2021 Guerrilla Gravity Gnarvana
Test Location: Washington
Duration of Test (so far): 1 month
Size Tested: 3
Geometry: See Below
Build Overview (as tested):
- Drivetrain: Sram GX Eagle
- Brakes: Hayes Dominion A4
- Forks: Rockshox ZEB Ultimate & Manitou Mezzer Pro
- Rear Shocks: Fox Float X2 & Manitou Mara Pro
- Wheels: Sun Ringle Duroc SD37 Pro
Wheel Size: 29′′
Travel: 160 mm rear / 170 mm front
Blister’s Measured Weight (as tested; w/o pedals; w/ ZEB Ultimate & Mara Pro): 32.8 lbs / 14.88 kg
- Fameset: $2195
- Ride Build Kit: $3,895
- Rally Build Kit: $4,795
- Race Build Kit: $6,395
[Prices listed are starting prices for each build; Guerrilla Gravity offers a great deal of customization through a configurator on their website, and further pricing and component spec details can be found there.]
Reviewer: 6′, 165 lbs / 183 cm, 74.8 kg
Earlier this year, Guerrilla Gravity introduced a fifth model built on their modular frame platform — and their longest travel 29er to date — the 160 mm rear-travel / 170 mm front-travel Gnarvana.
We’ve already reviewed their other two full-suspension 29ers, the Trail Pistol and Smash, and have now been spending time on the Gnarvana. We’ll post a full review in a bit, but for now, here we’re going over some of the details of the bike, plus our initial ride impressions.
Guerrilla Gravity calls the Gnarvana “the no limit trail bike,” and expands on that, saying:
“ripping down the steepest, chunkiest, fall-line trails is a zen-like experience, simultaneously losing all sense of self and becoming one with your bike. This flow state requires the right tool for the job, a bike that knows no limits, instilling a daredevil’s confidence and monk’s focus. Chasing this feeling is what inspired us to develop the Gnarvana.
Gnarvana pairs 160 mm of Freedom-Linkage-controlled travel with 29” wheels to create a bike fast enough to outrun your professional distractions and release yourself from terrestrial bonds. Come as you are and ascend to the next level with Gnarvana.”
It should come as no surprise that Guerrilla Gravity is emphasizing the descending prowess of their long-travel 29er (or weaving musical references into their product descriptions; listen to our podcast with them for more on that), and it’s worth noting that they’re not emphasizing the versatility or climbing abilities of the bike. It’s refreshing to see a company not try to claim that their long-travel bike excels literally everywhere and comes without compromise, and while the Gnarvana is definitely meant to be able to climb to the top and let you earn your turns, its main purpose is to descend, quickly. So, how they’d go about accomplishing that?
The Frame & Modular Platform
As with all of Guerrilla Gravity’s full-suspension models, the Gnarvana is built around their modular frame platform, and features their “Revved Carbon” front triangle and aluminum rear end. We’ve discussed that system in a lot more detail in the prior two GG reviews, as well as our episode of Bikes and Big Ideas with the Guerrilla Gravity crew, and you should check those out for more. In short, though, all five bikes — which have rear travel ranging from 120 mm to 165 mm, and models with both 27.5 and 29 inch wheels — use the same front triangle, chainstays, and rocker link. Swapping the frame between models is accomplished just by changing the seatstays, and possibly the rear shock and / or lower headset cup, depending on the particular models in question.
Of course, the different models take different-size forks, potentially different wheel sizes, and, depending on intended usage, some other changes in component spec might be appropriate as well. But what Guerrilla Gravity has done here is unique in the bike world, and opens up some interesting possibilities for riders to convert their bike to suit different terrain and types of rides without requiring an entirely separate bike.
Converting between multiple models isn’t quite a quick, trail-side swap, but it is easy; remove the rear wheel, brake caliper and derailleur; undo the pivot hardware near the dropout and at the rocker link to remove the seatstays; remove the rear shock, then reverse that order of operations with the new seatstay assembly and swap the fork (or change its travel) to match. If you’ve got the process dialed, and have two forks, it’s a 20-30 minute job.
The Gnarvana does feature a few notably different features than the Trail Pistol and Smash that we previously reviewed. The shorter-travel offerings both feature a flip chip at the rear shock mount that toggles the bike between “Plush” and “Crush” modes. The Gnarvana dispenses with that option, and has a single setting for the linkage. The Gnarvana also makes the change to the SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger, whereas the other four models (which were released earlier) feature the Syntace X-12 derailleur hanger system.
Common to the Guerrilla Gravity frames, including the Gnarvana, are their reach-adjust headset cups, which alter the reach and wheelbase by 10 mm (just reverse the drop-in cups to toggle between the two settings), and a slick, semi-internal cable routing system that puts all three cables in a groove on the left side of the downtube, with a bolt-on cover to keep them hidden.
Many of the other increasingly “standard” features are here, too, like protection around the bottom bracket / downtube, chainstay, and seatstay; ISCG05 tabs for a chainguide / bashguard; a threaded bottom bracket; and a water bottle mount under the top tube and an accessory mount above the bottom bracket. For tire clearance, Guerrilla Gravity says the Gnarvana will clear up to a 2.5” x 29” tire.
All Guerrilla Gravity frames are made in Colorado, and they have a “lifetime frame support program,” which you can learn more about here.
Our test bike began its life as the mid-tier build on the Trail Pistol (called “Ride 1” at the time; now referred to as “Rally”), with a SRAM GX drivetrain, RockShox Pike RC fork, SRAM Guide RS brakes, and DT Swiss XM1501 i30 wheels. We mostly carried that build over when converting the bike to a Smash, but the Gnarvana called for some more significant changes, so our test bike no longer really resembles any of Guerrilla Gravity’s current “stock” builds.
