So, we just finished wrapping our last round of Beta Tests, and among the fourteen bikes we tested, four of them used high-pivot suspension designs. And all of those four bikes, despite some eccentricities, were pretty damn good. Not all were right for me, but I think they were excellent at what they set out to do. To produce these bikes, each brand had to come up with new frames, new linkage, and new geometry. And they somehow had to make it all work together in a way that made sense for that bike’s specific purpose. Pretty impressive that they all did it quite well on their first go. But if the industry can spit out four primo high-pivot bikes in the span of six months, why the hell is it taking so long to make a proper mixed-wheel bike? By that, I mean, why is it taking so long to make one that I would buy?
Here’s my issue: The mixed-wheel trend started* in gravity racing, so I guess it follows that gravity is where its development would take root. The Transition Patrol, the Evil insurgent, the YT Capra, the Specialized Status. Even the Santa Cruz Bronson and Juliana Roubion are firmly in the all-mountain category. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Bronson, but if I’m going to own a big-travel bike, I’m going to put big wheels on it. I’m also going to put big rotors and big stanchions on it. It’ll have a long wheelbase and wide bars. Everything works together that way. For that very reason, I think there should be more short-travel mixed-wheel bikes. Bikes that play to the strengths of smaller wheels, not apologize for them. Short chainstays, moderate head tube angles, and supportive suspension all pair well with the mixed-wheel setup. And I may be missing a few bikes here, but the Forbidden Druid and Alchemy Arktos 120 and 135 may be the only short-travel mixed-wheel bikes available out of the box. And neither offer short chainstays beyond the Druid’s smaller sizes.
I thought about doing a Yeti SB140, but someone beat me to it. That’s when I remembered Guerrilla Gravity. Like the SB140, the Shred Dogg is a matched 27.5-inch bike built around 20 millimeters of extra fork travel (130 rear, 150 front), making it a good candidate to drop that extra travel in place of a larger front wheel. Unlike the SB140, the Shred Dogg is also built around a modular external lower headset cup.
Swapping that for an internal cup drops the front end by an extra 10mm, which is about how much is still left in the stack height when hacking a bike like the SB140 to be matched-travel but mixed-wheel. The Shred Dogg also happens to have a short 423mm chainstay regardless of frame size. It was perfect. If you haven’t seen it, the build video can be found here.
I chose a Marzocchi Z1 fork for a few reasons: First, I already had one. Second, the new chassis on the Fox 36 raised the axle-to-crown by a few millimeters, losing some of the precious geometry gains offered by the Shred Dogg. It’s a little heavier than a 36, but how much will that matter in the end … right? So, I dropped a Grip2 damper in it, stuck some custom Slik Graphics stickers, and called it my Dream Fork.
Out back, I opted for a Cane Creek DB Inline Coil. Here’s where I step off my like-with-like high horse a bit. I went with a coil shock to win back some of the small-bump sensitivity lost with the small wheel. I went with the Sprindex spring to accommodate for the days when I’m overloaded with trailbuilding tools, and I went with an Inline shock to leave more room in the front triangle for bags and bottles. I’ve modified the system a bit since this build, but it’s essentially the same.
I’m not much of a wheel snob, but the front/rear-specific tune of the Crank Brothers Synthesis wheels just makes sense to me. And I’m expecting this bike to be a bit of a basher, so the alloy versions made sense as well. The new Bontrager SE line is well suited to my dry trails, since they’ve got enough knobs to hold an edge, and are high-durometer enough to last more than a month. Stan’s sealant, stock valves, Bob’s your uncle.
The drivetrain, you’ll notice, is not shiny pewter XTR. I went by Beta’s recommendation for best-bang-for-the-buck pedaly bits, with the exception of the Cane Creek eeWings crank. But come on, just look at it! Regarding the SLX derailleur, XT cassette and shifter and XTR chain, I can’t tell the difference in shift quality between this and my big bike’s full XTR drivetrain. This setup is just a little heavier. But again… how much will that matter? My only complaint is that the unorthodox Syntace derailleur hanger Guerrilla Gravity uses on their alloy rear triangles can be knocked off-axis. I fashioned a shim to keep it straight but come on, hanger. You have one job.
