Editor's Note: Mtbr welcomes longtime forum member Kent Robertson to the front page. Kent - or KRob - has been riding and evaluating bikes for two decades. This year, he and testing partner Ben Slabaugh headed to Moab, Utah, for the annual Outerbike consumer demo event where they rode as many bikes as possible. These posts are first ride impressions only - not full reviews. However, they stand by their opinions, and feel like they are good at feeling out the true identity, strengths, weaknesses, and soul of any given bike. For each session, they attempted to get set-up and suspension as dialed as possible. Test rides usually last 30-60 minutes. All bikes are then rated on a scale of 1-5 for visual impression/looks, climbing ability, descending, cornering, general agility, fit, and an intangible factor. Lowest possible score is 7. Highest is 35. [/B]
Check out the entire Outerbike Test Sessions archive and see all of Kent's First Ride Reviews.
It's no secret that I've been smitten with the new wave of short to mid-travel aggressive geometry 29ers. Two of them topped my list of favorites from last year's Interbike test, The Evil Following and Canfield Riot. It's also no secret that I fell in love with the Megatrail, Guerilla Gravity's 150mm travel all mountain ripper, I rode at Outerbike in 2014.
So naturally when the Denver-based company announced their own 120mm travel 29er my ears perked up. When I learned it came with 148mm rear wheel spacing and could accommodate 29er (crush mode) and 27.5+ (plush mode) wheels my interest really piqued. Crush Mode and Plush Mode are accessed via the shock mount flip chips which optimizes the geometry and suspension for 29er crushing or 27.5 plus plushness.
This dual-position RockShox Pike was sturdy and responded well, but I liked it better in the 140mm setting than the 120mm.
A perusal of the numbers told me the Trail Pistol is ready for most anything. Head angle is a rowdy 66.6 degrees in crush mode, and 67.3mm in plush mode for those fast and furious descents. A steep seat tube angle puts the rider in an ideal pedaling position at 75.8 degrees in the 29er setting, and 76.6 with 27.5+ setting. The effective top tube and reach numbers are super rangy allowing for nice short stems and most will find that sizing down will fit like the bigger size on their current bike.
We rode the medium, which is right in the suggested sizing range for a 5-foot-11 rider, even though I normally ride size large. When I hopped on the bike it felt good, maybe even a touch on the long side. I certainly can't imagine riding a large. In fact, even with short 429mm chainstays, the wheel base is plenty long at 1207mm even in the medium frame.
Never been to Outerbike? Find out what this consumer demo event is all about.
But no one buys bikes based solely on the numbers so we took the Trail Pistol for a ride. Out on the trail it did feel bigger/longer than most of the other size large 29ers we rode. The frame is burly and the build we rode felt a bit heavy, especially compared to the carbon 29ers we tested.
This translated into less responsiveness than the lighter 29ers, but some of this perceived sluggishness could also be blamed on our end of the day tired legs. To its credit the Trail Pistol did bend itself around the flowy trails we rode without feeling like a battleship, and it was fairly easy to get the front end up thanks to the short chainstays. The standing and hammering position also felt comfortable and commanding.
As speeds picked up the Trail Pistol really started to come alive and it felt solid and controlled on rough descents and did not get knocked off its line at all. In fact, the faster you went, the better it felt. The rear end didn't feel that plush but I think with some additional tuning or a different shock that could be substantially improved.
I also learned that you can order the Trail Pistol with a longer shock to up the rear travel to 130mm, which would provide a little more cushion when the geo and take-no-prisoners character of the frame got you in over your head.
It's also worth noting that with Guerrilla Gravity you can choose any one of a dozen or so frame colors. The bike also has a built-in NUTS (necessary under the saddle) bracket for holding a tube and tire changing essential. We also liked the curved "hunch back" shape of the top tube that allows room for a water bottle.
The RockShox Monarch shock was just okay, but we felt the bike could be a little more plush with something else back there.
So who is the Trail Pistol for? I think anyone who wants a well-built, solid, aluminum, aggressive 29er with great versatility would be pleased. You also get that one-off, made in the USA semi-custom exclusiveness at a reasonable price. Plus the Guerrilla Gravity guys are terrific to work with and will bend over backwards to get you set up with a bike that fits you and be there to service your needs after the sale. With some smart choices on wheels and components, I'm sure you could build up the Trail Pistol in the 27-28 pound range and make it feel nearly as responsive as those carbon wonder bikes we rode, yet still maintain that burly, built to thrash quality Guerilla Gravity is best known for.
Outerbike Test Session Score: 28 out of 35
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