Rocky 2020 Growler 50 NSMB (1).jpg
RELEASE | EDITORIAL

The 2020 Rocky Mountain Growler Series

Words Andrew Major
Photos Rocky Mountain Bikes
Date Sep 20, 2019

Slayer VS Growler

Rocky Mountain's 2020 Slayer is the talk of their fresh lineup. Carbon or aluminum frame, this big mountain bike sports 170mm travel with 29" wheels or 180mm with 27.5" wheels and yet I know a couple of folks talking about picking one up as a quiver killer. Apparently the thing can pedal.

The 29er Slayer is casting a long shadow over plenty of competitor's big wheel bikes that were until just recently considered to be long travel machines. At the same time, Rocky's new full-on freeride option is media-bombing the most relevant new rig in their lineup.

The quietly released, 2020 Growler 20, 40, and 50 hardtails, starting at 1000 USD, are at least as deserving of the spotlight.

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2020 Slayer. 170mm 29'er with a <64° HTA.

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2020 Growler 50. 140mm fork 29'er with a 64° HTA.

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Growler 50: 1900 USD | 2500 CAD

That Geo Chart!

Despite the soft release, the 2020 Growler has some loud updates including a great looking frame that is now shared by all three price levels. Even the thousand U.S. dollar Growler 20* has a thru-axle Boost 148 back end, 64° head tube angle, and a healthy 1237mm wheelbase in size large.

* twelve fitty north of 49

Speaking of healthy sizing, the XL has a 500mm Reach, 636mm Stack, 1271mm wheelbase, and an effective top tube length of 670mm with a 75° seat tube angle. It's not bleeding edge massive but it's not a half-size too small like the previous Growler bikes.

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Bigger reach, bigger wheelbase, and bigger wheels. This a full refresh compared to the 2019 27+ Growler 40 I tested previously.

Tires, etc.

One of the most exciting spec updates from 2019 to 2020 is Rocky Mountain's serious infusion of rubber. The Growler 40 and 50 bikes get a WTB Vigilante TCS Light | High Grip tire up front and a WTB Trail Boss G2 TCS Light | Fast Rolling tire in the rear. Both are 29 x 2.6. I'd personally prefer the tires to sport WTB's Heavy Duty dual-ply casing, at least out back, but the reinforced sidewalls on the Light tires are a great compromise for the intended purpose of the bikes. This is seriously excellent rubber on bikes that sell for 1600 and 1900 USD, respectively.

The Growler 20 rolls on more basic WTB Trail Boss G2 tires, also in 29 x 2.6, which is an obvious nod to the more aggressive geometry compared to last year's bike and a big improvement in rubber. I'd still budget for a High Grip Vigilante up front if you're riding anywhere it gets greasy.

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Growler 20 colour option #1.

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Growler 20 colour option #2.

I've run both 2.6" and 2.8" rubber from WTB and I'd have preferred to see i35 rims on the full line of bikes for better tire support. The i30 spec allows the option of running narrower rubber but considering these are aluminum hardtails, I'd be surprised if anyone who tries a 2.6" tire with proper pressures is going to want to go narrower out back.

For 2019 the Growler 40 was the sweet spot in the lineup but this year I can make strong arguments to go down to the Growler 20 and spend the difference on a few upgrades or to spend up to the Growler 50 and savour the four-piston front brake, upgraded drivetrain, and arguably better suspension fork.

For whatever reason, it doesn't seem possible for companies to spec a SRAM Eagle drivetrain without a SRAM crankset and my one beef with the Growler 40 spec comes in the form of the SRAM SX Powerspline crank setup. It's hard to blame Rocky Mountain here as going with a more expensive crankset, like the DUB version of the SX crankset on the Growler 50, would have meant cutting back somewhere else. In my experience, the Powerspline system is utter crap to the extent that the Shimano-style crankset on the 600 USD less expensive Growler 20 is actually a big upgrade.* Anyone riding the Growler 40 to the potential of its geometry will find themselves replacing this crankset because of the hard to source and quick to fail bottom bracket, the advent of awful and unsolvable creaking noises, or the arms simply falling off while riding.**

*Read: "Actually worth buying a replacement BB or chainring for when the time comes."

**Note - we have not verified whether or not the Powerspline system has been reworked or improved very recently

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Growler 40 colour option #1.

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Growler 40 colour option #2.

