October 26, 2016
Trail Pistol 2016/17
Climbs much more quickly than the weight would suggest
Handles tight trail just as well as wide open spaces
Some might not be impressed that it's not carbon
Doesn't sit on the scale the same as some bikes made with the fantastic plastic
Let me make one thing clear- I hate this bike. I hate how an aluminum, slack-ass trail carver puts my old carbon 29er to shame. I hate how this steed looks like it would take a country mile to turn, but pushes through switchbacks more ferociously than I am comfortable with at times. I hate a rear suspension design that lets me pedal faster up climbs than I ever have before. I hate how my face hurts after two hours of smiling like a one year old after their first taste of cake. I hate how line choice is pretty much out the window; it's all just point and shoot from here on out. I hate this bike- and you can't go buy one, because I don't want my ass kicked by everyone else shredding a Made-in-the-USA, 29er death machine- this 'Trail pistol'.
I wanted to order a black bike. I wanted matte black-black on black. Darker than black- Yeah, that's what the cool kids run. I wanted to email Guerrilla Gravity and ask if their printer could muster up decals that wouldn't let light escape they're so dark. Except, when it came time to order, I clicked on the drop-down menu and chose "Pepto Shred-All", with white decals. Maybe I was feeling extra cheery that day. Maybe I saw it as a sly tongue-in-cheek to all of the comments on a certain website that didn't appreciate the owner's dry humor of BS naming-logic of established technologies... Maybe all I wanted was a wolf in sheep's clothing- and that's exactly what I got. Being brought on as a BAMF (Brand Ambassador and Motivated Free-seller), I was told to make my bike a color that stands out. Oh boy, does she stand out.
I'm sure if you're reading the review of some amateur, you've already started your homework on the specs that make up this bike. 29/27 Plus trail bike with 120mm of rear travel, sporting a 148mm Boost rear-end, with the possibility of running a 120-140mm fork on the front. A modern take on geometry, with a short chainstay, a long front-center, and a head angle slack enough to be found on a chopper in an issue of Hot Bike Mag. Guerrilla Gravity has engineered in an adjustable 'flip chip' on the Trail Pistol to be able to tweak the geometry and BB height of the bike to cater to both wheel sizes. Some of you might smell a compromise-which we'll talk about further down. I sighted in on a Large frame, as my 6'3" body seemed like it would be at home on the numbers presented (For you to fall further down the rabbit hole, follow this link for all the specific frame specs- http://ridegg.com/trailpistol). To help you understand further where I'm coming from, a list of my build:
Fox Factory Series 34 fork, 130mm, four spacers in air chamber
RockShox Super Deluxe RC3 rear shock
I9 Enduro 305 29" wheelset (alternate-WTB Scraper i45 rims, SRAM X7 hubs)
Sram X.01 11spd drivetrain
SRAM Guide RSC brakes, 180mm rotors front & rear
Race Face Next SL crankset, Wolftooth C.A.M.O. Elliptical system
Fox Transfer 150mm dropper post, 30.9mm
WTB Volt Pro saddle, wrapped in 'Murica color scheme
Race Face Six C 800mm carbon bar, 35mm dia.
Easton Haven 60mm stem, 35mm bar clamp
ODI Vans Grips-Gum, because f*** yeah!
Bontrager SE4 29x2.4" (front), SE5 29x2.3" (Rear)
Soulrun Tool Roll- stashed under the saddle
NUTS System to get as much out of my hydration pack as I could
My initial thought once I sat down was that my cockpit is too short. For reference, my current, all-mountain bike has a longer butt-to-seat measurement than my Trail Pistol. Not being familiar with this caliber of wide bars on a short stem- and knowing my body proportions are little off, I decided to keep an open mind and give it a go. I'm glad I did, because as I put in some saddle time, I realized I was much more comfortable than the numbers led me to believe. I wasn't smacking my knees with bars, I wasn't cramping my back or shoulders, and I certainly wasn't over analyzing my body position when I was riding. One thing that I was doing, was shredding.
