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Introducing the Rocky Mountain Sherpa

April 15, 2015 Words By brian.

We are excited to announce our new Sherpa overland bike. 

Bikepacking has been around for a long time, but we wanted a bike that could tackle more challenging terrain and would let us get a little rowdy—even loaded down for multi day self-supported adventures. The Sherpa is designed to carry you and your gear to the ends of the earth, far from the nearest Strava segment.

Development

The inspiration for the Sherpa came from our lead product guy Alex Cogger, whose own rides were getting longer and weirder and more rugged. Through strategic cooperation with WTB we were the first to experiment with 27.5+ tires and rims, and over the last few years we prototyped several bikes to test the capabilities of the wheel size. It was immediately clear that the increased float and traction was a great match for overland bikepacking.

The Sherpa debuted as a concept bike at Sea Otter 2014—complete with a custom Tibetan Snow Lion paint job. The awesome response it got from riders wanting to expand their exploration capabilities convinced us to bring it to production.

Characteristics

Fully loaded overlanding requires an extended gear range. We began with our proven Element carbon front triangle and designed a wider rear end to ensure that a front derailleur would clear even the widest tires. 

The wide footprint of WTB’s 27.5+ x 2.8 Trailblazer tires gives the Sherpa confidence and stability in choppy sections—important when you’re loaded down with gear and going mach chicken over high desert chunder. They also have surprisingly low rolling resistance and excellent roll-over characteristics.

We matched its 95mm of rear travel to an increased 120mm of front travel for more capability and loaded stability. Rider position was adjusted to be more upright, making long days in the saddle more comfortable. It is critical for suspension to react in tandem with high volume tires. We worked with Manitou to spec supple suspension for excellent response off the top. The Magnum fork has a wide stance for better tire clearance, and the Mcleod requires lower air pressure, allowing a fully loaded rider and bike to remain in the shock’s “sweet spot.”

Why another new wheel size?

27.5+ is a super high volume tire mounted on a wide 27.5 rim, providing an outer diameter that is roughly equivalent to a 29er tire.

For the kind of varied terrain we wanted to explore with the Sherpa we needed a low pressure, high volume tire that didn’t exceed traditional 29er outer diameters. The extra volume improves traction and allows for low pressures even while carrying the weight of bikepacking gear—because needing to overinflate your tires is the worst. And, the outer diameter allowed us to design the Sherpa with proper full suspension in a full range of sizes.

If massive volume is so great, why aren't all your bikes 27.5+?

Because there's no "one size fits all" when it comes to wheel size. The Sherpa is the world’s first full suspension 27.5+ bike, but we’re not using the new “skinny fat” wheel size to jump on a bandwagon. 27.5+ wheels are not 27.5 and they’re not 29—they’re not a replacement for any other wheel size and our “regular” bikes aren’t going anywhere. Everyone put their pitchforks down.

For all their advantages, 27.5+ wheels are slower and heavier than traditional 29er systems on smoother terrain. So if you’re looking to win an XC World Cup then 27.5+ probably isn’t for you. Also, more volume means 27.5+ sidewalls are taller than traditional tires, limiting cornering stability. A Landcruiser isn’t great at the racetrack, but hits its stride when things get rough.

Overland

We designed the Sherpa for riders who want to get out and explore the world. From bushwhacking in Idaho, to traversing military trails in the Dolomites, to racing the Colorado Trail, to travelling long forgotten game trails in the Himalayas—the Sherpa is made for anyone whose adventures regularly require a GPS beacon.

Technologies

  • Smoothwall carbon eliminates excess resin and fibres by using rigid internal molds for industry-leading durability, ride quality, and stiffness-to-weight.
  • Smoothlink suspension stays active for full time traction, yet supportive for pedalling efficiency.
  • Form alloy optimizes strength, weight, and ride quality by engineering each 7005 series tube for its specific purpose within the frame.
  • ABC pivots are lighter, stiffer, and require less maintenance than conventional bearing pivots.

Geometry

Specifications

Frame: Smoothwall™ Carbon front triangle. Form™ alloy rear triangle. ABC™ Pivots. PF BB
Accessories: Frame, bar, and saddle bags not included. We recommend Porcelain Rocket bags
Shock: Manitou McLeod Custom Valved. Smoothlink™ Design 95mm. Rebound / 4 Position IPA Platform Settings
Fork: Manitou Magnum 27.5+. 120mm. TPC Absolute+ Damper / Compression / Lockout / Rebound / 110x15mm HexLock Axle / Tapered Steerer
Headset: Cane Creek Fifteen Series: IS42mm Top / 52mm Bottom Tapered
Brake Levers: Shimano M506 I-Spec Shifter Mount
Brakes: Shimano M506 Hydraulic Disc 180mm
Cassette: Shimano HG50 11-36T 10spd
Chain: KMC X10 10spd EcoProtect Anti Rust
Cranks: Race Face Turbine Cinch Custom 83mm 170-175mm 38/24T 2x10spd
Bottom Bracket: Race Face Cinch 30mm BB92 Press Fit w. 83mm Adapters
Pedals: N/A
Shifters: Shimano SLX Rapid Fire I-Spec 2x10spd
Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore E Mount 2x10spd
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT Shadow Plus Direct Mount 10spd
Front Hub: SUNringlé SRC Plus / Fat Fork Specific / 6 Bolt / 32H / 15x110mm Axle
Rear Hub: DT Swiss 350 / 6 Bolt / 32H / 12 x 142mm Axle / Star Ratchet Freehub
Spokes: DT Swiss Competition
Rims: WTB Scraper i45 27.5+ TCS Tubeless Ready
Tires: WTB Trailblazer 27.5+ TCS 27.5" x 2.8" Tubeless Ready
Handlebar: Race Face Evolve 3/4 Riser Ø31.8mm x 725mm x 9° Sweep
Stem: Race Face 6° x 70-100mm
Grips: Rocky Mountain Lock On Mushroom
Saddle: WTB Volt Race
Seatpost: Rocky Mountain XC 30.9mm x 400mm

AVAILABLE NOW.

Previous Feature The Black Canyon Trail Wade Simmons, Andreas Hestler, Geoff Gulevich, Alex Cogger, and Brian Vernor head down to Arizona's Black Canyon Trail for some overland bikepacking in the desert.
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