Guerrilla Gravity Smash Review

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The Smash didn’t stay shiny and new long…

I’ve had the Guerrilla Gravity Smash on the trails for about 4 months of regular riding so time for an initial review. I ordered this bike sight unseen without any sort of demo so I had some apprehension. Both because it’s a totally new brand to me and because moving to the wagon wheels was also new. I had a few demos of other popular 29ers such as the Evil The Following & The Wreckoning as well as the Pivot Switchblade, YT Jeffsy and the Transition Smuggler. My demos all felt like the bigger wheels had a lot of promise, but the handling in particular felt really different and I was concerned how well a 29er would do on our slow tight uber techy forest trails.

Despite a few concerns I figured it was time to shit-or-get-off-the-pot when it came to a 29er. The GG Smash checked pretty much all my boxes and worst case if I decided I wasn’t a 29er guy at least I would know.

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Sadly this was the last time the bike looked so clean…

Frame

I’m 5’11” with 33″ pants inseam and typically ride a large frame and even an XL in some brands. I’m on a medium Smash. Yes…they are big long bikes. I could ride a large especially a modified extra-medium (medium seattube/standover and large top tube/downtube). I went medium because it was about the same size as my large Knolly Endo from a seated/standing fit perspective and had a wheelbase that’s like an extra 1″ longer. I just couldn’t get my head wrapped around an even longer bike for our tight forest trails.

With 780mm wide bars, a 50mm stem and a 1″ setback dropper the seated position is good. Due to the steep seattube angle I am a bit more forward over the BB than normal. It’s fine climbing and descending, but I notice it on longer rolling pedally sections. I think I have found my maximum steepness for a STA.

The build quality of the frame is excellent. Everything looks well executed. The welds look solid to my untrained eye. The powder coat and graphics are nice looking without any defects. The hardware is beefy and everything is suited to purpose. There are some nice touches like torque specs right on the bike so you don’t have to consult a manual. As you work your way around the frame it’s pretty clear a lot of thought went into the design and manufacturing of the bike. Weight without shock, but with all the hardware is ~6.8lbs, which is decent for a burly AL frame. I don’t need a featherweight bike, but when you see similar purpose/class AL frames coming in over 8lbs without shock you know GG spent the time to optimize their design so that it’s strong and light.

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If your friend gets a Smash get ready to see a lot of this view…

I appreciate the small details on the frame like room for a 620ml water bottle inside the frame as well as a decent sized frame bag. I requested a second set of bottle mounts under the downtube. Some people may not care, but I love not having to wear a pack for most rides. It’s been over a year since I wore a backpack riding [except for a couple rides where I hauled a DSLR around] and I don’t miss it one bit. If you are a packless convert GG bikes are ideal with so much water and gear storage available.

The design of the derailleur hanger and the bolt on 148mm rear axle is simple and effective. A bolt on axle does require you to grab a tool to tighten or remove, but I like how clean it looks and doesn’t snag on anything riding. I don’t remove my rear wheel often so it’s not much hassle for me. I did order a spare hanger since riding a niche brand like GG there is almost zero chance I’ll find one in a LBS.

A final point on the frame’s overall aesthetics. The Smash and all GG bikes have a refined yet industrial look to them that’s somewhat unique in the mountain bike world. I like it. It has a bad ass ready to crush the trails aggressive stance. I’d say reactions from other riders are about 70% positive and 30% negative.

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The RockShox Super Deluxe works really well with the Smash’s suspension design…

The Shock

You can run the Smash with an air shock or coil shock. I chose a RockShox Super Deluxe RCT coil. My whole build was aimed at creating a desert bike for high speed chunky terrain and the high back-to-back ride volumes typical when we head south to UT or AZ. A coil shock with reservoir seemed like the ticket for this type of mission. The Smash has fairly progressive 4-bar/horst-link suspension design with two rear shock-bolt options. Plush is the more linear leverage option for a softer ride and Crush is the more progressive leverage option for a firmer ride.  The geometry of the bike stays the same regardless of which one you use. So far I have only used Plush.

