Growler Bikes

In MTB, there are many superior bike brands to choose from. But it is always recommended to advance to more innovative models the more proficient you become. Growler Bikes are one such brand worth considering thanks to their superb suspension and riding dynamics. What makes Growler Bikes such a great brand?

Growler Performance Bikes are purpose built high performance fat bikes designed to conquer the trail at every turn. Growler strives to always maintain a steady level of innovation for each of their custom, performance fat bikes and their componentry.

In this guide, we will explore what makes Growler a great band for mountain bikes. We will look at their company history, the components of their bikes, and what Growler bikes perform the best. Read on to find out more. 

An Overview of Growler Bikes

The Growler Motto is simple: “People. Product. Price.” 

The Growler story starts in the early 1990’s when a few guys from Rochester, New York started mountain biking together on local trails.  They loved the friendship and comradery that mountain biking created.  Now, after over 25 years, that same group of friends continue to ride every week. The only thing different is better bikes and more improved innovation.

To this day the company still enjoys their post ride activities in addition to fashioning stella mountain bikes. The company started with a question–Why are good bikes so damn expensive? After hearing this complaint week after week and year after year, Growler’s founder Willo “Wheels” Glynn figured there must be a way to create top of the line bikes that the average person could afford.  

Wheels started researching, designing, and developing a new formula for manufacturing bicycles in today’s competitive industry. It revolved around a micro brewed theme, supported the local economy and delivered amazing bikes.  After many pints of beer and seemingly endless name changes, Wheel’s concept unfolded, and Growler Performance Bikes was born.

In developing Growler Performance Bikes, Wheels made a conscious decision to disregard the traditional approach and attack head on the problems the bicycle industry is littered with. His solution is a locally built, high-performance fat bike that boosts the local economy, exceeds industry standards, and remains affordable to the average consumer.  

From powder coating, wheel building, graphic cusrtomising, and assembly, the brand’s bikes are locally brewed and hand built in Rochester, New York by industry professionals. They use only the highest quality components from SRAM, Raceface, Hayes Performance, WTB, Manitou, RockShox, ENVE Lizard Skin, Sunringle, Wheelsmith, Maxxis, Terrene, FSA and Orange Seal. 

Compare the Growler experience to any company in the industry and you will clearly see the tremendous value you get when you join their community.  

Growler not only provides valuable local jobs, but they give back to the community. The brand donates bikes and components to local high school mountain bike teams, support local bike parks, and promote mountain bike groups and communities. Additionally, they have several bikes that support charitable social causes. 

Whether you are just getting into mountain biking, or ready to trade up to a new bike to add to your stable, Growler Performance Bikes has the perfect ride for you at an affordable price. 

Growler Bike Models 

The Growler 20 is not flashy, or extra light, or super fast, but it is an aluminum hardtail with a 120mm-travel Suntour fork, 27.5×2.8-inch WTB Ranger tires, and a 1×9 Shimano drivetrain that outperforms its price. That’s largely due to its trail-oriented geometry, which is rare to find on models in this price range because some similarly priced options have geometries that make them feel more like hybrids than mountain bikes. 

All of that tech and design comes together to offer a forgiving ride, allowing newbies to develop on-trail confidence and seasoned riders to feel right at home. During my testing of this bike on a rocky New Mexico singletrack, gravel paths, and dirt fire roads, I most enjoyed spinning uphill and powering over rolling sections of trail because the frame was reliably stiff and the larger tires allowed me to make small mistakes (i.e. slightly miss my line) without major consequences.

With the Rocky Mountain Growler 20, you’ll get the benefit of a 1x chainring, a 120mm coil fork that ably reacts to the trail, beefy tires that forgive minor handling errors, and a beautiful aluminum frame that’s sturdy enough to withstand inevitable crashes. 

So, if you want a new mountain bike and don’t want to feel like you paid for a semester worth of tuition at a local community college for it, the Rocky Mountain Growler 20 might be a perfect, affordable way for you to start seeing the world a little differently; it’s the best, most capable, and most pleasing-to-ride sub-$1,000 mountain bike that many MTB enthusiasts swear by.

The Suntour coil fork impresses many when climbing and cruising through rolling sections of trail, working well when locked out as you spin uphill and when open as you ride over small rock gardens. The fork reliably absorbs small to moderate trail obstructions, like rocks, fallen tree limbs, and roots, but when the on-trail debris or obstacles took more than a few seconds to traverse, the coil fork began to compact linearly and reduce the amount of travel available. 

If you do buy this bike, be sure to check with your local shop to make sure the proper spring is in place to deliver you the maximum ride quality. This is a setup that would likely outperform any air fork that Rocky Mountain could have paired with this model for the same price. Yes, a nice air fork is usually better than a nice coil fork, but if forced to choose between a low-end air option versus a high-end coil option, I’d take the better coil option every time.

The Shimano hydraulic disc brakes warrant almost the exact same level of praise: they perform capably on fast descents and on tricky sections that demand careful feathering of the brakes, but they lack the stopping power experienced riders may have felt with higher-end brakes.

