Whilst its been a slow news period since the Trans NZ mission, last weekend saw the passing of a relatively important milestone for this thing:
Yes, the Dirty Santa Cruz Tallboy 2 wracked up it’s 1,000th kilometre of being subjected to the choking humidity and flaccid jungle trails of the #cHub. Given that 1,000km’s for an MTB is the road bike equivalent of about 500,000km’s, the more significant milestone is that its now ready to be the subject of the least informative type of review available on the internet: A Dirty gear rant. Yes, its time for another review of ‘shit I happen to own’
But before I set forth with a non-descript overview of the fore mentioned product, a massive disclaimer here: I’m yet to ride this category legend outside of the #cHub. Yes, its never seen REAL mountains or terrain. That’s worse than embarrassing, its almost treasonous… Please Lord Roskopp, forgive me, I know I disgust you with my 160mm rotors and feeble elevation charts:
Funnily enough when I was drafting this post I read a Pinkbike article that talked about the “Trail bike Renaissance” due to short travel 29ers becoming more popular – Its SO 2016. Quicker than you could mumble “WTF“, they went on to review a ‘post-modern trail bike’, which turned out was a 29er with 120mm forks and 110mm rear travel. Hmmm… Thanks industry, but that shit ain’t new, its just a fucking bike you ride on trails. The same trails that appear immune to fads.
Not saying I’m a trend setter by any means, but it’s fairly obvious if you take what’s supposed to be an XC bike and build it a bit rad, or dare I sound like a Grom and say ‘Rowdy’, then you’re more likely to get a hot rod than if you try and put your ENDURO bike on a diet. Yes, this Tallboy is slightly Frankenbike and as I shall reveal, its been a mixed journey of jungle discovery… Not to mention a lot of walking at times…
But first some history
When 29ers were born, not only were they shit, but lets face it, they pretty much served as a cunt identification device. Nod now as we all know it and at some stage said to someone “Oh, you’re on a 29er now…” instead of saying what we really meant which was “Ah, I’ve always thought you’re a total cunt“.
They did indeed have 99 problems and riding one made you a bitch, so it was pretty much the full package of everything wrong with not only the bike industry, but also the world. It was super convenient we could all direct our champagne problems into hating a wheel size, which back then was a novelty – How naive were we?! But, then along came the Santa Cruz Tallboy.
I won’t rehash the whole history, and I swear I am sort of impartial on this point, but this bike was… Well… Don’t fucking say it… A game changer (Marketingasim). Not only was it cool, but it actually rode well. And this wasn’t the opinion of just anyone, no, even the Sweet Baby Hesus of MTB Journalism Seb Kemp was smitten with the first Tallboy back in 2009.
So in essence, ultimately this bike is part of Dirt history. It was a pioneer and a tall poppy in an ocean of cunted bandito wagons that no one really wanted to ride for fun. When the Tallboy 2 therefore came out, I knew I had to get my hands on one to A) Get the fuck away from my concrete mixer pretending to be a bike 29er of the Cannondale Scalpel and B) To get more Santa Cruz in my life.
It’s taken a long time to get those 1,000km’s in the bank too, debut ride back in October 2014… WTF indeed, but more importantly, its only been recently that I’ve actually been able to bond with it and in turn, come up with a story worth sharing, so let’s get into this shit shall we. First, in line with the whole point of the internet (aside from the pHub) let’s start with the hating.
You’re only as good as your parts
The sum of its parts… Or, as it happens in this case, the sum of all fears. Yes, queue the fuck up for a case study of why building a bike out of “shit I had lying around” actually turns out to be an exercise in cuntery from a consumption perspective.
Whilst haters rub their hands together in glee, a general comment about the vibe of this build, its robust to say the least. In no way is this a bandit build by any stretches of a lycra leg band around a vegan thigh. At 12.52kg’s for the original build on the Dirty Tallboy, it was enough to make skinny people vomit up their gluten free wild nutmeg powerbar. Fuck yes it has a dropper post… And a 140mm fork… And a big fuck off Minion front tire and damn right, a cut down Enve DH bar. Its like Mad Max turned up at a Bandit race and by the end was the only one left standing with this build.