The brakes are similarly pragmatic. SLX stop me just as well as XTR, though the Ice Tech Feeza 6-bolt rotors weren’t released until after I stacked this build. Oh, and I forgot the bottom bracket. It’s a stainless-steel Enduro-bearing BSA threaded because common sense.
I went with a 200mm Performance Elite Fox Transfer post since I’ve seen good results on its longevity, and I’m using my staple Pro Stealth short-and-stubby saddle. Things get weird in the cockpit, though. My favoritre Ergon GA2 Fat grips are always my go-to, but Yes, between them is a Thomson stem and 800mm Thomson titanium handlebar.
I know the bar isn’t made in the USA by Thomson, but it really brings it all home, I think. Classic look with a modern feel. I’ve put on a set of carbon 31.8 Enve bars to compare, and I can’t say these offer much more give, but I like seeing them. In the same way as the eeWings cranks do, that bar/stem adds some personality. And more than any other mountain bike I’ve owned, my Shred Dogg has personality.
And that’s exactly how I’d describe the ride. I had to get used to this thing. I’d ridden a number of bikes with steeper head angles quite recently, but add the small rear wheel and short chainstays, and I kinda have to stay on my toes. In the loose, coarse kitty litter of some of the San Gabriel Mountains’ late-summer traverses, the front wheel liked to dig in if I turned too carelessly. Making small corrections at high speed would result in some scary oversteer. But in the loose terrain where I spend most of my time, the results are still somewhat muted. I’ve found myself able to set the bike drifting and floating with far less effort than my other, far more capable bike. It makes the ride a little more chaotic and, yes, sometimes a little slower. It’s why I’m still looking for the perfect sticker to cover the somewhat cringe “I Like Goin’ Fast’ ‘ permanent decal on every Guerrilla Gravity’s top tube. It’s not that simple. But what this bike does is what I like.
When I’m not hanging on for dear life, that short rear end is always asking to be exploited. The occasional, totally unnecessary manual is easy to lock into. I’m constantly seeking slow-speed stabs off rock rolls that would probably be safer to keep my front wheel glued to. I’ve probably said “big BMX bike” dozens of times over the years when discussing fun, short-travel bikes, but this has set the bar for me. It responds incredibly well to forceful input, whether breaking traction or getting off the ground. It’s just so quick. So fun. And it likes to jump. Once I got to know the bike, and was able to reach higher and higher unsafe speeds, I would surprise myself at how much hang time I could get off the slightest transition. It can do a lot with a little. I actually spent a couple days in the park and, depending on which park, it will probably be my go-to over my enduro 29er whenever I’m headed to the lift lines.
That’s not to say it doesn’t climb well. Keeping that front end low paid off, and the seat tube angle is nice and steep. I don’t even need to slam my saddle forward … but let’s face it, I did anyway. The Horst link lacks the nuance of my SB140 that might have been, but with only 130mm of pretty progressive travel, it doesn’t sink. It just bounces a little. And that may be thanks in part to the coil shock, which indeed does make up for some small-bump hang-up. I’ve found that the way this bike rides is a testament to the importance of choosing the right suspension. Everything about its geometry says this bike shouldn’t be able to do what I like to do with it. But as long as I don’t let my guard down, it stays incredibly composed.
It also helps that the front triangle is identical to that of all of Guerrilla Gravirty’s bikes, including those deep in the enduro category. It’s not a particularly stiff bike, but it doesn’t feel wispy like other short-travel carbon bikes. Sure, I’ve made some careless additions of 80 grams here, 100 grams there, and it has ended up weighing 33.7 pounds (a pound more than my 170mm enduro bike), but I stand by every one of them. This isn’t the most practical or versatile bike I’ve ever owned, but that’s not what I was looking for. It’s something different. A change of pace. And irrefutable proof that I know how to build a better mixed-wheel bike than the the entire bike industry can.
Photos: Anthony Smith
*Yes, I know that bikes with two different wheel sizes existed before Loic Bruni did it. Relax.