Heller made a bold departure from their 2017 Bloodhound, and set their sights on building a fat (mountain) bike. The result is the 2018 Heller Bloodhound Trail, that made it’s debut at Saddledrive last month…..and they made it…Black! I have a thing for Black Bikes, (which is funny, because I ride a purple one). This year’s colorway is a reciprocal swap of last year’s Red and Black. The black bike with blood red graphics for 2018 looks smashing and the new Heller sports a Rock Shox Bluto RL 100mm suspension fork, 27.5 SUNringlé Mulefut 80mm rims (with Low Fat – Vee Crown Gem tires) and a TranzX dropper post. This bike is not your dad’s oldsmobile. The 2018 Bloodhound Trail has a 68 1/2 degree head tube angle and 445 mm seat stays. Heller’s product manager, Bobby Dahlberg, shared with us, that their goal was to build the new Bloodhound into a trail optimized fat-bike that was made for singletrack.
The bike came into the shop and after we built it up with loving care, we weighed it on our Park Tools digital scale. The complete ready to ride bike weighed in at thirty-four pounds with a set of RaceFace Atlas platform pedals. After we removed the tubes and replaced them with Cafe Latex Tubeless strip and 4 oz of sealant we saved a whopping 9 oz. We’ve tested a number of these 33-34 pound carbon bikes that are built to hit the 2500 hundred dollar price point, but this is the first one that is specifically designed to excel as a trail shredder. The bike rides lighter than the numbers indicate, as long as you keep your speed up and this bike was built to ride fast. Heller aims to build in a ton of value into their line and the bike that we’re testing has an MSRP of $2599
The Bloodhound drivetrain consists of a Shimano SLX 11 speed derailleur chained to a Samox crank with a 32 tooth single chainring. The stopping power is provided by Shimano Accera Brakes with a 180mm rotor up front and a 160mm in the back. The headset is an FSA and the bottom bracket is a 120mm english threaded external bearing arrangement. That’s where the name brand components end and the Kalloy Bar/Stem – KT Hubs – Sun Cassette fill spots that are surely contributing to the overall weight of the bike, but also help keep the retail price reasonable. The grips are Lizard Skin lock-ons and the saddle is a WTB Volt. It’s a solid spec and everything on this list worked very well. I usually switch to my favorite seat and grips on bikes that I test, but for this 4 week test, I kept the bike stock, with the only exception being the tubeless conversion that I mentioned above.
The Bloodhound Trail’s progressive ‘mountain bike’ geometry along with the 100mm Bluto and the Dropper are the things that jumped right out to me as what would make this fat-bike work better for trails, but what I learned was, the 27.5 x 3.8 wheel/tire combination also plays a large role in what puts the ‘Trail’ into the Bloodhound’s wheelhouse. I knew going into this test that I would need to make a conscious effort to abandon any rigid thinking about how I think a fat-bike should ride and modify my parameters towards a mountain bike that just happens to be a fat bike. A ride space, somewhat like what I’ve always hoped that plus bikes would provide. I also knew that I had to change my cross country, exploration approach to riding fat-bikes and adopt a much more aggressive approach to trail riding with the Heller.
After a couple vanilla rides to make sure everything was adjusted and working on the Bloodhound, I started alternating days, riding the singletrack at Kettle and CamRock. I went into each ride reminding myself to keep the watts up to maintain speed. The Bloodhound took my wattage and rewarded me with everything that I had ever hoped that a plus bike would do for trail riding. The combination of the Bluto, the dropper post and the low profile Vee Crown Gems worked in concert to provide all of the traction and stability of a fat-bike tire without the pneumatic bounciness of a traditional 26 x 4 fat bike tire. The Bloodhound possess ‘point and shoot’ berm railing, e-ticket – thrill ride – capabilities. There’s a trail at CamRock called Rip’n’Ride that starts with a downhill with 3 or four little drops, that leads you to a big gravity dip and then into a series of big bermed curves and I’ve never ridden that section as fast as I did (repeatedly) on the Heller.
The TranzX dropper seatpost has worked very well throughout the test. We’ve tested a few fat-bikes with droppers and we’ve had some reliability issues with them. This unit has worked flawlessly and I feel is the largest contributor to what makes riding the Bloodhound trail, so damn much fun. I found myself starting to get the hang of getting air off of the little booters at Camrock on the Bloodhound and the ability to micro adjust the post and position my center of gravity down and back made sections of trail that were previously challenging, feel easy and intuitive. A perfect example is Toad Road at Levis. I rode things that I would normally walk and I could do it with more speed and control. The Bluto also contributed to the Bloodhound’s singletrack slaying capabilities, but I really feel that the unsung hero of this sweet ride are the 27.5 x 3.8 Vee Crown Gem Tires. We published an article with more information about the tires here.
Of course none of that would matter if the dropper post, suspension fork and new 27.5 Low-Fat wheels weren’t attached to a well designed frame. The Heller is such a good looking frame, with nice clean lines, internal dropper post routing and a stealth matte black finish. There are even rack mounts on the rear stays. Our test bike was quiet and never gave us a peep of trouble. The one thing that I noticed while testing the Heller was that I experienced more pedal strikes than usual, but that could also be due to my attempts at riding more aggressively and quotidian, lack of skills.
So how do we rate the New Bloodhound Trail? How many points should it lose for the Kalloy Rider Compartment and KT Hubs? Or should we grade on a curve and judge it against other carbon bikes that are in that $2500-2700 price range? I think the Heller Bloodhound Trail deserves some bonus points for putting together the first plus or low fat-bike (that I’ve ever ridden) that allowed me to ride singletrack faster than my regular fat-bike.
If we judge the Bloodhound Trail against all other fat-bikes, I’d say 4 out of 5 gnomes. If we grade on a curve and only compare it to carbon fat-bikes in that price range….I guess that would be like rating the Bloodhound as far as bang for the buck or ‘value’ we’d up that to 5 out of 5 gnomes, especially when you add the bonus points for riding stuff faster and c’mon…it comes in Black!
The latest word from the QBP mother ship is that the new 2018 Heller Bloodhound Trail is in stock and ready to roll.
You can learn more about Heller Bikes at – http://hellerbikes.com/