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