by Dave Trumpore
We recently had a chance to visit the folks at Guerrilla Gravity in Denver, Colorado for a tour of the shop and to take a look at their newest trail bike project, the Megatrail. In a day and age where most manufacturing, welding, and assembly happens far overseas, it was quite refreshing to see the inner workings of a more homegrown operation right here in our backyard. Guerrilla Gravity truly keeps it local by doing all of the work in house. The only exception being the CNC bits that are contracted out, but even those are produced just down the road.
While I toured the shop, Matt Giaraffa, 1/3 of Guerrilla Gravity's ownership and the lead engineer, prepped my ride for the day. All winter long he has been designing and tweaking the Megatrail, and with most of the design finalized it was time for Vital to get an exclusive first ride.
- 150mm (5.9-inches) or 160mm (6.3-inches) rear wheel travel
- 26 or 27.5-inch wheels
- 16.8-inch (w/ 26-inch wheels) or 17.3-inch (w/ 27.5-inch wheels) chainstay
- 66.5 or 65.5-degree head angle
- 13.2 or 12.7-inch bottom bracket height
- 73.3-degree seat tube angle
- 1.5-inch headtube
- 12x142mm rear axle
- 73mm threaded bottom bracket
- Weight: 7-pounds (size Medium, with hardware but without shock)
- Frames start at $1,925 (without shock) // Complete builds start at $3,495 with some customization options
- 10 different powder coat paint options
- All bikes come with the the GG Rider Program
The Guerrilla Gravity shop itself is pretty simple and straight forward, with a small retail storefront as you walk in the door and a mechanic's bench and service center towards the rear. It looks almost like any small Mom and Pop bike shop when standing in the showroom, and it isn't until you venture through the door adjacent to the repair shop that things take on a new light.
Behind closed doors is where things begin to come alive at Guerrilla Gravity. There are racks of aluminum neatly stacked and divided between 6000 and 7000 series, massive blocks of stock waiting to be machined, welding tables, jigs, presses, and frame components in various states of production. It may not be glamorous, but it's a living and breathing bicycle factory right here in the USA, which in this day and age is a rare and wonderful sight to see.
At first glance the Megatrail almost looks like its big brother, the GGDH downhill bike, that Guerrilla Gravity has been producing for some time. The idea here is to keep the designs similar to give some brand identity and to share production processes and materials to keep the cost down and the manufacturing streamlined.
The basic concept of the bike itself is pretty straightforward, and the folks at GG aren't trying to reinvent the wheel - they're just trying to do it well and affordably. The frame employs a single-pivot, linkage-driven suspension layout which has been developed together with Cane Creek for the DBair CS and optimized for air shocks in general. The tried and true linkage is mated to a conventional front triangle that gives the bike a clean and efficient look. High quality Enduro Maxx bearings are used at all pivot locations.
Upon closer inspection (and mind you this is only a prototype), the machining, finish work and welding all look top notch and it is evident that these guys know what they are doing when it comes to metal work and production. Nothing really looks out of place or cobbled together, and other than moving a brace on the swingarm forward for more tire clearance and tweaking a few cable guide positions, I was told the bike I was to ride would be pretty much identical to the production version.
On The Trail
Of course I wasn't there just to look at and talk about the Megatrail, I was there to ride it. So off we went to my favorite test loop at Hall Ranch just outside Boulder. If you are not familiar with this particular trail, I use it as a go-to for product testing due to the sheer variety of terrain found on a rather small loop. I can ride it multiple times a day while changing setups to get a good feel for what a bike is doing. With a mix of long climbs, tech climbs, twisty descents, and a mile long rough and rowdy rock garden DH, it has just about everything.
To start I set the bike in the 150mm travel Trail Mode (there is also a Gravity Mode I will get back to later) and sagged in the Cane Creek DBair CS shock. Having ridden this shock extensively the past few months I can't say enough good things about it, so I definitely gave the Megatrail two thumbs up for that spec alone. Up front the bike was sporting a 160mm travel Rockshox Pike set to 25% sag.
I chose to ride the Medium sized frame which felt spot on for my 5'9" height. The 25-inch top tube is very much on the longer side for a Medium frame, but I much prefer a little extra room coupled with a short stem over a short frame with a long stem. The setup felt quite similar to that of my personal bike, a Yeti SB66. The phrase I would use to describe the fit was "just right." The bar height, reach and weight distribution between the wheels made me feel right at home immediately.
Seeing as it's 2014, the other big choice I had to make was wheel size. The Megatrail is available in frames specific to 26 or 27.5-inch wheels (or a 27.5 front/26 rear combo), where both the front and rear triangles are specific to each wheel size in order to keep the bottom bracket and headtube heights constant. For this test I chose to ride the 27.5-inch offering exclusively. Guerrilla Gravity hand builds the wheels that come on the Megatrail, and the wheels are customizable. So, with suspension set and wheel size properly debated it was finally time to get dirty.
In Trail mode things felt fairly predictable and dare I say "normal." That's not a bad thing as there are so many awesome bikes on the market now that it really is hard to be unique or different, and to say this bike felt like the bikes I have grown accustomed to is really quite a compliment. I don't ride poor bikes.
It did have a bit of firmness in the mid-stroke that helped while hammering on the pedals, but it came at the expense of plushness when the going got rougher. There was not spiking or harshness, just a bit more feedback than I really like on some bits of trail. I will note that sprinting, climbing, and smashing on the pedals did very little to upset the suspension, and there is little to no power robbing motion.
