A chat with Santa Cruz Bicycles’ Joe Graney about the new Tallboy LT

Following the launch of the hot new Tallboy LTc from Santa Cruz this week, a 135mm 29er that is the latest step in their growing big wheel range, we chat to head designer Joe Graney and asked him a few questions about the new bike.

Bikemagic: How easy was it adapting the Tallboy for the longer travel? Did it present any problems?

Joe Graney: Honestly this was a very challenging project for us. We tried “adapting” but ran into some structural issues getting into that amount of travel while trying to get everything in the right spot we wanted it. We had numerous significant revisions during the testing process, which led us toward what we lovingly call “the MUT” which stands for Massive Upright Technology, referring to the size of the vertical tube used on the swingarm on both models.This helped enormously to meet our stringent testing criteria, but added many months to the project, but the results are worth it.

Has the carbon fibre layup changed much to account for the extra travel?

Generally, we use a similar process on all the models for the laminate, the amount of material varies more. But on the Tallboy LTc, we applied some of the techniques developed in the carbon V10 swingarm race program. Specifically, we use fewer aluminium inserts, and instead of bonding the threaded inserts, they are co-molded into the carbon structure itself. This also allowed us to use a different bladder routing on the swingarm, another slight variation.

Do you feel this the Tallboy LT is the birth of a new generation of longer travel 29ers?

There were many 100mm suspension 29ers when the Tallboy was first introduced a couple years ago, but I think the level of our product group at Santa Cruz was able to make our first foray into larger wheels an exceptional riding bike. Similarly with the Tallboy LT, there are other long travel 29ers available already, but none ride like this bike. Everyone who rides it, 29er zealot or septic, comes back blown away by its ability to do all things well. I hold no hope of birthing a new generation, but look forward to riders getting to try this bike out. It’s a lot of fun to ride.

The new Tallboy still sticks to a traditional bottom bracket. No move to BB30 or similar yet?

BB30 doesn’t allow for using ISCG tabs or using a chain guides or single rings. That’s the most significant problem of many that press-fit bottom brackets have. Making the tubes larger around the BB isn’t our goal. If the tubes are huge, the wall thickness becomes very thin, and is more susceptible to rock strike damage. This is an example of where road bike technology does not translate to mtb, some folks are still figuring that out…

How much longer travel do you feel 29ers can go?

While I’m sure others will go further for the sake of it, bar height is a limiting factor for front suspension. Already we have very short headtubes, internal headset, and some prefer negative rise stems on the bikes. Going higher than 140mm or 150mm would seem to be the limit before adverse affects to geometry and handling.

29ers are clearly here to stay; do you think they will completely replace 26in bikes? Or can the two co-exist?

Having multiple wheel sizes gives frame designers the ability to have more options to create a certain type of ride. Certainly for long travel bikes, 26in is not going away. It’s a lot of fun to ride a 29er for months, then get back onto a similar bike with 26in wheels and ride the same trails. It’s different, not necessarily better or worse overall, but certainly fun to get a different feel.

The wheel size debate is hotting up, what are your views on 26, 29 and 650b, is there room for all three?

26in wheels had a long evolutionary process. Its going to be hard for some manufacturers of tyres, wheels, forks, to provide all of the options for types of riding and price levels in three different wheel sizes. This is going to be a difficult point to get through, and at least initially, options will be limited for new wheel sizes.

Has SC got anything else up its sleeves this year? A 29er downhill bike maybe?

Nothing to see here…

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