I’ll talk about how the overall suspension works below. As far as the Super Deluxe goes the best compliment I can give a shock is that once I am riding I don’t think about it and that’s true of this component. The 450lb spring GG suggested works well for our slower speed chunky trails. I am getting around ~30% sag seated in the pedalling position and using full travel every ride without any harsh bottom outs. I’ve got the LSC wide open and just enough LSR to keep the shock matched to the fork. I run basically no pre-load. I tighten the retention collar until the spring stops banging around and leave it there.

I don’t use the climb switch on this shock. It’s very aggressive and almost a lock out. I don’t really have any need for lockouts unless I am road riding and I try to avoid that. I’d like it more if the climb switch added a bit more LSC without getting too crazy.

On the trail the shock disappears from my mind and the back end of the bike just takes care of business without any drama.

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The MRP Ribbon Coil fork is also made in Colorado and matches the rear coil nicely…

The Fork

Staying with the desert brawler mission I spec’d a 150mm MRP Ribbon Coil in front. MRP suggested the medium weight spring. I’m running the LSC wide open, stock pre-load and maybe 20% closed on the Ramp Control cartridge. I’ve got the rebound set fairly fast front and rear. I ordered the bolt on 110mm axle for the Ribbon to match the rear. I don’t pull the front wheel often so I don’t mind grabbing a tool to do so. The clean look and narrower front end are sweet.

The coil fork is buttery smooth yet surprisingly supportive. It just eats up the terrain. The rockier the better. For stiffness the chassis handles my 200lbs ready to ride weight with no complaints. I’m pretty middle of the road when it comes to riding fury so I don’t test gear the way some people do. On the other hand we ride steep techy rough terrain all the time and I am not light so my bikes do take some abuse.

Just like the Super Deluxe shock the best thing I can say about the Ribbon Coil is that it was easy to setup and once I start riding I don’t think about it at all. It just works.

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SRAM GX Eagle just works…no muss…no fuss…

Drivetrain

I’ve got 175mm Race Face Next R cranks (28T round ring) mated to a SRAM GX Eagle setup. This is my 3rd pair of RF Next cranks and they work just as well as the other ones I have. They are light, stiff and have given me no troubles at all. The GX Eagle offers wide range gearing with fast precise shifts. The 28T x 50T low gear is very low even with 29er wheels. I don’t use it much, but it’s nice to have as a bailout gear. The spacing between the rest of the easy cogs is useful and I don’t feel any awkwardly big jumps in gearing.

Our trails are on the slow end of things so I’ll have to wait until I hit the road with the Smash before I can open her up and see what the small cogs feel like in action.

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Brakes

The Smash is sporting SRAM Code RSC stoppers with 200mm/180mm rotors. My recent frustrations with multiple sets of XT brakes developing unfixable wandering bite point issues made me take a chance on SRAM. So far it’s been a good experience. The Codes offer an incredible amount of stopping power, but it comes on more gradually than my Shimano brakes. That extra modulation is nice on steep loose terrain to keep the wheels from skidding. I’ve heard the bleed process on these brakes is dead easy. I’ve only done a partial bleed so far and it was drama free.

My thought when ordering the Codes was to let Shimano figure out their problems and then I’d buy the next generation Shimano brakes. After using the Codes I am not so sure. There are definitely things I like about both options and it’s possible I may stick with SRAM next time. The braking power is really impressive as long as they stay reliable they’ll be winners.

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Wheels & Tires

The wheels are DT Swiss 1501 complete wheels. They are one of GG’s standard options. 30mm internal width aluminum rims and 36T star ratchet hubs. Mine came with standard 6 bolt disc rotor mounts, but I understand centerlock mounts are typical. My only real concern with these wheel is that they are 28 spoke. I would have preferred 32H for simplified sourcing of new rims and less drama if/when a spoke gets damaged. That said so far they’ve been fine bashing into roots and rocks in Coastal BC. No dings. No dents. No wobbles.  Weight is spec’d at 1752g for the pair, but I didn’t weigh them. Picking them up they feel pretty light.