The bikes come equipped with 1X drivetrains and a 42-tooth cassette add-on dubbed the "BFC" that provides more range than the typical single ring drivetrain at a fraction of the cost of SRAM's XX1 system. This proved to be plenty of gear for the trail.
Next up was the 160mm Gravity Mode, which I will leave to the bike's design engineer, Matt, to explain:
"When we started talking about the idea of making an aggressive trail/all mountain/enduro/ride everything bike, we started with the thought that the current crop of those bikes were making too much compromise. They either climbed well, or descended well, but not really both. Turning the gears on that idea for a while, and learning from the performance of the GG/DH, we came up the idea that this sort of bike needed an adjustment to cover the bases instead of making an "all season tire." It should have one mode that's more trail and climb friendly that makes the bike very efficient, yet still very shreddable, and a second mode that cranks the Shred Knob up to 11 for gnarly Enduro race stages, bike park laps, long routes that are mostly descending (i.e. Moab's Whole Enchilada), etc. We also wanted the physical change to be something the average rider could do in 30 seconds or less with a multi-tool, with no small pieces to lose."
"What became the hardest part of designing the Megatrail was getting the kinematics of Trail and Gravity mode to both make sense to accomplish what we wanted, while making the physical change between them a simple shock bolt swap. While it may look simple, it took a huge amount of effort to make it work without a glaring issue in one of the modes, such as weird geometry, amount of travel that didn't make sense, or leverage curves that wouldn't work well."
- 150mm travel
- 13.2-inch BB height
- 66.5-degree head angle
- Leverage curve tuned with more mid-stroke support for climbing efficiency, yet still without a harsh top stroke or blowing through the travel.
- 160mm travel
- 12.7-inch BB height
- 65.5-degree head angle
- Leverage curve tuned for more bump compliance and grip to feel like a shorter travel GG/DH.
On the trail, Gravity Mode can be summarized with two words... SIMPLY AMAZING.
To be honest this is the bike I have been waiting for someone to make for years. After riding and racing DH for 10+ years I have always wished my trail bikes mimicked the low, stable, slack and fast feeling of a DH racer. While many bikes come close, very few hit the mark. However the Megatrail, with the simple turn of one bolt, becomes that bike. You don't need to make any pressure or adjustment changes to the shock when switching between settings. The sag as a percentage of travel stays the same. With a bottom bracket height that is the same as a DH bike at sag, a long top tube and a 65.5-degree head angle, the bike just begged to be ridden harder and faster.
What of the suspension? Gone was the firm mid-stroke of Trail mode, and the bike began to really come alive with grip in spades at the rear wheel and a light, stable and playful feeling even in the roughest of terrain. The Megatrail is based around the same concept as the DH bike, putting fun first with a roomy cockpit, low bottom bracket, relatively short chainstays, and a slack head angle. For me this was a win, win, win, win situation.
With the Cane Creek DBair shock mounted there was no major drawback to climbing with the bike set in Gravity mode either. The Climb Switch feature on the shock is a game changer and really allows a bike's suspension be optimized for descending with little to no compromise while climbing. If I had a different shock mounted I may go between the bike's Trail and Gravity mode depending on what riding was in store, but with the DBair I don't think I would ever take it out of Gravity Mode. Yes, it's that good.
Things That Could Be Improved
I would like to see a bit more standover on the Medium frame (something the Small has plenty of), and while I like a long top tube, anyone in the 5'8" - 5'10" range may struggle a bit with which size to pick. If you have never ridden a bike with a slightly longer top tube, shorter stays and a short stem, I say try it before you shake your head. Chances are you will realize that you have been missing out all along.
Long Term Durability
Obviously this is still a prototype, and one ride won't yield definitive answers about long term durability, but there is nothing about the design that I question. If the long term durability of Guerrilla Gravity's DH bike is any indication then there should be no troubles.
What's The Bottom Line?
I have to say I am very impressed. The folks at Guerrilla Gravity have done their homework on this one and I didn't want to give the bike back at the end of the day. While it may not feature a complicated linkage design or be covered in marketing acronyms, the Megatrail dishes up a very capable, inspiring, and well-balanced ride.
Pricing and weight are competitive, if not a bargain compared to much of the high end equipment out there these days. My $5,295 "Trail 1" build test bike came in at 30-pounds, and Guerrilla Gravity also offers a more budget-oriented "Trail 2" build that comes in lighter at 29.8-pounds with a price tag of $3,495. With several comparable bikes in the $6,000 to $10,000 price range, it's refreshing to ride something so good at an attainable price. Even more impressive is that this is achieved while designing and manufacturing 100% in downtown Denver, Colorado.
Visit www.ridegg.com for more details. The Megatrail is available for pre-order now, with limited availability starting April 1, 2014. If you're in the area, you're welcome to go visit the shop to see where the bikes are made and pedal the prototypes around.
About The Reviewer
Dave Trumpore's 20-year riding career has seen him sling a leg over the best and the worst the mountain bike industry has produced during that time. From Junior Expert XC in his early racing days to Pro DH from 1998-2009, a handful of World Cup finals take pride of place on Dave's resume. Not being the biggest guy out there he has a smooth style focused on carrying speed rather than smashing his way down the trail. He has always taken a very technical approach to bike setup, in particular with suspension and brakes. After trading number plates for a camera, Dave can now be found chasing the fastest riders on the planet when he's not out racking up thousands of feet climbing and descending while exploring the vast high alpine trail networks of the Rocky Mountains.