So I got some ride time on the Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol over the weekend. I rode about 10 or so miles of Sedona's finest, including Hiline. I haven't been riding much lately (just weekends), so 10 miles of "Black" trails on a shorter travel bike was enough for me for one day.
Now, I can't ride all of Hiline, but I can ride 90% of it. I have hard time after the first chute, where a series of exposed "hope your brakes work" switchbacks still makes me nervous despite a few dozen times on the trail.
If you know Hiline, I can ride pretty much everything up to this point:
The first of the big "chutes", which is followed by a series of very steep switchbacks that require both commitment and a whole lotta' brake. I'm still learning these.
Photo cred to Nshore3
Photo cred to churchpedalbike
Once past this stuff, I can ride the lower sections which are like this:
The Trail Pistol was setup with a SRAM kit, 50mm stem, 780mm bars, Guide brakes, 29x2.3 Aggressor/DHF on wide DT Swiss wheels, Deluxe RT3 and MRP Ribbon. I was running about 30% sag.
This is Matt Giaraffa's 1500-mile semi-personal demo tester experimentation bike. Matt, I believe, is at least one of the engineers and designers behind Guerrilla Gravity's "Freedom Linkage", and he knows the products well. This was especially good for me, because I could personally pick his brain about what can and can't be done with these bikes. I'm a tinkerer, and Matt was open to many of my "what if" questions about tire width, shock stroke, custom sizing options, etc. Matt was in Sedona for the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival, and he was sharing accommodations with many friends and fellow Guerrilla Gravity owners. A group of about 10 riders, 8 of them on GG bikes, set off towards Hiline, and a slowly followed behind.Note: I did not ride it with a coil pictured here.
The Size Medium seems like it would be too small for a 6' dude with a 33" inseam, but it actually fit really damn nice. I'd probably go with a "Extra Medium" that Guerrilla Gravity offers for an extra charge, which utilizes a Medium's Seat Tube and Head Tube for lower stack, but the length of the Large.
On the climb and pedally bits, the Trail Pistol was agile, efficient, and handled square edged bumps nicely.
On bigger hits and jumps, it felt stiff and composed, with no weird noses, tire rub, or bottoming.
The only place where I'd like to see some improvement was on fast repeated hits. Now, GG utilizes a pretty modern Horst-Link design. It's not all that different from the Norco Sight or Specialized Stumpjumper or Transition Smuggler. The biggest difference is in the Trail Pistol's leverage ratio. It's fairly low, at 2.4:1. This is nice for a bigger guy like me, because I don't need to go stratospheric air pressure to get proper sag. I was running 269psi in the shock, where as on my Commencal I was at close to 330psi.
Maybe that leverage ratio or the just the high anti-squat of the design contributes to a slightly harsher feel in repeated hits, or maybe it's the Rockshox Deluxe RT3's shock tune?
Some folks have mentioned they feel like all of the new Metric stuff from Rockshox feel's this way. Really good for big hits, really good for pedaling, but a bit harsh on fast, repeated hits. Many riders feel like maybe the Fox stuff is a bit better in this regard. I haven't ridden the Fox DPS or DPX, so I can't compare.
Overall, I really like the Trail Pistol, and I didn't get to ride the Smash (although it was offered), I think both would fit well in my stable. The Trail Pistol runs a 210x50 (or 55) Metric shock, of which nearly every shock under the sun will fit. The Smash runs a 230x57.5 shock, of which choices are currently a bit more limited, most notably on the CC Inline Coil.
The Trail Pistol can accommodate a 130mm rear, 150mm front "aggressive trail" setup, and if laden in carbon goodies will hit high 20's in terms of weight. The Trail Pistol could also be turned into a 120mm/120mm XC/TR bike and maybe even get down to 26.9lbs sans dropper with lightweight tires. It can be run in plus mode as a 275x3.0 if that's your thing, or 29x2.6 as well. There may even be some room to get a tad more travel out of the Trail Pistol, going beyond the 55mm stroke "Pistola" to perhaps an Imperial sized 57mm (2.25") stroke shock might increase travel to 135mm, putting it closer to it's a big travel brother.
The Smash is intended to be run primarily as a 29er bike with 140mm travel f/r. It can accommodate a 160mm fork, and with some air or coil shock trickery be convinced to run a hair over 145mm of rear travel. It's higher stock BB (13.6") could also run 275x2.8 tires if you want a bit more nimbleness. The Smash's beefier seatstays are the primary reason it can't run 3" tires, although some might barely fit. You might also be able to limit the shock stroke on the Smash if you wanted to run say a 130mm/140mm setup.
The weight difference between the two bikes isn't dramatic, but as mentioned before, the Smash carries a bit more beef in it's bones over the lighter Trail Pistol. The biggest weight difference between the bikes would likely be from "rider intent". The Smash begs for a coil and a big stanchion fork, beefier tires, bigger brakes. The Trail Pistol is a bit more double edged, and could go either way. My Medium Trail Pistol with RS Deluxe RT3 (no reservoir) probably was around 30lbs with beefy 2.3 tires. I think it had a carbon bar, but that was it for plastic. With a lighter shock, carbon post, lightweight 2.3 tires, 34mm fork, carbon bars and wheels this bike could easily be an XC weapon for any course with elevation.
It's in that versatility that I'm drawn to the Trail Pistol. I've ridden a fair number of different bikes now, and I keep coming back to shorter travel, progressive geometry, and designs that can take a beating. I'd love a carbon wonderbike like a 150mm Scott Genius dripping carbon tipping the scales at 26lbs, but I can't swing six g's. I also don't need 150mm for 80% of my riding. The trails out my back doors are punchy rolling single track with the occasional chundery short descent. I don't race (yet), so a bike built specifically for a certain type of event doesn't make sense (why I sold my 160mm Commencal Meta). Would the Smash built lightly be suitable for me? Maybe, but then again, would a Trail Pistol with a 150mm fork and a coil shock work as well? Possibly. We're only talking about a minuscule difference in shock stroke (55mm for the 130mm "Pistola", 57.5 for the 140mm Smash). Is that difference in shock stroke really going to impact keeping up with my XC buddies on downhill? I doubt it.
Overall, no matter which I choose, or which you choose, Guerrilla Gravity makes some awesome products. It is not, however, just the products, or the great prices, or the fact that they are American made, it's that all of those factors come together in a company that feels local. You feel like part of the crew when you ride one of these bikes. GG owners appreciate the American Made, American owned, call-em-up-and-ask-the-guy-who-welded-your-bike/designed-it type of company that GG represents. I don't consider myself a "MAGA" type of guy, but Guerrilla Gravity is a "America First" company that I'll vote for.