Riding The Weapon
This bike wants to be pushed, so much so that while it never felt harsh backing off the gas for a while, you could just feel that the Trail Pistol wanted to move faster. And when you pushed yourself to go faster, The Trail Pistol delivered unholy amounts of traction coupled with even more unholy amounts of speed. I'm not one to try and pick the preferred line as it is, but the bike allowed me throw any thought of lines out the window and say "We're gonna smash off this rock- and that rock- and that one! We will ride all of the rocks!
To say that the Trail Pistol was comfortable with descents would be a disservice, I never once felt my any hesitation or anxiety when I plowed my way downhill. And this bike has the numbers that would lead you to believe that you're investing in a frame without enough travel, that is going to be stable on high speed tracks, and steer like a pig everywhere else. You would be wrong. I easily obliterated switchbacks and tight sections of singletrack- if I trusted the front wheel and kept my weight forward, I was rewarded by gobs of traction. I do credit the Bontrager SE4, and i9 Enduro 305 wheels a bit for this, but a lot has to do with how this bike is set-up. On more than one occasion, I noticed that I had used all of the travel on the rear shock (I am a heavy rider, so I'll be adding a volume spacer inside the air can), but never experienced any harsh bottom-outs. When riding the downs, I felt like I had more than 120mm of travel-and while I didn't ride in actual mountains during my time, I wasn't left wanting more in the squish department.
The biggest surprise that the Trail Pistol delivered to me? It can climb like a beast as well. With the lever on the shock in full open, the Trail Pistol was able to confidently scramble its way up any technical incline. We have a number of loose rock climbs combined with rock shelves that absolutely require you to keep up your momentum, and the rear wheel never hung up on me once while pedalling in the saddle. Flip the lever on the shock into trail, and your effort is rewarded with even quicker climbing. If I could help it, I did leave the shock in the full open setting, and climbed away, with the lever only being used when I was already starting to feel fatigued. With the ridiculously steep seat angle, I was able to just lay down the hammer, and pedal over any obstacle- the Trail Pistol delivered great mid-stroke support, and never beat me up- even after hours of riding.
The other main notable here is the 27 set-up. My alternate wheelset employs mega-wide WTB Scraper rims, with a 3" WTB Bridger in front, followed by a 3" Trail Boss in the rear. Setting the flip chip from 'Crush' to 'Plush' and swapping the wheels yielded a completely different feeling bike; one that tracked well, but missed matching the feeling that you were moving at "warp chicken" like the 29er, by just a smidge. I think weight is a big factor here, as the Plus wheels are noticeably more portly. Do I think that the frame makes a compromise by offering the ability to run both wheel sizes? I absolutely do not. The Trail Pistol is very well executed on both fronts- and if I have to make a choice for one or the other, it's the 29" wheels. Having typed that, most of the reasoning behind this is just more time on that wheel size, I'm still getting comfy with Plus.
I briefly make mention of the NUTS (Necessities Under the Saddle) in my spec list above, but the welded-on bracket does couple nicely with the optional gear kit that Guerrilla Gravity has available as an add-on. This system allows you to stow your tube, CO2 cartridges, inflator and lever on the bike, thus lightening your load a bit. I paired this with a custom-made tool roll from Soulrun to hold even more gear, and hopefully eliminate the hydration pack for some rides. One other bonus with the frame/NUTS? The optional kit includes a bottle cage and bottle- with enough room on the frame to fit inside the front triangle!
At the time I sat down to write this, Push Industries has not made their Eleven.Six shock available for this bike- but they reassure me that it will be developed in the near future. I also have the great luck of being able to ride carbon wheels from NOX Composites, but I haven't received them yet to slap on. Once each upgrade has been beaten, I'll make an update to my review.
All in all, the Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol is a well thought-out design. The construction and welding on this frame display some serious skills as well (Bonus points that I hear the fabricator also works in NASCAR). Sure, the technology isn't revolutionary- or even a completely ground-breaking design, but it's one that doesn't have to be. Execution is the key here, and I feel the team in Denver did their homework-and made a truly great bike. I tend to be the type of rider that doesn't linger on one bike too long, but with the Trail Pistol, I may have already chosen my weapon. Do I still hate this bike? Nah... How can you hate something this fun?