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Rocky Mountain Blizzard Review

This Rocky Mountain Blizzard review was prepared by Matt Gersib for fat-bike.com. Thanks, Matt!

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The Blizzard, as MG’s riding it today, with new tires, a Specialized dropper post, longer, 80mm stem and 1-inch rise bar.

Last month we introduced you to our new Rocky Mountain Blizzard long-term test bike (read the Product Spotlight). A month has passed since we took delivery of the bike and we’ve had the opportunity to ride it in a wide variety of conditions, from dry, tacky singletrack, to pedaling through nearly a foot of freshly-fallen powder.

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Canadian through and through

What we’ve found is a bike that is undoubtedly optimized for wintertime use, but has the potential to shine on dirt as well. The stock gearing, with a single 24t RaceFace narrow-wide chainring and a 11-36t 10-speed Shimano SLX cassette, is a bit limiting when riding faster, more flowy trails, especially after the stock (very slow-rolling) Vee Bulldozer tires were replaced. I mounted a 4.8 Surly Bud on the front and a 3.8-inch Bontrager Hodag on the rear. With that combo, I could easily out-pedal the stock gearing on flat ground. As a result, I’ll be swapping the mini 1x setup for a 2x setup with 24-36-bash rings. It should be just the ticket for the faster, flowy singletrack we frequently ride here in the Midwest.

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The low stock gearing is well-suited to winter riding, but for summer, an extra chainring in the front will be necessary for the gearing to keep up with the bike’s potential on dirt.

Alex, the Rocky Mountain product manager responsible for the Blizzard, said the gearing reflected their own use of the bike. However, the stock setup gives riders the freedom to choose their optimal gearing type, be it the stock 1x setup, or a 2x or even 3x drivetrain. The bike includes a mount and internal cable routing if the owner wants to add a front derailleur, and the stock RaceFace crank can easily accommodate a two or three chainring setup.

Other than the gearing limitations and the weak stock KMC chain (reported on in the product spotlight), I’ve been mostly happy with the parts spec on the Blizzard. The Shimano SLX-based drivetrain has been totally solid, with positive light-action shifting in both directions and strong, one-finger braking from the SLX disc brakes (180mm front rotor, 160mm rear rotor).

Despite online reports of durability issues from other Blizzard riders, the Wheeltech rear hub on our test bike has been bulletproof, and it rolls ultra-smooth too. Thumbs-up so far!

Despite online reports of durability issues from other Blizzard riders, the Wheeltech rear hub on our test bike has been bulletproof, and it rolls ultra-smooth too. Thumbs-up so far!

Some question has been raised online as to the durability of the Blizzard’s rear Wheeltech hub, but the wheel on our test bike has been solid to-date. I asked Alex at Rocky Mountain about what might be going on, and he said that while he couldn’t comment on any one specific occurrence, Rocky Mountain is taking the matter seriously and is taking care of customers with issues on a case-by-case basis through its dealer network.

Dave Chase, owner of Redstone Cyclery in Lyons, Colorado (a Rocky Mountain dealership) said from his experience, it’s important to keep the axle tight on the rear Wheeltech hub (using two cone wrenches, one on either end of the axle with the wheel out of the frame). If the axle loosens, play can develop that can reduce the precision of the hub’s pawl engagement. It’s that play resulting from a loose axle that Chase suspects is causing the isolated issues that have been reported.

When I checked the tightness of the rear axle on our test Blizzard, I found it to be about a half-turn loose, so I snugged it up and haven’t noticed any additional loosening since.

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Initially, I thought the stock flat bar/60mm stem combination was both too short and low for me, but after trying a 1-inch rise bar and 80mm stem, I kept the bar, but went back to the stock 60mm stem. With that combination, the bike has an indomitable feel that’s in many ways similar to a good all-mountain bike. When you roll up to technical downhill sections, the bike seems to urge me to challenge myself and take a chance.

The dropped top tube design gives the Blizzard fantastic stand-over clearance. Note the ultra-smooth welds on the upper segment of the frame.

The dropped top tube design gives the Blizzard fantastic stand-over clearance. Note the ultra-smooth welds on the upper segment of the frame.