I stuck with my tried and true Continental Trail Kings in 2.4″ width. I know I love this tire so it’s one less variable when thinking about how the Smash performs. This width works well with 30mm wide rims. They roll fast, grip well and are durable in our terrain. The wheels came taped and with valves from GG. I aired up the TKs with a reservoir floor pump that provides an initial blast of air before leaving you to pump away. The tires setup tubeless no problem and have stayed inflated without drama. 4 months and no flats. I like it.

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I’m still smiling even after 5hrs in the saddle…

Cockpit

GG put Race Face 780mm Next R 35mm clamp 10mm rise carbon bars on the bike with an Affect 50mm stem. I skipped the stock grips for some Ergon GA2 fat grips. This bar/stem combo works well with the HTA/fork offset. The steering is natural and seems to always be just the speed I want.

To make the bike every more desert friendly I swapped in a 31.8mm diameter Spank Spank Vibrocore 800mm bar (cut down to ~780mm) and some of the skinner “standard” Ergon GA2 grips. I’m hoping to get a bit more flex and vibration damping from those bars and the thinner grips seem more comfortable.

A 175mm 9 Point 8 dropper with a 25mm setback head and a WTB Pure saddle provides an efficient pedalling position and drops out of the way nicely when things get rowdy.

I’ve enjoyed Spike Spank pedals on my other bikes so I grabbed another set for the Smash. Nothing fancy, but they are comfortable for long days and my Five Ten shoes stick to them well.

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The Smash climbs fire roads and technical sections like a champ…

The Ride

Let me start with the two things I was a bit worried about when I ordered the Smash and get those out of the way first. 1) slow speed handling on our tight forest trails here on Vancouver Island and 2) climbing (both techy slow speed jank-fests and all day mega shred epics). Building a bike made to excel in wide open high speed deserts required some choices that on paper suggested they’s be less than ideal for our slow speed tech trails not to mention the weight and poor efficiency of a coil horst link suspension design. Okay actually there was a third concern – adapting to big slow to accelerate and hard to change direction 29er wheels.

My first reaction jumping on the Smash was “Holy cow! This doesn’t ride like a 29er!” It took me all of 10 pedal strokes to feel at home on this big long bike. Closing my eyes there was nothing about it that made me think twice about the wheel size or wheelbase. It just worked and felt good. Adaptation was a 60 second process. Totally unlike the other 29ers I demo’d. Colour me stoked!

My next surprise was how it climbed. I would have told you my initial ride speeds up and down were average or slow. They sure didn’t feel remarkable. Yet I set PRs all over the place including fire road climbs. Unleashing the Smash on some of the harder techy climbs in our area saw it just roll up stuff that used to really challenge me with less effort than ever. I cleaned stuff reliably that was 50/50 in the past. I’ve completed 2hr+ alpine climbs (Lord of the Squirrels) with the Smash in Plush mode (no climb switch) without a second thought.

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The Smash at home in the forest…

Although tight turns are noticeable I have yet to find anything I can get around on my 275er that the Smash has a real problem with. The biggest issue I have is that 780mm+ bars don’t fit between some of the trees on our trails. So I either have to accept that or cut the bars down. So far I am just dealing with it.

I had no doubt the Smash would lay waste to the descents. The combination of big wheels and coil suspension Baja trucks through anything I come across. Being a bit heavier just keeps the Smash on line and allows for higher speeds with lots of control.

Yes the Smash is amazing. The various components and design elements come together in a way that they are greater than the sum of their parts. Yes it’s metal. Yes it’s not super light. Yes it’s a 29er. It still blows away all of the competition that I have ridden.

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This bike is so versatile it’s ideal for exploring…

Areas for Improvement

Okay re-reading this review it sounds pretty fanboi-esque. Sorry…I’m just super stoked on this bike and I can’t help myself. But, no bike is perfect so here is a list of stuff I’d like to see changed if I had a magic wand.

