Tallboy vs Ripley - Trail Bike Showdown

This one is a bit of a no brainer. Tallboy vs Ripley. Efficient, fast, fun and ready for anything you throw at them, whether it’s a 5000’ climb or rocky descent.

Why these two bikes

Why make these two bikes battle it out? Let me tell you. The Ripley has 120mm of rear travel and is sold with a 130mm fork. That’s funny, the Tallboy is the exact same. The Ripley runs 29” wheels and would you look at that? The Tallboy is a wagon wheeler too. They both come from Santa Cruz, CA, they have similar geometry and intended purposes and they come from two of the hottest brands on the market. Want me to keep going? They both have two wheels, handlebars, brakes and tires filled with air…

Thankfully they aren’t the exact same. That would be boring and wouldn’t give us a reason to debate the subtle differences that make each a unique beast (a cyclist’s favorite pass time). First of all, one is purple or yellow and the other is black or blue. Second, one uses VPP and the other DW-Link. One is slacker and the other is bigger. One climbs like an XC race bike and the other descends like a bike shaped pogo stick. Want to find out which is which? Read on my friend.

santa cruz tallboy
The Santa Cruz Tallboy has some serious hops. Never mind the turtle-esque #sendface.

The Santa Cruz Tallboy has some serious hops. Never mind the turtle-esque #sendface.

The Tallboy is touted as the downhiller’s XC bike. When you think of a downhiller and what they typically ride, that statement is fairly accurate. The Tallboy goes uphill rather well and is a heck of a lot of fun on the descents. It’s really easy to get in the air or pull off a quick manual through some rollers. It rides way bigger than it should with only 120mm of rear travel. I think a lot of that capability comes from the component spec and the lower link shock mount Santa Cruz has been putting on its new bikes. The lower link provides the bike with a fairly active platform that soaks up small bumps while providing plenty of progression and support for jumps, pumps and bigger hits. The Maxxis Minion tires reveal the bike’s true intentions. And, to top it all off, the stout Pike fork gives the rider confidence in the chunk.

Here’s what the Tallboy is not. It’s not an XC race bike. It doesn’t climb or descend like one. The active suspension provides gobs of traction and small bump performance, it also allows the bike to bob up and down a bit while climbing. Luckily there’s a little blue lever on the shock (the compression lever that some folks really seem to hate using) that solves that problem. There’s another thing the Tallboy isn’t. It’s not an enduro bike. You’re not going to fly downhill at mach-burrito through rocks the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. It only has a 120mm of travel — a fact that can be easily forgotten until it’s quickly remembered. The Tallboy is so good that it allows you to get in over your head a little bit.

Well, there’s my fast and furious recap. Follow the link if you want the full 2020 Tallboy V4 review.

 
ibis ripley
The Ibis Ripley is surprisingly capable.

The Ibis Ripley is surprisingly capable.

If the Tallboy is the downhiller’s XC bike, the Ripley is the XC racer’s downhill bike… kind of, except it doesn’t suck at climbing and it’s not too fond of eight foot hucks to flat. It’s more like the XC racer’s do everything bike. It goes uphill about as well as a race bike thanks to the DW Link suspension design. Have you ever been in a Tesla with an aggressive driver? The acceleration feels about the same. Ibis made this thing so energetic under pedaling power. I’ve yet to ride a trail bike that feels as lively as the Ripley on the ups and flat terrain. It goes downhill better than a 120mm travel bike should thanks to its modern geometry. It’s slack-ish, long-ish and low-ish. One thing I really like about Ibis bikes, is how useable the geometry is. They don’t pigeonhole their bikes by making the geometry so extreme no one can figure out how to ride them. The Ripley is versatile and useable for a wide range of trails and riding styles.

The Ripley is not an XC race bike either. It climbs a lot like one, but the tires it comes with say otherwise. Sure, you could throw some Ikons on there and climb a whole lot faster, but that’s not the purpose Ibis had in mind making the bike. Those Ikons won’t hold up to the Ripley’s downhill capability - unless you like shredding brand new tires every ride. The Ripley is also not a double black diamond descender — or at least not at speed. You could pick your way down a tough trail, but it will be slow going. It’s more of a flowy trail expert that will plow enough to get you through some milder rock gardens. It’s a “big day in the mountains” bike that won’t leave you exhausted after a few thousand feet of climbing.

So there you have it. Want more? Follow the link for the full Ibis Ripley v4 review.

 
ripley vs tallboy

Technical CLimbing (the rocky climbs that make you cuss) - Ripley

This one was tough to pick a clear winner. The Tallboy gives more traction and has better small bump performance which both help for technical, steep and bumpy climbs. I still have to give the win to the Ripley in this category because of how efficiently it transfers power to the rear wheel while not getting hung up on the bumpy bits. It’s lighter and more responsive allowing you to pick better lines through the chunk.

smooth climbing (Fire roads and buffed singletrack) - Ripley

This one wasn’t that hard. The Ripley wins. It will out climb the Tallboy on smooth fast terrain all day. The Ripley still holds my top honors for how well a trail bike can climb. The Tallboy isn’t far off, but in a game of millimeters, every advantage counts.

technical descending (Tech Trails) - Tallboy

This one is also a no brainer. The Tallboy descends faster, meaner and tougher than the Ripley. It’s more stable at speed and has more plow built right in. The wheels stay on the ground better for more traction and control in the rough bits. The suspension moves more effectively to smooth out the trail for more speed through bumps and rocks. The slacker geometry also lets you push the bike harder than the Ripley. One small caveat, the Ripley is more maneuverable in the slower speed awkward bits.

smooth descending (Flow Trails) - Tallboy

I struggled picking a winner here too. The Ripley is fast and efficient when it comes to mellow rolling terrain. It’s a fun and engaging ride. This battle was hard fought, but the Tallboy wins. It is more stable at speed while remaining extremely fun and poppy on all types of terrain. It has better small bump performance for chattery sections and braking bumps.

overall (anywhere on a mountain) - Rip/Boy

Here’s what you came here for. Which one is the best? Well, you guessed it… it depends. It depends on how you like to ride a bike. Me personally, I’m probably going to take the Tallboy… maybe. I like the downhill way more than the up. I like jumping over things and slamming into corners fast. I like finding the steepest lines I can ride without death sliding into oblivion. I only kind of enjoy climbing, but I’m stubborn enough to pedal myself to the top of almost everything I ride. I don’t often get the craving to ride up a steep mountain as fast as possible while I drool and make weird involuntary noises. Does steep mountain climbing sound fun to you? Do you find yourself saying “I like climbing and don’t do anything too crazy on the downhills.” Then you might enjoy the Ripley more. It climbs better, is more efficient and will still get you back down the mountain when it comes time. It feels snappier and livelier. It also mutes the trail less. It’s built for doing big rides that take you through a wide variety of terrain from steep climbs to rolling hills and the occasional nasty descent.

I’m not trying to say you have to ride like a bat out of hell to like the Tallboy or push the limits of human cardiovascular performance to love the Ripley. I just used those two extremes to clearly illustrate the differences between the two bikes. You might enjoy climbing but end up loving the Tallboy because it’s a smoother ride. On the other hand you might be a downhiller who picks the Ripley because of the way it lets you feel the trail through the bike. Different strokes for different folks. In fact if I were forced to buy one (terrible predicament, I know) I’d have a really hard time deciding which one would earn my cold hard cash. So, in a super definitive and scientific way I picked winners in each category. If you don’t like how I ranked them, tough beans. Do your own comparison by coming to the shop and taking each out for a demo. I dare you.

tallboy