Juliana Joplin X01 CC ReserveCheck Out the Full Specs and Review
Santa Cruz calls the Tallboy “a gravity rider’s cross-country bike,” and our testers couldn’t agree more. Head angle is a big part of the picture. This former cross-country carver now sports a 65.5-degree front end in its low setting—nearly the same as the Hightower. Its travel has also been bumped up 10 millimeters at both ends to 120 and 130, and that travel is now delivered by Santa Cruz’s lower-link suspension.
Even the cross-country racer among us (who tested the Juliana Bicycles’ version called the Joplin) was smitten by its ascending prowess, though she didn’t feel it was “mean” or “edgy” enough to serve as a race bike. It did take the edge off, though, smoothing out the chaotic root outcroppings on our climbing loop while providing a comfortable perch for its pilot atop a 76-ish-degree seat tube. Gone is the hang-uppy sensation of VPPs of yore, replaced by tractable climbing performance over edges of all shapes. It’s no softy, though. Putting down power from a seated or standing position sends the Tallboy forward with an urgency that the non-racers among us considered taut enough to go between the tape. One tester noted frequent pedal strikes and suggested that 170-millimeter cranks would be a better choice than the 175s (stock on L thru XXL sizes), but we all agreed that the low bottom bracket is worth the occasional whack.
Taut can also describe the frame’s character. The Tallboy feels every bit as buttoned up as we’ve come to expect from Santa Cruz: There is notably little flex in the chassis, and it rides quietly and composed. The only complaint we could muster was that measuring sag is next to impossible with the shock’s positioning inside the divided seat tube, but Santa Cruz provides a detailed setup guide that provided a suitable jumping-off point for our testing. In fact, none of our testers felt the need to deviate from the recommended pressures.
Once the climb was over—which tended to happen pretty quickly—the Tallboy reframed our notion of what a 120-millimeter bike can handle. The slack head angle and generous reach play a central role, lending the bike an aggressive feel and signaling to its pilot that, as long as you hold on, it’ll make it through. It doesn’t need to be muscled, though. In fact, the Tallboy seemed happiest carving corners or sliding into catch berms at speed. On flat sections of trail, it likes to break into manuals at every opportunity. And with a 430-millimeter rear-center, there are plenty of opportunities. On chunkier sections of trail, it mixes precision with stoutness and rear suspension that maximizes every one of its 120 millimeters. Our testers never felt a hard bottom-out or a dearth of support at any point in the rear wheel’s travel. It’s still a short-travel bike, though. The suspension at both ends can feel overwhelmed through repetitive mid-size hits, as on one section of our short-travel course where braking bumps and roots running across the trail formed a series of 1- to 2-foot steps.
The Tallboy was never a full-on cross-county bike, but now that the Blur is bearing that cross, the Tallboy has morphed into something that every rider can enjoy, whether they prioritize descending or climbing. And that’s opened it up to new competition. The Norco Optic couldn’t compete with the Tallboy on the ups, but the Optic had an appetite for steep downs, whereas the Tallboy was just willing to sit at the table. The Hightower, interestingly, also felt like competition, with a similar level of pedaling efficiency. So how should one choose? We’d recommend considering the most extreme use cases. If you might like to casually race local enduros or spend a few days at the bike park, go for a Hightower. To the other extreme, if you’d like to do battle at your local cross-country series, or ride in an epic stage race like the BC Bike Race, the Tallboy will not disappoint.
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