But in reality, this build ended up being best described as calamitous. Yes, things got off to a VERY bad start and seemed to stay that way for quite some time. I think at one stage it got up to 6 consecutive rides needing to end with going directly to the shop to have something sorted out.
As such, there is plenty of cunty venom to be spat on to inanimate objects and I shall zero in on a few noteworthy champions below. It’s worth remembering, I’m a die hard Fox & Shimano groupie here, so some of this was hard for my hen pecking fingers to type:
Fox 34 CTD fork – I can only presume that CTD stands for Cunt Transformation Device, as its pretty much what adding it to the Fox fork range has achieved. This was the last of the CTD forks and let me just say, as much as I love Fox products, this thing is a total piece of shit. It basically has no redeeming features… I would say “It holds the front of my bike up“, but that would be a horrendous lie on the basis of the two blow outs and full rebuilds its had, not to mention the way it eats through its travel quicker than the Hawk through a pair of edible panties. Yes, it dives through its travel like a fat dude off a jetty and no matter what settings you try, it still remains utterly shit. I won’t even go into the strange sounds it makes, as I can’t do them justice with words
When I ride my 36 Float on the Nomad, its like riding a bike from 2017. When I’m on this fork, I’m transported back to 2001, usually by that loud metallic bang as it bottoms out again, yes, with the recommended pressure. To be replaced by a new 2016 34 fork at some stage.
Shimano XTR Pedals – Now this was the fat canary with bird flu in the cave that made me start to think my Tallboy experiment was haunted/cursed. I got my first pair of Shimano SPD pedals when I was 15, #spoiltcunt, and 22 years later I had never broken a pair or had any major issues. And then, in a month, I destroyed two sets. Damn straight WTF:
Magic Crossmax ST wheel set – I start out with a bit of slating here, but on reflection its not a total scorched earth scenario in the wheel department. So, the bearings are pretty shit on these things, they aren’t particularly light, and according to marketing departments they’re so unfashionably narrow. But the main issue is that you can almost feel them folding in half when you give them a bit of shit. Its like riding on cheese sticks.
Its probably not helped by the stiffness (oh yeah) of the Tallboy frame and the fact that once I machine through the 140mm’s of fork travel at the prolific CTD rate, I can run out of 100mm rear travel pretty quickly – With 80kg’s of bearded fury going straight into the rear wheel. So, with that said I have to admit that annoyingly they’re still alive. Yes, strangely reliable and in one piece… Fuckers just won’t die so I can waste money on some carbon wheels instead. Inconvenient.
Maxxis tires – A rational person may perhaps blame me for the unprecedented number of flats I’ve had on the Tallboy, but not only would that be no fun, but its 2016 man and taking accountability for anything is SO uncool now. So, lets blame the Maxxis Ardents! The 2.4 variety, these things are super shit and performed a tag team of fucking up my weekends consistently until they got
given to wolf as a birthday present thrown out:
That fucking weird drive train – Here’s a life lesson: Don’t recycle weird old mismatched drivetrains, it’s the fastest way to misery next to suggesting to your wife a sister threesome is perhaps an option worth exploring. In this case it was a SHAM 10-speed cassette (I know, I’m sorry) hacked in with a One Up 40T and 17T set up, Shimano chain and wolf 34T chain ring. Utterly terrible, holistically (that’s cunt speak for all the time and everywhere). It sounded like a concrete mixer and behaved like 3 ADHD kids locked in the back of an SUV without iPads and a packet of Haribo lollies each.