On the Gnarvana, I’m running the same GX drivetrain (though the longer chainstays of the Gnarvana required a longer chain), but switched the brakes to Hayes Dominion A4s, the wheels to Sun Ringle Duroc SD37 Pros, and have been testing both the RockShox ZEB Ultimate fork and Manitou Mezzer Pro Fork on the bike, both in 170mm-travel, 44mm-offset configurations. I’ve also been comparing both the new 2021 Fox Float X2 Factory and the Manitou Mara Pro rear shocks on the bike.
I’ll say more about all those component options in full reviews to come, and for now, I’ll just note that those sorts of decisions are worth thinking about if you’re buying a Guerrilla Gravity bike with the intention of using it in multiple configurations. Their online build configurator offers a good range of component options for each bike, but the lists of options do vary depending on which frame you’re starting with. For example, if you’re considering running the bike as both a Gnarvana and a Trail Pistol, the brake and wheel options differ significantly depending on which you base your build around. Give your use case some thought and plan accordingly.
If you were starting from scratch, Guerrilla Gravity offers the Gnarvana in three full builds, or as a frameset for $2195. The base, $3895 “Ride” build comes with a SRAM NX drivetrain, SRAM Code R brakes, RockShox ZEB Select fork, and RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ fork. The mid-tier, $4795 “Rally” build comes with a SRAM GX drivetrain, the same SRAM Code R brakes, RockShox ZEB Ultimate fork, and a Fox DPX2 Performance shock. The high-end, $6395 “Race” build comes with a SRAM X01 drivetrain, SRAM Code RSC brakes, Fox 38 Factory Grip2 fork, and Fox Factory X2 shock. All full builds come standard with a 2.5” Maxxis Assegai EXO+ up front and a 2.4” Maxxis DHR II EXO+ out back.
It’s also worth highlighting that Guerrilla Gravity’s online build configurator allows you to significantly customize / upgrade any build, including a lot of different options for suspension, drivetrain, brakes, and wheels (including Shimano drivetrains and brakes, and suspension from MRP, DVO, and PUSH).
As one would expect, given the added travel of the Gnarvana and the fact that Guerrilla Gravity is positioning it as the burly, descending-oriented option among their 29ers, it’s significantly slacker and features a notably longer wheelbase than the 145mm-travel Smash.
At 6’ / 183 cm and if I select “full throttle” for riding style, Guerrilla Gravity’s online sizing tool suggests the Size 3 frame, with the headset in the long position and a 50 mm stem (switching the riding style to “all around” suggests the same setup, but with the headset in the short position). For reference, here’s the full geometry chart for the Gnarvana:
At 63.7°, the Gnarvana’s headtube angle is a degree slacker than the Smash, and its chainstays grow considerably, from 434 to 450 mm. Those changes, combined with a 20 mm longer fork, increase the wheelbase from 1249 to 1273 mm. The cockpit also changes notably; since the bikes share a front triangle, going to a slacker headtube angle and taller fork effectively rotates the front triangle back, decreasing the reach (from 481 to 470 mm), increasing the stack (628 to 636 mm), and slackening the seat tube angle (from 77° effective / 73.1° actual to 76° effective / 72.1° actual). The effective top tube shrinks by a relatively modest 3 mm, from 628 to 625 mm. (All of these comparisons are for a size 3 frame, with the headset in the long position.)
As we seem to be saying with most bikes these days, the Gnarvana’s geometry numbers would have seemed rather extreme just a few years ago, but are in line with modern norms for a long-travel Enduro bike; if anything, the chainstays are a touch longer than average, and the reach is perhaps a touch shorter than some Large frames, but neither is a wild outlier. On paper, the Gnarvana certainly looks like it should be a very capable bike that’s comfortable at speed, and in steep, rough terrain, but how does it actually feel on the trail?
Initial Ride Impressions
I’ve got a dozen or so rides on the Gnarvana now, and it’s living up to its billing as a capable, long-travel Enduro bike. It should come as no great surprise that a 160 / 170 mm travel 29er with modern geometry is comfortable and composed smashing through chunky terrain at speed, and the Gnarvana certainly is that.
But for this class of bike, the Gnarvana also pedals respectably well, comes in at a reasonable weight (ours weighs 32.8 lbs / 14.88 kg with the ZEB & Mara Pro), and doesn’t feel entirely like a one-trick-pony that only wants to descend at top speed. Compared to, say, my Nicolai G16 — an admittedly extreme example — the Gnarvana feels a bit like an already burly Trail bike that’s been stretched and slackened and given more suspension travel to make it more capable on the descent, rather than a downhill bike that’s been given a decent pedaling position and a bit less suspension travel to make it go uphill better. The Gnarvana offers a blend of traits that make it seem like it should work really well for a bunch of people, including some who wouldn’t normally be completely adamant about getting a very aggressive, long-travel bike.
The Bottom Line (For Now)
The Guerrilla Gravity Gnarvana is shaping up to be a very capable, long-travel 29er that doesn’t sacrifice all versatility at the altar of descending prowess. It’s certainly a big, long, burly bike, but it also still pedals well and doesn’t feel unduly ponderous at lower speeds and in mellower terrain. We’ll be spending a lot more time on the Gnarvana, and will go much deeper in a full review to come. But so far I’m very impressed with what Guerrilla Gravity has done here, in building a remarkably versatile bike — both the Gnarvana itself, and especially the entire modular platform family of bikes.