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Growler 40: USD 1600 | 1900 CAD

With that complaint out of the way, the frame is the heart of all three models of the 2020 Growler and it looks to be absolutely worthy of upgrades. Compared to the outlay to get into similarly progressive geometry from other manufacturers all three models of the Growler look to be a bargain. The big rubber negates any ride difference between a beefy Boost steel frame and Rocky's aluminum build so the only reason I wouldn't choose a Growler as my personal hardtail is the lack of sliding dropouts.*

*For singlespeedability

When I previously reviewed the 2019 Growler 40 I said:

"Rocky Mountain has the ability to mule bikes right here in North Vancouver and a stable of folks that rip on them. And they are not afraid to push different ideas. They have a great bike now and I think they have the recipe to own this category and price with the Growler series if they want to."

Challenge accepted? I haven't ridden the new bikes so I can only go off my past experiences and a geometry chart but I can't think of a bike with more potential to shred at 1000 USD/1250 CAD than the 2020 Growler 20. Compared to other aggressive hardtails on the market, the Growler 50 looks to deliver outstanding geometry, good spec, and perfectly suited rubber for a very solid value.

Even more than the 2019 Growlers did, the 2020 versions look to deserve a spot on any rider's short list of mountain bikes in the 1000-2000 USD price range. For more information the bikes are up at Rocky Mountain.

Trending on NSMB

Comments

s00words
+1 Andrew Major
s00words  - Sept. 20, 2019, 3:46 p.m.

I would love to see a review of this bike.

Reply

UFO
+3 Cr4w James Vasilyev Andrew Major
UFO  - Sept. 21, 2019, 12:51 a.m.

Really impressed with the evolution and value. Really happy they moved away from the Boost QR rear end, and also took the plunge into proper geometry and fit for 2019--sounds like they undertook your Growler challenge and then some. Way better value IMO than Norco's recently announced chromo Torrent, $1250 for a complete functional no frills hardtail would make a great winter or downtime option for any Endurbro

Any word on weights, especially for the 20?

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 DMVancouver
Andrew Major  - Sept. 21, 2019, 7:45 a.m.

Basic fork; so even absent a dropper the 20 won’t be light. Awesome geo doesn’t add weight though so I’d bet they’re price point competitive within a pound (tires) despite an upgrade in capability.

Really hoping to have a chance to throw a leg over one to write about it and if that comes to pass I’ll weight it for sure! 

Also impressed they went with the thru-axle. I think it speaks to the upgradeability of any level of Growler.

-

I think I’ve ridden enough hardtails to call this an educated opinion: once we’re beefing up the frame to handle abuse and throwing on 2.6”+ tires the material doesn’t matter. I ride a steel frame because that’s the easiest way to get a quality full-custom frame that can take the abuse of single speeding; if Santa Cruz made the aluminum Chameleon with geo I wanted to ride I’d just own that. 

If the Growler had sliders/rockers I could totally see myself riding one with a custom rigid fork :-)

Reply

gdharries
+1 Andrew Major
Geof Harries  - Sept. 21, 2019, 10 a.m.

My teenager has outgrown his hand-me-down 2011 full suspension xc bike and we are looking for something that fits and is more modern. This type of bike seems like a great next step.

Do you know if other PNW manufacturers like Norco or Kona have a similar model in their lineup that you’d recommend?

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 DMVancouver
Andrew Major  - Sept. 21, 2019, 10:17 a.m.

I’ve owned a few steel* Honzos since 2012 and I’ve loved them but personally it’s hard to recommend them now over the Growler lineup. On paper, I prefer the ride of the Rocky's longer rear centre - which matches more closely to my custom bike geo. Also, the geometry of the Honzo, which was progressive in 2012, doesn’t stand up on the technical trails compared to what companies (Chromag etc) are putting out now.

I mean - brass [edit] tacks [/edit] - for $1250 Canuck Bucks the Growler frame is every bit as progressive, on paper, as the vast majority of the boutique hardtails on the market (many of which have frames nearing the price of this full bike).

My general rule now for hardtails is I want the sagged HTA to be 1-2° slacker than an FS bike for the equivalent usage. So the static 64° on the Growler lines up perfectly with a ~66° 130-140mm FS trail bike. On the other hand the Honzo has a steeper static HTA than Kona’s current XC race bikes. I can only imagine we’ll see a big update across the whole Honzo* line soon.

I’m not familiar with Norco’s lineup so I can’t comment there.

*for the sliders. No reason not to also look at the aluminum models if the bike will never be single speed.

**that’s just a guess - no inside info.

Reply

nouseforaname
+2 Andrew Major Velocipedestrian
Nouseforaname  - Sept. 21, 2019, 2:36 p.m.

*tacks #thatguy #mypleasure

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 21, 2019, 5:22 p.m.

Hahahaha. I’m glad to have made your day ;-) #fixed | #thankyou | #yesreally |

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