Staff Ride: Dario’s Downieville Santa Cruz Tallboy – Pinkbike


Dario DiGiulio’s Santa Cruz Tallboy

It’s been a few weeks since the Downieville Classic swept the Lost Sierra, but I’ll bet the dust is still settling out there. It’s been a wicked warm year, with plenty of fresh snowmelt to keep the river crossings high and exciting. This was my first year racing the Classic, and even though I had ridden Downieville a few times before, I didn’t really know what went into a bike setup dialed in for the place. So based on what I’d seen of previous winners’ bikes, friends’ setups and the general terrain in the area, I took a good guess and came up with the setup you see here.

Tallboy details

• Intended use: long XC, but make it fun.
• Travel: 120mm rear / 140mm fork
• Wheel size: 29″
• Frame construction: carbon fiber
• 65.5° head angle, 493mm spacing, 440 chainrings
• Weight: 30.8 lbs / 13.97 kg (XL size with pedals)

Let’s start with the tires as they are one of the most critical components in the Downieville race. You need a fairly light setup with low rolling resistance for the big initial climb in XC and the brakeless sections of DH, but with enough cornering grip and cutting resistance to keep you and the bike upright and unscathed.

After trying a few different options, I settled on the stock combo: 2.4 Dissector front, 2.4 Rekon rear, MaxxTerra rubber, EXO casing. There are faster options, but if I wasn’t racing I’d be running full-diameter downhill tires for a day at Downieville, so I figured it was best to err on that side of things. The EXO scares me so I ran a Rimpact insert on the rear which helped loads of tire squish and any rim damage on the many square rocks encountered at speed.

Miraculously, I had zero problems with the flats during the two days of racing, despite the very sloppy lines and many sharp rocks. That insert definitely helped me get away from 25psi on the rear tire, but I think the 22psi on the front was mostly just luck.
These tires were mounted on a set of wheels that I really liked – the original Eudae wheels made by a brand called Logos. I had them for review a while back, bought them after the trial period ended and have continued to use and abuse them without issue for a little over a year since then. They never seem to need tension or real work, and the ride quality is bleak and pleasant. Add to that the relatively quiet original DT type hub and you have a pretty solid wheel.
I was waiting on a set of test brakes when it came time to build the bike, but unfortunately they didn’t show up in time. A pair of SRAM codes taken off my personal bike did the trick and delivered the incredible performance I expected. The stock Level 4 pistons on the bike really didn’t deliver the power I wanted, but more on that at a later date. The advantage to showing the updated codes here was the second hand position you get with the parallel bar levers. ideal for a tighter grip and upright body position.
The drivetrain was also SRAM up, as I was running the XO gearbox available on the high-end Tallboy spec. I changed the 175mm cranks to 170s, changed the button layout to the correct orientation (top button moves the chain up the cassette, bottom button moves it down) and swapped the 32t ring for a WolfTooth ring Drop Stop 34t. Their updated tooth pattern works great with T-Type chainrings and I’ve had no issues with retention or performance.
The contact points were mostly cobbled together from other bikes in my garage, with an Industry Nine 40mm stem that took out a test bike, some OneUp 35mm rise bars (cut to 770mm) and a WTB Pickup Devo saddle added for comedy value and comfort. I ran the Sensus Lite grips as they are one of my all-time favourites, especially when using gloves – which turned out to be the case given how sweaty things were over the weekend.
On the suspension front, I ran the stock Fox Float Factory shock, which has a tune that really compliments the bike’s character beautifully. The settings weren’t too far from Santa Cruz’s recommended, with 200psi hitting the slack and a bit less rebound damping.

The fork was a little less straightforward, as I wanted to make the Charger 3 Pike feel a little different than what’s out there. While the new model does a great job of holding you up on trips, avoiding too much dive even on steep trails, it loses some of the buttery springiness that the older Pikes model provided well. To get back to it, I increased the travel to 140mm from the stock 130 and added a Vorsprung Luftkappe to the air spring. Essentially the Luftkappe softens the initial bit of travel by changing the positive/negative spring balance, letting it soak up the travel much more easily than the stock version. This raised the rear ride height by around 130mm and gave a much smoother top end, which was great for cornering and overall grip.

Finally, the frame itself. Santa Cruz did a great job of balancing grip, support and efficiency in a nicely packaged frame, creating an agile and capable feeling bike. No, it’s not an XC whip, but it’s definitely the fastest bike I have in the garage right now, and it was certainly no slouch at an all-mountain XC event like Downieville. Creature comforts like the Glovebox, easy-to-maintain bearings and simple cable routing make it a great choice for long-term testing as well. I think you could make a similarly capable bike that would weigh less if you went with a different frame, but the Tallboy feels sturdy and stiff enough to handle heavier components and trails, which I like for the terrain where I live.
The stock white color was an instant hit, but I wasn’t crazy about the teal graphics that came with this base coat. To enhance the *deep custom* nature of the build, I had my friends at Fanatik Bike cut some chrome and white decals for the frame and fork. Slap these decals on the bike completely changed the look and I’m a big fan of the result. They can cut decals for all kinds of frames and components out there, and now that I’ve done the process it’s got me thinking about how I can build other bikes that I’ll keep for a while.
That’s all for now. I’ll be tinkering with this bike a ton this summer, swapping out parts and playing around with the setup to suit various needs and wants. Fortunately, I have a setup that I can refer back to because I really liked the way it was riding.

To read post-race coverage, check out photos of the event and see how the race results stack up, head over to the Downieville Recap.

More high resolution photos here.

#Staff #Ride #Darios #Downieville #Santa #Cruz #Tallboy #Pinkbike

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