2020 Rocky Mountain Growler 20

Words Andrew Major
Photos Deniz Merdano (Unless Noted)
Date Dec 9, 2019

Good Geometry Is Free

When I started mountain biking, a solid number of folks were still riding hardtails and most bikes had very similar geometry regardless of price or manufacturer. The difference between an XC fork and a DH fork was 20mm of travel. The difference between a good fork and a cheap fork was negated when the high-end option's damper blew up on the second ride. I knew folks who dumped hundreds of dollars into the fanciest brakes but lost any performance advantage as soon as it started raining.

In that context, the first two solid pieces of bike buying advice I received were:

1) Buy the bike you can afford now and go ride. Replace parts as they break or wear out.

2) Invest in a good frame, it's the heart of the bicycle and you'll be breaking and wearing everything else out anyways.

There have been times over the years, especially recently, where I've doubted both those tropes some. For example, there has been an exceptional progression in geometry that has largely been segregated to more expensive bikes. There are also a lot of advancements in componentry that enter the buying equation at such a pricing level that it's easy to appreciate why many people perpetuate the myth that mountain biking, at least on the North Shore, has a very expensive barrier to entry.

Enter the 1,000 USD Rocky Mountain Growler 20. There are more expensive frame-only options in its use category that comparatively look like they belong in the last decade. The aluminum frame is well put together and full-featured with a Boost 148 thru-axle rear end, tapered internal headtube, and BSA bottom bracket that make it future proof and upgrade-friendly.


For 2020 the whole Growler lineup sports 29 x 2.6” rubber with clearance for more.


The WTB Trail Boss is a predictable tire that brings solid traction to most sport surfaces.

There's a sentiment rising that 'good geometry is free' which is to say that with a minimal difference in manufacturing costs between progressive vs. regressive geometry, the real comparison between a $1,000 mountain bike hardtail with a 64° HTA and one with a 68° HTA is that one company gets it. And the other company? We can only hypothesize what's going on there but suffice it to say that their new budget mountain bikes are essentially irrelevant for aggressive riding in real mountains. No other upgrade is going to change how a bike performs like good geometry.

When I say irrelevant, I'm not suggesting trails are suddenly rendered un-rideable on bikes with 'outdated' geometry. Nor am I saying those bikes with older geometry aren't wicked fun. Heck, I'm the guy clamouring for more 1-1/8" fork options.


No clutch derailleur means for a pile of noise when hammering down technical trails.


I never lost a chain despite all the clatter thanks to this nifty chain guide.

A Note On Used Bikes

When you are thinking about a bike in this price range, it makes sense to instead consider something used. A quick peruse through some Buy & Sell listings doesn't bring up a lot of bikes at this price that look to be out-of-the-box rideable and none of them give the rider a taste of where geometry has gone recently; and modern hardtail geometry is really good.

RMB Growler 20 NSMB Deniz resize.jpg

Shimano's low-end brakes feel great with long levers and tons of modulation. Power was acceptable for the price of the bike.

RMB Growler 20 NSMB Deniz resize (2).jpg

The 142mm WTB Volt saddle is a great choice. Rocky went with a 780mm handlebar.

RMB Growler 20 NSMB Deniz resize (3).jpg

These 'resin only' rotors still piss me off and I wish the wheels weren't Shimano Center Lock but I give Rocky a pass at this price level.

Replacing and upgrading parts as you go is a great way to get riding on a budget, whether buying new or used. But, if that's the plan and this is the budget then why not start with a totally fresh Growler 20 and replace parts as they wear out? Some used bikes in the $1,000 range have dropper posts but most likely they need a rebuild - at most of the cost of buying a bargain post. Some of those used bikes have forks that are nicer on paper but unless they are in good shape, they may not match the Growler's Suntour.

There are some fantastic deals to be had on the used market but it is buyer beware and there are also some terrible money pits. Other than the grips there is nothing that absolutely needs to be changed on the Growler 20 out of the box but for most used rigs I can come up with a long upgrade list.

Is That Geo Chart Accurate?

