Howdy! So, you read my review of the Trail Pistol and now you’re wondering what it’s actually like to convert a Guerrilla Gravity frame into a different bike. Well, I’m going to walk you through it. I’ll also cover the updates to the Gnarvana for 2022, as well as a bit more in-depth information about the GG frame colors.
If you’re here, you probably know that GG offers a variety of models ranging in travel and wheel sizes, all of which share the same front triangle. This is a big part of what sets this company apart and, in my opinion, a pretty dang cool thing. Essentially, you can take a 120mm Trail Pistol that you ride most of the time, and, with the right parts, minimal tools, and a bit of mechanical know-how, convert it into a 160mm Gnarvana.
Now, this does mean you need another shock and, unless you have a fork that can easily have the travel adjusted, you also need a separate fork. The seatstay kits run about $450, and $1200 for the Trail Pistol’s carbon swingarm if you decide to start with a long travel version. So, having multiple GG models isn’t really a cheap proposition, but it’s cheaper than having two bikes. With a solid set of wheels, a fork like the MRP Ribbon, a spare shock and the seatstay kit, you could feasibly have your daily short travel rig, as well as the longest travel Gnarvanna and only really be spending an extra $800-$1000 to have your cake and eat it too.
Swapping the kits takes the GG pros about 20 minutes. You can expect longer your first time, especially if you’re going to also be adjusting the travel of a fork. The process is pretty straightforward, and you only need some allen keys and a torque wrench. A T25 may be needed depending on your drivetrain, but I would imagine any home mechanic doing this would have an adequate toolset. It took us about 45 minutes with me asking questions and getting in the way. We also had to re-dish a wheel, because the new Gnarvana shares the same swingarm with the Trail Pistol, and no longer has the 3mm offset of the old model. The other time-consuming bit was actually fitting the seat stay into the chainstay/swingarm pivot point. The tolerances are very tight, and while it took a bit of finagling, I would rather have tight pivot tolerances than play at a stress point. On the flip side, you can use the shock bolt to pop the original seat stay out.
Beyond being able to change the travel of the bike substantially, GG also has an adjustable headset that alters reach by 10mm in either direction. Given that the front triangle remains unchanged regardless of rear travel and fork length, this could come in handy. For example, when we swapped the Trail Pistol over to a Gnarvana, the fork went from 130mm to 170mm. This does quite a few things to the bike, geometrically.
When adding the longer fork, all of these things occur:
-Reach shortened by ~25mm
-Stack increased by ~17mm
-BB height raised by ~14mm
-Standover height raised by ~28mm
-Wheelbase increased by ~40mm
-Headtube Angle decreases from 65.4° to 63.6°
-Seat Tube angle decreases from 78.3° to 76.1°
-Effective Chainstay Length +20mm
That’s a pretty substantial change. What’s also worth noting is that some of those numbers are a bit counterintuitive for a longer travel bike. However, the Gnarvana is still slacker, lower, and longer than Pivot’s Firebird. The only number that really stands out to me is the reach. At 444mm for the Size 2 (GG’s small/medium), it feels a little short in the cockpit for a bike of this nature. Compared to the Firebird again, it is shorter, but sits directly between their Small and Medium. It’s still noteworthy enough to mention that riders on either end of the height spectrum who prefer reachy cockpits for their long travel bikes might find themselves feeling slightly cramped. If you are between sizes and can deal with sizing up however, you could take advantage of the adjustable reach headset, running it in the shorter position for your short travel version, and longer for your sled version to accommodate for that change.
It’s also worth noting that as of summer 2022, the Gnarvanna and the Trail Pistol share the same swingarm. Though the carbon chainstay remains the same, the Gnarvana axle is mounted to the alloy seatstays which are longer by 20mm, giving the overall rear triangle and effective chainstay length an increase of 20mm, to 450mm. This is fairly in line for more progressive bikes these days. However, unlike some other companies out there, chainstay length isn’t size specific. This also means that the Trail Pistol has relatively long chainstays compared to some other short travel bikes, but at this point I think we’ve established that the Trail Pistol doesn’t really have all that much in common with most other bikes in its travel bracket, and clearly shares some DNA with it’s bigger siblings that demonstrate the numbers expected from a given travel bracket.
Gnarvana First Ride Impressions
To turn my Trail Pistol into a Gnarvana, we went the easier route and swapped the Pike to a Zeb, threw a longer stroke RockShox Ultimate shock with a piggyback on it, and some wider rims with beefier tires. Everything else remained the same. Like I said above, this conversion could be done with a travel adjustable fork and a wheelset that you felt comfortable hitting your daily trails and the bike park on. Luckily, there are plenty of wheelsets out there that would do the job just fine, and might even be made in the USA, maybe even out of thermoplastic. Have I said thermoplastic enough?
After converting the Trail Pistol to the Gnarvana, I drove back to Boulder and after a quick burrito and nap, went and rode one of my favorite steep, nasty, old school freeride trails in the area. This trail loses a little less than 1k’ in a little less than a mile, and is a wonderfully moto mix of loose corners, steep rock gardens, and off camber chunk. It’s rad as hell.
