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Deep Loam 11 - The Tallboy V5

The Downhiller's XC Bike

Since it’s incarnation the Tallboy has always had a loyal following with riders looking for that go to bike that will be responsive and fun enough for hammering out ‘power hour’ laps whilst still being efficient and composed in order to grind out multiple hour epics at the weekend. If ever there was one bike that would do it all for cross country riders looking to push the capabilities of a lightweight full suspension platform, the Tallboy was always the one. It became a classic.

Due to its inability to be pigeonholed, it inspired all manners of custom builds with riders using the super versatile chassis as a base to build XC race bikes with a little more comfort than a pure-bred race bike to super light trail bikes focussed on downhill prowess before ‘downcountry’ was a thing!

Again, Santa Cruz recognised that the demographic of riders that were riding Tallboy were placing greater demands on the bike due to the superb geometry and VPP suspension. Bikes were sporting bigger forks, brakes and wider bars. With some overlap with the Blur TR, which had the race heads attention, it was time the Tallboy grew out of the ‘Smallboy’ persona.

2019 was a turning point for the Tallboy with the release of the V4. When the model became renown as the ‘Downhillers XC Bike’. The bike gained a Lower Link VPP system, 10mm more travel and slacker geometry that really redefined what was capable on a 120mm trail bike. It hit the sweet spot when it came to versatility, boasting geometry numbers that allowed it to handle trickier, technical terrain without feeling dull and lethargic on mellower trails. As Santa Cruz say ‘some call it short travel, others call it all the travel you need.

So why change a good thing?? Well... just like the Hightower V3 also launched in 2022, the TB5 was brought to market as Santa Cruz recognised the need for refinement rather than revision, so the 2023 Tallboy doesn't deviate that far from the previous V4 model. As far as headline tweaks the geometry has been adjusted slightly, and the same goes for the kinematics, but there’s also a few small changes that makes the best 120mm trail bike even better.



The most obvious change to the Tallboy's frame is the addition of downtube storage, a feature that's now found on nearly every trail and enduro bike in Santa Cruz's line-up. A small latch next to the water bottle cage allows access to the compartment. The innovative design has a super high-quality fit and finish, including a Tube Purse and Tool Wallet designed to hold everything that you might need to be self-sufficient when out riding. The Tube Purse fits a tube perfectly and the Tool Wallet will hold a mini pump, multi tool, CO2, the all-important trail snacks.

Other than the new snack stash, the Tallboy's frame details haven't changed all that much. There's fully guided internal cable routing, a threaded bottom bracket, room for a 2.5” rear tire, and mounts for a chain guide. There's also a universal derailleur hanger, and a flip chip on the rear shock mount that allows for very subtle geometry changes.

The Tallboy's shock flip chip remains, but the ability to alter the chainstay length by 10mm has been removed, replaced by size-specific lengths for each size. Chainstay lengths range from 431mm on a size small up to 444mm on an XXL.

Proportional geometry

Chainstay length and seat angle on the Tallboy V5 are matched to the frame size (seat tube angle steepens, and rear centre grows as frame size increases) so that every rider, no matter what height, gets the same balance of geometry and handling characteristics. This also aids taller riders in not being too far over the back of the bike when climbing.

The adjustable chainstay length found on the previous Tallboy is now no longer, in favour of this simpler, stiffer, lighter and more cost effective proportional chainstay system.

Specific Carbon Lay-up

The Santa Cruz engineers have also matched the size specific geometry with size specific lay-up of the carbon construction in the frames. Again, larger riders will direct larger forces through the frame, so larger frames have a stiffer construction, with smaller frames being less stiff. The result is larger riders won’t experience any unwanted flex and smaller riders shouldn’t feel compromised on ride quality, maintaining compliance throughout the frame.


The new Tallboy isn't any slacker than before, but it did get a little bit longer, with reach numbers that match up with the rest of Santa Cruz's line-up. The reach for a size large is now 473mm in the low setting, an increase of 5mm. The slightly steepened seat tube angles balance out that increase, creating a top tube length that's relatively unchanged, which means the seated climbing position will feel nearly the same as before.