Add all the above together and what do you get? Yes, a pretty shit experience. Its like having a hot partner, dressing them in rags and then accusing them of being hideous. Weird. The fixes? Here is the GOOD stuff:
- Shimano XT 11 speed drive train – I think this has been the biggest win on the road to redemption, especially getting the 42T first gear into the party. The new XT 11 speed is excellent kit – Cheap, no fuss and killer robot like in its reliability. I went for an XTR shifter just because I like to be a cunt like that. Stayed with the Wolf front chain ring as it allowed me to be a cheap fucker and keep some really old XTR cranks. Massive happiness ensued following the debut of the new drive train
- XTR Trail pedals – Trail bike meet trail pedals, put them on and forgot about them. As it should be part 1
- Minion DHR II & Ikon combo – Minion up front and Ikon rear has ended up being a strange but excellent combo. The Ikon is noticeably faster in the rear (#phrasing) and a vast upgrade over the Ardent. Not sure I would take that to a race, but this combo has gone someway in restoring faith in Maxxis
- Chris King salvation – Headset and BB duty for the KING… Haven’t even thought about these parts since instillation, as it should be, the sequel
- Shimano XTR trail brakes – So good I do actually wonder why I need Saints on my Nomad?
Ugly, but with a Beautiful body
So, I insulted things by the initial weird build kit, so lets take a moment to regroup and appreciate the Monica Bellucci like beauty that makes up the flowing curves and lines of the Tallboy 2 frame… Santa Cruz at its finest in the build and finish department:
The moment I saw it had DN blue lettering, I knew this was the one for me. The frame is seriously cool, but by now pretty much what we’ve come to expect from Santa Cruz to be honest. Their frame construction is seriously hot and always makes you feel like you have a proper bike in your hands. Its going to go the distance, be silent and slap you about with its reliability. Well, that’s my usual experience, but in line with the story so far, early on I started to wonder if perhaps the Tallboy project was cursed?
File under ‘extensive teething problems’ or not enough loctite, it was a rare one off in my experience of any frame related issues. But it did make me start to think maybe I was barking up the wrong trail bike tree here… I trembled as another message came in from Dok to “Get a fucken 5010 cunt“. How was I going to get out of this short travel 29er dungeon?
Yawn… Come on, how does it ride?!
Ah yes, probably the thing actually worth talking about. After all the shenanigans and peer pressure to get rid of that “fucking cunted bandit wagon you fucking pussy” (actual quote), in the end its come right. Yes, troubled youth, misunderstood, but with a shit load of potential that just took some bearded guy with patience to realise…
Ok, so I’m lying about the patience part as I lost my shit on several occasions, but after 1,000kms together, not to mention a wholesale change in parts, its finally started to make sense.
First of all, I’m not sure the Tallboy realises its an ‘XC’ bike, nor am I sure it should really be considered purely as such. Its like a skinny trail bike, or not so skinny if you put an Enve DH bar on it. Yes, you can build it up nice and light and eat salad for lunch etc, but this bike actually loves to be taken out for a good thrashing. Like an emo relationship, if you ride it like you hate it then it will respond with sparkle. Riding a Cannondale Scalpel always felt fragile to me, but not so on the Tallboy, its reassuringly up for proper hammering.
This abusive relationship continues when you charge it into difficult situations. Not that we have a lot around in the #cHub, but the TB wants to go with you when you attack terrain that perhaps needs slightly more than 100mm of travel. I know what you’re thinking – The broken pedals and flat tires are probably a result of running a 140mm fork on a bike that is designed for 100-120mm at most.
Does it feel unbalanced? Probably to some, but I’ve found it spot on. I suspect it may get freaky when I finally take this bike on a mission, but right now its perfect… Possibly as the CTD fork needs 140mm of travel to act like a normal 100mm fork.
Whilst I can’t really speak to its climbing and DH prowess fully given the terrain at hand, it does love to rip along rolling terrain and when you whip it up to speed, its a blast to ride. You never stop to think you’re on a 29er at all, it’s just a very well made bike.