Throwing a leg over the Gnarvana, I definitely noticed the shortened reach and slackened seat tube angle. The shortened reach didn’t feel bad per-se, but it was noticeably different. As someone who spends time on a lot of different bikes, dealing with varied reach isn’t a big deal. The seat tube angle also slackened as I noted above. As someone who has an ass, this was a big deal. Halfway up the climb, I adjusted my saddle angle to accommodate for this. That adjustment mostly solved the problem, but if you’re a rider who deals with knee issues, it might be worth noting that changing back and forth from models frequently could be less than ideal.
Climbing up to this trail is a bit of a slog. Half fire road, and half steep chunky moto trail. The latter half is frequently walked by folks, and I’ve only fully cleaned the latter half once or twice going up. This was not one of those times. I don’t blame the Gnarvana solely for that, but rather me being a bit out of shape and wanting to talk with my bud who I was riding with rather than just huffing at demons the whole time. The Gnarvana (in my configuration) does weigh about 3lbs more than my Trail Pistol build. Going to a stouter wheelset, beefier suspension, and more aggressive and durable tires will do that to a bike, and it’s no heavier than comparable models from other brands.
The Gnarvana climbed about how you would expect a 33ish pound clad with a Zeb and meaty tires would climb. It wasn’t a rocketship, but it went uphill just fine. I flipped the climb switch for the fire road, and opened up for the chunky uphill when I wanted all the traction I could get. On an enduro bike though, who’s really timing the uphill? I’ll say it again, shocks have climb switches for a reason. Why we are afraid of admitting they are useful for climbing fire roads is still beyond me. When the trail got steeper and chunkier, I opened the climb switch back up to keep the rear wheel planted on uneven terrain, and let the suspension do it’s job, which it did just fine.
To get to the trail I espoused about earlier, there’s a zippy little traverse with lots of opportunity to leave the ground due to drainage channels. This would really be the first opportunity I would have to let this bike go fast and see what this frame could do with it’s big boy boots on.
Turns out, having a shitload of travel makes you act like it. Once the trail became it’s proper nasty self, I found myself taking stupid lines that I hadn’t before thought of, and generally just plowing through everything. Turns out 33ish pound, bike clad with a Zeb and meaty tires descends like a champ. I was less fatigued at the bottom of that descent than I have been in the past on any other bike I’ve ridden it on. Usually that trail, though short, gives most folks some decent forearm and calf pump. I felt pretty limber by the end, and I will attribute that to a whole lot of travel and a headtube angle slacker than Montana’s speed limits. If you can get the sizing and reach right, I have no doubt the Gnarvana could be a competitive enduro bike, or a rig that will handle the nastiest of what most mortals consider reasonable.
After a few more rides, I noticed myself not minding the shortened reach, as it felt like it helped give a bit more leverage over the front end of the bike. This was welcome, and helped preserve a playful ride quality that I had come to associate with the Trail Pistol. The bike was super stiff out back, which meant that getting playful enough to end up in a less than ideal line didn’t give totally pinball the bike, and allowed for confidence straight lining through roots and rock gardens. Overall, the Gnarvana is a capable and fun long travel bike that can handle a huge variety of terrain and accommodate aggressive riding styles. Paired with a Trail Pistol, one could reasonably have a full suspension platform that would be able to provide fun and confidence on any terrain one would consider riding a mountain bike on.
I had the fortune of riding the newest generation of the Gnarvana, which has a substantial amount of upgrades due to the utilization of the Revved swingarm.
-Utilizes SRAM’s Universal Derailleur Hanger (UDH)
-External brake hose clip system. This is the same one used on the Trail Pistol, and is a nifty way to avoid zipties.
-Internal swingarm cable routing
-Molded rubber protector
-Pivot bushings, where they make sense: To create an even stiffer interface, the updated Gnarvana swingarm pivot switches from ball bearings to proven IGUS bushings for lighter weight, better fit, and a longer service life.
-Zero mm wheel dish: gone is the 3 mm dish of the first gen Gnarvana, making wheel swaps quick and easy.
All in all, the Gnarvana is an incredibly capable long travel bike. With the most recent updates, the Trail Pistol/Gnarvana system makes a heck of a case for a “quiver killer” full suspension. Those two and a solid all around rigid gravel bike could forseably handle everything that most cyclists would want.
Along with this update, GG also released new frame colors for all of their models, all done in house.
This color was cherry-picked by Yoann Barelli, so we gave it a nod to his life philosophy and love of French wine. The color is rich with a smooth finish. Subtle gold flakes pop through when the sun hits the frame just right.
Colorway available on all Gnarvana builds. Builds start at $4,895.
Inspired by the sandstone rock slabs, endless miles of trail, and rugged scenery of the American West. The Dune colorway pays homage to the desert riding where we push ourselves and challenge our skills, making it the perfect match for our ready-for-anything bike: The Smash.
Colorway available on all Smash builds. Builds start at $4,495.
A familiar blue hue with a steely undertone, there’s more to this color than just being ridiculously good-looking. To us, this color represents the wide-open blue sky above an endless ribbon of sweet singletrack. Get your look on and find your flow state!
Colorway available on all Trail Pistol builds. Builds start at $4,695.
In-House Powder Coating
All of these colors are powder coated in-house alongside our standard Stealth color. Compared to traditional carbon, Revved Carbon allows for a more sustainable finishing method. Powder coat eliminates the smog forming VOCs emitted by the solvents in wet paint. Powder coating also provides a tough, scratch-resistant finish, which is just another way we build our bikes to last.