With a 68.5-degree head tube, the Blizzard is stable, but thanks to the 51mm fork offset, it still turns in with authority when called to do so. Despite my initial reservations about the slack head tube angle, there hasn’t been a single situation on the trail where I’ve wished for quicker steering. It’s a solid handling bike that goes where you point it and doesn’t throw you any surprises when you’re working hard in technical terrain.

The welds near the bottom bracket forgo the smooth treatment, with a familiar ‘stacked dime’ appearance. The front derailleur mount readies the Blizzard for a 2x or 3x conversion.

The welds near the bottom bracket forgo the smooth treatment, with a familiar ‘stacked dime’ appearance. The front derailleur mount readies the Blizzard for a 2x or 3x conversion.

Out of the box, the Rocky Mountain Blizzard is a fun, capable, Bluto-equipped fatbike that excels in slow, technical riding. The bike responds well to upgrades too. New tires made a world of difference, as the stock Vee Bulldozer tires are mediocre performers at best. Also, taking the time to dial-in the fit of the bike with a new bar and stem made a world of difference as well.

As it stands today, I’m really enjoying the Blizzard. In fact, I love it enough that it’s very possible I may see what I need to do to make our test bike a member of my permanent stable. Keep an eye out for future updates as I continue my quest to make the bike perfect for the riding I do in the winter. Then, as spring rolls around I’ll report on the changes I’m making to the bike to prepare it for a summer of sweet singletrack.

The Good:

  • Slack, progressive geometry handles great
  • Stock RockShox Bluto
  • Frame feels solid, built-to-last
  • Stiff, smooth-rolling wheelset uses quality components
  • Excellent Shimano SLX drivetrain and brakes
  • Muted colors and cool owl-themed graphics and subtle branding

The Not So Good:

  • Slow-rolling stock Vee Bulldozer tires
  • Gearing lacks flexibility & range for typical fatbike rides in the Midwest, particularly on dirt (this is easily remedied however)
  • Sizing runs a bit small (short TT), making this is a good bike to try before you buy
  • I dream about how awesome this frame would be with 15-20mm shorter chainstays… But it still handles very nicely.
  • Tire clearance can be tight at the chainstay bridge with 4.7-4.8 inch tires.

12 Responses to Rocky Mountain Blizzard Review

  1. Zachary Brown February 12, 2015 at 11:33 am #

    I did not realize race face had a narrow wide in whatever BCD that is crank that is? Is 24t a typo perhaps? Good article though. Looks like a good choice in bikes.

  2. MG February 12, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

    Thanks Zachary, That isn’t a typo. The 24t narrow-wide ring and mini-bash guard are available from RaceFace for other cranks as well. While it isn’t my preferred setup on the Blizzard, for some folks it’s just the ticket.

  3. james February 18, 2015 at 3:14 pm #

    I have had my Blizzard for about 2 weeks now. I love it! I have replaced the seat and tires. I went with the Surly Nate (front and rear). The Bulldozer setup was slow at best. My next upgrade will be the seat post, and maybe an extra chain ring up front. Not sure though, will have to wait for spring to see how it goes. But for now, in the freezing Winter, 24t seems to work great. All in all, I like this bike and it makes me want to ride it more.

  4. eastvanmedman March 6, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    Hey all!
    I had my cassette off my blizzard rear hub the other day where upon i discovered some severe galling and deformation of the splines on the aluminum free hub body. I am 6 foot 2 inches tall and weigh 260 lbs but have a bad back (I often call my bicycle my in line wheelchair.) so i have never pedaled hard in low gears up steep inclines. It seems like the plastic spacers of the cheap cassette rocky mountain supplied on this bike do not provide enough support to prevent the thin steel gear carriers from gouging the free hub body. Any one else experience the same issue?
    Other than this issue I love the bike!
    Fat bikes and 420 forever!

    Eastvanmedman

    • Gomez March 7, 2015 at 7:47 am #

      Aluminum free-hub bodies don’t play well with lower cost steel cassette carries. I’ve had the same issue, when I tried to save money on cassettes. I even went as far as downgrading my free-hub to a steel one on a hope hub that I was running on my moonlander (Thparkle). Now I just buck up and pay the extra for the lighter cassette.