Going back to upgrade potential, the outstanding feature of the new Growler 20 is that it has the same aluminum frame as its more expensive Growler family members; the Growler 40 & 50 at 1,600 and 1,900 USD, respectively. Impressively, I think the two colour options for the Growler 20 look just as premium as the more expensive versions. But what about that shared geometry chart?

It's true that the different fork, suspension travel, and choices between the three levels of Growler make it unlikely that the geometry is entirely accurate for all three models. Does it matter? I'd argue that when your static head tube angle is 64° the difference of half a degree in either direction isn't a huge deal.

Rocky 2020 Growler Geo NSMB.jpg

Totally current number with a sweet frame shared at all levels of the platform. 64° head angle on a 1,000 USD bike. Good geometry should have no relation to price. Thanks Rocky Mountain!

I'm a general believer of the theory that a hardtail should be about 2° slacker in the head tube angle than a full suspension bike for similar usage. I like that Rocky hasn't gone too far with the seat tube angles (STA) at 75° static. Keeping in mind that with sag the STA on a hardtail actually gets steeper and the Growler 20 is borderline too-steep for what works for my physiology. I'm running the saddle pushed back and if upgrading to a dropper post I'd choose one with some setback.

Sizing the Rocky Mountain Growler 20

I've been riding a medium and, as with the Carbon Santa Cruz Chameleon, there are lots of places the smaller snappier frame is really fun. That said, I would certainly be choosing to size up to a large if this was my bike. This comes down to personal preference and I'm more likely to be found on a janky single track than a paved pump track. If you are sizing down, do note that the stock post is a touch on the short side for a bike with such a steep seat tube angle.

If the 435mm rear center sounds long then remember this conversation because wheelbase is the new head tube angle. It takes some more effort to get the front end up compared to hardtails with short stays but the difference in stability is excellent. I'd love to see all mountain bikes coming with size-specific chainstays to make for better-balanced weight between the wheels. Throwing out an example, from small to large the Growler could run 425mm, 430mm, and 435mm.

Rocky Growler 20 NSMB AndrewM (14).JPG

Fun-sized? I was on a medium for this test period but would choose a large for my own bike for the trade-off in added stability. Photo: AM

Rocky Growler 20 NSMB AndrewM (5).JPG

The only place the medium was an issue was the seat post length. With steeper seat tube angles comes the need for a more usable saddle height and drop. Photo: AM

Rocky Growler 20 NSMB AndrewM (9).JPG

I didn't change out the stem from stock and the Growler never felt cramped. The 2020 medium actually fits me better than the 2019 large but at the end of the day, I'd still choose large in 2020. Photo: AM

That may be a pipe dream, but size-specific wheel size shouldn't be. I'd love to see Rocky Mountain bring back the XS size featured on the 2019 Growler and split the wheel sizes with 27 x 2.8" for the XS, Small, and Medium, and 29 x 2.6" for the Medium-Large, Large, XL, and XXL. I also added a couple of sizes in there but that's just because I really believe in the product.

Component Notes

The choice of a WTB Volt saddle is solid, I threw on my own pedals, and I swapped out the hard plastic grips. The grips are the only thing on the Growler 20 that I'd qualify as awful and there's a strong case, at this price level, to just glue on some basic rubber grips. If I was selling these in the shop I'd buy a case pack of Race Face Chester Grips and do the swap before I even put the bikes on the floor. Contact points are key!

In the win column, to the point of being remarkable, are the 29 x 2.6" WTB Trail Boss G2 tires. Initially, I was distracted by the spec of WTB's Vigilante tires on the higher lever Growler 40 and Growler 50 models. I love the Vigilante and the choice to go with the High Grip front and Fast Rolling rear compounds make perfect sense on these bikes. Back to the Growler 20, the Trail Boss tires were surprisingly capable even with tubes installed and a bit too much air pressure (I hate flats).

The first upgrade I'd make to my own bike would be to set them up tubeless with Gorilla Tape, basic steel valves, and Stan's sealant but I would ride the Trail Boss tires until they wore out. That's more than I can say about OE rubber on many bikes that are much more expensive. They dig in hard when cornering and braking on loose surfaces, climbing traction is great, and most surprisingly they handled greasy rock armouring with confidence.


