Kids Ride Shotgun GG NSMB AndrewM (3)
NOT A REVIEW

Aaron's Guerrilla Gravity Smash

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major (Unless Noted)
Date May 16, 2022
Reading time

Shotgun Wedding*

Aaron's Guerrilla Gravity (GG) Smash wasn't inexpensive but the current price of 4,000 CAD for a USA-Made carbon frameset including a RockShox Deluxe Select shock is comparatively reasonable. That includes their GeoAdjust headset system as well. That is a carbon front triangle with an in-house welded aluminum rear triangle in the case of the Smash but they have also started manufacturing full carbon frames, currently just their Trail Pistol model, for 4,300 CAD. This isn't a case of onshoring, as Guerrilla Gravity made all their frames in Colorado previously as well, but it's an interesting look into what's possible. The values of various builds vary, but the Smash's NX-level Ride model is a worthy value at 5,900 CAD and the GX-level Rally model looks really good for 7,500 CAD.

*I borrowed this bike from Aaron, as well as his kid, for the Kids Ride Shotgun Pro saddle system

Kids Ride Shotgun GG NSMB AndrewM (27)

This bike and I crossed paths because during my look at the Kids Ride Shotgun Pro saddle system.

Now that Guerrilla Gravity has cranked out enough of their USA-Made carbon fibre frames, hopefully NSMB will have an opportunity to review one. I've spent a decent bit of time wrenching on aluminum GG bikes and their attention to detail, especially regarding serviceability, is excellent. Aaron's carbon smash has a truly eclectic mix of parts from the Chris King rear hub that's closing in on 15 years old and proper non-SERVOWAVE Shiguras, made from sweet Shimano XT M765 master cylinders with Straitline lever blades mated to MT-7 calipers. The pre-boost Fox 36 is destined for the recycling bin next time the CSU starts creaking but other than that and replacing consumable parts as they wear out it's conceivable this machine could be rolling pretty much as is in another decade. Or reconfigured with more or less rear travel thanks to the plethora of options from GG.

As you may have noticed, Aaron comes from the same school of bike spec as myself where stuff is replaced as it wears out or needs to be upgraded and aesthetics - at least as far as making things match - are secondary. The best demonstration of that is certainly the wheels. Up front there's a grippy e*thirteen tire mounted on a Velocity Blunt 35 rim with a non-boost Stan's 20mm hub. The rear wheel has a Chris King hub that has been on multiple rigs including an original Kona Satori 29er and a Niner Rip9 29er before that, laced to a Stan's Flow EX rim, and with a Maxxis DHF mounted up. The GG uses Boost 148 spacing and the King hub is legacy 142, but a Problem Solvers Boostinator kit makes everything play nice.

This Smash, like a lot of North Shore rigs, is mainly used as a pedal-and-plunge rig so SLX shifting does the job just fine. An SLX 11-speed rear derailleur is a great choice for most riders but if you're trying to run through your gears while riding yourself frothy, then an XT shifter is a worthy upgrade. The SunRace cassette is an 11-50t. It's funny talking about shifting as being secondary, and I often come up against folks trying to write off my opinion because I like single speeds. I always go back to AXS Strikes Back and how few gears my friend Toucan actually uses even when riding the faster trails on the Shore. It's totally reasonable to me to invest in great suspension, brakes, and geometry over shifting. Speaking of geometry, I'm closer to being six feet tall than Aaron is to being seven but he's still a tall lad. Guerrilla Gravity makes a reasonably big XL but, as with every single bike he's ever owned, I think the first assessment was "I thought it would be bigger." He runs the GeoShift headset set in the longest position with the stem slammed and a high rise bar in order to maximize the effective Reach.

The choice to use a Cane Creek Double Barrel CS Coil shock (CCDB CS Coil) is something I'm on board with and it's what my brother runs on his aluminum Smash as well. The twin tube CCDB shocks are far from the lightest on the market, but their resilience is best in class thanks to circulating oil and the poppet valve architecture. They're the one suspension product on the market where I generally ignore service intervals, and support is so fantastic that even buying a trashed one is a good value as long as it's cheap. There's a 185mm BikeYoke ReVive dropper post, which is smooth as, but given Aaron runs a 210mm on his hardtail that could change at some point. I often wonder where dropper post travel will max out. I have yet to talk to a proper tall person running a 210mm post that wasn't using all the travel and the only folks I've heard of with 240mm posts that have adjusted them down to 230mm or 220mm have done so to find their proper seat height.

