It should come as no surprise to find the Santa Cruz Tallboy 3 and 5010 v2 at the top of your list when searching for your next trail bike. Both are capable steeds in their own right and perform well over varied types of terrain and locations. I’ve had the pleasure of spending a considerable amount of time on both bikes. Following is my interpretation of how they perform and when I would choose one over the other.
I won’t delve too far into the technical details of each bike as those can be found on Santa Cruz’s website. The most telling bits are that the Tallboy 3 has a 68 degree headtube angle, 110mm of rear travel (120-130mm front depending on wheel size) and can accommodate both 27.5+ wheels and 29″ wheels. The 5010 has a 67 degree headtube angle, 130mm travel front and rear, and runs on standard 27.5 wheels.
The 5010 does offer more travel and some will say that they’re not in the same category but I often get asked to compare them to one another. The larger 29″ wheel size does seem to overcome the lack of travel in most cases, so it seems appropriate to compare these two bikes.
A bit odd for a comparison, but I’m going to come out and say my conclusion now. If you’re in the market for a more XC oriented trailbike I would go with the Tallboy 3. Looking for something that can handle the rough stuff a little better? Go with the 5010.
Now the reviews.
The 5010 v2 is one of the most fun bikes I have ever owned. It wants to pop, manual, carve and flick off of every trail feature. I raced the 5010 on local Enduro tracks (Hood River and Bend, OR), which it handled admirably, and also took it on a handful of all day epics (65 miles and 12,000 feet of climbing). I think this bike is as close to a quiver killer as you’re going to get. 95% of the time this is the perfect setup, it won’t leave you longing for more or less travel. It’s well balanced and leaves a grin on your face 100% of the time. With that said, it does have it’s limitations. It wouldn’t be my first choice for an EWS race, although I think it would perform quite well, and I also wouldn’t grab it for a national XC race bid. However, if world domination and gold medals aren’t your thing (this probably applies to most of us) then this bike is for you. I really can’t recommend this bike enough.
I’ve read a couple of reviews that state the Tallboy 3 is more capable on the downs than the 5010, I would have to disagree with this. I find the 5010 to be much more capable when the going gets rough, despite it’s smaller wheel size.
The comments above may leave you thinking that the Tallboy 3 is only a mediocre descender, this isn’t necessarily the case. For what was once Santa Cruz’s XC whippet the Tallboy 3 is one pretty rad trail bike. The Tallboy has a lively feeling and likes to get a little freaky. It too will pop off of trail features, get airborne, and slice through corners, it just requires a bit more rider input than the 5010. I attribute this to the larger wheels. In the descending department I feel that the Tallboy is a bit more twitchy than the 5010 at high speeds, this is where I notice the biggest difference between the two. I could push harder on the 5010 and found the bottom of the travel less often when compared to the Tallboy. One important aspect of the Tallboy that may appeal to some riders is the ability to run both 27.5+ and 29″ wheels. I ran the bike in the 29″ guise so I can’t comment on the other. Having that flexibility is definitely a feature to take into consideration. As for climbing I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot to say. Both bikes climb quite well but I do give the nod to the Tallboy, I think it pedals and climbs a bit better than the 5010, both on fire roads and single track.
To me the 5010 is truly a do it all bike, you can take it to your local XC and Enduro race, then go rip any trail with your friends during the week. The only thing holding the 5010 back (within reason) is it’s pilot. If you’re looking for one bike to rule them all, and fun is the name of the game, I’d recommend the 5010 every time.
I’d categorize the Tallboy 3 as a REALLY fun cross country or light duty trail bike. I’m not trying to pigeonhole the Tallboy 3 as an XC bike, but it just doesn’t have the downhill prowess of the 5010 in my opinion. Consequently I find that it performs better (read faster) on more XC style trails. If you’re looking for a bike that won’t hold you back at your local XC race on the weekend and that you’ll still enjoy riding the other six days of the week (something that can’t be said of most XC bikes) then this is your guy.
I will conclude by saying that both bikes are a hoot to ride, each has it’s highlights and you really can’t go wrong with either, you just have to choose which one sounds right for you.