The square-taper crank will be one of the first parts I'd wear out. I'd be eyeing up a Race Face Aeffect R 24mm Cinch crankset as a replacement.


It's not my favourite WTB saddle, but the 142mm WTB Volt is a great choice for OE spec that will suit most riders. I think they'd be much closer to 100% of riders with the Koda model but the Volt is a great piece all the same.

Another hit was the basic Shimano MT201 brakes. I've said it before, but I think Shimano's basic budget brakes feel significantly better at the lever than their higher-end ServoWave models. The MT201s have a very positive feel at the end of the long lever blades, consistent bite point, and a nicely modulated power stroke.

I still despise the 'resin only' rotors but it's hard to get too bent out of shape when a bike is 1,000 USD. I wish Rocky Mountain had made upgrading easier by going with 6-bolt hubs instead of Centerlock but I understand it's a package from Shimano that's part of min-maxing the bike. I'd be much less impressed to see these rotors on the higher-priced Growlers.

Rocky 2020 Growler 20 Spec NSMB.jpg

A fantastic frame, good tires, brakes with lots of potential, and a whole lot of other places worthy of upgrades as stuff wear out.

My one concern, which proved unfounded, was the basic Suntour fork coupled with modern hardtail geometry. Namely, with the HTA so slack would there be notable flexing and binding in less-steep technical situations. Now this fork is as basic as they come with a small range of adjustable preload, coil springs, and an overdamped feel, except in blow-off situations, but thanks to the Growler's geometry and the 2.6" rubber it is quite rideable. It's also a pleasantly simple fork from the viewpoint of basic maintenance.

Rounding out the build is a basic set of square taper cranks, a clean little chain guide, a clutchless Shimano Altus 9-speed derailleur driving the chain on an 11-40t cassette with a 28t ring up front, and a Rocky Mountain-branded cockpit with a 780mm wide bar.


The proof is in the pedaling, and the Growler 20 can hold its own very well for a bike that costs less than many suspension forks. The Shimano Altus 9-Speed shifting clicks through all the gears and the 11-40t cassette, mated to a 28t ring, has a wide enough range for effective seated pedaling up any of the climbs on the Shore.

The aluminum frame is stiff under load but in saying that I'll caution we're not back in the 90's comparing a steel Bontrager to an aluminum Cannondale. What I mean to say is that the most desirable production 29er steel frames like the Chromag Rootdown and Cotic SolarisMAX are just as stiff; steel is real and so is aluminum. In all cases, I appreciate the added comfort of big rubber, at minimum a 2.6" tire, on a modern hardtail and here Rocky Mountain delivers.

Despite the on-trend seat position, I found myself regularly up out of the saddle climbing the Growler 20 for a few reasons. One is the lack of a dropper post which meant choosing between hammering along standing or getting off to raise my seat but the bike responds really well to stand up climbing. In these situations, there is a notable but not disconcerting amount of flex in the crankset compared to the frame. Personally, the crankset would be one of the first upgrades I'd budget for as I'm riding all the time and expecting to wear parts out.

A second reason for a lot of standing climbing is that the basic Altus drivetrain does not like to shift under load. It was often much more intuitive to stand and deliver on the gear I was in than let off the power to effect a shift. This was not unexpected with a groupset where a replacement rear derailleur will run 30 USD and was never an issue unless I forgot I wasn't on a higher end drive system.

Rocky Growler 20 NSMB AndrewM (1).JPG

The Growler 20 has a pedal-and-plunge post. I certainly longed for my Chromag QR but I can't say that I missed having a dropper as much as I thought.

Rocky Growler 20 NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

Ned's Atomic Rock Collection. I rode it wet & dry on the Growler. I certainly yelled 'OH SH*T' a few times but bike and body always made it down in one piece.

Rocky Growler 20 NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

The 29 x 2.6" rubber does a good job of isolating some of the small bump vibration that the aluminum frame and basic suspension fork do not.


