PINKBIKE FIELD TRIP
ROCKY MOUNTAIN GROWLER
Doesn't hold back on the descents.
Words by Sarah Moore, Photography by Tom Richards
Next up is the Rocky Mountain Growler 40, the final hardtail in our Field Trip value bike series
. It's an aluminum 29er that comes with a 140mm fork and retails for $1,669 USD. Rocky Mountain bills it as “an incredibly capable hardtail” and with its 64 degree head tube angle, it's the slackest of all the bikes we rode on the Sunshine Coast.
Rocky did include some of the features you’d hope to see on pricier bikes, with all the cables running inside the frame through rubber grommets, including the dropper post line, a threaded bottom bracket, and a Boost thru-axle rear end. Our Growler 40 is the middle child of the bunch, with the most expensive Growler 50 model retailing for $2,099 USD Growler 50 and the Growler 20 priced at $1,039 USD.
Rocky Mountain Growler 40
Fork travel: 140mm
Wheel size: 29"
Frame construction: aluminum
Head angle: 64 degrees
Chainstay length: 435mm
Reach: 440mm (medium)
Weight: 31.2 lbs / 14.2 kg
Price: $1,699 USD
More info: www.bikes.com
Let's talk about that 64-degree head angle for a second. When you sit on a full-suspension bike, the rear end sags just like the front, meaning that the bike gets a bit lower to the ground and maybe a nip slacker, but when you sit on a hardtail it’s only the fork that sags, obviously. That means that hardtails get a little steeper when you’re riding them. Their dynamic geo is steeper than the static geo, to sound all official. The seat tube gets a 75-degree angle and, again, this will actually get a tiny bit steeper rather than slacker as it does on a full-suspension bike.
All sizes come with a 435mm rear-end, with the reach running from 425mm on the size small to 500mm on the XL. Our medium sits at 450mm. Climbing
The Growler’s focus is clearly about having as much fun as possible, and I think we all know where that usually happens: on the descents. So the thing we were curious about before riding the bike was how much that would take away from its climbing abilities. Our climb trail snakes up through a few tight spots here and there and definitely had some slippery roots to trip you up, but the Growler went through it all just as well as the steeper bikes.
That being said, the steering isn't as quick and precise and it's not going to be quite as adept at the really tricky stuff. It’s also not a bike that’s going to encourage you to chase a fast time up anything. Of course it’s efficient, but the WTB rubber makes you feel like you're chained to one spot whenever the trail was rolling slow. We were grateful for the wide-range Deore gearing in those moments.
The Growler is best suited to a rider that's going to pedal it up the mountain at whatever pace is comfortable, with the ride being about fun instead of fitness. It’s not a climber’s bike, but I doubt that’s what a potential Growler owner will be interested in. Descending
You know what a Growler owner probably is interested in? What happens on the way back down. That's where the Growler is leaps ahead of the other hardtails we had for the Value Field Test. Actually, it’s ahead of some of the full-suspension bikes as well. It all comes down to that progressive geometry and spec choices made to suit aggressive riding.
The position with the 800mm wide handlebar, low slung frame, and how the relatively slack head angle puts the front wheel a bit farther out in front of you all combine to instantly make the Rocky feel more ready for anything than the other bikes. One of our test trails was a high-speed descent covered in embedded round rocks and slippery roots, exactly the kind of place that can surprise you quickly, but the Growler was much more stable and relaxed about things than the Norco or Canyon. Instead of reacting to what the front-end was doing and constantly being on the edge of control, the bike’s calmness gives you more time to prepare and think ahead about what’s coming.
The Growler's composure gives you time to actually look at the trail more, and so you can find better (or just more fun!) lines. As Mike Levy said, "It’s the only hardtail on test that I rode like a full-suspension bike - similar lines, similar moves, similar commitment." If you're going to continue to push the limits on this bike, do yourself a favour and upgrade the brakes since the 2-piston Shimano brakes that come on the bike don't have enough initial bite and lack power.
Incredible on rough, fast descents+
Spec well-suited to aggressive riding
Handling not as quick and responsive as traditional hardtails-
Can feel sluggish on mellower trails
The 2021 Pinkbike Field Test was made possible with support from Toyota.
Video: Jason Lucas, Max Barron
Editing: Devan Francis