In August of this year I made the decision to invest in a new (another) bike. I was interested in a mid-fat bike with a 1X drivetrain. I’ve been riding Rocky Mountain bikes for over 20 years and when I saw that they had entered the mid-fat market I was pleasantly surprised. I took to the web and looked for as many details as I could on this new bike but I wasn’t able to find much. Most sites focused on the specs of the bike but there were very fewer rider testimonials. With my trip to Utah on the horizon I took the plunge and ordered myself Rocky Mountain's 2017 Growler 750. It’s been 60 days and I wanted to provide my thoughts on The Growler.
If you would like the detailed specs for this bike I would recommend going to the Rocky Mountain Bikes website (www.bikes.com). But here are a couple of quick notes:
- Frame Sizes: XXS to XL
- Fork: RockShox Reba RL – 120mm
- Brakes: SRAM DB1 180mm
- Shifters: SRAM NX
- Rear Derailleur: SRAM GX
- Crank and Chainring: SRAM NX 28t
- Cassette: SRAM PG-1130 11-42t
- Tire: WTB Rangers 3.0” x 27.5”
My Initial Impressions:
I had demoed a few mid-fat bikes but I was a little skeptical about how they would handle on the trail. My first real test for The Growler was in 3 Stage. This trail system offers a great variety of terrain from fast, flowy sections to more advanced technical rock and root trails. There are some real challenging uphills and some fast downhills.
The bike handled well. The single front chainring design took some getting used to but I was happy with the bike. Cornering was improved and as advertised and this bike took on all but the steepest climbs and rolled over all but the largest obstacles. My biggest complaint was how much mud the tires and frame collected and how much additional weight this added to the bike.
Initially I was skeptical about the bikes gearing. The 1x model strips out a lot of redundant gears but I was concerned that a 28/11 gear ratio wouldn't offer enough top end speed and power.
I was wrong!
There were almost no instances of me needing more power and not having the gears and my cadence felt pretty normal. While this isn't an ideal gear ratio for riding flat roadways or fast downhills, it did prove to cover off most of my needs on the trail.
Since that first ride I've logged about 200 trail km on The Growler. This includes local rides in 3 Stage, Kolapore, Loree Forest and Albion Hills. We also headed down to Moab, Utah for a weeklong trip that saw us ride many of the town’s world famous trails (including Bull Run, Moab Brand Trails and Slickrock).
The Growler handles extremely well and there are very few XC and moderate DH situations that the bike can’t handle. It excels in high speed cornering and it makes quick work of short, technical uphills. The large 27.5+ tires add a little more rolling resistance (approximately 6% to 8% from the research that I can find) but the added control and comfort of these tires far outweighs the added resistance. My biggest like about the Growler is the confidence that it gives me on the trail.
Perhaps the term dislike is a little strong, but there are a few things worth mentioning about The Growler that may be a concern for some riders:
- The clearance between the chain and the back tire while on the 42t gear is almost none existent.This causes problems on rough terrain and there is some occasional contact between the tire and the chain.
- The WTB Ranger tires are showing a lot of tread wear after only 200km.There is also significant sidewall wear which is not uncommon for mid-fat bikes.
- The SRAM DB1 brakes are quite loud and there is a little bit of chatter after heavy use.
- With the big 27.5+ tires and the lower pressure there is a tendency for the bike to buck a little bit.
Improvements That Can Be Made:
The Growler 750 is a first year run for this line of bikes. Rocky Mountain has recently announced the specs on their 2018 model bike and they have made a 2 big adjustments that will make the Growler an even better bike:
- They have increased the size of the front chainring from 28 teeth to 30 teeth for better gearing.
- Tires have been downsized from 3.0” to 2.8”.
On top of these changes that I will make on my 2017 model I will also look to make the following changes:
- Add a dropper seater post.
- Change out the stem for a longer one.
- Cut down the handlebars.
The Rocky Mountain Growler comes in 3 models and sells for approximately $1100 to $2100 MSRP (Canadian prices for the 2017 line). I love the simplicity of this bike and how easy and smooth the 1x drivetrain system is to use. There is a significant amount of gear overlap removed with this design and the 11t-42t cassette offers a wide enough range of gears for average/aggressive trail riding.
The larger 27.5+ mid-fat tires make for an exciting riding experience. The bike corners and climbs aggressively and the reduced tire pressures makes for a softer, more suspended ride.
While the 2017 models is not a perfect bike, I think that with a few small tweaks it can be an amazing ride. I’m glad to see that Rocky Mountain is keeping it in their line for the 2018 season and it’s great to see that they are proactively making some improvements to enhance the experience.
Do you have an opinion on the Rocky Mountain Growler? Is the information that you would like that we haven't covered? Reach out through the comments below.