Staying with the Altus drivetrain for a moment, I never lost the chain off the front ring - thanks to the included guide - but the clutchless system was as loud as I've ridden in years coming down the trail. It also regularly came out of gear hammering down rough courses and it's always a great idea to soft-pedal back into gear before laying down the juice.

Thanks to the aforementioned great geometry and good tire spec, the Growler 20 is excellent when going downhill. With my brain turned off to drivetrain noise, it's only the limitations of the brakes and suspension that make the Growler 20 start to feel like a budget bike. The basic Shimano brakes feel great but the power is lackluster compared to the systems I'm used to. I'd be looking at upgrading pads and rotors in the future and possibly putting an old 4-Piston Zee or Saint caliper up front.

The Suntour fork is stiff enough to put the 64° head angle to work and quite overdamped, which is better than the alternative, but the damping is not adjustable. This leads to a bit of a dead ride on successive hits but remains very controllable. Until it doesn't. The damper has a blow-off of some kind and there are a few times I put the front end into something hard enough, or from high enough, and it snapped back undamped. This is very easy to work around when I'm expecting it.

Rocky Growler 20 NSMB AndrewM (13).JPG

I often did have to ride slower to improve the effectiveness of the brake system. There is no doubt that more powerful brakes can make you faster.

Rocky Growler 20 NSMB AndrewM (12).JPG

Classic Ned's. I think it's a great trail to work on suspension settings and tire pressure. Also, a great place to test rims.

Rocky Growler 20 NSMB AndrewM (17).JPG

I like this photo because I'm smiling. I truly had a pile of fun on the Rocky Mountain Growler frame. Whichever Growler fits your budget, it will be a fun purchase worthy of upgrades.

The new Growler is a significant leap forward from 2019 and I found the new 20 to be much more capable than the 2019 Growler 40 I tested last year which I put down entirely to the refreshed frame geometry. The thru-axle Boost rear end shows nice attention to detail on a 1,000 USD bike and I really appreciate that Rocky is sharing the same frame through all levels.

Treat yourself to some pedals you like, upgrade the grips before leaving the shop, and then ride the bike. I hit a few of my favourite black trails in wet conditions and while moving slower than on my own bikes I didn't walk anything I would normally ride. Dropper post? Nope, I'd just get a Chromag quick release. Tubeless-ing the tires would be high on my upgrade list, then pads and rotors, and then I'd just ride the bike until parts broke or wore out and replace them. Whether the bike's for your kid or yourself, that's a time-honoured way of progressing in the sport.

I'd challenge anyone to present a better buy at the 1000 USD | 1250 CAD pricepoint. The 2020 Growler 20 ladies and gentlemen.

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+1 Andrew Major
Garrett Thibault  - Dec. 9, 2019, 1:27 a.m.

That fork sounds brutal. I think I’d rather have no damper than an inconsistent one.

It would be nice if low end forks came with a high-end compatible chassis (I.e straight 32mm or 34mm stanchions). As you mentioned with finding an old Saint calliper for the brakes, you could probably find old high-end dampers and springs to upgrade the suspension from old forks with worn stanchions or leaky air-springs. Suntour could ship their fork with the double-springs and plastic top caps, and the buyer could easily find new internals from friends or the buy’n’sell. Suntour would get the added bonus of their name still being on the chassis too.


+1 twk
Andrew Major  - Dec. 9, 2019, 6:13 a.m.

I had considered writing a separate fork review for this reason - just to be able to really delve into it -  the fork really isn’t that bad as it’s very predictable once you’re used to it (i.e what kind of hit the damper can’t take).

This price point is so tight, and serviceable chassis themselves so expensive its hard to imagine where they’d carve the bucks to say put on an Aion 35 chassis. The thing with budget bikes is you can always get in the trap of saying “just charge $100 more for the bike.”

I also look at the next levels of fork and the take-off market and I can pick up a brand new Yari, Aion, Auron, etc which are all a lot more fork than are coming on this bike even if the price goes up for a few hundred bucks. 

I might be more savvy than the average rider buying at this level but if it’s my bike and my budget I’m riding it as is and watching for new forks being flipped off bikes.


