RAD Bicycle Company is a small, one-man (Matt Craig) frame builder operation out of SE Michigan. RAD’s stated mission is “I want to put people on a USA made product with above over-seas quality at a fair competitive price. Something an Average Joe can afford and ride. Something light enough and strong enough for the same frame to be raced and beat the shit out of.” I just happen to be average and named Joe so when a RAD Grizz showed up on the doorstep of Fat-Bike.com World HQ, I got the call.
Frames are built out of a mix of Columbus and Nova tubing (front triangle) and straight gauge 4130 chromoly (rear triangle). The seat stays are built with ¾” tubing (0.035 thickness) for added stiffness but still let the sweet ride of steel shine through. Additionally, the chainstay yoke utilizes a proprietary, internally gusseted design that also contributes to the lateral stiffness in the bottom bracket and rear end. The rear utilizes a 12×197 Paragon produced Syntace X-12 rear dropout system and is built around running a 4.0” tire on 80mm rims. RAD says they chose to go this route (vs. clearance for bigger tires/rims) because they believe that 4” tires are great in a majority of conditions. Frames are made to order based on predetermined sizing. Currently, turn around time is about 4-6 weeks. All production is done in-house and RAD is set up to make about 30 frames per year. The frame is $1,300 which is a nice price point for a handmade, made in the USA frame. RAD can also work with you to spec the bike out and build it it for you.
Geometry is fairly straight forward fat bike numbers – 690 head tube, 440mm chainstays, 60mm BB drop, and plenty of stand over clearance. Other frame details include a 44mm head tube, 100mm bottom bracket, laser cut seat/chain stay bridges, laser cut seat/chainstay bridges, and full cable routing. The welds on the frame are all smooth/even and overall, the fit and finish are everything you would expect from a handmade frame. To finish things off, all frames are powder coated your single color of choice with a small upcharge for custom color options.
The test bike from RAD was spec’d with a nice array of top tier parts; Whiskey No. 9 carbon fat fork, SRAM XX1 drivetrain, RaceFace Next cranks, HED B.A.D. wheelset, Vittoria Bomboloni tires, and Ritchey WCS Trail cockpit. During the test period, as would be expected from such a nice part spec, everything performed flawlessly. Fully built up (with pedals and set up tubeless) the test bike came in at a very respectable 28.1 lbs. RAD lists a large Grizz frame coming in at 5lbs.
The Grizz took everything I threw at it in stride with the testing period involving gravel, dirt, mud, snow, and even two fat-bike races (both in less than ideal conditions). The geometry of the Grizz is dialed in for Midwestern singletrack and it shows. It was just as comfortable blazing down a decent as it was picking its way though twisty ribbons of dirt through the woods. The chainstays are just the right length to keep handling agile but long enough to keep the front end planted on the climbs. And when you get on those pedals, the bottom bracket area does feel nice and stiff thanks to that internally gusseted yoke. The Grizz doesn’t mind being throw around a bit and gives a very nimble ride. Almost BMX like at times. Everyone that rode with me during the test period commented how at home I seemed on the bike as well as how much I was throwing it around and having a good time. They were right, the Grizz is a fun bike to ride.
Since I put the Grizz though a bunch of different conditions, it brought to light my only gripe with the frame . . . clearance. Or lack there of to run wider tires/rims. As I mentioned previously, the Grizz only has clearance for 4.0” tires on 80mm rims despite using a 197mm spaced rear end, which is typically used on frames that can run 5.0” tires on 100mm rims. It would be nice if RAD would have used all that extra rear spacing to at least give the option to run wide tire/rim combos if so desired.
Overall, I really liked the Grizz. What’s not to like? It’s a fully capable steel, made in the USA frame at a very reasonable price. It could serve as the center piece of a really nice build or a great base for a more budget minded spec. My only real issue with the frame is lack of clearance to run wider tires/rims, which depending on your needs, may not be an issue at all. I give the RAD Grizz a solid 4.5 flaming gnomes.