Rose offers bikes with all three wheel sizes, and unlike Vitus and Canyon, it gives each size a distinct model name – so on the trail/all-mountain side of things there’s the Jabba Wood (26in), Granite Chief (650b) and Root Miller (29in).
The Granite Chief serves up 145mm (5.7in) of rear and 150mm (5.9in) of front wheel travel in a package that’s claimed to be a “bike for every terrain”. This entry-level version still manages to pack in a Shimano Deore transmission and Fox suspension front and rear. Are mid-sized wheels with lots of travel the ideal all-round compromise?
Frame and equipment: attention to detail – mostly
Stuffing just shy of 150mm of rear travel into a bike that’s intended to be efficient under pedal power isn’t straightforward. Rose’s designers have done a good job of shoehorning it all in without ending up with an over-long, over-heavy monster. Partly that’s down to the choice of 650b wheels, which don’t take up as much space – or weigh as much – as their wagon wheel counterparts. But the detail’s good too.
Keeping the rear end planted and driving forward is a suspension set-up based around a linkage activated, top tube mounted shock and Horst Link style chainstay pivots. Rose says the linkage has been tuned to deliver a relatively flat spring curve, which should make it easier to make use of every shred of available travel. The RockShox Monarch RT3 shock is tuned specifically for the Granite Chief too.
Up front there’s a RockShox Sektor Gold fork in 150mm trim, complete with bar mounted lockout. A lockout is useful on a long-travel fork, but having to reach down to the fork crown is a pain – kudos to Rose for speccing the remote. A tapered head tube and front and rear through-axles help keep the wheels firmly in place. Internal cable routing reduces head tube clutter and rattle, and there’s a set of top tube guides for a remote dropper post.
We’re used to seeing ISCG mounts and, often, double cranksets on bikes with gravity-powered aspirations. Oddly, both are missing on the Granite Chief – all the bikes in the range have triple chainrings and no provision for running a chain guide.
The Granite Chief 1’s 100 per cent Shimano Deore transmission remains the gold standard for mid-range excellence, while Formula’s C1 brakes – clamping a 180mm rotor at the rear and a whopping 203mm rotor up front – provide all the stopping power you could need. Big, chunky Continental Mountain King II treads grip tenaciously at the expense of some extra drag, and Easton and Race Face finishing kit is a nice bonus at this price.
Ride and handling: maximum fun factor
Not that long ago, the idea of a 150mm bike that goes uphill nearly as well as it goes down would have seemed laughable. Rose are far from the first brand to crack this particular nut, but the Granite Chief 1 is still a surprisingly willing accomplice in the battle against gravity. Grippy, floaty, big-volume rubber on easy-rolling 650b rims help, of course. The suspension has to work a bit harder than it would with 29in wheels, but steep, bumpy climbs are a gratifyingly straightforward case of ‘sit down and pedal’.
Overall weight is hardly in the cross-country race category, but the wheels are noticeably lighter on the scales than much of the big-wheeled competition. That’s a difference you can definitely feel when gravity’s against you, or when you’ve got to get out of the saddle and put some grunt in. It’s nice to have that remote lockout for impromptu sprints too.
All of which is all very well, but no one buys a 150mm bike for its climbing ability. The good news is that as speed picks up and the gradient starts heading back down, the Granite Chief begins to show its true colours. This is a bike that wants to be ridden harder and faster, to take the shortcut through the rocky line and the big drop into the off-camber corner. Despite offering 10mm more travel than its 140mm 29er counterpart, the 650b Sektor fork shows no sign of the big-wheeler version’s noodly steering. Pick a rough line, point the Granite Chief at it and it’ll swallow it whole and spit it out, ready for the next one.
The fork’s decent performance is matched by a rear end that gets on with the job without fuss, serving up plenty of travel without a trace of sag, wallow or kickback. Simply put, it’s a huge amount of fun. For big rides in big country – or just maxing out the fun factor, wherever you ride – the Granite Chief 1 is a budget-priced bargain.