The other side of the argument is that I save my monies, don’t ride right away, and buy a Growler 40 (better fork, better tires, dropper post) and that logic can be rolled forward to the Growler 50 as well. 

Rocky would have lent my any Growler to test - if anything the most budget model risks things like the fork overshadowing how awesome the frame/geo is but I really wanted to see how capable a true entry-level hardtail can be with great geo - and was really happily surprised. 

I was also happy to get back on my rear shock that cost more than half the price of the bike :-)


+1 cornedbeef
HardtailCanada  - Dec. 23, 2020, 9:44 p.m.

Andrew, great review! It is really cool reading an in-depth, technical piece on an entry level bike that truly sticks to what the bike offers. I'm sure many budget minded readers got some good info out of this.

The geo is so fun on this bike, I love mine. And it's the perfect platform to slowly upgrade (or just completely spec out from day one!). 

It's gonna be cool to watch the progression of aggressive hardtail offerings from various manufacturers. I think Rocky really nailed this bike and all 3 price points are great value.

Nice work.


+2 Andrew Major Metacomet
Timer  - Dec. 9, 2019, 2:27 a.m.

Great review, and i really appreciate Rocky's efforts at bringing capable bikes to low pricepoints. The fork sounds like a bit of an achilles heel. Upgrading forks is massively expensive, so much so that my usual advice to novices was to chose the bike by the quality of the fork (+geo). I don't think i have ever seen a beginner bike with an upgraded fork, thats something for the gearheads.


+1 Timer
Andrew Major  - Dec. 9, 2019, 6:21 a.m.

Thanks! Yes, I think Rocky has nailed the Growler line and expect other companies will take note.

Wrote a long response to Garrett above. The forks brilliantly simple and easy enough to learn (it’s predictable). 

I’ve seen lots of lower end bikes (hardtail and FS) with upgraded forks - either riders don’t know to service them or they aren’t serviceable. Maybe another article in there but I’d rather save for a take-off Yari than spend more on the bike to trade up to the ‘next level’ of fork. 

There is, however, a strong counter argument (fork, tires, clutch derailleur) to save up for a Growler 40.


+1 Andrew Major
fartymarty  - Dec. 9, 2019, 4:15 a.m.

I also fondly remember riding in the 90's.  You picked a bike you thought was cool, did a carpark test at the local bike shop and you were on your way.  You didn't care about geometry, weight* or anything apart from riding and getting better so you could ride more difficult trails.  It's only when suspension forks came along that things started getting complicated.  I do miss those simple days. 

* maybe a little but you couldn't afford a superlight bike so it didn't really matter.


Andrew Major  - Dec. 9, 2019, 6:24 a.m.

A huge variety of potential side pieces coming from this bike... it was a great review experience... I think there’s a firm argument to spec 35mm rims on all the Growlers first off, then spec this 20 with a rigid fork and a 2.8” Vigi up front and maybe even grab a Deore clutch derailleur in the shuffle. 

It would never happen, but it’d be a cool platform.


+1 Andrew Major
fartymarty  - Dec. 9, 2019, 8 a.m.

I am surprise they didn't go with 10 speed on this bike.  There is still a bit of it about, its cheap and you can upgrade easily.  Zee mechs are also good and cheap and relatively bomb proof.

Agreed on the rigid fork (you are preaching to the converted).  It would also appeal to those who want a simple second bike that can still tackle proper trails.


Andrew Major  - Dec. 9, 2019, 8:57 a.m.

Not going to see Zee anywhere near this price point but sure, I’d love to see a Deore 10spd drivetrain with a clutch. But, I wouldn’t give up the surprisingly awesome rubber (check out what comes on most bikes at $1000 USD) or the Boost 148 thru-axle rear end (shared frame with higher end Growlers) and the trade offs are real at this price.

I know from various conversations with product managers how much thought goes into these machines - even when they use a catalogue frame VS Rocky’s awesome geo.

Also, going back to cost of ownership. It’s realistic a teenager with a very-part-time job can keep this thing running. Deore rear derailleur cost a lot more to replace than Alivio or Acera.


