Juan Christen's Santa Cruz Tallboy - Bike Magic

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Juan Christen’s Santa Cruz Tallboy

It’s large and bright orange, you won’t miss it out on the trails, Santa Cruz’s stunning carbon fibre Tallboy 29er is quite a bike.

Juan Christen is unlike most typical mountain bikers. He’s 6′ 9″, and getting bikes large enough to fit has always been a problem. Until the XXL Santa Cruz Tallboy 29er came along, that is.

Having just built his new pride and joy up, we pointed a few questions his way:

Bikemagic: Your Tallboy looks fantastic, tell us how it came together?

Juan Christen: Mostly dreamt up whilst surfin’ a hospital bed, thanks to a nasty leg injury. I had the frame sitting forlornly all ready to go but in need of go bits, the Tallboy’s an astonishingly light and stiff frame given its size, so the desire was to build it with similarly light and tough stuff. Challenge there-in is my not so stuff that is too light, requiring bits of appropriate sturdiness.

My background is more dirt biking racing and downhill than cross-country so prefer a setup that sits you in the bike providing easy movement forward and back when carvin the downs. What this meant is a mix of durable but light equipment, from the all-mountain/downhill school of thinking; PRO Tharsis bar and seatpost, WTB Saddle,  Raceface stem, Hope tapered headset (sourcing the correct one proving to be the greatest challenge of the bike build), paired with the Marzhocci 44 TST2 forks.

Magura Marta SL brakes,ight but powerful with a bit of modulation (although I’ve found my preference towards light switch braking over the years – on or off, who needs the inbetween?). Wheels for 29ers are now starting to appear with a bit more selection, however there’s still a ways to go to get to 26in levels, again sturdy and light was the name of the game so the Sun Ringle Charger Expert 29ers were chosen. All of this made go with Shimano XT 10 speed chainset.

Built up you end up with an astonishingly light 12kg of bigness!

BM: How does it ride? Since you’ve built it up, has it delivered what you wanted when you first embarked on the project?

JC: For me the challenge has always been getting bikes big enough (that’s what 6’9” – 207cm) will do do for you) so Santa Cruz rising to the challenge and producing a big boys toy such as this is superb! My previous bikes have been custom or heavily customised to make them near large enough – not quite fitting or looking proportionately off.  For me fun ridings all about flowing single track with good patches of scary technical where line choice and balance/weighting on the bike is key.

So the Tallboy is my first foray into 29ers and carbon on a mountainbike; what was it like?  Firstly how the bike climbs and holds its spin speed is astonishing! The bike tracks nicely and just encourages you to spin fast up technical climbs, frequently leaving others (26ers!) in its wake, causing comments such as “you made that look effortless.”

That high rate is easier to maintain, reminding me of the comfortable spin I previously only thought you could experience on a roadbike.  In addition the carbon frame has a very positive direct feel responding very quickly to directions. All of this making climbing, an historically arduous affair somewhat enjoyable.

When it comes to the downs (the important part) you have to rethink a little your approach to corners and obstacles, where a 26er you flow and pump your way over obstacles the 29er you just have to let run, the larger wheels not quite as easy to lift and pump over items, but equally just don’t need it anywhere to the same level.

Its fast just let the bike run and pick your lines use your body weight more to weight the bike into corners and just let the wheels and suspension do their thing! over complicating your actions slows you up (and can put you on your head as the ed witnessed full on when surfin my back wheel through some tight stuff). All of that together and you get easy speed on the downs wanting you to crank it more.

BM: How are you getting on with the whole 29er thing? Does it work for you on the trail? Any negatives?

JC: Its early days but i’ve not had such a big grin going up and then down again from a bike in a while. For a big person to be able to keep with the weanies on the ups for a change is a nice change. Good times. On the negative side, you could put an argument forward highlighting the ocean liner characterstics of the 29er in the tight stuff, but that to me is all about your riding technique, don’t try and ride it like a 26er use its free rolling advantages, and hold on!  Dare I say i’m a convert…

BM: You’ve built it up with a light trail build. Any changes you’d like to make now you’ve been riding it a while?

JC: My tendency is more toward the steep ‘n’ deep so in the back of my mind a light trail build may just not last in the longer term, however thus far it has loved every obstacle thrown at it, not belying at all its light nature.  However on the list of changes a set of 2×10 180mm cranks, Shimano XTR or RaceFace paired to a SRAM X.0 chainset along with a fork upgrade to the Fox 34 29ers for a little bit extra travel and adjustability are likely on the horizon, which may actually make the bike lighter.

BM: At your height, getting a bike to fit must be a problem?

JC: Thats has been somewhat of an understatement for sometime, aside from custom builders it has been difficult to get anything near big enough. Albeit if you research heacily you will come across options, none though have been as sorted as the Tallboy – all I want now is an full on all- mountain and DH rig now please.

BM: Do you feel extremely tall people are being ignored by the industry?

JC: As a percentage of the population I guess we’ve been too small in numbers to warrant taking notice of, and where we had they tended to lean towards bikes that looked and often felt ridiculous, overly high and proportioned incorrectly.

However there is a bunch of big people out there that want to ride and don’t want to be disadvantaged, looks like some of the manufacturers are slowly starting to take note of that, still a long way to go though.

Got a bike you want to share with us? Go ahead and email us at [email protected] and tell us all about it.


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