As the year of 2016 wore on, it became more and more apparent to me that I was leaning toward XC and endurance type riding again; more so than enduro. Fewer shuttles, always looking for bigger climbs, and doing silly things like pedaling my Bronson up to the lodge at Mt Ashland for “fun”.
The obvious choices were the Yeti 4.5, the Scott Spark 9XX lineup, or the Tallboy 3. I did put a bit of research in on the others, but ultimately the Tallboy had my eye from the get go. Right spec, right price, and definitely the right colors. I was definitely sold on the bike being designed to run 27+ and 29 wheel sets with a simple flip chip in the upper link. I bought the S+ model as it comes with the 130mm travel fork and can run both wheel sets from the get go.
My first couple of rides were up into the snow in Forest Park, so it was hard to gauge where I was at with the bike since most of the descending was done with my feet being used as rudders to navigate the slush. Not long after that however, I rode Bolt Mountain, which is basically 3+ miles of uphill rock gardens and exposed roots. Not only that, but I set out about 15 minutes before a rain storm. It was a slow pace, but I never wanted for more traction. On regular tires, in dry conditions, Bolt will offer at least half a dozen spin outs on roots or big rocks, but the 2.8 Rekon+ tires felt like velcro, and my riding abilities were the only limitations that day.
As I rode more and more, the Tallboy proved to be plenty of bike for everything around here, even riding Marty’s/Sketchy with it’s steep rocky descents. Obviously a Bronson/Nomad would be more substantial and fun on bigger terrain, but I never felt like I was in over my head on the Tallboy. I have found the bottom of my suspension travel a couple of times on jumps that the Bronson has no issue with, but that’s a combination of operator error, suspension tuning (Pre-ShockWiz), and too much jump.
I finally got 29er wheels set up with the intention of those being my “race” wheels, but never really got into the groove with them before I went back to the plus. Putting the 29ers on came with a bit of early 2000s stigma from when I first rode a Specialized Epic with a steep enough head angle to where I’d clip my foot with the front wheel on tight switchbacks. That is definitely not the case with the Tallboy in 29er trim. Thankfully, I threw the 29ers on again yesterday and set out for MOTR with the intention of getting comfy on them before race season.
“Getting comfy”. There’s a drastic understatement. I climbed aggressively and while I felt like the 29ers need a bit more oomph to get up and over the steep pitches, they hold momentum well if you put in the pedal strokes. But the climbing speed was just the tip of the iceberg. It came as a shocking surprise to me, when I pointed the bike downhill with those wheels, how insanely fast the Tallboy is. I recently did my all time best down MOTR to the tune of 12 minutes, 26 seconds on my Bronson, and yet the Tallboy with the 29ers, I managed 11:17. 11 minutes, 17 seconds, despite tucking the front end in a loose downhill corner and leaving a fair amount of flesh and dignity behind.
I’d been saying since last summer, that the Hightower was the quiver killing, do it all bike, but I have to say that the Tallboy seems to be just as capable if you’re looking for a little shorter travel, and is proving itself to me as the ultimate XC/Trail bike for Southern Oregon. I’m very much looking forward to putting it to the test in the Oregon XC series which kicks off in a couple of weeks, and ultimately seeing if myself and the bike are up to the challenge of the 100 mile Cascade Creampuff in early August. Stay tuned.
Don’t take my word for it. Syndicate rider Greg Minaar’s video may have slightly swayed my decision to buy. XC bike that can thrash rock gardens, jib and manual, and hold it’s own in the backcountry? Yes please!