+1 Andrew Major
fartymarty  - Dec. 9, 2019, 11:29 p.m.

I was thinking Zee on a rigid spec.  You would save some cashjkn the forks and upgrade the other bits that need doing.


Andrew Major  - Dec. 10, 2019, 7:37 a.m.

Ah! I think I already spent the difference on the 2.8” Vigilante up front?! It’s a game of pennies, nickels, and dimes at this level.

-2 Andrew Major IslandLife
Johannes Schmidt  - Dec. 9, 2019, 5:58 a.m.

Cube etc sell bikes with this spec for ~ 500€.


+4 Cooper Quinn IslandLife JVP Tremeer023
Andrew Major  - Dec. 9, 2019, 7:17 a.m.

When the Growler-series bikes are fully bottomed out the head tube angles (static ~64) are still at least as slack as the Cube is when it’s fully static - 69-degree un-sagged.

The Cube could be full Eagle GX for the same price as the Growler 20 and I’d still rather ride this Growler on local trails.

The frame is the heart of the bike and on a budget good geometry is incredibly rare.


+2 Andrew Major twk
Timer  - Dec. 9, 2019, 12:14 p.m.

I actually started out on a cube hardtail many years ago. Their price vs spec was great and still is. But I wouldn’t bring such a bike anywhere near the shore, that’s just not the right tool for the job.


+3 Andrew Major Vik Banerjee Timer
Skyler  - Dec. 9, 2019, 8:48 a.m.

The Growler frame looks so good that I wish they sold it frame-only or had a Growler 70 or 90 spec. This bike with with a Marzocchi Z1 and full SLX M7000 would be ready for any level of rider, without anything to complain about. 

I'm pretty stoked on 2020 geo, across many brands. Lots of good bikes coming out, and the used market is going to be awesome in 1-2yrs! (Norco's new hardtail looks rad too!)


Andrew Major  - Dec. 9, 2019, 9:02 a.m.

Totally brought up frame only! Not something on the radar currently but maybe if Rocky gets enough interest from dealers?!

I can see a lot more models in the future though assuming dealers respond well. I think this platform is going to be a hit - and it’s a shot across the bow of companies still peddling geo that’s closer to 90’s NORBA XC than modern hardtails on budget bikes where riders definitely don’t benefit from it.


+10 Andrew Major Mammal Skyler DMVancouver Kenny Pete Roggeman khai ManInSteel Niels twk
Sanesh Iyer  - Dec. 9, 2019, 8:57 a.m.

Would love to ride one of these back to back with my Rootdown to how much of an idiot I am for owning a 6K hardtail.


+1 twk
Andrew Major  - Dec. 9, 2019, 9:04 a.m.

Hahahahaha. Don’t go there - just building up my new custom SS frame which I’m amortizing over the next 10-yrs.


khai  - Dec. 10, 2019, 10:14 a.m.

I've got a Rootdown on which I made an fair attempt to minmax the build but it's still ~3x the cost of one of these.  I've been recommending the 2020 Growler to several people since it dropped what - maybe 6 months ago?  It's a KILLER option...


+2 DMVancouver Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - Dec. 9, 2019, 9:59 a.m.

If you want a quality dropper with setback the only one that I am aware of is the 9.8 dropper. If you know of another one that is 1) not junk and 2) has something like 1" setback I'd love to know. I'm finding the currently fashionable steep STAs do not work well for my body. The only MTB I currently own without a setback dropper/seatpost is one I had custom made. Having only one setback option is making me a bit nervous.


+3 Vik Banerjee Andrew Major Niels
DMVancouver  - Dec. 9, 2019, 11:31 a.m.

I'm with you. Seat angles that make sense on a full suspension, where the rear sags and the seat travels backwards, do not make sense on a hardtail. Something that looks fashionably steep on paper ends up very steep on a hardtail once the fork sags.

I am riding a 2019 Rootdown with 150 fork (10 mm shorter than stock) and feel quite over the bars while seated. I am not sold.


+2 Andrew Major DMVancouver
Vik Banerjee  - Dec. 9, 2019, 12:10 p.m.