If this was a min-max your mountain bike article it would be hard to point out any one thing Aaron should update now. An XT shifter, with its multi-release function, would be nice but certainly not a necessity. Even the Chromag Trailmaster LTD saddle will last forever with a bit of Brooks Proofide whenever the surface is worn. The one thing he clearly needs to be budgeting for is a replacement fork. Not for performance reasons, the 2015 Fox 36 Factory FIT RC2 is a fantastic fork. But, the next time the CSU starts creaking, the lack of support will mean buying a whole new fork instead of a replacement crown. A hectic life schedule is the only thing that's given it a reprieve this long. When the time comes a Boostinator kit for the front wheel isn't a big deal but what fork to buy? Aaron has a Cane Creek Helm on his hardtail which is a great platform and set to 150mm travel it would be a perfect match. But really, there are a lot of great forks these days and at 150-160mm travel I think a good 35-36mm chassis is perfect even for a heavier rider.

It's a sweet ride, pretty damn unique, and Aaron is a nice guy who loves nerding out about bikes so if you see him in the hills be sure to say hello. Thanks again to him for lending me his bike, body, and petit person for a proper look at the new KRS Pro saddle system and for letting me share some deeper details about his bike.

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Comments

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+7 Niels van Kampenhout Andrew Major kcy4130 Pete Roggeman ohio Lynx . Derek Baker

Yeah! Awesome to see some GG love on NSMB. My 2018 Smash is going strong. It has taken second fiddle to my hardtails recently, but every time I do ride it I am reminded how much I love it. The geo seems perfect for me as a do-it-all Coastal BC bike and for SW desert road tripping...pretty much my riding menu. I rarely buy a complete, but GG offered such a great build kit and back before COVID mixing and matching parts was a possibility.

I've missed it enough I am thinking of hanging up the hardtails for the dry months this summer [if that ever happens] and hunting down the steeper more gnarly lines in the area where full monkey motion will put a smile on my face. In theory it's a mid-travel bike at 160mm/140mm, but coming off a lot of hardtail riding it feels super burly and 140mm rear travel is a ton vs. 0mm.

I wish GG was still making metal bikes in the USA, but their carbon frames look pretty cool. I get to enjoy checking out my GF's carbon Smash on the trails and in the work stand. However, I'm planning to keep my metal frame going as long as I can. It rides so well I have not been tempted to try the carbon version.

Photo from my last Smash ride Sept 2021.

Reply

dirtsled
dirtsled
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+3 Andrew Major Vik Banerjee Lu Kz

Thats a cool ride in more than one way, cant decide what to drool over, bike, picture, or the landscape.

Heck i feel generous, all three! Grtz!

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+2 Vik Banerjee Niels van Kampenhout

It’s not Moab but there are some BIG landscapes in Cumberland. It’s an awesome place to go riding as a family too as there is endless true-Blue terrain. My daughter loves it.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
Tjaard Breeuwer
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major Vik Banerjee

Cool looking bike @Vic! Is that a stock color/pattern or did you add it yourself?

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer

TB it's a AMS protection kit. I went a bit nuts with it. 

https://www.allmountainstyle.com/products/ams-honeycomb-frame-guard-xl-maze

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+1 Vik Banerjee

Do you tend to run it in Crush or Plush mode with the coil shock?

I know a few folks who wish they still sold full-metal bikes, even if the frames weren’t much cheaper than the carbon stuff. But I do have to say the carbon bikes are nice. I don’t like to stick cable cover, but the clips Aaron has are sweet.

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+1 Velocipedestrian

I've only ever run the shock in Plush. I run it in open mode 95% of the time with the "climb" switch activated only for road segments and even then I often don't bother. The bike climbs really well in open and I don't like messing with settings on a ride so I just leave it alone.

I'll pay the same $$ for a exceptionally well made metal frame as I would for a high end carbon frame. I mean I do appreciate the lower cost of metal in general, but that's not why I am buying it. I don't look at metal as the lesser quality/performance frame material even though that's the current trope in MTB marketing.

The GG carbon cable cover is better than internal routing, but I'd stick with plain old external routing if given the chance.

Reply

xy9ine
Perry Schebel
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+4 silverbansheebike Andrew Major shenzhe Velocipedestrian

i like that un-covered cable detail (aesthetically, anyways)

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+1 Velocipedestrian

I wish the dropper cable crossed the headtube but otherwise I love it. It’s probably the cleanest looking external routing, it still has an industrial purpose to it, and it has none of the faff of internal routing.