  5. JohnJohns May 15, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

    I’ve been riding the Blizzard on singletracks here in Australia for 2 months now and it’s doing a great job. I’m running the Bulldozers in reverse and they seem a lot better on the dirt. I’m 6ft and the large frame is spot-on for me. I’ve added a dropper post and I swapped out the 24t to a 30t chainring (so I don’t have to imitate a sewing machine when I ride to the nearby trails).

    I did have a free-hub body die on me where the splines spun separately to the ratchet teeth. Warranty claim was approved immediately but then took Rocky Mountain 30 days to get me a new one though, must of found one in Canada and then strapped it to a sick pigeon with a poor work ethic.

  6. Jp Deslauriers August 19, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    Just bought a blizzard 10 days ago. It’s a 2016, and I broke the rear hub twice. The first time the hub lasted about 10km and the second time I was able to do about 5km.

    I was impress by the service received from rocky mountain but they seem to have issues with their rear hub. They had issues last year and it doesn’t seem to be fixed this year.

    In their defense I’m a pretty agressive and heavy rider (180 pounds). Last year I was riding an RSD fat bike mayor and I broke the frame twice while climbing in a 10 month period.

    I decided to switch to the blizzard this summer because I thought it would be more reliable (considering it’s 34lbs compared to 28lbs for the RSD mayor).

    As for the riding quality, althought I didn’t ride the blizzard much (15km total), I can say there is a lot less lateral flex from the frame then the RSD and the bluto fork is nice on rough decent. I also already switched to a 1 inch rise + wider bar and a 2×10 setup.

    An almost 3000$ mountain bike should come equipped with a stronger rear hub.

  7. laura October 1, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

    I bought my Blizzard in NOV last year and have been riding it in Colorado ever since. I have hardly ridden my full suspension 29r as I am having too much fun on the Blizzard. It rides in the snow great, but loving the trails dry as well! I haven’t had any issues with the bike and still riding it stock.

  8. Kevin December 25, 2015 at 6:10 pm #

    Picked up my new 2016 Blizzard last week, first ride, 5-10km maybe, rear hub gone, yeah, little disappointed, other than that the bikes was feeling great, climbed surprisingly well and was well behaved on a flowy downhill single track

  9. Mike May 4, 2016 at 8:21 am #

    Picked up a 2016 Blizzard -50 and have had the rear hub fail twice in less than 6 months! Rocky Mountain have been a nightmare to deal with. This top of line fat bike has now been down over 3 weeks. RM say they’re sending me a replacement rear hub (Hope Fatsnow 197mm) as a replacement, but I’ve yet to see it at a local RM dealer I picked to have it delivered to. It safe to assume this rider won’t ever purchase another RM product. Their customer service is just the worst. Trying to deal with Sam from their Quebec office has been impossible and I just don’t know how this bike company stays in business. They’re just not honoring their warranty by letting this brand new fat bike sit broken. This 3 thousand dollar plus fat bike sitting broken, while under full warranty is inexcusable for this large Canadian bike manufacturer. I’m on the brink of suing Rocky Mountain for the entire cost of this nightmare, seeing as they have chosen to ignore my warranty replacement complaints. Never will I ever purchase, or ride another Rocky Mountain bike in my lifetime.

    • Mike May 9, 2016 at 9:31 am #

      Update: After a full month of this bike being down the hub arrived and is now on my brand new Blizzard -50. RM took a full month to replace this terribly flawed Sunringle rear hub, but they came through in the end with the replacement and I couldn’t be happier. This has softened my anti RM stance for the foreseeable future.

  10. Frans November 8, 2016 at 9:45 pm #

    I made a few upgrades to my 2016 blizzard 50 – whisky 9 70mm carbon rims with Hope hubs; vanhelga up front, husker du back, 1×11 xt drivetrain with one up kit (10-50), race face next sl carbon cranks, 32t front ring, race face dropper post, race face carbon 785mm bar with the new ergon grips. It’s just shy of 30lbs and – for my use – just about the perfect bike. The guys at Outside here in Canmore have been fantastic to deal with too.