If you have the adjustment room a setback dropper and shorter stem [and/or bars with more sweep] would move you back from the front wheel. Maybe another couple spacers under the stem or a higher rise bar to also rotate you backwards from the front wheel? Maybe extend the fork to 160mm if you have that capability?


+3 Mammal DMVancouver Vik Banerjee
Andrew Major  - Dec. 9, 2019, 12:40 p.m.

If I was building a Growler for myself I’d bump the fork travel up 20mm to get closer to my ideal STA which is ~73.5/74 on a hardtail.

I’m really surprised we aren’t seeing More setback posts in the shorter travel configurations for gravel riders. There are lots of riders running 25-35mm setback on gravel bikes.

On the mountain bike front I think there’s a huge opportunity for a quality dropper post that has ~30mm offset and is reversible. Get a more modern position on your older bike you’re hanging onto or a more neutral position on an on-trend-steep bike if it doesn’t work for you. I keep going back to size specific effective STAs. The guy on the XXL can have an 80, The guy on the XS can have a 72 and go from there?!


Timer  - Dec. 9, 2019, 12:17 p.m.

The Specialized command post has setback but only up to 125mm.


Andrew Major  - Dec. 9, 2019, 12:42 p.m.

And yes, totally agree that - at least anecdotally - there is a hole in the market for good dropper posts with more offset - particularly in the aftermarket.


+4 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Niels Luix
Matthias Wasmer  - Dec. 9, 2019, 11:21 a.m.

Please take a look at the children bikes made by Rocky Mountain. We bought a Rocky Mountain Soul Jr. One of the only children bikes with a modern geometry. Our girl has so much fun on that bike. Especially compared to a cube. I don't know who told cube that a reverse head angle makes sense on childrens bikes.

But most people still buy bikes only by comparing specs and colors.


+1 Andrew Major
UFO  - Dec. 10, 2019, 8:58 p.m.

The $99usd 1up v1 dropper would be perfect for this bike.

I do wish they went 10spd even if it added $100 to the msrp, 9 speed upgrade path for lower gearing is a challenge...the M6000 Deore rear derailleur will happily handle 11-46 smoothly on a hardtail with a clutch that actually works and give you Eagle-like gearing with the 28t ring. I guess they can't have the entry level model shift better than the SX and NX drivetrain of the higher spec models costing 1.5x and 2x more


Andrew Major  - Dec. 18, 2019, 2:47 p.m.

Hahahaha, I didn’t say it!

But yeah, a Deore clutch drivetrain with an 11-46t SunRace cassette was pretty much invented to go on this frame. Give me a Suntour Auron or Aion up front, 2.6” Vigilantes on 40mm WTB KOM rims, Race Face Aeffect R cranks and 170mm dropper, and for brakes either some MT5’s or Code R’s. 

I would love to min-max one of these Growlers.


+1 Andrew Major
Luke Kozakiewicz  - Dec. 12, 2019, 11:07 a.m.

This bike is crazy, particularly the mid price point of it with dropper and 34mm stanchion air fork.

I'd certainly say I'm 'bike blessed' and yet I would strongly consider this a contender to add to the fleet if I were looking for a hardtail of this type even though the MSRP is below what I'd normally consider.  It's too bad this one falls a bit short with no dropper and a crummy Fork, but I guess that's the pricepoint for you. The frame seems banger. While I thought the last growler was a pretty cool bike for a beginner, I'd never consider owning one. Now this? Maybe maybe. 

Now that I mention it, my stache is looking a little long in the tooth....


Andrew Major  - Dec. 18, 2019, 2:49 p.m.

It’s a tough price point for sure - just going with a thru-axle eats a bunch of budget. 

Growler 40 gets an upgrade to fork, shifting, tires, and adds a dropper.


+1 Andrew Major
s00words  - Dec. 18, 2019, 12:16 p.m.

If Rocky Mountain does a Deore/SLX build on this frame, my money will pretty much fly out of my pocket.


Andrew Major  - Dec. 18, 2019, 2:51 p.m.

Absolutely. Have heard that from a few people.