At ~34lbs the Smash ain’t light. I’d love to have the exact same performance at 30lbs. Problem is I am not willing to give up on some of the heavy bits (dual coil suspension and burly tires) that make this bike rock. Dropping 4lbs isn’t out of the question at all, but then this wouldn’t be the desert rig I wanted. So rather than mess with success I have been pondering building up a light 29er as a compliment to the Smash. Maybe a air sprung GG Trail Pistol?

GG ships these bikes in two boxes. Frame in one and wheels + accessories in the other. They are very well packed, but two boxes are expensive to get to Canada. When I get another GG bike (note I said when not if because I am a realist!) I’ll either get it shipped to a friend in the US or just take a road trip to CO to pick it up. The money I’d save would pay for a lot of gas and an excuse to ride in CO ain’t a bad thing.

This is a long bike with coil suspension so it’s not the most playful poppy ride at slow speeds. The faster you go the more “alive” the bike becomes. I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise when it says “I like to go fast!” right on the top tube. Whatever speed you are going the Smash makes it feel slower because you have so much control and stability.

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I need a new bike pose! So many thumbs up!

The big wheels do best when they are up to speed. So charging anything and everything really pays off. OTOH crawling up a tech climb at just above stall speed requires more leg power to accelerate the big hoops. This gets mitigated a bit since the big wheels don’t fall into the holes as much, but you’ll feel the extra weight from time to time.

Another issue with the big wheels is the need for low gearing and the need to work the gears more. My low gear on my Knolly is 28T x 42T on my GG it’s 28T x 50T. On the 275er I tend to shift less and just stand and hammer to get over stuff. I find I am shifting more on the 29er.

I can fit two water bottles on my Smash, but they are both small. Given the reservoir shock, frame bag space in the main triangle and already tall top tube you can appreciate why that’s the case. For the under the DT bottle I would have moved the mounts lower so I could fit a full size bottle there.

The two position rear shock mount doesn’t change the geo…it just tweaks the leverage ratio. I wouldn’t actually mind if I could slack out the bike and drop the BB by moving that mount. That would make the Smash even more versatile than it is now. I’ve got a -1 deg Works Component headset on my desk ready to install to see how the Smash works with a slightly more aggressive front end. So geo changes are possible as is, but it’s not as convenient as moving a shock mount.

The Smash has clearance for 2.5″ tires for sure and some 2.6″ tires…mostly depending on tire height. I wouldn’t mind it having room for all 2.6″ tires. Wide sub-plus rubber is becoming more and more common and it would be great to fit a 2.6″ tire without worrying about frame contact.

This frame uses a rear wheel with the 148mm hub offset towards the driveside by 3mm. This gives you a stronger wheel and helps with clearance for wide tires in the short chainstays without going to a less common 157mm hub. Most 148mm wheels can be used with a couple minutes adjustment with a spoke wrench, but it does mean swapping wheels between a GG and non-GG 29er is not a plug and play operation.

The steep STA of the GG frame means I need to use a 1″ setback dropper to get my saddle into a comfy and efficient pedalling position for my body. Unfortunately at the moment there is one quality dropper with a 1″ setback and decent adjustment range. So I’m using a 9.8 dropper on the bike. I’d like to have more than one option in case 9.8 stops making that product.

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The Smash was sad this was pretty much the top…

The Bottom Line

If you are thinking about a GG bike my advice would be to go for it. I’m really glad I took the risk. This bike was designed and built in Colorado, but it feels right at home here on BC’s deep forest coastal trails. I’m excited to get it down to CO and UT to see how it performs closer to where it was born. 🙂

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I love never having to wear a backpack or fannypack…
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4 thoughts on “Guerrilla Gravity Smash Review

    1. I’ll keep my eyes open for something that seems like a good fit. I haven’t come across any cage that moves the holes far enough down without going to the extent of WT B-Rad setup which I don’t want to bother with.

      Like

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