it on price versus performance and it looks sensational.
The entire groupset has been absolutely banger thus far and I can see why this is Shimano’s version of a Normandy landing to recapture huge swathes of the 1X market. If you’ve been waiting in the wings and had a tantrum at the XTR costs, then your wait to return to the righteousness of Shimano is over.
Slightly Cunty – So far the biggest disappointment has been the 34 fork to be honest, which I didn’t expect. When the build fever was in full flight, Das Wolf did lobby hard for a 36 to get the nod for upfront duties, but I was convinced that this was a trail bike, so it needed the 34… Alas, it’s hard to not feel like this fork is holding the bike back, indeed it’s the first time I can recall actually being able to flex a fork.
Suddenly I can see why the SC Product managers put a 35mm fork on this bike… But in my mind, if I succumbed to putting a 36 on here, aren’t I really saying that I need a Hightower 2? First world mountain biking conundrum. While the world burns, I am going to continue to debate this extremely niche problem. Perhaps there is a business case to put a 38 on the Megatower and move the 36 to the TB4? After all, Jordi did it!!
It’s now time for some winter laps on the TB4 to really ramp up the bonding process and figure out if I have the skills to maximise its hot underbiked package? Or will I simply surrender to the plushness of Megatron? Stay tuned to find out the answer to these self imposed MTB first world problems!