For the 6 days long bikepacking Great Green Mountain Singletrack Traverse I had the privilege of riding the new Rocky Mountain Sherpa: a 27.5+ bike designed specifically for backpacking. The Sherpa like I mentioned before is a plus size bike meaning it has 3″ tires on 27.5 rims. I called them summer fat but some people call them mid-fat or plus bikes.
People at Rocky Mountain are very serious about designing bikes and they are also very serious about their rider tuned concept (RTC). Instead of having a fancy name for a suspension design, the concept of Rocky Mountain’s rider tuned is that they start not with an autocad design but a rider profile. They build a bike around this rider profile. In this case the rider profile is an adventurer. The rider that will spend weeks planning is route and gear and then set off on a expedition more often on unconventional trail surface.
Partly because of fat bikes, innovation in gear bags and also because people always need to explore more bikepacking is getting quite popular now.
The Sherpa is based on the proved xc race machine: 29inch wheeled Element. They switch the big wagon wheels for wide 27.5 loops. They use the 2.8″ WTB trailblazer for rubber. This tire like the bike is designed for long exploration rides. The big air volume makes a very comfortable ride and also makes the Element inspired Sherpa more fun on technical trails. But it’s an expedition tire where rolling resistance might be has important as grip on very long rides. So this means that on East Coast slippery conditions they are just short of dangerous. We were quite lucky to ride very dry trails on our trip because in the wet their lack of grip is not to be taken lightly. But on the dry trails and dirt road they are fast, they don’t feel sluggish like a fat bike like tire. Never forget that this is a serious bikepacking bike and these tires fits this profile perfectly.
We started the trip on top of Killington’s DH trails. I was surprised how much I could do with the bike mostly because of the big tires but it really did not take long that I reached the bottom of the 100 mm rear suspension. But then again with more suspension a seatbag filled with gear would rub the back wheel. I used a drop down seat post on this trip and even with a full seatbag I could lower it a couple of precious inches to feel comfortable on the downhills. I think that I like a dropper post more than more suspension.
The geometry of the sherpa has a definitely upright feel and it’s the most comfortable bike I have ridden on long rides. The straight up position and the tractor wheels lets you slowly crawl over anything especially long and steep hills. On long days and especially while being heavily loaded it’s great not to have to fight your front end on steep climbs. You just use a low gear, get into a rhythm and then you can conquer any hill. The geometry also makes the bb of this bike pretty high, I found it very nice not to have to synchronize pedal strokes on very technical trails more even so when you are starting to get tired and dazed.
A nice addition to the parts on this bike are the super comfy mushroom like grips like I had on my BMX bikes zillion years ago. You can ride them gloveless witch is something less smelly to bother about on expeditions.
I would be curious to try the sherpa with more trail oriented tires but the bottom line is this: next time that after a couple of beers I have a genius plan like doing the Colorado trail, an Trans Alp or an even longer great green mountain singletrack traverse the Sherpa is the bike at the top of my list.