The Growler 20 represents the lowest tier in the Growler family, with sibling models in the Growler 40 ($1,359) and Growler 50 ($1,849). The 40 comes stock with a Shimano Deore groupset, a Suntour Raidon 34 LOR Air 130mm fork, and Shimano MT400 hydraulic disc brakes. The 50 is available with a Shimano SLX groupset, Shimano MT400 hydraulic disc brakes, and a FSA Gamma Pro 30T crankset.

The Growler 20 is significantly less expensive than these two models and still features a host of reliable, high-performing components, including a Suntour XCM 34 Boost 120mm fork; a Rocky Mountain XC 740mm handlebar; Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes; Shimano Altus shifters and rear derailleur; Rocky Mountain Microdrive 28t; and WTB Volt saddle.

Key Details to Keep in Mind: My Experience With Growler Bikes

The Growler offered some differences that I had yet to experience on a hardtail up until my first ride on it in the Albuquerque Sandia Foothills. It could be a bit of a learning curve to direct the front end of a slacked-out, long-travel hardtail, but that all changes when pointing the Growler downhill. It made me take lines I would typically try on an enduro or trail bike, but not on a hardtail. 

It’s stable, great in high-speed situations, and surprisingly well-behaved in corners considering how long the wheelbase is. Sure, it wasn’t a full-squish sensation, but the short rear end could be moved quickly, while the 29er wheels mowed over chunks unlike any other hardtail I have ever ridden.

As I put in more time with the Growler, I got hungry to push the limits even further. Cutting down the 34-pound stock build was a priority, but I also wanted to add to the stock 140mm of travel. I mostly ride this bike in dry, kitty-litter hardpack and on the sharp desert surfaces found in Western Albuquerque. 

It’s no KOM killer on the climbs, but I am glad it’s not. It lets me get up into the mountains from the town efficiently and can tame most of the ridgeline singletrack that is common in the area. It fits the bill as a capable package for most riders’ experience levels and those who want to push a hardtail like an enduro bike.

Alloy is still being used on the newer models that are found on the current Growlers, but the colors have changed. As mentioned, the chainstay length is nice and short for a responsive rear end that has adequate tire clearance to run a 2.6-inch-wide tire. 

Occasionally, debris, such as rocks and sticks, gets sucked up by the tire and smacks against the frame. There are even a few spots on the head tube where the cables could brush up against the tube. There is already some protection on the frame, but just to be safe and keep the paint shiny, I applied some clear 3M protective film on areas at risk of abuse—mainly on the back of the seat tube near the tire as well as on the chainstays, downtube and top tube.

I love the geometry and the amount of travel the Growler has, and it has all the modern features I need. As for upgrades, I’m not one to let parts go to waste. I was able to keep some of the stock parts (like the bottom bracket and headset) that there was no sense in changing, since I had other parts on hand that were a lighter weight that could be used. 

I was able to exchange some light components from my cross-country bike (that just happens to be a Rocky Mountain Element) straight over to the Growler. Although the internal cable routing is not my favorite, this alloy frame can take a beating and should last me a lifetime of riding. 

Overall, this bike charges terrain and likes steep sections that are wide open. 

It makes me laugh keeping up with trail bikes, surprises me through rock gardens, and lets me take in the scenery during a climb before finding the next fast singletrack.

Although the Growler came with plenty of travel, I did want more performance and adjustability than the RockShox 35 Gold RL offered. To make things lighter, I went with a 160mm RockShox Lyrik Ultimate. Not only did I save weight, I was also able to add 20mm of travel. 

Each fork was straightforward to “set and forget” before a ride; however, the upgrade to the Lyrik offered more adjustability with high- and low-speed compression dials to maximize how the fork responded to the terrain. 

After all, I really liked how the bike responded in steep terrain, and adding the extra travel made the bike a bit slacker. This sacrificed some of the climbing efficiency, but after all, I am all about taking this hardtail down steep terrain, and going with more travel only made it feel more stable in those scenarios. 

The SRAM X0 12-speed drivetrain has seen some serious wear over the years. It was pulled off of my Element with a few updates to revive its performance for this Growler build. The derailleur pulleys had seen better days. With the knuckles and cage in solid condition, I upgraded to Enduro Bearings XD-15 ceramic hybrid pulleys. 

Not only do they provide smoother shifting, but the high-end materials will make the derailleur more durable. Other weight-saving upgrades included swapping to a lighter SRAM XO1 cassette, a new hollow-pin chain, and the Stylo cranks with a OneUp chainring in place of the heavier SRAM NX components that came stock. This wasn’t the most budget-friendly upgrade for me to do, but luckily there were some items in the parts bins to pull from. 

This bike came with WTBs, and they just happen to be my favorite combo; however, I did end up dropping the width down from a 2.6-inch at the front and rear. Instead, I went with a 2.5-inch Vigilante Light/Fast Rolling casing at the front with a 2.4-inch Trail Boss with the Light/Fast Rolling casing in the rear. The smaller tire width gave the Growler a bit less rolling resistance, and the lighter casing saved weight. 

These tires have been a reliable combo in a wide variety of conditions, and when more are back in stock, I will likely switch to the Tough/High Grip option offered in these WTB tires. Typically, I run 1 to 2 psi less in the 2.6-inch tires, so going to the smaller widths, I stuck right at 25 psi in the rear with 24 psi in the front and no tire inserts.