Few American institutions are as iconic as the garage band. Experiments in these sacred laboratories often appeal only to a select few, but then go on to change rock ‘n’ roll as we know it. Guerrilla Gravity composes its homegrown masterpieces in Denver, Colorado, and as the name implies, its creations are normally gravity-hungry beasts of the Rockies. But the Trail Pistol is aimed at those who need (or want) to do a lot more pedaling to scratch their itch.
We rode the Trail Pistol on 29-inch wheels, but you could run 27+ on the same frame and fork without disrupting its geometry. With 120 millimeters of rear travel and 130 millimeters up front, it sits on the short end of our mid-travel category, but its steep seat angle, slack head angle, short chainstays and long reach are all hand-me-downs from rowdier platforms.
Guerrilla Gravity has a refreshingly logical philosophy to frame sizing. Most brands force riders of the common 5-foot- 10-inch height to choose between a medium that’s too small or a large that’s too big. They’re a perfect fit on our medium test bike, though its wheelbase is longer than any large frame in this year’s mid-travel lineup. On rough terrain, we found it difficult to get the Trail Pistol up to speeds that warranted that long stance. The 120-millimeter 29ers we’re used to are more linear and supple, but Guerrilla Gravity takes a different approach on this platform. It’s intended to be run at a shallow 25-percent sag and has a notably progressive feel for the rest of its stroke. The unrelentingly rocky downs and ups of our test loops had us bouncing on the edge of control until we found the flowy spots. When the going wasn’t so rough, the Trail Pistol would finally hit its stride. It’s the perfect machine for anyone with smooth trails seeking some XC pep but with DH geometry, or who just wants to cover ground in open country.
And giving riders what they want is Guerrilla Gravity’s primary focus. Besides perks like choosing the frame and sticker color, the entire build kit can be up to you, and not at a premium. When you can build a Trail Pistol for just under $3,000, maybe the U.S.-made bike will cease to be a novelty and change the landscape of mountain biking once again.
MSRP: $2,120 (frame)
Q&A with Guerrilla Gravity
Briefly but viciously defend aluminum as a material still relevant in the carbon-dominated world of high end bikes.
Frame material is frequently overemphasized in marketing copy as a deciding factor of performance and weight. While both materials will have slightly different ride qualities, the execution of the platform is the most important factor for performance. As for weight, our aluminum frames are within a half pound of most competitors’ carbon models for the given bike segment. Plus, if your aluminum GG bike goes tomahawking down the trail you just pick it back up and keep riding.
We found that the rear suspension feel on the Trail Pistol was on the firmer, more progressive side. How would you characterize the nature of the Trail Pistol’s particular brand of squish and its benefits?
We build bikes for goin’ fast, so our platforms do run a more progressive leverage curve than average. This enables riders to run a more supple top stroke while also having bottom out resistance. The setup used in the Bible test is the stiffest one we would recommend: 25% sag, run in Crush Mode, with the 120 mm shock. With the Freedom Linkage, riders have options for tuning the platform based on their preferences and local terrain. While we have a base tune, we also work with our riders one-on-one to help them tune their suspension for their unique variables, recommending up to 30% sag, Plush Mode, and the 130 mm version. The progressiveness or linearity can further be tuned with volume spacers. The shock we sent had two volume spacers, removing even one of those will yield a more linear leverage curve. Here in Colorado, running 30% sag with the 130 mm shock option and three volume spacers is a favorite among local rippers.
Perhaps most importantly, tell us what making your bikes in the US has allowed you to do that you couldn’t have done otherwise.
Our US manufacturing is a cornerstone of the Guerrilla Gravity operation. As a company that is driven by the community, supporting and building the local business environment is an important aspect of community building. By doing everything locally, we are able to offer riders extensive customization options, allowing them to create a bike that’s unique to them for the same price point as a big box brand. Going beyond the marketing benefits of Made-in-America, we seek to also make a business case for designing and manufacturing our bikes in-house. It allows us to create a lean operation, running much lower inventory levels than is common in the bike industry. It allows to have a unique approach to linking bike design to manufacturing core competencies, two things that are typically siloed in the industry. Finally, it allows us to maintain tight quality controls.These aspects of the business case also contribute to us remaining price competitive with those that offshore their manufacturing.