Like I said to UFO I’d love to do my own min-max build on one of these frames. Suntour Aion, clutched Deore drivetrain with 11-46t SunRace cassette, MT5 or Guide R brakes, etc. So much potential to kick ass at any price.


+1 Andrew Major
r1Gel  - June 6, 2020, 9:10 p.m.

Great review! I've been waiting for someone to review the entry-level version of these kinds of bikes. This 20 is at the top of my wish list.

Do you reckon a 2.8" would fit in the rear? Are those WTBs true 2.6s?


+1 r1Gel
Andrew Major  - June 7, 2020, 5:41 p.m.

The Vigilantes look a bit undersized because they are quite square tires and the casings aren't particularly bulbous but the 2.8 measures pretty damn close to 2.8" on my i40 rims and the 2.6 measures pretty close to 2.6" on my i35 rim. I have the exact numbers on my caliper somewhere but couldn't find them for this response. 

It's a great question re. the 2.8" clearing in the Growler 20 and I smacked myself for not popping my own wheel in since one of the awesome features of the 20 is that the frame is identical to the higher-end version with a thru-axle 148 rear end. 

There is plenty of room with the 2.6" so my gut feeling is a 2.8" will squeeze in. The only issue is the bike comes with i30, instead of i35, rims so depending on the tire the 2.8" may not have an optimum shape. I mean, it will work fine but not optimum. 

I would love to do more entry-level reviews. Sadly, Rocky seems to be the only company on my radar that really gets it with geo & rubber in terms of entry-level rigs for local riding but there are some other very intriguing budget hardtails that are on the cusp - from Giant, Devinci, & Trek for example, that would definitely be on my shortlist.



r1Gel  - June 9, 2020, 2:02 p.m.

Thanks for the reply!

One more question: How did seated climbing work out? Any issues with front wheel lift or floppy steering?


+1 r1Gel
Andrew Major  - June 10, 2020, 9:29 a.m.

Chainstays are relatively long and transfer power very well and combined with a long front centre the rear tire digs into the ground without trying to lift the front.

Pedaling position is modern without being too steep for all around usage. Handling is in XC situations a bit slow compared to anything else in this price point but the geometry is significantly more fun riding down trails.


r1Gel  - June 11, 2020, 12:06 p.m.

Good stuff! Makes me want this bike even more!



Sanchez321  - July 14, 2020, 10:32 a.m.

The specialized Fuse 27.5 has 2.8 wheels back and front along with progressive Geo. Picked one up a couple of months ago when I couldn't locate a Growler for purchase. Best purchase of a bike i have made in many years. Absolutely love the bike and how it performs.


r1Gel  - June 10, 2020, 9:02 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

+1 Sanesh Iyer
Pamela Hall  - July 12, 2020, 11:44 a.m.

Hey I hope I'm not too late to ask a beginner question. 

I bought some components thinking I'd try my hand at a build.  While looking for the right frame, I stumbled across this bike.  Except for the drive gear, I like it.  That said, I was lucky enough to score a fairly good price on a new SRAM NX set up, with boost.  It is an 11-50, 12 speed with a 32t front ring. 

My simple question is, will that gear work with this frame and set up (ie - boost).  I believe it will, but am looking for confirmation. 

Actually, I have two questions.  Is the BB on this bike threaded?

Thanks in advance.


Sanesh Iyer  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:59 p.m.

Never too late when folks like me come back to reread Andrew's articles. 

Not sure if you still need to know, but NX is probably not compatible with this bike due to the freehub standard. You'd need a different rear hub. That said, don't let the drivetrain dictate your bike! Geometry is what matters!


HardtailCanada  - Dec. 23, 2020, 9:45 p.m.

A little late to the party, but if anyone is curious about another take on the Growler, I wrote a review here: 2020 Rocky Mountain Growler Review.

The aggressive geo is super fun, and this bike is great at speeds and steeper descents. I made the switch from an enduro FS and haven't looked back!

I ended up switching out a bunch of components and built my own spec up from the 40 platform. This is a fantastic bike and I certainly hope to see more companies coming out with aggressive hardtails in the future. Such a pure and rewarding trail riding experience, and a better workout!


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