Given the terrain I have to endure/work with, The Tallboy is basically a perfect option whilst I’m in the #cHub. It will happily get stuck into anything I point it at here, only occasionally hesitating for the rear to get a bit hung up now and again, but the rest of the time its like a rabid small pony that wants to go as fast as you can manage. It pedals extremely well and will happily invite you out of the saddle to give it plenty of welly, to which it will respond immediately to. Put another way, I run out of fitness before it ever feels like its limiting me.
If I had a magic Dirty wand, aside from vaporising some cunts and Scar Jo’s clothes, I would probably wave it to give the Tallboy 120mm’s of rear wheel travel and maybe slacken it a degree… But having said that, it would probably take it away from its original intention as a bike. Besides, I’m dangerously lurking into Hightower territory at this point any way.
It doesn’t make me think “Far out, I love 29ers“, but it does make me realise I love Santa Cruz, as it has that excellent ‘this is my bike’ feel to it. In fact, I never really think about the fact I’m on a 29er, which is kind of the whole point of a good bike: To leave the BS behind and to get busy enjoying the fuck out of riding. TICK.
How about the PRO perspective?
Given my testing being limited to the muggy confines of the #cHub, I had to turn to an expert to get their perspective on the Tallboy. Rivet Racing’s own resident Italian, GV, recently rode one well inside the top 10 at the Pioneer 7 day race in the South Island earlier this year, before having to retire with that broken shoulder. And oh yes, they put the ‘Mountain’ into mountain biking there, every day:
GV engages beast mode on his one extremely regularly, much to the horror of Wellington KOM segment holders. Yes, since getting on the TB, GV has been reigning down a campaign of terror on the MTB KOMmunity. I asked him for some technical input and to describe the sensations that massage his soul when atop of the Tallboy. In true Italian fashion, his response sums up how most of us feel: “I fucking love it dude.”
Hard to argue with that isn’t it? And that red is rather striking. Holy shit, I’m basically lactating.
How does it fit into the family?
The more I’ve ridden the Tallboy 2 the more I’ve slowly started to convince myself that for most trail riding, or as we used to call it ‘A mountain bike ride’, I’m generally better off on a 29er. Yes, if I said that to 2012 or 2013 me, I would probably have deployed self immolation on the spot. But as you get older and slower, you start to appreciate the benefits a little bit more, especially if you have any slogs to contend with instead of just being blessed with endless single track. Don’t get me wrong, if shit is rowdy or you’re rolling with rad cunts, I’m reaching for the Nomad 3 every single gnarly time.
Once you get a good one and work out how they operate, a 29er can eat trail at an insatiable rate. From a style perspective it won’t suit everyone, but I’m about as playful as a nun usually on the trail, so its right in my honey hole. Besides, don’t forget that 2016 is the marketing driven epic resurgence of rad 29ers, with about 5 or 6 already hitting the market this year, including the Hightower.
Yes, bike companies realised they needed to justify boost to stop people burning down their offices, but in this case I welcome what’s been coming out of the pipe and on to Pinkbike every 5 minutes so we can continue to get drunk on content and bitch about bikes we would never buy any way. Some of these new 29ers do appear to be pretty hot and capable, but that all depends on what you really need in your life. At the end of the day, always buy and ride the bike that you need based on how and where you ride, not the bike you think you might need because companies are chasing each other like a pack of rabid horny dogs over the same instant gratification idea.
The challenge for any Santa Cruz groupie (my hand is in the air) is trying to pick some distinction in the line up. As I mentioned previously, there are now a number of models that are getting close to each other to the point it gives you massive first world problems about which one to love the most. As such, the rowdy Tallboy 2 and Nomad 3 combo give you massive coverage when it comes to terrain and riding options.
I think that the Tallboy experience has made me more than a bit curious to get a Hightower of course, I suspect its the perfect blend of the Tallboy and the Nomad, sitting right in the middle. But while that acquisition is on the radar, for now I am loving smashing around on the Tallboy given that we’ve finally found the sweet spot. The next 1,000km’s will be much smoother sailing…