Reply

PdxDevvy
Devin Zoller
1 month, 1 week ago
+4 Andrew Major Vik Banerjee Niels van Kampenhout Doug M.

GG Sorta-Dogg

I have a size 2 Shredd-Doggg that I ended up mulletizing and discovered a secret to longer dropper posts on these: don't use the prescribed housing route. The limiting factor is the lower pivot, and you can route the housing into the frame through the same slot the derailleur housing goes into (it's totally open in there, with a nice curved path for the housing to go under the main pivot and up to the dropper actuator.) I've got a BikeYoke 213mm in there with 3cm under the seal head.

I'd go longer if BikeYoke made a 240 for 30.9mm tubes (but fully understand their reasoning for not going longer until the frame is 34.9.) If I want less drop I can just stop it short, but if I want more drop.....well, that's the harder direction.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 1 week ago
0

Interesting about the cable routing. If you have a second please post some photos of your routing.

Reply

PdxDevvy
Devin Zoller
1 month, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

cable cover

It's basically invisible with the cover on there. But here's a shot where you can see my sweet little machined brass mounting plate that let me use the bottle cage inserts to mount my battery (whyyyyyy is that spacing different Shimano?!?)

Easiest is to look at the second shot in the first gallery above that shows Aaron's derailleur housing going into the frame below his tool wrap- that's the port my dropper housing also goes into. Admittedly a little easier since I'm doing Di2 and it's a tiny wire + housing instead of 2 full on housings trying to share a 2 cm slot in the frame, but I'm sure it's doable either way. 

Nice to discover that I wasn't limited whatsoever on drop capacity, now if they had just made them 34.9.....

Reply

chacou
chacou
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+2 Vik Banerjee Andrew Major

Love my Smash, great pedal and plunge bike with a DVO Jade and 170mm Runt’d Lyrik. At 180cm tall w/ ~32” inseam the size 3 long setting is awesome with a 210 OneUp dropper with only a few cm of post above collar, great pedal position and then get the saddle out of the way for the descent. It’s a bit on the burly/heavy side, but highly recommend as a do it all bike. I do need one of those frame storage bags.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 1 week ago
0

Are you running your Jade in the Plush or Crush mode?

Reply

chacou
chacou
1 month, 1 week ago
+3 Niels van Kampenhout Doug M. Andrew Major

Plush mode, I’ll occasionally close the LSC for longer climbs, but 90% of the time it just stays about 1/2 between open and closed. I do over spring though, I’m ~175lbs kitted up and running a 550lbs spring, found that 500lbs spring was too soft for my liking and this shock/spring was moved over from my old Capra that most parts came from for the GG

GG Smash

My only complaint is the chainstay rubber piece came off pretty easily, crappy adhesive. But my replacement mastic tape works fine.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 1 week ago
0

Yeah, mastic tape works as well or is better than a lot of stock protection. 

How much sag does that measure out to front/rear for you? Do you run tire inserts or just straight air?

Cheers!

Reply

Jotegir
Lu Kz
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

Cool bike! I can really appreciate someone who replaces stuff at this pace/mindset, even though as a shop employee I'm certainly guilty of staff-dealing parts more frequently than I need to. 

>Guerrilla Gravity makes a reasonably big XL but, as with every single bike he's ever owned, I think the first assessment was "I thought it would be bigger." 

One of the reasons that I'm excited for projects like Atherton Bikes, where they're set to offer something like 20 sizes with custom sizing available (despite the fact it's extremely unlikely I will ever own one). Plug your stuff in to the chart, see where you end up.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+3 BadNudes Velocipedestrian Stripes The Tiger

GG used to have one more size (another X-XL) with the metal bikes and they sort of split the difference with this one. If they kept the larger size Aaron would be on that but this certainly works.

Custom opens a whole other bag of worms. I’d like to see most companies offer more sizes. Make up the SKU difference with less models or less colour options or less builds. 

XS / S / S-M / M / M-L / L / XL / XXL. 

Steepen the STA 1/2* per size and grow the Reach 20mm and Chainstay 5mm per size. Or something like that. Add in a flip chip for chain stay length preference and I think it’s all starting to make sense?

Reply

Jotegir
Lu Kz
1 month, 1 week ago
+2 Andrew Major Stripes The Tiger

I certainly wasn't going to suggest custom for everyone - I've been down that road myself and I can think of literally one person I've actually recommend for considering a custom bike in my life. Moreso as a side note to the absolutely crazy amount of sizes we see Atherton actually offer. It's nice to see Trek offer literally just one of the irregular sizes you've mentioned above (M-L), and there's still companies skipping out on XS, sometimes on XL, and even on S. Tough out there being on the margin! 