Refined Suspension Kinematics

The V5 Tallboy has a lower starting ratio and increased ending ratio of the leverage curve. This makes it more sensitive further into the travel and helps the bike ride higher in its stroke, producing a more responsive, snappy feel. Significantly reducing the peak anti squat over previous generations of Tallboy has improved both small bump sensitivity and square edge compliance.


The Tallboy isn't a ‘downcountry’ bike, and it's not trying to be. Instead, it's a do-everything machine that has a 'just right' air to its handling. There's no sketchiness or unpredictability to be found – it's the rider that'll be bringing those traits to the table, not the bike.

The similarity on paper between the V4 and V5 are mirrored on the trail. There are more similarities than differences between the two versions, and the overall ride characteristics are nearly identical. However, the suspension does feel better than before - it's a little softer overall, which makes the bike more comfortable on choppy sections of trail, whilst still maintaining plenty of support allowing the new version to be ridden harder. Even when you do tickle the limits of the 120mm there is very little harshness at the end of the stroke. The bike remains calm and composed, that slight air of sketchiness the V4 had in these situations has gone.

The new Tallboy's strength again is its versatility – it feels solid, free of any unwanted twitchiness, even on rougher, high-speed trails.

The Tallboy's handling is still very calm and predictable, and the same goes for the pedalling performance. Striking the perfect balance between efficiency and traction. In comparison the weight combined with the more muted suspension feel does make it feel closer to a short travel Hightower rather than a longer travel Blur. Not that it feels heavy or lethargic – far from it.

In comparison, the lighter and livelier option, The Blur TR is great for riders trying to scratch that ‘downcountry’ itch, but when gravity takes over it's the Tallboy that pulls ahead, with a more planted feel that delivers the confidence required to hit higher speeds and more challenging trail features.

As the saying goes, "If it’s not broke, don't fix it," and that's exactly what Santa Cruz have done with the V5 Tallboy. It's a refined trail bike, with easy-to-live-with handling and all of the frame features that Santa Cruz has become known for.

Build Kit Options

The Tallboy, like all Santa Cruz ‘off the peg’ bikes is available in a host of build kits including a SRAM NX equipped ‘R’ kit and GX equipped ‘S” kit built into a ‘C’ Level Carbon frame. ‘C’ frames are slighter heavier with a small reduction in stiffness due to a lower modulus carbon fibre being used in manufacture, which has a little more resin and less carbon than the lighter and stiffer ‘CC’ frames.

In some ways disregarding the additional 200/300g the ‘C’ frame can have (depending upon size) can have the benefit of a little more compliance, aiding grip with high frequency/small bumps. ‘CC’ framed bikes are only available with XO1 and XX1 groupsets.

The Tallboy chassis is quite sensitive to the build level of the bike as the frame is so versatile and lightweight for it’s capability. An XO1/XX1 bike or custom build of the equivalent spec will have the ability to accelerate and climb like a XC race bike, with only the angles holding it back from feeling pin sharp. C level bikes that don’t have the aggregation of all the marginal gains from a lighter CC frame, lightweight wheels and components will feel more sluggish. However for the majority of riders looking a super responsive, snappy capable trail a C S build is still the sweetspot in terms of budget and performance.

Bikes in-stock, ready to build

We have a massive range of Tallboys in-stock and ready to ship at both of our stores. Get in touch with any questions - you could be on your new bike sooner than you think!

Lifetime warranty

Any option you choose is covered by Santa Cruz' Lifetime Warranty on both the frame and bearings. This also covers the Carbon Reserve wheels if specced on your new Tallboy.

For more information or to take a look through all the build options for the Santa Cruz Tallboy you can also contact us by phone, email, live chat or pop in store for a coffee and take a look at the bikes we have built in both of our showrooms.