It makes me glad I'm about the shortest you can get in to most XLs with. If I'm buying a bike a-la-carte I'm going XL but when it came to my own custom bike, it ended up somewhere between an XL and an L (although now it's fallen back squarely in to "L" territory seeing as we sized the bike in late 2016).

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 1 week ago
+2 Lu Kz Stripes The Tiger

No, I get it. It’s just for a lot of folks you are better served by a custom right now I think a larger range of sizes would look after there needs with stick geo.

Reply

BadNudes
BadNudes
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

What a nice rig! I think I would pay new xtr prices for those brake levers as-is. I've lost too many hours of sleep hunting for some dangerboy/straitline blades and compatible MCs.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 2 weeks ago
0

Yeah, those are a case of they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Actually, one of the things I like about the Hayes Dominion brake lever blades is they have a very aftermarket-upgrade feel to them. I can close my eyes and picture some Bonz blades on them.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
Tjaard Breeuwer
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

@Andrew: Blister’s reviewer David Golay did test the 240 mm dropper and reduce the travel back to 220 or something like that. So there is at least one case out there ! 

However, he is not tall, so indeed, for us long legged folks, it will be interesting to see if any of us run into a post where we think it’s too tall.

Just like too big bike frames, I believe it is out there, just haven’t had it happen yet, nor heard of other tall people who went down in frame size or dropper post travel.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 2 weeks ago
0

I know a few folks who’ve had to reduce their posts for fitment (including myself, most large frames limit me to 170/180mm OneUp and 160/170mm with other posts. 

I have yet to meet someone who shortened their dropper out of preference. I’m sure people are out there but I’d only be interested in their experiences if they have the longer dropper an honest try before reducing travel. 

I’m sure, as you say, that it’s coming. But I’m curious where droppers will max out at.

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
1 month, 2 weeks ago
+2 Lynx . Andrew Major

I tried a 200mm dropper and de-travelled it back to 170mm. I'm 5'11" so not crazy tall, but not short either. I don't notice a difference in that extra 30mm drop when going downhill. The saddle is out of the way enough at 170mm so 200mm felt the same standing. But, I did notice that the lowest position was too low to sit on comfortably. I like to sit and coast for a bit here and there, maybe crank a few pedal strokes without raising the saddle. At 170mm that was comfortable while at 200mm it was not.

My other droppers are 150mm and 175mm x 2. 175mm feels better than 150mm although I don't care enough to replace the 150mm dropper. When it does get replaced I'll get another 170/175mm unit.

Reply

human_touch
human_touch
1 month, 1 week ago
+1 Andrew Major

Thanks for a great article, interesting read as always! 

Question about the 1x11 setup on this bike - pictures show Shimano SLX RD in combination with 51t cog cassette. Looking into Shimano website 11sp SLX RDs should max out on 46t. Does it still work well (eg like 11sp Sram GX would work OKish with 46t cog, having officially recommended max on 42t)? I'm asking because I run 51t cassette 1x11 setup using Deore 5100 RD which is designed to work with 51t cog, but isn't a great product at all (play in pivots, dragging pullies etc), so SLX could be a potential alternative for me...

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 1 week ago
0

Thank you. 

Shimano lists what’s optimal not what’s possible. Aaron hasn’t had to do any faffing about to make this work just fine. On this bike. It should be an almost universally transferable experience but be aware there are some bikes out there that put rear derailleurs in weird spots. 

One note is that clearing the big (50-52t) low gear will likely require a bit more b-tension adjustment than is optimum so shifting in your high gears may not be as crispy.

Reply

flattire2
Brian Tuulos
1 month, 1 week ago
0

I never understood the hate for servo wave levers.  Changing leverage ratio at pad contact point is a Brilliant design, effectively  reduces finger effort by 20% all other things being equal. I will take a free 20% boost in brake power any day.  Sure, the initial pull of the lever feels a little odd but you get used to it.

Reply

mammal
Mammal
1 month, 1 week ago
+1 Lynx .

I think it's more about when the wandering bite point issues began for Shimano brakes, and that was with servo wave. I've had mostly positive experiences, but they can be inconsistent and problematic at worst. Personally, I find the odd fluid burp helps prevent the problem, but pre-SW didn't have those issues.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 1 week ago
0

I think you missed my point in about ServoWave in this piece which is about Shigura brakes not Shimano brakes. Shimano brakes are designed to work with ServoWave and the pads sit further from the rotor initially. It makes it easier to set up brakes drag free. 

Magura brakes are designed with the pads sitting much closer to the rotor. Combined with a ServoWave lever the initialization of the brake has a strange initial power band. In my experiments, using a non-ServoWave lever with a Magura caliper has tons of power and a much more consistent feel. 

———

As a ServoWave aside: 20% compared to what? Hayes Dominion blows anything Shimano makes out of the water in terms of power and lightness of action without any initial pad movement trickery. Shimano’s budget non-ServoWave brakes use longer lever blades for more leverage, and comparing new-new the action feels much nicer out of the box (I’d love to try a pair of 4-Piston Shimano calipers with their XT T-8000 levers - long blades / no ServoWave).

20% compared to a Shimano brake with exactly the same layout as a ServoWave model but with no ServoWave?

Reply

flattire2
Brian Tuulos
1 month, 1 week ago
+1 Joseph Crabtree

^Exactly. The servowave mechanism boosts hydraulic pressure 20% over the same lever without servowave. It’s an impressive design. It changes the leverage ratio of the hydraulic plunger arm when the pads make contact.

Now that I think about it, maybe the wandering bite point is magnified by servo wave.   Hmm

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 1 week ago
0

I tested various configurations for Shiguras and non-ServoWave levers have better action and tons of power. Since most folks are assembling Shiguras using SW levers but without trying both options that's the only point I was looking to make. 

Power aside, just talking Shimano, the non-SW levers feel better. I haven’t tried the T8000, but the M4100 levers in particular are excellent and share architecture so I’m certain they’re great. The levers blades are significantly longer which means a lot more leverage on the piston. Enough to make up the difference with SW? Don’t know, but they’re long!

Reply

Wapti
Wapti
1 month, 1 week ago
0

How tall is A-a-ron?

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 1 week ago
0

Double-A-Ron is a proper head-bumper in the 6’5”ish zone.

Reply

Wybiker
Wybiker
1 month, 1 week ago
0

Long time listener, first time caller. I appreciate a lot of what GG does, but I also had a pretty bad experience with their warranty. 

Specifically I had a chainstay on a bike  snap riding (without a direct impact) in summer 2021 after purchasing the bike in February 2019. 

That’s not terrible in and of itself, but what drove me crazy was this was a pretty well documented problem, GG redesigned the chain stay, and then charged me full freight for a new one. 

If there was a design problem, own up to it and replace it. If your going to maintain it was normal fatigue and not a design don’t send me a completely redesigned component as the replacement.  

Lots of positives like a bike that rode well and local manufacturing, but that left a sour taste.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 1 week ago
0

To begin with an aside. Personally, I'd rather see companies evolving their designs to improve them all the time. I'm happy to know that any brand is working to make their bikes better while still maintaining compatibility. Better doesn't mean the initial design was bad.

------

To your specific case. Outside of their one-year warranty against defects in manufacturing and materials, Guerrilla Gravity clearly offers a lifetime crash replacement deal to original owners. What was the reason they gave for you paying full price for the replacement?

Sorry, I've worked in bicycles most of my adult life and in my experiences, it is very rare that there's not more to these clothesline stories. Not even in a cliché 'two sides to every story' way but rather I'm just wary about having my work used to turn other peoples' grindstones.

------

GG's 'warranty' is quite different from other brands for those that are curious:

"THE LIFETIME FRAME SUPPORT PROGRAM

We want you to know that we strive to build bikes that are durable and long-lasting, something that you can pass down to your kids/little sisters/favorite beginner. Anything less than that is a disappointment. Also note that the wide range of experiences and environments that mountain bikes encounter makes it impossible to account for every rider type, style, and aspect of misuse and misfortune. For this reason, we feel it is misleading to offer a warranty similar to the ones found throughout the industry, which are chock-full of ifs, ands, and buts.

Manufacturing defects typically reveal themselves within a year of ownership. Should a failure occur because of one of these we will act expediently to get the rider a replacement. Because of science, mountain bike frames and products do have a usable lifespan. But we know a broken frame never makes for a good day, so for this reason we will provide discounted replacements for the lifetime of the frame. The discount will depend on the age of the frame, replacement necessary, and circumstance. Frames painted or powder-coated outside of GG's system will not be eligible for the Lifetime Frame Support.

In order to take advantage of the Lifetime Frame Support program, you will need to provide proof of purchase. If you purchased directly through GG, please provide us the Order # and date in your description of the issue below.

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